Probably the most iconic landmark in Florence is the Duomo. Standing proud in Piazza Duomo I can recall the first time I laid eyes on this structure – it was pouring with rain and I was dragging a suitcase along the rough streets of the city having just landed from Paris. The sight of the Duomo stopped me in my tracks, it’s hard to believe people can build something so striking.
Of all the times we have visited Florence we never actually made it up the Duomo – for reason’s I find hard to think of. Possibly the huuuuge lines that gather daily outside the complex, visiting the Duomo, Bell Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery of Saint John. Or perhaps the daunting task of walking up all those stairs in the absence of a lift or elevator? This time though, we were going to do it.
Remembering the long lines and waiting times we figured that the best way to take some of the pain away from the experience would be to book in advance. I cannot recommend this highly enough. We secured tickets online which are easily printed at home. Do remember though to take both the ticket and your confirmation along with you as they ask for both at the entrance.
Our entry time was set at 0830 which meant an early start but the added bonus of being first in while it was relatively quiet. I would strongly recommend choosing this time as the line really wasn’t bad at all and once you have seen the Duomo and all it’s glory the main Cathedral, Bell Tower and Baptistery are more or less open. Entry is gained by scanning your ticket and entering through a metal turnstile.
From there you head up into the darkness up a narrow winding staircase – which can get a bit claustrophobic if you get people coming down the opposite way – but for this section you shouldn’t encounter that. The first stop is a collection of statue’s which provide a welcome breather from the walk.
At the next level there’s a real sight to behold – the Duomo roof. Beautiful in it’s design and a real masterpiece with Giorgio Versari’s artwork to gaze at. The only downside to this is that glass screens have been placed in front of the balcony so it’s difficult to fully appreciate an unobstructed view of the ceiling. For that it’s better to view from the Cathedral altar.
The last few flights of stairs are more of a challenge. The passageways get narrower and the final flight of steps leading up to the roof loft hatch is an incredibly steep and uncomfortable climb. It’s all worth it though once you emerge from the hole and take a look around at a breathtaking panorama of Florence. You can see far away into the tuscan hills and a little closer in are the main sights of the city just below. The terracotta roof’s and river arno make for a picture you will never forget. Just in case you want a closer view there are telescopes available for €1 (£0.89).
We walked around the edge of the Duomo roof taking in the last of our birds-eye view of Florence and began to realise that the way we had come up was the precise way that we would be getting down – oh dear. It’s a little harsh to ask of the local historical society to deface a work of art by installing a lift or escalator but this really is a must. Waiting patiently to exit in a tight space isn’t great and then having to almost crouch down into the loft hatch to then pass people on the stairs is a mission. Thankfully it only lasts 2-3 flights maximum.
Our legs were like jelly as we stumbled out of the exit but when you turn back and take in just how far you have walked and the view you have experienced – it’s all so worth it. A combined ticket for the Duomo and the aforementioned buildings is just €15 (£13.40) per person which is decent value. You can purchase these tickets from the ticket office opposite the entrance of the Duomo Dome in the passageway under the Hotel Duomo.