Europe 14 - Day 17


After seeing all the crowds and long queues at the Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (il Duomo) yesterday, we decided to get there early and join the queues before the place opened. A quick check of their website told us the Bell Tower and the climb to the top of the dome opened at 8.30am, the main cathedral opened at 10.00 and the Baptistry at 11.15. After that surfeit of Italian Architecture we moved on to the piazza at the Basilica of Santa Croce, then stopped for lunch at a cafe on the square. After that it was a quiet walk back to our hotel before venturing out for an evening meal.

Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - Cathedral and Giotto's Tower

Entry to the Cathedral is free, but you need tickets for the Dome, Tower, Crypt Baptistry and Museum. You can buy these at some of the entrances but the queues are long. Better to use the ticket machines in the building just north of the Baptistry. Not well signposted, so no queues. From there I headed up the Tower, the steps getting steeper and narrower as I climbed, but the view from the top was well worth the effort. After that I thought about the Dome, but it was now nearly 10.00 and the queue was rather long, so we joined the shorter queue for the Cathedral itself. At 10.00ish they opened the doors and people streamed in, quickly filling the Cathedral. Despite the size and spendour from the outside the Cathedral is much plainer inside. This is typical of many Italian churches, where the effort (and money) has gone into the facade to attract people rather than the interior to entertain them. We decided not to visit the Crypt, instead joining the queue for the Baptistry. We were near the front and were able to enter just after it opened at 11.00.

Giotto's Tower.
The steps are narrow and steep.
One of the bells.
Palazzo Vecchio from the Bell Tower.
And a view of Il Duomo.
Looking along the Cathedral towards the Dome.
Top of the Dome.
Yes, they are people crowded around the top.
Stairs built into the roof structure of the Cathedral.
Some of the amazing detail in the building, not easily visible from the street.
Looking east towards the Basilica di Santa Croce
And west to Santa Maria Novella and our hotel just to it's left.
And south to Palazzo Vechchio and the Arno River.
Finally, southeast towards the Piazzale Michelangelo from where we looked out over Florence.
Back at street level.
The queue waiting to climb the Dome
This was part of the queue for the Cathedral.
It snaked around the corner and it was only 9.45.
But it was an orderly queue and the beggers and hawkers seemed to be absent here.
Meanwhile the queue for the Dome kept growing.
Waiting for the great doors to open.
Once inside the view towards the Altar...
And the main doors.
Detail on the Dome.
Looking up to the Dome.
More of the detailed painting on the Dome.
The side entrance.
How do I light one of these...
without getting burnt?
Some of the decorations.
Patrons of the Cathedral.
There is still a lot of gold around.



Adjacent to Il Duomo is the Baptistry. It was completely covered in scaffolding, so we were not able to see any of the exterior. The Baptistry no longer has any function. It was built at a time when the Church needed to conduct mass-baptisms as the (previously heathen) populace were converted to the new religion. As they could not enter the Cathedral until baptised a separate facility was needed. The interior is richly decorated, especially in comparision to the Cathedral, so that the people would be enticed into the Baptistry and then be converted. (Who said glossy sales brochures were a 20th century invention??)

The queue for the Baptistry.
Inside it is an octagonal building.
Today you are greeted by the three prophets by Donatello.
"The Beardless".
"The Thoughtful".
And "Jeremiah".
Detail of the high windows and the thickness of the walls.
The Dome of the Baptistry is richly painted.
There are eight panels - each one is shown in the following photos.
The main doors of the Baptistry are bronze and works of art in themselves.

From Cathedrale Santa Maria del Fiore to Basilica Santa Croce

To escape the crowds milling around Il Duomo, we headed towards the piazza outside the Basilica of Santa Croce. This took us through the Piazza della Signora, past the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ufizzi Gallery. This is part of the main tourist circuit and everywhere there are souvenir stalls.

Cosimo Medici on his horse.
Palazzo Vecchio.
Bronzes and marbles from the Ufizzi Gallery.
Narrow crowded streets.
Even the scaffolding covers are decorated with the Old Masters.
Hawkers throwing down sheets so they can spread out their trinkets - and snatch them up in a hurry when the police come along.
Little stalls are everywhere...
but they seldom use the Italian-English dictionaries they sell...!
Beads and masks from Venice were also common.
Typical Italian - great design but not particularly functional.

Piazza Santa Croce

In front of the Basilica di Santa Croce is a large piazza, crowded with tourists and itinerant hawkers. We spent some time here watching these people and having lunch.

The edge of the piazza is ringed with shops - most sell good quality goods, leather and jewellery in particular.
Above this shop is a small sign.
It reads "The waters of the Arno arrived here 4 Nov 1966". This was the height of the big flood.
Looking across the piazza towards Il Duomo.
Basilica di Santa Croce.
I Love Florence and Pinnochio on a pencil.
"Come sit with me".
Pinnochio's grotto.
Gelato shops are everywhere.
Well, it was a hot day....!
Bought from Vivoli, reputed to be the best gelato in Florence, but hidden in side street just west of the piazza.
The plaque up above identifies this building as housing the first humble studio of Giovanni Duprè, who would go on to become one of Italy's premier Neoclassical sculptors.
Bicycles are everywhere in Florence...
Outnumbered only by dogs (if you can call that rat on a string a "dog").
Tour guides were common too - tulips as an identifier. Dutch cruise ship perhaps?
Francesca from Norwegian Cruise Lines, complete with RayBans.
Tourists - blocking the view with his iPad, but what about the weary American decorating the statue of Danté??
Danté himself does not look amused.
In Florence they could not use functional lightstands when something artistic was possible...
Everywhere you look, people are after your money.
How about a unique materpiece - identical to those sold by 2,000 other hawkers.
What's this guy got?
Ah, cheap sunglasses.
How about scarves?
Another Pinnochio or two?
What about having your photograph taken in Florence?
Its tough hawking in the hot sun.
Even for ghosts.

Basilica di Santa Croce

We entered the Basilica of Santa Croce through the side entrance. Despite the crowds outside there was only a short queue at the ticket office. After the usual security and bag checks we entered the Basilica. It was much larger than it appeared from the front and was full of decoration. It became the favoured place for the wealthy and famous to be interred or remembered.

Santa Croce and the side entrance.
More candles.
It is a magnificent structure inside.
The walls contain mausolea.
Detailed marble work on the wall.
Part of the Dome.
More painted scenes.
Michelangelo's Tomb is here somewhere, we found it later, see the photo below.
Many are buried under the floor.
Elaborate paintings abound.
Stained glass and painted scenes.
At last - Michelangelo.
In the courtyard.
The cloisters.
A Henry Moore sculpture
Florence Nightingale (born in... Florence).
The Crypt
Detail on the spires.
Small signs on the wall noting the height of floods. Top: River Arno arrived here 4 Nov 1966. Lower: 8 Sept 1558.
And lower again: 3 Nov 1844.
The three signs beside the doorway.
Looking outside.
Exit - back into the heat and madness of the outside world.


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Last updated: 22/10/2014