How to Get the Most out of Your Visit to the Duomo Complex in Florence, Italy – Yoga, Wine & Travel

How to Get the Most out of Your Visit to the Duomo Complex in Florence, Italy

A step-by-step guide to making the most of your time exploring the monuments within the Duomo Complex in Florence, Italy.

I finally had the chance to cross off one of my bucket list destinations: Florence! It was about bloody time, seeing as it is my namesake city, and it was everything I had imagined and more. Its history as a cultural, economic and political center cemented its position as a flourishing and well-to-do city in Europe, and the preservation of its monuments has been incredible. From the Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio to Uffuzi Gallery and Gallerie Dell’Accademia, almost every structure has been painstakingly and delicately restored and maintained; with a few exceptions (Uffuzi Gallery! *shakes fist*), the visiting process is streamlined and efficient, enabling visitors to Florence to truly enjoy their trip and take in the sights without wanting to yank all their hair out.

The panoramic skyline of Florence is not complete without the famous Duomo, or Brunelleschi’s Dome, but the Duomo is only one monument within the greater complex housed within Piazza del Duomo and Piazza San Giovanni. The five monuments that make up the Duomo complex include the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower), the Baptistry of San Giovanni, the Crypt of Santa Reparata and the Opera Museum. All of these monuments are unique and take time to properly explore, so the best way to plan your tour is to spread out the monuments over two days. 

Don’t have a lot of time to spend in Florence? Then you’ll want to stay near the Duomo Complex – don’t worry, it’s easy to get around the city on foot! Click here for accommodation options in Florence, Italy!

Duomo Complex Map

This complex is probably the most popular landmark in Florence – it goes without saying that there are often what can only be described as “hordes” of people visiting each of the monuments. If you want a hassle-free visit, read on for my recommended two-day itinerary to get the most out of your time at the Duomo complex!

Things You Should Know Before Your Visit to the Duomo in Florence

Ticket Options

Option 1: This is perhaps the most critical step to ensuring an amazing and stress-free visit – while it’s not 100% compulsory, it will guarantee a unique and exclusive view of Florence and the Duomo. The Little Peek on Florence” tour (it is AKA the “A Glimpse of Florence” tour) is a guided tour of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, exclusive entrance into the private north Terrace (normally kept under lock and key and not open to the public!), and allows you to skip the massive queues for Brunelleschi’s Dome if you want to continue on up. Group sizes are kept small and the guide walks you through the rich history and significance of the Duomo complex – better than any for-hire audio guide, guaranteed.

Florence Italy Duomo North Terrace 1

The tour takes about an hour and a half and costs €30 per person (double the price of a regular ticket, but worth it – believe me). The ticket also provides one entry to each of the other monuments (except for the Cathedral which you can re-enter as it has no admission fee) within the Duomo complex within 48 hours of the first entry, and is hosted at 10:30 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from January to March, and Monday to Saturday from April to December.

*If you book to join the tour, make sure that you bring a printed copy of the confirmation voucher, which will be sent to you one business day after you submit your booking and secures your place on the tour – this is not the same as the “order received” e-mail you receive immediately after submitting your order. 

Option 2: If you’re not keen on joining the tour, you can also buy a regular ticket (€15) online or in person at the main ticket office (across the street from the main entrance of the Baptistry), the ticket office in Giotti’s Campanile or the Museum. The regular ticket also provides one-time entry into all of the monuments (again, with the exception of the Cathedral).

Pre-Book Your Entrance Time

Once you’ve secured your ticket, the next thing you need to do to set yourself up for a smooth visit is to book your entrance time to skip the queue for Brunelleschi’s Dome (unless you’re booked on the tour, in which case you’ll be skipping the queue anyway!). All you do is enter the ticket number listed on the back of your ticket, choose an available time slot, and voila! No waiting around like a stick in the mud.

If you are visiting during the peak season (July to October) and not booking the Little Peek on Florence tour, make sure you purchase your ticket ASAP and pre-book your Duomo climb. It is not uncommon for the Dome climb to be fully booked for days. This photo was taken on a Monday in October 2017 – slots for the Dome climb were fully booked until Thursday!

Dress Code for the Duomo

If you’ve visited the Vatican, then you’ll know that proper attire is pretty much non-negotiable – no bare shoulders and short skirts that sit above the knees! Bring a shawl or scarf if you’re planning to wear a tank/spaghetti top so you can cover your shoulders as people do get turned away, especially from the Cathedral and Baptistry. Wear comfortable shoes or sandals for the Dome and Bell Tower climbs.

Things to Bring

A shawl/scarf to cover bare shoulders, a small bottle of water for the climb and your camera/smartphone.

Florence Italy Duomo 6

Opening Hours

All of the monuments have different opening and closing hours and these may change on different days of the year, so it’s best to check the official website before your visit. It’s also best to head to the monuments well before their closing time as some don’t permit entry within a certain time frame before closing. The best time to visit the Duomo in Florence is when it opens in the morning, or right before it shuts in the afternoon.

The Museum is closed on the first Tuesday of each month.

WiFi

If for some reason you can not live without an Internet connection, there is free WiFi within the complex – connect to the Duomo’s WiFi, then follow the instructions and enter the password listed on the back of your ticket.

Day One

10 am: Pick up your Little Peek On Florence Tickets

Bring your tour confirmation voucher to the main ticket office in Piazza San Giovanni and pick up your tour tickets.

Once you have your ticket, head straight to the Baptistry of San Giovanni, the oldest building in the square. The octagonal structure is famous for its three sets of large bronze doors with the oldest on the south side depicting the life of John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence. The layout inside the Baptistry is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome, and its domed ceiling is adorned with opulent gilded mosaics.

Florence Italy Duomo Baptistry 1
Florence Italy Duomo Baptistry 2

10:15 am: Head back to the ticket office to meet your guide

Once you have walked through the Baptistry (you can always head back later for a closer look at the doors!), head back to the ticket office as this is where you’ll meet your guide. There is a bathroom there (€1) so you can use it before you head into the cathedral/climb Brunelleschi’s Dome.

10:30 am: The tour begins

The Little Peek On Florence Tour is the equivalent of a “red carpet experience” at the Duomo complex. First, your guide leads you into the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, skipping the queue and behind the velvet ropes into the heart of the cathedral. The entire cathedral was once open to the public, but the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (the institution that manages the entire complex) soon realized that the marble floors were being damaged by the heavy foot traffic, and visitors were eating and drinking in the cathedral, often casually tossing their trash inside this place of worship. They therefore decided to create a boundary so that visitors could explore and walk along the walls of the cathedral but not in the heart of the cathedral.

Florence Italy Duomo Cathedral 5
Florence Italy Duomo Cathedral 4
Florence Italy Duomo Cathedral 3

Did you know that most tourist attractions in Italy have skip-the-line options? Click here for 14 things you should know before you go to Italy!

Once behind the velvet ropes, you learn the history and cultural, civic and religious significance of the cathedral and the broader complex, and are regaled with stories of the construction of the cathedral, the dome, the influence and contributions of the Medici family and the attempted assassination of Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici during Sunday mass. Drama, Renaissance-style.

11:15 am: The north Terrace

Skip the queue (again!) and head upstairs towards Brunelleschi’s Dome. About halfway up, you are led aside and through a set of steel gates to the entrance of the north Terrace. The terrace is not open to the public and offers panoramic views across Florence as well as unobstructed views of the Dome. I can’t quite explain the feeling of being one of only a handful of people wandering along the terrace, taking in Florence’s skyline and sea of sunset-colored roof tiles.

Florence Italy Duomo North Terrace 2

11:30 am: The trek begins

As part of the tour, you are offered the chance to skip the line to climb the Duomo. After your tour of the north Terrace, you can continue on the long journey up to Brunelleschi’s Dome (if you want to rally on), through narrow and slightly claustrophobic passageways. There are a total of 463 steps up to the Dome but the stairways are so narrow that many areas are mostly single file, meaning you may have to power through so you don’t keep people behind you waiting, or you might have to squeeze aside and let those heading in the opposite direction pass (and use these precious moments to catch your breath).

20-30 minutes later…

You’re at the top of the world! (Or rather, 91 metres up from ground level.)

The views from the top of the Dome are out-of-this-world. The 360 degree, panoramic skyline will make you forget about all 463 steps you crawled up to get there. See?

Florence Italy Duomo 7

Once you’ve soaked in the skyline and all it has to offer, mentally prepare yourself for the walk back down (jelly legs guaranteed).

What is the best time to climb the Duomo? The O.P.A has done a great job in managing the number of people who climb the Duomo at any given time (remember, reservations are mandatory) so in my humble opinion there is no real “best” time to climb the Duomo. If you’d like to catch the beginning of the sunset (during the summer months) then I’d recommend starting the climb in the late afternoon if you are not on the Little Peek on Florence tour.

Note: Remember, if you do not go on the Little Peek on Florence Tour you will need to pre-book a time to access Brunelleschi’s Dome!

1 pm: Opera Museum

Head to the Museum and take a minute to connect to the Duomo WiFi and pre-book your entrance for Giotto’s Campanile for day two. (Update October 2017: It appears that you are no longer able to pre-book a time for the campanile online. You will need to join the queue in person.) The Museum recently re-opened in November 2015 after renovation, and features 6,000 square metres of artwork, statues and reliefs.

Florence Italy Duomo Museum 3

My favorite display? The Galleria della Cupola that houses centuries-old wood models, large modern models and a mini theater playing a short documentary of the history of the Dome. Did you know that when they began construction of the Cathedral, they had no idea how they were going to complete the Dome?

Day Two

10 am: Giotto’s Campanile

There’s no way I would recommend that anyone tackle both the Domb climb and Giotto’s Bell Tower in one day. The Health app on my iPhone says the Dome climb (up and down) was the equivalent of climbing nearly 60 flights of stairs (!), and of course my phone is always right.

After the Dome itself, Giotto’s Bell Tower is probably the second-most recognized monument within the complex and considered the most beautiful campanile in Italy. A mere 7 metres shorter than the Dome, there are 414 steps up to the top and also offers amazing end-to-end views of Florence.

Florence Italy Duomo Bell Tower 1

You might be thinking to yourself, “is it absolutely necessary to climb the Dome and the Bell Tower?” And I would say yes! Both offer unique experiences, views and are covered by your ticket. There are just a few differences between the two climbs: the Bell Tower passageways are slightly wider, less claustrophobic and less crowded, the climb up is segmented with several landings on the way up where you can stop and rest, and unlike the Dome climb that offers you views around the Dome, the Bell Tower offers you a closer look at the Dome itself. Just one small thing to note – while the view from the Bell Tower terrace is sublime, it is slightly obstructed by wall-to-wall wire frames.

Unfortunately, it no longer appears that you can pre-book your entry to the Bell Tower, so everyone has to queue up to get in. The best time to climb the Bell Tower is when it opens in the morning because the lines tend to be shorter, but the Dome will be backlit in the summer months. You can also try to line up to climb the Bell Tower before it shuts if you are adamant on getting a perfectly lit shot of Brunelleschi’s Dome.

Want to know where the best viewpoints are in Florence, Italy? Click here!

We were very lucky and the sun was out for our Dome climb on day one, and it was overcast for our Bell Tower climb on day two: both lookouts were spectacular and showed two different (but equally breathtaking) sides of Florence.

Florence Italy Duomo Bell Tower 2
Florence Italy Duomo Bell Tower 6

11 am: The Crypt

Florence Italy Duomo Crypt 1
Florence Italy Duomo Crypt 2

Inside the Cathedral is a stairway that leads down to the excavated ruins of the ancient cathedral of Santa Reparata, the original and smaller cathedral of Florence. Said to built in the 5th century AD, the church became unable to host the increasing number of people flocking into its halls to worship, and so the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was commissioned to be built in its place.

Prego!

You have visited all the amazing monuments that make up Florence’s “Duomo Complex” – all within two days. I hope this guide is able to help you to plan a stress-free and enjoyable visit! For those of you who have explored the Duomo, do you have any other tips that I missed? Share them below in the comments section!

Where to eat around the Duomo complex

Trattoria Le Mossacce: a little hole-in-the-wall with delicious home-cooked Italian fare.

La Posta: Hands down the best bruschetta, penne pomodoro, ravioli rose we had in Florence (we ate here six times!)

La Petite: Sister restaurant of La Posta, try their twist on the classic carbonara but with duck instead of bacon!

Casa Del Vin Santo: Beautiful pizza, delicious wine.

Golden View Open Bar: Slightly more upscale but the view and service can’t be beat. Book ahead and ask for a balcony table for an incredible view of the Ponte Vecchio.

Where to stay around the Duomo complex

Hotel Calzaiuoli is a 2 (yes, TWO!) minute walk away from the Duomo Complex. I’ve now stayed at Hotel Calziuoli a total of 3 times because the staff are extremely friendly and accommodating, rooms are bright, comfortable and spacious, and the breakfast spread was amazing. Click here to book your stay at Hotel Calzaiuoli!

La Tana Dei Leoni is an amazing guesthouse right in front of the Ponte Vecchio. It was an amazing room and great value for money – I would highly recommend this over Hotel Calzaiuoli for anyone with a slightly lower budget! Click here to book your stay at La Tana Dei Leoni!

Ready to book your stay? Click here for 10% off your booking!

Florence Italy Duomo 8

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Yogawinetravel.com: How to Get the Most out of Your Visit to the Duomo Complex in Florence, Italy

Yogawinetravel.com: How to Get the Most out of Your Visit to the Duomo Complex in Florence, Italy

Yogawinetravel.com: How to Get the Most out of Your Visit to the Duomo Complex in Florence, Italy

Yogawinetravel.com: How to Get the Most out of Your Visit to the Duomo Complex in Florence, Italy

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58 Comments

  1. Rosi C. says:

    This is nice:-) i hope to make it to Florence one day. nice input.

  2. Bookmarked your page for when I finally make the trip to Florence! The photos are stunning and everywhere just looks so grand 🙂

  3. The architecture is simply stunning! Those are such great photos. I now have this on my list of places to visit!

  4. Jessica says:

    What a great guide to the Duomo! Florence truly is magical 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  5. Natasha says:

    Ahh Florence is definitely on my list! Everything looks so gorgeous! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Laura Hall says:

    This is fab and your photos are beautiful… I will visit one day! When I’m back over that side of the world 🙂

  7. Kerri says:

    Florence is without a doubt one of my fave cities in Europe, and one I have been able to visit on several occasions. There is something about standing up at Michelangelo Square and looking down on the terracotta coloured roofs. The Duomo is also gorgeous and you’ve provided really great detail to get the most out of a visit.

    • Flo says:

      Thanks so much, Kerri! Totally agree – it’s definitely become one of my favorite cities in the whole of Europe!

  8. I want to gooooo! This article is seriously so useful – so many great tips!

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for reading, Courtney! 🙂 I was so blown away by Florence – definitely visit if you get the chance!

  9. Joanna says:

    Thank you for this informative post about the Duomo Complex. I have been to Florence but I didn’t have enough time to visit everything, I just went inside the Duome and that was it.

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for reading, Joanna! The whole complex is so amazing and well organized – I would go as far to say that it’s better organized than some of the monuments in Rome!

  10. Great post! I could’ve done with this when I went there! Your photographs are beautiful too, definitely do Florence justice!

  11. I’ve climbed many church and town hall towers in Europe and I agree that you shouldn’t do more than one a day! Aside from the climbing, was there a lot of walking during the tour? I’m not familiar with the area or how spread out that place may be.

    • Flo says:

      Not too much, Ava! Tons of interesting information about how the Duomo was the center of everyday life for the people of Florence. All the monuments are very close to each other in one complex.

  12. Abbi says:

    Stunning photos – I loved visiting Florence, although it rained most of the time we were there! Tanks for the tips, I will use this post the next time I visit!

  13. Ruth says:

    What a detailed post. Very good! I am into doing research and buying tickets before arriving into a destination. I do not want to spend time of my trip making plans, getting in lines and trying to figure out things. I have been to Florence but didn’t have time to ascend tot he Duomo or Campanile.

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for reading, Ruth! I did a lot of research because I had heard the lines are outrageous. Hope this guide is helpful for the next time you visit Florence!

  14. I love Florence and your pictures did the city justice! I love that map too by the way! Great post 🙂

  15. Soraya says:

    Looks incredible! Florence is definitely one of those places that is on my bucket list… and I am hoping to get there next year. I love your tips for making the most out of visiting Duomo. I think the tour you joined would suit me really well – plus to skip horrendous long likes would be awesome.

    • Flo says:

      It is SUCH an awesome city – be sure to check out my other post on the best viewpoints in Florence! And definitely book yourself on the tour – the guide we had was AMAZING.

  16. This comes in very handy, since we are going to Italy in October. Have made a note of your post for reference. Can you give some more eating suggestions for Florence, please?? In other areas. Also, can you a suggest a good food walk?

    • Flo says:

      Hey Punita, definitely try La Petite and La Posta! Have fun! I didn’t go on a food tour so am not able to give a recommendation, I imagine you will have a blast though!

  17. Anna says:

    Great post Flo! I was in Florence once, 7-8 years ago! reading this post made me realize: “It´s time to go back there!” :-*

  18. Mimi Rose says:

    I LOVE Florence! I studied abroad there back in 2011 and quickly fell in love with a summer in Tuscany. I hiked up the steps of the Duomo on one of my last days in the city, and the view at the top was so worth it. So glad you got to visit your namesake city, ha! 🙂 #flyawayfriday

  19. Tracy says:

    I have just returned from a trip to Italy. I could have done with reading this before I went – an excellent post!
    #flyawayfriday

  20. Chloe says:

    Ugh how gorgeous!!! I absolutely loved Florence and these pictures bring back so many good memories!!! Loved all your restaurant and things to do recommendations, so many amazing options in Florence!! Thank you for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday!

  21. Kana says:

    As always Flo, I’m obsessed with how you outline your posts! Love it! Beautiful pictures and ahhh, I really want to visit Italy! I was just in Little Italy here in Boston and with your post, dying to go! Thanks for sharing and joining #FlyAwayFriday!

  22. Kevin says:

    Hi Flo,

    Thank you for sharing! I wouldn’t have found the peek of Florence tour which is now definitely is on the list. Quick question – did you have to book the dome climb separately since the website states a reservation is required and an option didn’t come up when booking the tour? If so, how?

  23. David De Marco says:

    Great post. Very helpful. I will be in Florence for one day this summer (July 12). I’m just not clear on one thing. Does the Little Peek on Florence Tour include a guided tour of the Duomo only or of the other parts of the Duomo complex as well (Baptistry, Bell Tower, crypt, museum)?

    • Flo says:

      Hi David, when we went on the tour it only included a guided tour of the Duomo. The rest of the complex is fairly easy to navigate on your own – ahve a great time!

  24. Stephanie says:

    We will be visiting Florence soon. Can you visit one building, leave the complex, and return later to visit another building? We are trying to buy tickets and having a terrible time. Any hints? We are plannng to climb the Duomo and are trying to schedule a time. It has us pay, then just spins so the transaction never occurs.

    • Flo says:

      Yes, you can leave and visit another building, but I believe you’re only allowed 1 entry per building. I didn’t have any issues with online payment when I bought the tickets – have you tried using another browser?

  25. Amanda says:

    Is the reasoning for picking up the tickets at 10am that the ticket office is not open before this time? Just curious bc I am an early riser so if I could get the tickets earlier I would probably go ahead and visit one of the sites not included in the tour beforehand.

    • Flo says:

      Hi Amanda,

      The reasoning is because the tour starts at 10:30 am and the instructions say to pick the tickets up at least 15 minutes prior. If you’re an early riser, the baptistery, bell tower and the museum open earlier. Have fun!

  26. Xandee says:

    Hi. I wanted to know if we book the the “Peek of Florence” tour, do we have to do the Duomo and Cathedral tour on Day 1 before going to Museum and Gioto?

    • Flo says:

      Hi Xandee, if I recall the tour begins at approximately 10:30 am. The bell tower opens pretty early – 8 am or so, and the museum opens at approx 9 am. So you COULD visit the museum and the campanile before the tour if you’re up early.

      • Xandee says:

        Thanks Flo. We wanted to climb the campanile also and take our time at the museum. Just wondering if we can do those two the day before we actually do the duomo and cathedral tour or do we have to do the tour first? For instance, can we pick up the museum and campanile tickets on Tuesday and do the other 2 attractions on that day, even if the peak in florence tour would be on a Wednesday? i hope this makes sense.

        • Flo says:

          Hi Xandee, when you purchase the tour you select the date of the tour in the system, and you use this same ticket for entry into the other monuments. The ticket is valid for 6 days from the date on the ticket (date of the tour), and is valid for 48 hours once you enter the first monument. See this: https://en.grandemuseodelduomo.waf.it/museo_dett.php?idtour=8484

          My understanding is that you will need to do the tour first as the tickets are valid only beginning the date of your scheduled tour, but you may want to email the OPA for confirmation: opera@operaduomo.firenze.it

          • Xandee says:

            Thanks Flo! So I emailed them and you’re right, tickets are valid on the date of tour. I found it interesting though that the person that replied to my inquiry also said that since we’re part of the tour, we DO NOT need to book the climb? Anyone done this and not book the climb? I’m just worried and want to make sure this is correct…it should be coming from them right? Also, anyone recommend a good time to climb the campanille? Thanks!

          • Flo says:

            You do not need to book the climb for the Duomo, because you will climb it at the end of the tour. I visited the Campanile in the afternoon but in my experience the bell tower tends to be less crowded than the Duomo anyway!

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