The duomo, or cathedral, is one of the top monuments to see in Florence but there is much more to see in and near the square, Piazza del Duomo. This square, along with the adjacent Piazza San Giovanni, is one of Italy’s most visited squares.
What to See on Piazza del Duomo
- The focal point of the square is the Duomo or Cathedral, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, decorated with beautiful marble panels and carvings. While it’s currently free to enter the cathedral, there’s a fee for visiting the crypt below the cathedral to see the remains of the original 4th century church.
- Atop the cathedral is Brunelleschi’s Dome, completed in 1436. that was the largest in the world until the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Visitors can climb the 463 steps up to the Dome for an inside look at the Dome and great views of the city. You can avoid the long entrance line by taking a guided tour such as the Duomo Complex and Hidden Terraces or buying a combo ticket (see tips below).
- Next to the cathedral is the 14th century campanile or bell tower, often called Giotto’s Bell Tower, although Giotto was only responsible for the first level. Inside are statues and works of art. The tower has seven bells, the oldest and biggest (with a diameter of 2 meters) dating from 1705. The bell tower’s terrace is another place for fabulous views, with only 414 steps to climb.
- In the adjacent Piazza San Giovanni is the 11th century, octagonal Baptistry of Saint John with a striped marble exterior. Gold mosaics depicting scenes from the Bible decorate the interior of the cupola. On the floor is a large inlaid marble zodiac rose. Replicas of its famous 15th century bronze doors, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s the Gates of Paradise, can be seen on the exterior (originals are in the Cathedral Museum).
- The original Gates of Paradise can be seen in the Cathedral Museum, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, along with other treasures and sacred art from the cathedral housed in 25 rooms including Michelangelo’s Pieta’. A reconstruction of the original 16th century facade (which was never completed) has been created, making a unique setting for statues that were originally carved for it.
- Teatro Niccolini, one of Florence’s historic theaters, can be visited for a small fee that includes, the Duomo Experience, a 15 minute film called The Courage to Dare, that is a good introduction to the monuments on Piazza del Duomo. The theater ticket includes priority access to the cathedral (avoiding the line) or you can buy a 24-hour ticket there that includes the theater and monuments on the square. Thereâ€™s also a nice cafe where you can have a coffee before going into the theater when it opens at 10. Via Ricasoli 3, just off the northern edge of the square.
- The Bargello Museum, sitting on a corner of the square, was formerly a prison. In 1886 it became the National Museum of Sculpture and its filled with marble and bronze sculptures created by famous Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Donatello, and Brunelleschi. Art work is displayed in the courtyard, on the loggia, and in rooms covered with frescoes. Buy Bargello Museum Tickets in advance.
- If you have a little more time and want something more unusual, visit the free Museum of the Misericordia (near the Bargello) and across from it the Bigallo Museum, the home of the Misericordia in its first two centuries of operation. The Misericordia, founded in 1244, provides charity medical services and assistance to the poor. Florence’s is one of the oldest continuously operating in Italy. Visit the upstairs museum for an overview, paintings, and historical objects associated with the Misericordia.
Where to Stay on Piazza del Duomo
- Hotel Duomo, Florence is a 3-star hotel right on the square.
- B&B Soggiorno Battistero is a bed and breakfast right on the square with views of the duomo and baptistry.
- Hotel Bigallo, Florence is a 3-star hotel on a small side street just off the square. Some rooms have a view of the duomo.
- Asso’s Place is a beautiful vacation apartment with great view of the Duomo Dome, a couple of blocks away.
- See more hotels and places to stay in Florence.
A ticket, good for 24 hours, includes all the monuments on Piazza del Duomo (the Cathedral Crypt, Brunelleschi’s Dome, the bell tower, Baptistery, and the Museum). See Opening hours and ticket information.
Spend some time walking around the outside of the cathedral before going in. The best time to view the monuments from the outside and take photos is the early morning before the crowds arrive, usually by 9:00 or 10:00.
See our Florence Map and Guide for the location of the cathedral and other monuments in the city center.
Piazza del Duomo is pedestrian-only and most of the historic center is a limited traffic zone (ZTL) where permits are required to drive. The square is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the train station so the best way to arrive in Florence is by train. If you are driving, you’ll need to park in a parking lot and walk in or take a bus from there but parking can be expensive. Arriving by train is recommended, see Florence rail station info and train routes or book train tickets on Rail Europe.
For a view of the cathedral Dome and an inexpensive coffee or drink, head to the cafe at the top level of Biblioteca delle Oblate, east of the cathedral square at Via dell Oriuolo, 24.
- Rick Steves Pocket Florence
- The Cognoscenti’s Guide to Florence: Shop and Eat Like a Florentine
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Florence and Tuscany
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