Duomo: the religious center


Opening times:Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10am-5pm; Thursday 10am–5pm in summer, 10am-4pm in winter; Saturday 10am–4:45pm; Sundays and religious holidays 1:30pm-4:45pm; January 1, Easter Day and Christmas Day 3.30pm-4.45pm.

Closing days: January 6.

Climbing the Dome
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8:30am–7pm; Saturday 8:30am–5:30pm; Sundays 1:00pm-4:00pm

Closing days: Sundays and religious holidays and January 1.

Climbing Giotto's Bell Tower
Opening hours:Daily 8:30am–7:30pm. 

Closing days: January 1, Easter Sunday, September 8th, Christmas Day.

Opening times: Monday-Saturday 8:15am-7pm, except 1st Saturday of the month 8:30am-2pm; Sundays and public holidays 8:30am-2pm.

Closing days: January 1, Easter Sunday, September 8, Christmas Day.

Museum of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-7:00pm.

Closing days: January 1, Easter Day, September 8th, and Christmas Day.


Florence's baptistery is dedicated to St John the Baptist, the city's beloved Patron Saint. Even in the Middle Ages, they had his image on their coin, the fiorino, the first minted coin in Europe to be accepted as stable international currency. St John the Baptist's Day, June 24th, is still celebrated with many Florentines taking the day off, shops closing, and celebrations in the form of fireworks and the calcio storico (a historic football game), all in honour of St John the Baptist.

The current Romanesque style baptistery, sitting opposite the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore, was constructed between 1059 and 1128, built, according to legend, with marble brought from the recently conquered town of Fiesole together with other ancient Roman structures. The building is nowadays most famous for Ghiberti's eastern gold-gilded doors, which face the façade of the Duomo and perhaps better known as “The Gates of Paradise”, nicknamed by Michelangelo later in the same century who thought they were so beautiful they could be the gates to Heaven.

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly referred to as simply the Duomo (which means “cathedral” or literally “house of God”, not “dome”, as many English-speakers like to believe!), is one of the most impressive buildings in Italy. It took about 200 years to complete, spanning the middle-ages and the Renaissance, taking influences from each era. It took 140 years to finish just the interior of the Duomo, meaning that during this time it remained with no dome at all, since it was not until the Renaissance that they figured out how to build it. The characteristic coloured marbles of the façade are all regional materials, the white marble is from Carrara, the green from Prato and the pink from Maremma, along the Tuscan coast.

The interior of the Duomo is decidely stark compared to many other cathedrals, the walls being mostly bare, lending a feeling of great space. The real masterpiece of the entire cathedral is its dome made by Filippo Brunelleschi. The largest dome ever built in bricks and masonry, is still today the defining glory of Florence's Renaissance past and it influenced all architecture that was ever made afterwards. From the ground to the top of the lantern of the dome is approximately 110m or 360 feet, making the structure of the dome itself 180 feet tall, while the width of the dome is about 45 meters or 148 feet. It was the most impressive and innovative design of the millenium. For the best understanding of the dome and the best views in the entire city, climb up the 463 steps to the top of the dome and get a birds-eye view of the interior of the Duomo, a close up look at Vasari's frescoes and re-live Brunelleschi's construction of the Duomo by climbing between the two shells of the dome, up to the top.

Another climb that will reward you with a fantastic view over Florence and the surrounding hills – with the added bonus of a close up view of the Duomo's famed dome on the way - is Giotto's Bell Tower. All the works of art on the belltower, including the sculptures of the prophets by Donatello, are now copies, the originals having been moved in the 1960's to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.

Aside from holding some of the most important works of the Renaissance that were originally part of the Duomo including Donatello's Mary Magdalene and a Pietà by Michelangelo, the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo is interesting for its historical significance, having been involved since the first brick of the Duomo was laid in 1296. It was the site of the Duomo's sculpture studio, and the workshop used by Michelangelo for the creation of his famous sculpture of David, originally intended for the Duomo to fill one of the small niches on the side exterior of the cathedral.