Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore), Florence
Tel: 39 055 230 2885
Concierge.com's insider take:
Florence's massive green and white cathedral and its wedding cake facade dominates the center of the city. Building began in the 1290s under the direction of Arnolfo Di Cambio, and the structure was designed to supersede all other churches in size and sheer magnificence. The celebrated dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, was built in the 15th century after the engineering conundrum of how to construct such a huge cupola without it collapsing under its own weight was solved (even today, this remains the largest masonry dome in the world). Entrance to the cathedral itself is free, but four parts have separate charges and opening times (see below). Of these, the most worthwhile is the viewing platform inside the lantern that crowns the dome—but as the sign at the bottom warns: "463 steps... There is no lift." On the north and east doors outside the Baptistery, look out for Ghiberti's delicate bronze bas-reliefs.
Open Mondays through Wednesdays 10 am to 5 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays 1 to 5 pm.
Cupola (Dome): Open Mondays through Fridays 8:30 am to 7 pm, Saturdays 8:30 am to 5:40 pm.
Campanile: Open daily 8:30 am to 7:30 pm.
Baptistery: Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 7 pm, Sundays 8:30 am to 2 pm.
Crypt of Santa Reparata: Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 5 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 4:45 pm. Last entry 40 minutes before closing time.