We began our first proper morning in Italy with a trip to see the “Duomo” or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore giving its full name and for our morning exercise, instead of climbing up the inside of the cathedral’s dome, we ascended up the Giotto’s Campanile tower next to it. This gave us stunning views of the city of Florence and also more importantly of the Duomo itself.
I immediately regretted not bringing water and snacks with us as the ascension was much steeper and narrower than expected. Clearly the narrow staircases were only designed for a bellboy to go up and down not huge numbers of tourists, that somehow had to pass each other on the steps, travelling in both directions. At one point I found myself hugging the stone pillar in the centre of the staircase for over 10 minutes as a stream of larger than life tourists squeezed passed me on their way down; one lady slipping almost taking me down with her. There are no handrails or ropes to grab hold of here so if someone slips…. I don’t recommend this venture to anyone who is claustrophobic or afraid of heights and certainly not if you have high blood pressure or heart issues but the view you get from the top is truly amazing!
Once we descended from the Campanile we visited the Baptistery located opposite and still within the Piazza Del Duomo. The Baptistery is one of the oldest and I believe finest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style. The interior is truly divine and it formed the basis for Renaissance architecture. The east doors of it were actually dubbed by Michelangelo as the Gates of Paradise.
Following a busy morning we stopped for lunch in Trattoria San Lorenzo and it was warm enough for us to sit outside in the sunshine while we ate bruschetta and drink their house Chianti.
After lunch we had a look around the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore then we wandered to look at Palazzo Strozzi and then the Basilica Santa Croce.
Basilica Santa Croce is the burial place of Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo and as such it is known as the Temple of the Italian Glories. Primo Chiostro is the main cloister of Santa Croce and houses the Cappella dei Pazzi, built as the chapter house, completed in the 1470s and designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.