Italy Florence Santa Maria Del Fiore.


Florence's duomo is the city's most iconic landmark. Capped by Filippo Brunelleschi's red-tiled cupola, it's a staggering construction whose breathtaking pink, white and green marble facade and graceful campanile dominate the Renaissance cityscape. Sienese architect Arnolfo di Cambio began work on it in 1296, but construction took almost 150 years and it wasn't consecrated until 1436. In the echoing interior, look out for frescoes by Vasari and Zuccari and up to 44 stained-glass windows.

The duomo's neo-Gothic facade was designed in the 19th century by architect Emilio de Fabris to replace the uncompleted original, torn down in the 16th century. The oldest and most clearly Gothic part of the cathedral is its south flank, pierced by the Porta dei Canonici (Canons' Door), a mid-14th-century High Gothic creation (you enter here to climb up inside the dome).

After the visual wham-bam of the facade, the sparse decoration of the cathedral's vast interior, 155m long and 90m wide, comes as a surprise – most of its artistic treasures have been removed over the centuries according to the vagaries of ecclesiastical fashion, and many are on show in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The interior is also unexpectedly secular in places (a reflection of the sizeable chunk of the cathedral not paid for by the church): down the left aisle two immense frescoes of equestrian statues portray two condottieri (mercenaries) – on the left Niccolò da Tolentino by Andrea del Castagno (1456), and on the right Sir John Hawkwood (who fought in the service of Florence in the 14th century) by Uccello (1436).

Between the left (north) arm of the transept and the apse is the Sagrestia delle Messe (Mass Sacristy), its panelling a marvel of inlaid wood carved by Benedetto and Giuliano da Maiano. The fine bronze doors were executed by Luca della Robbia – his only known work in the material. Above the doorway is his glazed terracotta Resurrezione (Resurrection). Visit it only by guided tour.

A stairway near the main entrance of the cathedral leads down to the gift shop and Cripta Santa Reparata, where excavations between 1965 and 1974 unearthed parts of the 5th-century Chiesa di Santa Reparata that originally stood on the site. Should you be visiting on Sunday (when the crypt is closed), know your combined duomo ticket is valid 72 hours.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby attractions

1. Cupola del Brunelleschi

0.02 MILES

A Renaissance masterpiece, the duomo's cupola – 91m high and 45.5m wide – was built between 1420 and 1436. Filippo Brunelleschi, taking inspiration from…

2. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

0.03 MILES

This awe-inspiring story of how the duomo and its cupola came to life is told in this well-executed museum. Among its sacred and liturgical treasures are…

3. Cripta Santa Reparata

0.05 MILES

Inside the duomo a stairway near the main entrance in the nave leads down to the gift shop and crypt where excavations between 1965 and 1974 unearthed…

4. Campanile

0.06 MILES

The 414-step climb up the cathedral's 85m-tall campanile, begun by Giotto in 1334, rewards with staggering city views. The first tier of bas-reliefs…

5. Battistero di San Giovanni


This 11th-century baptistry – the oldest religious building on the vast cathedral square – is a Romanesque, octagonal-striped structure of white-and-green…

6. Chiesa di Santa Margherita

0.12 MILES

Dante fans will like to know that it was in this tiny 11th-century church, in the poet's old stomping ground, that he is said to have first espied his…

7. Museo Casa di Dante

0.14 MILES

The Dante House Museum was built in 1910 above the foundations of Dante's dwelling. Up the road, 11th-century Chiesa di Santa Margherita, nicknamed …

8. Palazzo Medici-Riccardi

0.15 MILES

Cosimo the Elder entrusted Michelozzo with the design of the family's town house in 1444. The result was this palace, a blueprint that influenced the…