Climbing the Duomo

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore: one of the most famous cathedrals known for its dome. Why is it so important? Well, first of all, it’s beautiful and grand (IT’S FREAKING HUGE AND GORGEOUS). If you have no idea what I’m talking about, have no fear, you will soon know!

Just a glimpse of what the Duomo looks like:


Before I get into the details about what it’s all about, take a moment to enjoy the view from the top:

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FYI: This doesn’t even capture 30% of what it’s like in person.

Brunelleschi’s Dome is an interesting phenomenon. The Duomo was under construction for centuries because no one could figure out how to build a circular structure without it caving in. It got to the point where the cathedral was flooded with water because rain water would surge through the hole to wear the dome was meant to be built. If you ask anyone in Italy who the Medici family was (well, is) they’d tell you they were one of the most powerful and influential families of the Italian Renaissance, and especially in Florence. The Medici family discovered Brunelleschi, a man who was considered unorthodox and crazy for his antics in the architecture and art worlds. He was, however, able to convince the Medici that he could finish the cathedral, and that he did.

Actual footage of Brunelleschi! Definitely not a painting…

Brunelleschi reinvented architecture, as many did with other parts of society during the Renaissance (or as the Italians call it: the Renascimiento). In order to figure out how to build the Duomo, he went back to the Pantheon to figure out how the Ancient Romans managed to build that structure. If you don’t know what the Pantheon is: What Brunelleschi discovered at the Pantheon was that the dome was not really a half-circle, but that it was in the shape of half an oval, like an egg. Once he figured this out, he experimented with the structure of bricks to create an unbreakable dome. This is what he came up with:

This architectural pattern of bricks is known as herringbone or fish skeleton: creating one of the world’s strongest dome structures.

The walkway and steps Brunelleschi designed are to reach the top of the dome, and are the only way of getting one of the most amazing views of the city (almost everyone who climbs the Duomo wishes there was room for an elevator, but alas, there is not). My experience of climbing the Duomo was not terrible, but it definitely wasn’t easy; it was, however, WELL WELL WELL worth it. I was huffing and puffing most of the way up, feeling like the most out of shape and elderly person I have ever encountered: but I made it! If you ever get to Florence, Italy, visiting the Duomo (really the cathedral in general, it’s absolutely beautiful) should be at the top of your list.

‘Till next time!

#YOFLO (You only Florence once).