Just a few days ago, I participated in a Florence VIP Duomo Tour. This tour was probably one of my favorite things I did while in Florence! The world famous Duomo di Firenze, which I learned is technically called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower), was so much grander than I had imagined. I knew from looking at pictures that the church was large, but up close, the size was incomprehensible. We started our tour by visiting a showroom connected to the ticket office, where we saw replicas of the tools that were used to build the famous Dome! Even today, the technicalities behind the construction of the Dome are a mystery, making the beautiful church that much more interesting. After a visit to the showroom, we walked across the Piazza del Duomo, dodging the tourists posing for photos, and into the church, passing by the lines of people waiting.
Duomo Florence: the tour
Our professional guide, who is employed by the Opera del Duomo, was informative about the Duomo! It was clear to see, even from the start, why this tour was called ‘VIP Duomo.’ Once inside the church, we entered into the long nave with its impressive vaulted ceilings, into a section of the church that was blocked off from regular visitors. With our guide, we admired the remarkable frescoes by Vasari and Zuccari while we learned about the complicated construction of the church. We walked closer to the altar and once again, got to go in a section blocked off to other visitors. Standing at the front of the church and looking back, the true size of the church was monumental. Our guide revealed unique stories and facts about who had been to the church, what had happened there, and how the influential Medici family of Florence contributed to it all. After we had explored the interior of the church, it was time to begin climbing to the top of the Dome, the part of the tour I was most excited for, but also dreading the most!
The tour description advertised that we would get to visit a VIP terrace approximately ? of the way up the dome. I had expected it to be cool, but when we arrived, after climbing some 153 steps, I was both exhausted and blown away. When we reached the landing, it seemed just like a resting point for people embarking on the 400+ stair climb, but with our guide we exited to the right behind a gate. We were standing in a small room surrounded by high stucco statues. We left the room via a small door and we were on the terraces, right up next to the dome. As you can see from the pictures, we were quite literally walking around the Duomo on this terrace. Looking up and back we could see just how large the dome really was. As we walked around the terrace, stopping for pictures and marveling at the exquisite detail of the exterior, our guide explained to us that it took 16 years to finish the dome itself! The views from the terrace were unparalleled and from where we were standing it was possible to see all of Florence!! We exited the terrace and it was here that the tour ended and our wonderful guide left us. From here you could either continue the climb to the top of the dome or go down the steps the same way we had come up. Being already 153 steps up, it seemed like a no-brainer to continue up to the top, despite what my legs were telling me. When I reached the top, the views were breathtaking, it was like you could see forever!
Once outside the church, after we had descended the 463 steps, I looked up to the top of the dome and could see the people standing at the very top. From the ground, they seemed like the size of ants, and again the immense size of the church was put into perspective!
With my entry ticket fromthe tour, I was able to access the rest of the buildings that make up the Duomo Complex, the Baptistery, the Bell tower, the Crypt, and the museum within the next 48 hours, meaning there was no need to rush around to see everything! At the end of the day, I was so glad I choose to book this specific tour and had the chance to visit some restricted areas of Florence’s Duomo while learning about the church’s history.