Brunelleschi's Dome (Cupola del Brunelleschi)
Brunelleschi’s octagonal dome on top of Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (aka the Duomo) took 16 years to build and, at 144 feet (44 meters) wide, is one of the world’s largest masonry domes. You can admire the 16th-century Final Judgment frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari that decorate the inside of the dome and climb the 463 steps to the top for panoramic views from the lantern overlooking the historic center. The Opera del Duomo museum, just behind the church, holds a fascinating scale model of Brunelleschi’s dome as well as Lorenzo Ghiberti’s original bronze baptistry doors (replicas are on the baptistry outside).
The cathedral dome is one of the most popular attractions in the city, and booking a Florence Duomo tour that includes skip-the-line entrance to the Duomo, Giotto’s bell tower, and the baptistry is essential to avoid long lines to enter. Small-group and private tours of Florence’s Duomo may even include exclusive access to the north terrace, a panoramic rooftop terrace closed to the general public. Many Florence city walking tours also visit highlights like the Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell'Accademia), and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Things to Know Before You Go
There is a single skip-the-line ticket to enter all five parts of the Duomo complex—church, crypt, dome, bell tower, and baptistry—and the museum. To climb to the top of the dome, you must also reserve a specific time slot.
There is a lot of ground to cover in the Duomo complex, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes if taking a guided tour.
If you are also planning on visiting the church, be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and legs.
There is no elevator to the top of the dome, so the climb is not recommended for those with heart problems, vertigo, or limited mobility.
How to Get There
Brunelleschi’s dome and Piazza del Duomo, in the historic center of Florence, are just a 5-minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station.
When to Get There
The Duomo complex in Tuscany’s capital city of Florence is one of the most popular attractions in Italy and can be very crowded during the summer high season. The best time to visit is from November to March, when the city sights are less overrun with tourists.
Construction of the Dome
Filippo Brunelleschi won a competition to design the dome in 1420 with an innovative system of two interconnected shells with an empty space in between. The dome was vaulted with no scaffolding by using bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the inner shell as a self-supporting structural element; the outer shell serves as a heavier, wind-resistant cover.
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