Discovering the Florence Duomo

The Duomo is the one sight in Florence I never tire of gazing at. Huge, made of white, light pink, and dark green marble and topped off by the red-tiled cupola (dome) surmounted by a golden ball, it looks like a wonderful frosted wedding cake or something out of a fairytale.

A mini-guide to the Duomo

I’m sure many who visit Florence feel the same, and I imagine that those who haven’t seen this awesome landmark yet can’t wait to find out more about it… So, here we go with some basic facts, a bit of history, and a DIY guide on touring it.

How big is the Duomo in Florence

One of the first questions travelers ask is how big the Duomo in Florence actually is. It’s the third-largest church in the world (St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London are larger) and is truly massive: 153 meters long, 90 meters wide, and 90 meters high. It’s so large and grand, yet so daintily crafted, that it hardly “feels” like a church when you admire it from the outside. The first time I saw it, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.

Who built the Duomo in Florence

The main building and the facade

Wondering, as I used to, who built the Duomo in Florence? Well, you’re in for a surprise, because it took a lot of hands, minds, and years to build it. An architect from Siena called Arnolfo di Cambio designed and started working on it as far back as 1296, but the whole building process lasted over 150 years. It was consecrated in 1436, but at the time it didn’t have the incredible facade you see today, which was designed later by an architect called De Fabris and added in the 19th century.

The cupola

What about the Duomo’s most impressive and famous feature, the beautiful dome? It was built by Filippo Brunelleschi and is a true masterpiece of architectural genius: 45.5 meters in diameter, 116 meters high, it was built without using scaffolding!

Must-sees of the Florence Duomo complex: the bell tower, the church interior, and the Opera del Duomo Museum

The bell tower, designed by the great artist Giotto, is also a must-see, as is the inside of the Duomo, where highlights include masterpieces such as the frescoes created by Vasari and Zuccari and 44 incredible stained-glass windows. Last, but by no means least, you may want to visit the lovely Opera del Duomo Museum; it houses a lot of the artwork that used to be inside the Duomo. And then there’s the Baptistery, the smaller octagonal building that rises across the square from the Cathedral, with its incredible frescoes. All in all, there’s a lot to see and learn if you’re in for a real Duomo experience!

What is the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Florence Duomo, its dome, bell tower, and terraces, as well as the Baptistery, Opera del Duomo Museum, and the Church of Santa Reparata are all managed and supervised by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, a lay institution founded back in 1296.

Florence Duomo tickets

Needless to say, you can view the building from outside whenever you like, and you’ll be glad to know that access to the Cathedral itself is free of charge: you do not need a ticket to enter, but you’ll have to go through a security check. On the other hand, you do need a Florence Duomo ticket to climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s cupola or bell tower, and to visit the other parts of the Duomo complex, i.e. the Opera del Duomo Museum and the Baptistery.

Accessing the Florence Duomo

Florence Duomo tickets are actually passes that allow access to more than one of the complex’s monuments and are valid for 3 days. Because there’s a lot to see, I would suggest you visit part of the monumental complex – the inside of the Cathedral and the cupola, for instance, or the bell tower, Baptistery, and Museum – on one day, and the rest on another.

You can buy Florence Duomo tickets on the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore official website. If you visit the page, you’ll see that you have 3 options: the Brunelleschi Pass, the Ghiberti Pass, and the Giotto Pass. Each of these is valid for 3 days and allows access to more than one of the Duomo complex monuments. The Brunelleschi pass, for instance, includes access to all the monuments: the Baptistery, Giotto’s bell tower, Brunelleschi’s dome, the Opera del Duomo Museum, and the ancient basilica of Santa Reparata.

Do skip-the-line Duomo tickets exist?

Not really, because reservation time slots are mandatory only to climb up to the top of Brunelleschi’s cupola. For all the other monuments, you’ll have to patiently stand in line waiting for the security check.

Handy advice on queuing

The longest queues are generally those for the inside of the Cathedral, because it’s free of charge, while the shortest waiting time is usually for the Opera del Duomo Museum. To visit the Duomo and the Baptistery, being an “early bird” is your best bet: if you get to the Duomo square early in the morning, and you’re lucky, you’ll be among the first in line. In the spring and summer, make sure you have water with you and wear sunscreen because you’ll probably be standing in the sun!

Duomo opening hours

The Duomo is generally open to visitors on weekdays, from 10.15 AM to 4.30 PM. It’s closed on Sundays and religious holidays and may be closed for special events or official visits (like those of foreign statesmen, for instance). So, to be safe, always check the official website’s timetable page.

Duomo Florence dress code: the basics

One thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that there’s a dress code to visit the Duomo in Florence and that it is very strictly applied. What I mean is that you can stand in line for 3 hours and then be denied access if you’re not dressed appropriately. The main issue is that you have to wear “clothing suitable for a place of worship”, which is the same in all churches in Italy, what this means is that your knees and your shoulders need to be covered.
In a nutshell: no shorts, miniskirts, tank tops, or flimsy/see-through attire of any kind.

Duomo Florence dress code: hats and sandals

But, the Duomo Florence dress code also maintains that “sandals, hats, and sunglasses are not allowed inside the cathedral”. So I suggest you lose the flip-flops and wear your sneakers (which will be much more comfortable anyway if you’re going to climb up the dome) and make sure you put your hat and glasses away before you get to the entrance. By the way, big bulky bags aren’t allowed either, for security reasons, so keep it small and compact!

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