How To Visit Florence's Duomo and Climb Brunelleschi's Dome
Updated: Jul 19
Florence's Duomo with the iconic Brunelleschi dome
Here's my guide to visiting the Duomo complex in Florence Italy, including how to get skip the line tickets. The burnt orange Duomo cupola is the very symbol of Florence, a city overflowing with beauty and art. A visit to the Duomo and a climb up Brunelleschi's dome is on every Florence visitor's bucket list.
I'll tell you about the Duomo, Brunelleschi's iconic dome, and how to visit both without waiting in the notoriously long queue. Smart travelers save hours of lining up by planning ahead.
The Duomo: Cathedral of Santa Maria della Fiore
Florence Cathedral is the most prominent, and popular, landmark in Florence. It was built over 172 years, beginning in 1296. The Commune of Florence hired architect Arnolfo di Cambio, a man responsible for building much of 13th and 14th century Florence.
Florence Cathedral is nicknamed the Duomo. It's also called the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Fiore, or St. Mary of the Flowers. There was no such saint in real life. But Florence, or Firenze, means lily flower. So the city cathedral took on the symbol of Florence.
frescos on the dome by Giorgio Vasari and his workshop
Florence Cathedral is Gothic in style, but not in the light and elegant way you think of Paris' Notre Dame. It's made of brown sandstone and beautifully faced with pink, green, and white marble.
Filippo Brunelleschi's magnificent terra cotta colored dome, built from 1420-36, is the highlight. It's a true Renaissance masterpiece. When it began building the Duomo, Florence knew it lacked the requisite technology to complete the dome.
Before Brunelleschi, the Duomo lay open for well over a century. But Brunelleschi was the perfect balance of architect and engineer, visionary and traditionalist.
Brunelleschi developed a “dome within in a dome” double shell concept that worked without wooden centering. Financed by Cosimo de Medici (the Elder), it catapulted the Medici name forward in Florentine society.
Brunelleschi's dome was over a foot wider than the Pantheon in Rome. That was intentional; size mattered. It's still the largest brick dome ever built.
While Florence Cathedral is elegantly "frosted" with colored marble on the outside, inside Florence Cathedral is austere and almost empty. You might even wonder if it was ever finished.
the elegantly "frosted" Duomo
Climbing the Duomo's Dome: Reaching the Top of Florence
If you need to burn off some pasta carbs, climb the 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi's dome. It's one of the best things to do in Florence. When you make the climb, you're between the two domes Brunelleschi designed.
But be forewarned, it's very tight. The narrow twisting corridor gets clogged. It can be hot, stuffy, and potentially claustrophobic. And there's no elevator. If you're doing the dome climb in the summer, it will be stifling.
About 2/3 of the way up is a viewing ledge at the base of the drum. From here, you have a splendid view of Giorgio Vasari’s dome frescoes, painted from 1572-79. Though designed by Vasari, most of the painting was done by his less talented apprentice, Frederico Zuccari. The frescos were cleaned and restored in 1996.
Back inside the dome, the climb gets progressively more challenging. The magnificent panoramic view from the top is worth the discomfort though. You can see all of Florence and some of the Tuscan countryside.
the magnificent Hall of Paradise in the Duomo Museum
Tickets For the Duomo and the Dome Climb
So how does this all come about? What's the best way to get Duomo and dome tickets in Florence? You have three options. Option 1 is the best way to go, I think.
1. Purchase the "Grande Museo del Duomo" combination ticket online for 18 euros, which gives you one entry to each of the Duomo sites over 72 hours. The ticket includes admission to the Duomo, Baptistery, Campanile, Duomo Museum, Brunelleschi's dome, and the Santa Reparata crypt (inside the cathedral).
A PDF containing a barcode will be sent to you via email. You can have it scanned on your phone. Click here to see my comprehensive discussion of these (and other) must see Florence sites.
view from Brunelleschi's dome
The dome climb is ONLY possible with an advance reservation. You can book a time slot when you purchase your combination ticket online. Dome climb time slots can fill up days in advance, so reserve well ahead.
Once you've made the reservation, you can't change it. Show up 20-30 minutes early. The entrance for the dome climb is on the north side of the Duomo.
2. Book a guided tour with Get Your Guide or another company. The disadvantage of this is that you aren't free to set your own itinerary and pause on things you personally want to admire.
3. You can buy your combo ticket in person in Florence and try to reserve a dome climb entry time. Go to either the main Duomo ticket office (facing the Baptistery) or at a ticket machine in the Duomo Museum lobby.
Opening Hours of the Duomo Sites To Plan Your Visit
To help plan your visit to the complex, here are the time schedules of the Duomo sites. They all open and close at different times. Check the website because sometime's hours change.
I would start with the Baptistery at 8:15 am, move on to the Duomo Museum, and then have a bell tower climb scheduled for 11:00 am or so. Don't rush through the wonderful museum, which has an outstanding collection of Medieval and Renaissance sculpture and a reconstructed Duomo facade.
You don't want to climb both the Duomo dome and the Giotto bell tower on the same day. Also, because there are religious sites, you must dress conservatively. No sleeveless tops or short/skirts above the knee.
Duomo:10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Brunelleschi's Dome: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Giotto Bell Tower | Campanile: 8:15 am to 10:15 am & 11:15 am to 7:30 pm
Crypt: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Duomo Museum: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (but closed Sunday afternoon)
Baptistery: 8:15 am to 6:30 pm
beautiful mosaics in the Florence Baptistery
If you just love Florence, here are some of my other Florence guides: