Climbing Brunelleschi's dome ★★★

The steps up to the top of the dome, Brunelleschi's dome, Florence, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
The steps up to the top of the dome

Climbing up between the cathedral dome's two layers to spectacular city views

Hands down, everyone's favorite thing to do at the Duomo is to climb the 348-foot-high dome (la cupola del Duomo), which dominates the skyline and is a symbol of Florence itself. Climb it not only for the great panorama across the city you get from the top, but also so you can admire, from the inside, Brunelleschi's architectural marvel.

You actually clamber up between the dome's two onion-like layers—and in the process get some great up-close views of those crazy Zuccari frescoes (skilled though the frescoes may not be, the scene of the Damned being tortured in Hell is certainly imaginative).

The dome actually presented something of an engineering conundrum for the cathedral authorities in the early 15th century.

A yawning space had been left open for a dome that—at 45m (150 feet) wide—would be far larger than any attempted since antiquity. Unfortunately, no architect of the time had any idea how to span the space.

No architect, that is, save Brunelleschi, who unlocked the secrets of Rome's Pantheon and, between 1420 and 1436, creatd the largest free-standing dome since antiquity, a masterpiece of architecture, engineering, and lyrical grace.

» Read the full story on the Brunelleschi page

For the record: It's 463 steps to the top.

At the base of the dome, just above the drum, Baccio d'Agnolo began adding a balcony in 1507. One of the eight sides was finished by 1515, when someone asked Michelangelo—whose artistic opinion was by this time taken as cardinal law—what he thought of it. The master reportedly scoffed, "It looks like a cricket cage."

Work was immediately halted, and to this day the other seven sides of the top of the drum remain rough brick.

Photo gallery
  • The steps up to the top of the dome, Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • , Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Nono vlf)
  • , Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Mentnafunangann)
  • , Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • In between the dome
  • Atop the dome, Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Mattes)
  • Inside the space in between the dome
  • The lantern atop the dome, Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Senpai)
  • A drawing of one of Brunelleschi
  • Cross-section of the dome, Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Charles Herbert Moore)
  • , Brunelleschi's dome, Italy (Photo by Charles Herbert Moore)

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Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Brunelleschi's dome for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long does climbing the cathedral dome take?

Climbing Brunelleschi's dome (463 steps) takes about an hour.

The ticket offices close 40 minutes before the site.