In front of the Baptistery is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore built by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296 to replace the old Santa Reparata Cathedral. The archaeological remains of this cathedral are in the basement of the present church. They completed the cathedral 150 years later with the addition of the enormous cupola (dome) that sits above the church’s transept. Fillppo Brunelleschi, a truly gifted Renaissance architect, designed the dome. It is possible to reach the top of the cupola (access is on the right hand side of the church), which is 107 meters from ground level but there is no lift so you will have to climb over 450 steps. I know some people in their Golden Years who can climb the steps. Even though I cannot climb 450 steps, I still appreciate the mastery of Brunelleschi, as the cupola is also extraordinary from the
ground up.

The interior of the cathedral itself is also well worth visiting. Even though at times there can be a long line, the interior of the cathedral is amazing. The best time to go is at 8 AM so that you can get in front of the line. Amongst other things, you will be able to see the frescoes beneath the cupola, painted in the second half of the sixteenth century by Vasari and Zucchari. The frescoes cover an area of around 3600 square meters and represent the Last Judgment. It is also interesting to see the Sacristy in the cathedral where, in 1478, Lorenzo de’Medici sought refuge during the Pazzi conspiracy when the conspirators killed his brother Giuliano. Here you will also see the lined marquetries created by a group of artists including Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano. By the door, there are two frescoes by Paolo Uccello and Andrea
del Castagno. When I walk in and see the beautiful frescoes painted on the ceiling of the Duomo, I am breathless. How did they ever get up there to paint such detail?

If you plan to take a tour, enter the sanctuary via the left-side doors. The church is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and on Fridays from 10 AM-5 PM. On Thursday, it is open from 10 AM-3:30 PM. On Saturday, it opens at 10 AM and closes at 4:45 PM. On Sunday, the sanctuary is open from 1:30 PM-4:45 PM. On the first Saturday of each month, the church is only open from 10 AM-3:30 PM. For information on special holiday hours and more, visit the Duomo’s official tourism site.

As you leave the cathedral, you will see the bell tower, Campanile di Giotto. Giotto, the renowned medieval artist, began work on the tower before his death in the fourteenth century. You can climb to the top if you like to climb hundreds of stairs. I have a better alternative! Just one street over on the corner of Via del Campanile and Via della Ochre, 24r you will find Grom’s for gelato.