Florence Day 4 – Stairmaster Day

Today is a climbing day. Yesterday in Pisa was only just a warm up.

Google lead me down town to the Apple Store on Piazza Della Repubblica where I would meet the rest of the tour group going to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore aka Il Duomo. Begun in 1296 and completed in 1436 it is what everyone comes here to see. And climb.

I have a ticket for a “skip-the-line” timed entry into the Cathedral and then a time to mount the stairs to the top of the Dome. The church is covered with 3 different colors of Italian marble, green, white and pink (of course).

Before we went up there were a few things to take a look at. Dante lived in Florence and after politcally backing the wrong horse he was exiled, actually sentanced to death so he left the city never to return. While he was on walkabout and in exile he wrote the Divine Comedy.

Yes his house is there but he is not having been buried in Basilica di San Francesco, Ravenna, Italy. Florence has requested his body back so he could be buried in his home town “We are so sorry we dissed you” in response to one of their heartfelt request the city of Ravenna sent back a box. When Florence officials opened the box to see their returned native son, they found the box was empty. Jokes on you!

From the crossing you can get a full view of the painted dome, although not in the same detail that we will see in about 200 steps.

There are 463 steps about double yesterday’s junior stairmaster. Luckily there are some window cut outs and landings on the way up for OG here to sit and contemplate existence. I am still wondering statistically how many heart attacks happen each year at the complex and how the heck the paramedics would get someone down from there.

OK off your butt, and back to the climb. The first landing before we are let out onto a side walkway along the side of the Cathedral has an number of statues of various bishops and some locals who probably had money. It was a good place to rest.

Part of our tour (and a little rest) allowed us to walk along a walkway down the side of the length of the cathedral, out for more views of the city.

A Panorama of the walkway outside along the side of the Cathedral

The next “resting place” would be the walkway along the inside rim of the dome itself. This would give us a closer image of the tableau on the dome with its depiction of hell and damnation, lucifer eating sinners, and heaven as well. You can see as well in one of the pictures that a structure this old requires constant maintance. There were a couple places where they have repaired cracks in the painting.

OK enough of inside. our next stop would be outside at the top of the dome. When they started the building there weren’t sure how they would build the dome and left the building without a dome after 100 years of construction, hoping after a century technology would catch up with them and have figured out how to construct a dome of this size. Obviously any project that lasts well over 100 years will have some staff turnover, all the great ones have. Enter Filippo Brunelleschi who studied a number of historical domes and came up with a plan. It would be a double dome with an outer shell and an inner shell (where the stairs to the top are placed. I understand that to this day we really don’t know all the architectural detals of how he created the dome because there being no copyright laws at the time he didn’t want anyone stealing his idea and as the dome was being finished he burned the plans.

From the top there are stunning views of the city, the Basilica di Santa Croce and the Apennine Mountains that surround the city. I’ll let the pictures speak their thousand words each.

A Panorama of the view from the top of the Dome

OK, time to go back down. You get a pretty good idea of the architecture when walking down. Particuarly, the inital descent from the top, the stairs having been built in the space between the ceiling of the dome and roof, you can see the curvature of the dome as you go down. Here you can watch of video of the inital descent: https://youtu.be/8NI7oTBsJCc

OK 463 up and 463 down so far 926 and yes it does hurt more going down, so what the heck while I’m here, since I already paid for it I’ll climb the Campanile. I didn’t count but I read that there are 414 steps to the top, so up and down would be 828 plus the 926 I already have done (today) that would make 1754. If I live.

There are a few stopping (and resting) places in the Bell tower, I think I counted four, including the tippy top at the roof. Since you can’t see the Dome from the dome the bell tower is a great place to get shots of the Duomo and the Baptistry.

For the Baptistry (or Baptstery) there is good news and bad news. Good news, there are no steps or only a couple. Bad news there is quite a bit of work going on in the building so there isn’t much to see at this time. It is worth noting that the tradition in the church is that it is through baptism that one gains entrance to the church. That is why in many churches you will find the fount at or near the door. This week, in Pisa and here in the Cathedral the Baptistry is literally a separate building outside the door through which one needed to pass to get inside the church itself.

Time to head home. As I left the Tower I said, to one Italian pilgrim, as I exited “Finito. Una Birra” I found a good pizza and beer at the Piazza della Repubblica and relaxed for a bit before walking back to the hotel.

Also walked over the Ponte Vecchio on the way home. It must be expensive to have a space there since the only thing I saw was high end Jewelry shops.

One other shot of the creativity of these Florentine crafts people. Even the base of a lowly street light deserves some love.


Its time to go to sleep.