Duomo Walking Tour (Self Guided), Florence

Duomo quarter is located in the very heart of the Florence Historic Center. This area is deservedly considered the religious and the civic centre of the town. Most of the historic sites Florence is famous for are to be found here. Take this tour to explore all the masterpieces of the Duomo quarter.
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Duomo Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Duomo Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Florence (See other walking tours in Florence)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
Author: Daniel
Florence Cathedral (Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore)

1) Florence Cathedral (Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore) (must see)

Presiding over the city of Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is a Renaissance masterpiece renowned for its masonry dome, the largest in the world. Completed in 1465, this dome is a double shell and is entirely self-supporting. On the inside, it carries the “Dante and the Divine Comedy” painting by Domenico di Michelino, which is particularly interesting since, apart from depicting the Divine Comedy scenes, it also shows images of 15th century Florence and, as such, is considered one of the most valuable artifacts in the cathedral.

The building itself is the product of almost 170 years of sheer hard work. The Gothic-style structure was built in 1296, although it wasn't until 1420 that the true identity of the cathedral was found, courtesy of architect Filippo Brunelleschi who was commissioned to the project after many other architects had given up on it. Brunelleschi looked for engineering solutions to the great dome of Pantheon in Rome but also relied on his own intuition and practical experiments with the large-scale models that he built. To lift 37,000 tons of material, including over 4 million bricks, he invented machines and lewissons for hoisting large stones. Fascinated with this machinery, the then young apprentice, Leonardo da Vinci, made series of sketches for which, later on, he was often credited for the actual invention. Despite that, Brunelleschi's name never fell into the oblivion. Today, a huge statue of the architect is set firmly in the piazza before the cathedral thoughtfully observing his greatest achievement that has since and forever will dominate the skyline of Florence.

It is always full of people, no matter the time of day. There is always a queue to climb the bell tower, to admire the Renaissance frescoes in the dome or the precious and colorful marble floor. Surely, the mixture of marbles outside are also outstanding – a unique combination that looks like paint but in actual fact is rock art.

Without detriment to the majesty of the dome, getting closer to the сathedral is even more exciting an experience as one can literally feel vertigo observing the high tower, all solid and white, with the delicately made Baptistery doors and massive walls. Whatever time of day, the cathedral is always full of people, queuing outside to climb the bell tower, or simply anxious to admire the Renaissance frescoes of the dome or the colorful marble flooring inside. As to the mixture of marbles outside, it is just as outstanding and represents a unique combination that looks just like paint, whereas in fact, it's a piece of rock art. Still, if you care to go inside the Duomo, make good use of the free tour guides available who will explain to you the hidden meanings of the paintings, marvelous as they are.

When you buy the ticket online, make sure to make use of the free one that comes with the main ticket to climb to the top. You have to make a booking for that too, separately, although free. There are museums as well, and you're required to finish visiting all other facilities within 72hrs of initial entry to Duomo or any other facilities.

Opening Hours:
[Cathedral] Mon-Sat: 10am-4:30pm; Sun: 1:30pm-4:30pm
[Dome] Mon-Fri: 8:30am-7pm; Sat: 8:30am-5pm; Sun: 1pm-4pm
[Baptisery] Mon-Fri: 8:15am-10:15am / 11:15am-7:30pm; Sat: 8:15am-7:30pm; Sun: 8:15am-1:30pm
[Crypt] Mon-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat: 10am-4:30pm; Sun: CLOSED
[Bell Tower] Daily: 8:15am-7:20pm
[Museum] Daily: 9am-7pm
Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto)

2) Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto) (must see)

The famous Bell Tower of Giotto is a free-standing belfry belonging to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Florence, designed by great Giotto Di Bondone to whom it owes its name. Standing 85 meters high, this tower is one of the showpieces of Florentine Gothic architecture, lavishly embellished with sculptural decorations and polychrome marble encrustations.

Unfortunately, the author himself passed away during the construction, so the project had to be completed by two other architects. Giotto, apart from being a pillar of the Italian Renaissance architecture, also went down in history as a talented painter and sculptor, whose legacy is particularly visible in the pictorial and refined covering in white, green and red marble here, much as in the grandiose figurative cycle within the belfry that he had left unfinished.

Exploring the tower inside is possible. Moreover, of all the three major high-standing architectural attractions in Florence, climbing this one is arguably the easiest. Despite the somewhat intimidating number of steps – 414, the staircase is laid out in such a way that it allows some rest stoppages. Each level within the tower houses a large bell, seven in total – one for each musical note. Unlike the Duomo Cathedral and the Arnolfo Tower in the Palazzo Vecchio – the resting areas within the Giotto Tower are quite spacious and entertaining, affording visitors the diverse and quite remarkable views over the city down below. From the very top, one can observe the Cathedral's dome and Baptistery of San Giovanni at a totally different and somewhat unusual angle, plus enjoy a sweeping view of Florence complete with its alleys and rooftops that have changed very little over the past 500 years.

Please note that the admission to the tower is open on a combo ticket that covers other sites within the Duomo Cathedral complex as well. Keep in mind that you have 72 hours, from using it for the first time, to visit all the Cathedral sites. Unlike the Duomo, no reservation for the belfry is necessary, although you'll have to stand a line to get in. That line is usually not very long and moves rather quickly.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:15am-7:20pm
Battistero di San Giovanni

3) Battistero di San Giovanni (must see)

Commonly known as Florence Baptistery, Battistero di San Giovanni is located in Piazza del Duomo and Piazza di San Giovanni, diagonally opposite the Doumo cathedral. It was built in the 7th century over a Roman structure, believed to a temple dedicated to Mars. Symbolizing recreation, the baptistery is octagonal in shape and was decorated with green and white marble during its reconstruction in 1059.

The zebra-striped pilaster at every corner the baptistery has today is the result of the Romanesque look given to it in the 11th century. Each side of the octagonal structure has three small windows on the top, below which lie three huge arches having a window each. Under each window are three smaller arches. The baptistery is, however, known for its three sets of bronze doors.

Designed by Andrea Pisano, the south doors portray scenes from the life of St. John and beautifully depict in bronze the eight virtues of Christianity. The doors on the north side took Lorenzo Ghiberti 21 years to complete and portray the life of Christ. He was then commissioned for the east door and he worked on it for 27 years. Dubbed by Michelangelo as the ‘Gates of Paradise’, the ten panels on the door depict “the Story of Joseph”.

The structure is witness to baptisms of members of the Medici family, many Renaissance-era personalities and almost all Catholic Florentines until the 19th century. Visiting this architectural beauty is, therefore, visiting the Catholic history of Florence.

Why You Should Visit:
Worth a quick look around as the Baptistery is more elaborate than the basilica cathedral which is more simple.

Admission to the Baptistery is included with your standard ticket that covers the Duomo sights excluding the cathedral (which itself is free) within a 72-hour period.
A dress code is required; no shorts or sleeveless tops allowed. Knees and shoulders must be covered for both men and women.
To attend the daily mass, be there at around 10:30 at the door opposite of the main one and say "mass" or "messa" to the man on the door.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:15am-10:15am / 11:15am-7:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Dante House-Museum (Casa di Dante)

4) Dante House-Museum (Casa di Dante) (must see)

Found in the heart of medieval Florence, Casa di Dante or the Dante House-Museum is a 20th-century building set on the site – as the records suggest – of a very probable location of the Alighieri family house, the birthplace of one Italy's most cherished poets, Dante Alighieri.

Spread across three floors, the museum displays, among other artifacts, some of the most important works of Dante, illustrative of major milestones in his life. The ground floor is dedicated to Dante's early years, while the first floor showcases documents related to his exile in 1301, plus the final years of his life in Ravenna. Finally, the second floor exhibits a vast collection of Dante’s belongings (both, originals and replicas) garnered over the years. There, you can see a miniature copy of “Divina Comedia”, the smallest printed edition.

Also, across the street from the Dante House, there is a map following which you can reach the church where Dante, at the age of nine, first caught sight of Beatrice Portinari, also nine at that time, who would for decades afterwards symbolize for him a perfection of female beauty and spiritual goodness. Despite Dante's fervent devotion to Beatrice, she did not return feelings and got married to another man and then died at a fairly young age...

After having served as one of the six priors governing Florence, Dante’s political activities, including the banishing of several rivals, led to his own banishment, upon which he wrote his masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy”, as a virtual wanderer, seeking protection for his family in one town after another. In the poem’s first and second books, the poet takes a tour of Hell and Purgatory guided by poet Virgil. In Paradise, however, he is guided by Beatrice. Although Dante himself referred to his work simply as “Comedy”, it became enormously popular and a deluxe version of it, published in 1555 in Venice, assumed the new title that we all know today.

Steep stairs, but there is a lift, which is not obvious when you enter.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm (Apr-Oct); Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat, Sun: 10am-6pm (Nov-Mar)
Badia Fiorentina

5) Badia Fiorentina

Badìa Fiorentina is an abbey and church now home to the Fraternity of Jerusalem situated on the Via del Proconsolo in the centre of Florence.

The abbey was founded as a Benedictine institution in 978 by Willa, Countess of Tuscany, in commemoration of her late husband Hubert, and was one of the chief buildings of medieval Florence. A hospital was founded in the abbey in 1071. The church bell marked the main divisions of the Florentine day. Between 1284 and 1310 the Romanesque church was rebuilt in Gothic style, but in 1307 part of the church was demolished to punish the monks for non-payment of taxes. The church underwent a Baroque transformation between 1627 and 1631. The prominent campanile, completed between 1310 and 1330, is Romanesque at its base and Gothic in its upper stages. Its construction was overseen by the famous chronicler Giovanni Villani.

Major works of art in the church include the Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard (c. 1486) by Filippino Lippi and the tombs of Willa's son Hugh, Margrave of Tuscany (died 1001) and the lawyer and diplomat Bernardo Giugni (1396–1456), both by Mino da Fiesole (latter completed c. 1466). The murals in the apse were completed by Giovanni Domenico Ferretti in 1734.
Sight description based on wikipedia

6) Bargello (must see)

If Florence, in general, is a paradise for architecture buffs and art lovers, then the Bargello museum is even more so. Occupying a medieval fortress, this museum houses some of Italy's most valuable sculptures and other works of art.

Also known as Palazzo del Popolo (the People's Palace), this is one of the oldest structures in the city, dating back to 1255. Throughout its history, the building has served many different roles. Early on, back in the 16th century, it accommodated the so-called Captain of the People, the police chief of Florence, called “bargello”, hence the name of the palace. After that, the Bargello Fortress served as a prison, up until the mid-19th century, upon which it was converted to a museum displaying a large collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures.

Among the displayed artifacts here are the works of Donatello, Michelangelo, Verrochio, Brunelleschi, and other greats. Notably, Donatello’s statue of David was the first male nude sculpture ever exhibited since ancient times, thus manifesting a turn in the history of European art. The inner courtyard of the museum is an elegant space crammed with the relief and free-standing sculptures; however, the most famous items are placed in the gallery, off the courtyard, and in the large exhibition space above. Apart from the Renaissance items, the collection includes rare artifacts from the Byzantine, Roman and Medieval eras. Alongside sculptures, you can find here jewelry pieces of the European Renaissance and Islamic origin, too. For visitors convenience, all the exhibits are accompanied by English descriptions.

Donatello’s “David” was the first male nude sculpture since ancient times, and you can admire this turn in art history without an overwhelming amount of visitors. The interior courtyard is an elegant space crammed with relief and free-standing sculpture; however, the most famous works are in the gallery off the courtyard and the large exhibition space above. Among the treasures of Renaissance artists and craftsmen, those spaces house rare pieces of artifacts from the Byzantine, Roman and medieval era, along with beautiful jewelry right from the Renaissance period down to the Islamic period. You can take your time there, as you'll find some very intriguing collections presented interestingly with English explanations and there is no sense of pressure that you have to rush through to “see everything”.

To better plan your visit to Bargello, check out the museum's website in advance for opening hours, noting that on special occasions it may close rather late. Those brave enough to wander around the eerie, empty medieval building late in the evening, may find this rather entertaining.

Opening Hours:
Complesso di San Firenze

7) Complesso di San Firenze

Fathers of the Oratorian order always had big plans for this small parish of San Firenze, which was started in 1174. To the parish, they wanted to add a convent, an oratory and a Church dedicated to St. Philip Neri, founder of the order. With passing time, architects changed and so did the designs. However, the limited availability of funds remained a major concern for the extravagant designs of the parish. Finally, in 1667 Francesco Silvani started work on the church. After his death, Ferdinando Ruggieri took over the project and completed the honey coloured façade by 1715. In the 1770s, a new oratory was built and Ruggieri’s work on the façade was duplicated by Zanobi del Rosso, to give us the building the way it looks today. The original parish then became an oratory of the new Church.

The donation arising out of the death of Giuliano Serragli initiated the work of the Church. His contribution, though inadequate to the plan, is respected by the Church and he has been recognised as the Church’s principal benefactor. The Glory of St. Philip Neri decorates the ceiling of the new church.

An occasional example of Baroque style of architecture in the city, this building is now primarily used by the state authorities as a court of law. A small part of the church is still maintained and should be visited, if you are around.

8) Orsanmichele

Orsanmichele is a church in the Italian city of Florence. The building was constructed on the site of the kitchen garden of the monastery of San Michele, now gone. Located on the Via Calzaiuoli in Florence, the church was originally built as a grain market in 1337 by Francesco Talenti, Neri di Fioravante, and Benci di Cione. Between 1380 and 1404 it was converted into a church used as the chapel of Florence's powerful craft and trade guilds. Inside the church is Andrea Orcagna's bejeweled Gothic Tabernacle (1355-59) encasing a repainting by Bernardo Daddi's of an older icon of the 'Madonna and Child'. The facades held 14 architecturally designed external niches, which were filled from 1399 to around 1430. The three richest guilds opted to make their figures in the far more costly bronze, which cost approximately ten times the amount of the stone figures.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palazzo Davanzati

9) Palazzo Davanzati

Palazzo Davanzati was erected in the second half of the 14th century by the Davizzi family, who were wealthy members of the wool guild. In 1516 it was sold to the Bartolini and, later that century, to the Davanzati family, also rich merchants (1578), who held it until 1838. After the suicide of Carlo Davanzati, it was split into different quarters and modified. After escaping the numerous demolitions of 19th century Florence, it was bought by Elia Volpi, an antiquarian, who restored it in (his impression of) the original style.

In 1910, Volpi opened the building as a private museum (Museo Privato della Casa Fiorentina Antica). The contents of this museum kept changing as Volpi sold the furniture at auctions, including a major one in 1916 in New York. In the 1920s, Egyptian antique dealers Vitale and Leopoldo Bengujat acquired the building and its contents. In 1951 it was purchased by the Italian state and kept open as a museum. By 1995 the museum needed to be closed for major restoration to keep the building from falling down. The museum was partially reopened in 2005 with the ground and first floors; by 2012 all the floors were open to visitors.

The palace consists of a facade that unifies a grouping of earlier, medieval tower homes that the owner purchased with the intent to put them together. It is constructed in sandstone, with three large portals on the horizontal axis, and three stories of mullioned windows. The topmost floor has a loggia supported by four columns and two pilasters that was added in the 16th century. The façade displays the Davanzati coats of arms and has traces of other decorations.The interior courtyard has arches, vaults, and capitals in 14th century-style.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Piazzetta del Limbo

10) Piazzetta del Limbo

Piazzetta del Limbo is a famous ancient square in Florence. It is located in the historic center of the city, not far from the church of Santi Apostoli. The piazza is described in details in Dante's well-known poem.
Uffizi Gallery

11) Uffizi Gallery (must see)

If you were limited to visiting just one Renaissance location in Florence, or the whole world for that matter, the most obvious choice would be the Uffizi Gallery. Housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, initially designated as the magistrate office – hence the name "uffizi", erected in the 16th century by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo Medici, the 1st Duke of Florence, it represented an ideal setting for the Medicis' art collection as well. The gallery has been open to the public since 1765 and, to this date, become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence.

The displayed here must-see works of art include Sandro Botticelli's “Birth of Venus” and “Adoration of the Magi”, not to mention the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and other eternal greats. The collection is truly magnificent and you can easily spend here a whole day without noticing!

While paintings and statues are what most people come here for, the decoration of the rooms, especially the ceilings, are just as spectacular and worthy of attention. With more than 50 opulent rooms to explore, it is actually quite hard to absorb everything in one go, so you might want to take a break and “recharge batteries” at an on-site cafe with a terrace which, among other delights, offers visitors some truly great views unseen anywhere else.

Given the world-class status of the museum, it is perpetually busy and the hours-long queue here is not uncommon, especially during peak season. Those who book their tickets in advance from the official website, have a substantially shorter wait and may get it cheaper, too. Also note that no liquids are allowed onto the premises and the restrooms are available only at entrance and exit. At your own risk, you may try and go an hour or two before closing just in hopes to get a ticket without queuing. Good luck!

If you decide to go, note that no liquids are allowed onto the premises and the restrooms are available only at entrance and exit.
At your own risk, you may try and go an hour or two before closing just in hopes to get a ticket without queuing. Good luck!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8:15am-6:50pm
Closure starts from 6:35pm
The ticket office closes at 6:05pm
Museo Galileo

12) Museo Galileo

The Museo Galileo (before 2010 known as the Institute and Museum of the History of Science) is a science museum housed inside an old palace named Castellani. It was founded in 1927 by the University of Florence. The museum is located in the Piazza dei Giudici, by the River Arno and close to the Uffizi Gallery.

The museum features many artifacts from the 15th to 19th century, mostly pioneering scientific instruments including world globes, stethoscopes, navigation instruments and telescopes with accompanying videos to the exhibits.

Operation hours: Monday, Wednesday - Sunday: 9:30 am - 6:00 pm; Tuesday: 9:30 am - 1:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Chiesa di San Pier Scheraggio

13) Chiesa di San Pier Scheraggio

Chiesa di San Pier Scheraggio is a very old church in Florence. It was used for city's Council meetings before the other palaces were built. Dante attended many of these meetings during his life as a politician. Today the church is part of the Uffizi Gallery.
Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)

14) Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) (must see)

Just like the Duomo complex, Palazzo Pitti and major local art galleries, Palazzo Vecchio, or the Old Palace, is one of the key sites in Florence that is absolutely essential for understanding the history and culture of the city. One of the most impressive town halls in Tuscany, this enormous Romanesque-style palace has been the office of a Florence mayor since 1872. Prior to that, for a while between 1865 and 1871, it also housed the Italian government.

The solid facade of this crenelated military-like fortress is decorated with shields recounting the city's political history, plus adorned with a series of sculptures among which are the likes of Michelangelo's “David”, “Marzocco” – the heraldic lion, symbol of Florence, Donatello's original “Judith and Holofernes” and “Hercules and Cacus”. A standalone attraction within the palace is the Tower of Arnolfo, access to which costs an additional fee.

Walking through the palace, from the huge Salone dei Cinquecento to the most intimate quarters, virtually transports one back in time, offering a glimpse into the secluded privacy of the Medici rulers, magnificently decorated as part of the iconographic program designed by Giorgio Vasari. It is hence advisable to take one's time and explore the property without haste, so as to be able to get the historically-intense, artistically-rich experience, quite possibly resulting in a crick-in-the-neck feeling from gazing at the gorgeous ceilings above, one room after another.

There are various add-on tours of the palace available that are fun for kids and don't cost too much extra. Among them, for instance, the 'Secret Paths' tour, lasting about 1h½, delivered by knowledgeable guides and allowing access to the parts of the palace otherwise closed for the public.

If you decide to go for a tour, it is advisable to book directly with the museum by email, stating the preferred date and time, and then wait for confirmation. You will pay upon collecting the tickets on the day of the tour. After it is finished, you can wander freely around the palace at will.
Be aware, though, that since this is an active municipality office, it is quite possible that, on special occasions, the building may be temporarily closed for public. It is, therefore, recommended to check their website for possible announcements to this effect prior to the visit.

Opening Hours:
Fri-Wed: 9am-11pm; Thu: 9am-2pm (Apr-Sep); Fri-Wed: 9am-7pm; Thu: 9am-2pm (Oct-Mar)
Piazza della Signoria

15) Piazza della Signoria (must see)

Alongside Piazza del Duomo, the religious heart of Florence, Piazza della Signoria is another key center of attraction in the city – its civil center, presided over by the imposing fortified palace, known as Palazzo Vecchio. Boasting the finest collection of outdoor statues, this square is the birthplace of the Florentine Republic and, as such, is held dear by the locals as an epicenter of the city's social life. The entire area seemingly transcends time and you can easily imagine Michelangelo's “David” standing here, in its original location, now replaced by a replica.

The piazza has enjoyed central location in the city since the Roman times when it was just as small town of Florentia, with a square surrounded by a theater, a complex of baths and a textile workshop. Later, there were a church, a loggia and an enormous 5th-century basilica added, as revealed by the excavations performed in the 1980s beneath the square during its re-pavement.

The asymmetrical shape of the square, complete with the numerous artworks found within – both large and small, add to its appeal, particularly among the photographers, who flock here in numbers, snapping away frantically in a bid to capture it from every possible angle. Even devoid of camera, standing right in the middle of the square, looking around 360 degrees, is a captivating experience as such.

The imposing seat of the municipal government, Palazzo Vecchio crowns the city skyline and, to one side, just a stone's throw away, is neighbored by an equally impressive Loggia dei Lanzi. An outdoor museum of sorts, it is almost always open to the public and free to access, holding yet another fine collection of statues, including the famous “Rape of Sabine Women”, “Hercules and the Centaur”, and a bronze “Perseus” cleverly positioned so as to be seemingly stared at by the statue of David.

There are a few places to sit here, some out of the sun, but be sure to pace yourself and have plenty of water, if visiting in high summer. Working your way through the crowd can be a challenge but don't always try to walk directly towards your target as you'll invariably keep meeting people doing the same in the opposite direction. It'd be much easier to move a bit like a yacht tacking into the wind – a bit diagonally to the right, a bit more to the left and so on, sidling into the gaps as they appear. Easy-peasy...

Why You Should Visit:
One of the two most important centers of attractions in Florence, along with the Piazza del Duomo.
It might just host the finest collection of outdoor statues in the world and is surrounded by beautifully decorated buildings along with many "very good" to "world-class" museums.

Walking Tours in Florence, Italy

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