Ah Florence, the city of good food, beautiful artwork, and an absolutely massive cathedral. Anyone planning a trip to Florence will undoubtedly visit its Duomo. You simply can’t avoid a visit, because it’s literally smack in the middle of the city. Florence’s Duomo is absolutely gorgeous, but the huge lines can sometimes detract you from enjoying your visit to the fullest. If you’re facing that issue, read on the learn my tips to help ease your visit and make your experience the best possible.
Planning your exact visit to the Duomo is a bit tricky because there’s really no time when the crowds just magically disappear. My friend and I kept putting off our visit because we thought we’d find the “sweet spot” when we could just jump the lines. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
By going in the afternoon you’ll avoid the morning tourist groups who are cruising through the city for the day. Spend your morning wandering the streets or visiting an art museum (you can read my thoughts on the big two here), and wait in line for the Duomo later in the day. By then, you’ll be tired and the shade of the cathedral will be refreshing. Just don’t get there too late or else you won’t be able to visit all part of the Duomo before it closes down. Like I said, there’s really no golden visitation hour.
This seems to go against tip #1, but hear me out. The Duomo has three parts: the cathedral itself, the bell tower, and the cupola. Your ticket is good for an entire day, but by the afternoon even the line for the ticket counter is insane. If you buy your ticket first thing in the morning you can (hopefully) avoid one of the many lines you’ll face when visiting Florence’s Duomo.
This little tip is really two! The longest (and slowest) line of your Duomo visit will be for the cupola, which is the huge dome at the top of the cathedral. About halfway up the cupola, visitors have to walk single-file, which makes walking up and down the dome take forever. I’d recommend standing in line for the cupola first since it’s the longest wait, and so you don’t feel like you’re wasting half of your day just standing there.
Alternatively, you could opt to just skip the cupola and bell tower altogether. When you buy a ticket for the Duomo, you’re actually just paying to climb the bell tower and cupola and to visit the Baptistery. The cathedral itself is free (you can’t charge admission to a church—it’s bad form), but the “other attractions” are quite expensive at 10 Euros. If you’re on a budget but still want a gorgeous view of the city, walk up to Piazza Michelangelo instead. It’s free and gives you a view of the entire city.
When I visited Florence’s Duomo there was a group of University students at the entrance offering free mini-tours. My tour lasted about 20 minutes, and my tour guide gave me some great background information on the Duomo that I wouldn’t otherwise have learned about. She told us about the 24-hour clock that had been built for the cathedral in the 1400s and explained that the interior was remarkably plain because the bright frescoes had been painted over during the Reformation. Moral of the story: take a free tour when you can because they’re usually awesome.
Right across from the Duomo is the Baptistery, a smaller building decorated in similarly patterned marble. The Baptistery can only be visited if you bought a ticket for the entire Duomo experience, and it’s certainly worth looking into if you have time.
The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, and well-known figures such as Dante and the entire Medici family were baptized here. The interior is quite small, but I got chills as soon as I walked inside. The room was dimly lit, but the ceiling tiles practically glowed in what little light entered from its small windows. The mosaics in the Baptistery are stunning; I highly recommend visiting it if you have the chance!
If you’ve visited Florence’s Duomo, are there any other tips you’d give to fellow travelers? Or for Florence in general? I loved visiting Florence, but there are a few things I’d tweak when I make another visit. Oh well! You live and you learn, right?
If you loved this post, check out my article on The 7 Most Beautiful Places in Florence.