There’s no doubt about it; the dome steals the show on the Piazza del Duomo, putting one of Italy’s most beautiful bell towers in the shade both figuratively and literally. The dome’s great size—364ft to the bronze ball —makes Giotto’s Campanile look small, though the 278ft is not exactly tiny.
It is difficult to say whether Pisano and Talenti were entirely faithful to the plan. Giotto was an artist, not an engineer. After he died, his successors realized that the thing, then only 38ft high, was about to tumble over, a problem they overcame by doubling the thickness of the walls.
Pisano is also said to have replaced Giotto's original plan for reliefs on the tower's second register with niches for statues of Kings and Sibyls and statues of the Patriarchs and Prophets (including Donatello's superb Sacrifice of Isaac).
Besides its lovely form, the green, pink and white campanile’s major fame rests with Pisano and Talenti’s sculptural reliefs – a veritable encyclopaedia of the medieval view of the universal order, beginning with the Creation of Man and ending the Sacraments that redeemed him. Along the way are allegories of the planets, virtues and sacraments, the liberal arts and industries (the artist’s craft is fittingly symbolized by a winged figure of Daedalus. Some of the later ones were added by Luca della Robbia
All of these are copies of the originals now in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.
If, after Brunelleschi's dome, you can take another 415 steps up, the terrace on top offers a slightly different view of Florence than from the cathedral itself.
Piazza del Duomo
Hours Daily 8.15-6.50pm
Adm €6. The Biglietto Unico* of all the Duomo sights costs €15 (Campanile, Dome, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo and Santa Reparata). It's good for 48 hours and can be purchased online, which allows you to avoid the queues at the ticket booths. You can also purchase them from the ticket machine in Piazza San Giovanni near the Baptistry.
Images by: Thermos, Creative Commons License, myface 1900, Pixabay