If there is one old church that every visitor to Florence has most likely visited, it is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, which is known to those of us who visit with tourist guidebooks a bit more simply as Il Duomo. The cathedral towers above the rest of the city and the surrounding countryside, and is topped with a ginormous dome. It’s also a set piece for one of the greatest climbing puzzles in the Assassin’s Creed video game series.
Of all the churches I have been in, including the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in NYC where I’ve been to the rafters, I think Santa Maria del Fiore capitalized the best on verticality. After climbing an ancient staircase for what seems like forever (longer if you’re at all susceptible to claustrophobia, I’m sure) you come out on the inside of the dome. If you don’t like heights (as I don’t like heights myself) this can be a bit of a challenge, but boy is it worth it.
View of Firenze, in direction of Santa Croce from the exterior of the dome.
Climbing into the Tuscan sunshine on the top of the dome, you can literally see the entire city of Florence and the surrounding countryside. It’s beautiful. You can also see the tourists who chose the route up the bell tower rather than to the dome.
For the sheer sake of verticality and the stunning frescoes and surrounding scenery, I give the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore 9/10 Bell Towers (Ha! I don’t actually have a ratings system, but maybe I should!) Additionally, the well-lit interior is a refreshing change from many of the other churches one might visit around the world with they’re more mysterious dark confines.
When in Florence, one simply must make a stop, preferably their first stop, at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.