We climbed to the top of the Duomo on our first afternoon in Florence then beat a hasty retreat after all those steps for a well earned rest in our apartment. Next morning we hot footed it back to the Piazza Del Duomo. Our tickets for the dome climb included entrance to the Baptistery plus another climb up the bell tower and were valid for 24 hours. Husband likes to get value for money especially when it involves punishing and arduous climbing challenges, so next morning steps were retraced and we found ourselves back in this beautiful square.
I love the Piazza del Duomo – one of my favourite places in Florence – it is definitely the heart of the city. Many people come just for the cathedral, this square is so much more than that. All the buildings are amazing – a vision in pink, white and green marble. There are stripes, rectangles, rosette windows, sculptures, circles and not an inch that is unadorned on any building. When you approach from the side streets and encounter this burst of colour it is amazing and breath-taking, no matter how many times you see it.
Husband was all set to climb the Campanile or bell tower. Son and I last minute agreed that 400 plus steps yesterday was climb enough for us and we would sit this one out. Sit it out we did, perched on the edge of the pavement with gelato in hand, we watched the comings and goings and found loads to see. Son was especially taken with the horses, I was happy to people watch.
Husband returned fairly quickly, 414 steps up the campanile he reported narrow spiral staircases and virtually no lines. Seems like we weren’t the only ones to sit this climb out! Lots of slits to peek through as you ascend (he told me) and a couple of fenced-in levels where you could go out and take in the sights. Great views not just of the city but also of the Duomo itself, I was happy enough to hear of this second hand and to look from ground level today.
One must see for me though was the Baptistery. The oldest building in Florence, this dates from the 11th century and is where babies were baptised every year on 25th March. The doors are mind-blowing – gilded and called the Gates of Paradise they are intricate and detailed – I remember being wowed on our last trip, was looking forward to seeing them again but it was not to be. Covered in scaffolding we were denied this pleasure. We had to make do with the other doors – by no means shabby but just not up to Gates of Paradise level. Inside it is all about the ceiling. Also gilded and gorgeous, it shows the devil with horns and snakes coming out of his ears, purple demons and much more. We took a seat in the pews and just looked up. Son actually did lie down on the floor here to get a better look. He confirmed this was the best viewing position – we didn’t check this out.
We saw a lot of people making for the cathedral and leaving it at that. Don’t miss the Baptistery if you go to Florence and don’t miss spending time soaking up the atmosphere and architecture in this spectacular square.