WHAT TO DO IN FLORENCE IN ONE DAY
If you´re planning a visit to Florence is because you´re so much into culture and history. So, if you have a tight schedule and can give only one day to this beautiful city, let´s talk about those places that you must not miss. In “Piazza del Duomo” you´ll find a cluster of monuments worth visiting either because of its architecture, its religious meaning or its artistic legacy. And every building is walking distance one from another.
Santa Maria del Fiori Cathedral
Everybody knows that Florence is the symbol of the Renassaince. By the end of year 1200, the city had grown a lot in population. And compared to other cities like Pisa or Siena it didn´t have a majestic cathedral. A worship place like that would stamp a religious character to the city and show the world how powerful Firenze had become. Nowadays, Santa Maria del Fiori, the cathedral is one of the largest churches in Europe. It has beautiful paintings, such as Vasari´s frescos in the dome. The front façade, initially made of wood, was rebuilt on the 18 century and different marbles were used to decorate it, including many sculptures.
Let´s talk about what you´ll find indoors. Its simplicity makes a huge contrast with what you have enjoyed outdoors. The austere environment, the silence inside this huge church surprises one just walking in. As the cathedral was built with public funds, there are some pieces of art dedicated to military leaders or well-known individuals of those times. Above the main entrance there´s a clock with the “Italian hour”, a liturgical clock that works counterclockwise and begins counting the hours when the sunset begins. A complete different way of learning the time, but pretty much used in those times.
Stroll around the cathedral, give yourself some time to look at the impressive “vitraux” or stained- glass windows and the marble floors. You´ll get to the inner part of the dome which was painted in a very particular way. Giorgio Vasari pictured the “Last Judgement” inspired mainly on Dante Alighieri´s work, the Divine Comedy book and on the Sixtine Chapel in Rome. The ceiling was divided into six concentric rows placed one above the other, inside of which were arranged groups of figures. Vasari only completed the superior part, where he pictured the Apocalypse. After his death, the work was finished by Zucchero who represented the Angels, Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Saints, the Virtues, the mortal sins and the Hell.
Tip: the entrance to Santa Maria del Fiori and the other buildings must be booked online ahead, and you can only enter once to each one. The line is long but it moves fast (consider around 30-45 minutes).
Tip 2: inside the cathedral, to the left side, there are some screens with headphones that show many videos about the cathedral. The explanations are very useful and complete. They charge 4 or 5 euros and can be used by 2 persons at the same time. They´re really good. I learned a lot!
The Duomo, with 45 meters wide, is the result of 170 years of hard work. Many architects were appointed to build the cupola, but only one could achieve the building of the “Duomo”: it was an unknown architect named Filippo Brunelleschi, a genius to his time. You won´t believe he built it without the help of scaffolds but with special cranes he developed. The interesting thing about the cupola is that it’s an amazing viewpoint and its height is 116 meters, so if you have the strength, climb up the 400 hundred steps to go out and watch Florence from the top of the Duomo. You´ll get there breathless but the view is quite worthy and you can do it at your own pace. There are stops to rest and the stairs are sufficiently wide (you won´t feel closed-in). Take beautiful pictures of the city from the top!
Tip 3: if you want to go up to the Duomo my suggestion is that you check online before if you need special tickets (I went in January and it was mandatory to have a specific entrance time booked ahead).
This construction dedicated to St. John the Baptist, patron of Florence, faces the cathedral and is the oldest building in Piazza del Duomo. The Baptistery has an octagonal or eight-sided shape symbolizing the “God´s Eight Day” which means “Christ Resurrection”. It used to be a pagan temple, then turned into a Christian church. It symbolized the Christian community and baptisms were celebrated inside once a year. The façade has 3 pairs of doors made of bronze: one that represents the life of St John the Baptist, the four cardinal and theological virtues; the second relates to passages of Christ´s life. But the most important is the one that faces the cathedral, a masterpiece from Ghiberti that characterize “The Gates of Paradise”.
The interior is amazing with a ceiling made of mosaics. The works began on 1225 (remember that The Baptistery was built long before the cathedral). The tile shows the Final Judgment -above the altar- picturing a majestic Christ with the angels of the judgment on each side of him; the reward to those saved by leaving their graves and the punishment to condemned people (represented with terrible ways).
Giotto´s Bell Tower
The cathedral´s Bell Tower was designed by Giotto, and it´s a typical example of the Italian bell towers from those times, because they were erected as separate buildings from the cathedral. The reason? The bell towers were intended only to hold the bells and avoid damages that vibrations might cause inside the church. It is 85 meters high. Lots of people form a line to go up and watch Florence and have a different perspective of the Duomo.
For further info: https://www.museumflorence.com/es