The cathedral or duomo, of Florence is a vast Gothic structure built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt. The cathedral was begun at the end of the 13th century in the Gothic style by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century. The church was then consecrated and "completed" although the façade was only half finished (it was redone and completed in the 19th century). The exterior is covered in a decorative mix of pink, white and green marble. The interior, by contrast, is pretty stark and plain.
The dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi who won the competition for its commission in 1418, the dome is egg-shaped and was made without scaffolding. The raising of this dome, the largest in the world in its time, was no easy architectural feat. 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 remain rough brick.
The best way to see the dome is to climb its 463 steps: the route takes you by the interior of the dome where you can admire close-up Giorgio Vasari's much-reviled frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9): they were designed by Vasari but painted mostly by his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari by 1579. The frescoes were subjected to a thorough cleaning completed in 1996, which many people saw as a waste of restoration funds when so many more important works throughout the city were waiting to be salvaged. The scrubbing did, however, bring out Zuccari's innovative color palette. Continue upwards through the two shells of the cupola and out onto the lantern, from which you can enjoy impressive views of the city.
It was well worth the 8 euro each and the 463 steps just to see the 360 degree views of Florence. Plus being up so early allowed us to skip the long lines to get inside.
The fresco inside the smaller dome
Looking down inside the cathedral
Walking up the inner dome to the top
At the views at the top of the outer dome
We look like we got lots of sleep the night before, lol!
A look at the bell tower at night
We quickly visited the Accademia Gallery after our visit to the Duomo
Florence is not only a city of art but a city of bicycles.
Once we returned to our hotel the next plan was to promptly check out of Hotel Centro and find another hotel that provided us with a room away form the street and with our very own bathroom.