The Great Piazzas of Florence-Piazza San Giovanni/Piazza del Duomo

Guest Post By: Karen Mills

Campanile and Duomo, Florence, ItalyThe Duomo, the skyline icon of Florence, Italy stands in the Piazza del Duomo. When you turn the corner and catch your first glimpse of the pink, green, and white neo-gothic style marble, it will take your breath away. To the right as you face the cathedral stands Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) and in front of the Duomo, The Baptistry, which is actually in Piazza San Giovanni.

The Duomo’s actual name is Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and was started in 1296 and completed in 1436, when Brunelleschi engineered the dome, which is the highlight and masterpiece of the cathedral. The marble façade of the cathedral was added in 1876 and completed in 1887. The inside of the Duomo is worth a visit, but is relatively plain compared to the outside, and pales in comparison to making a trip to the top of the dome! Climbing the dome not only gives you a great view, but a fantastic workout as you make your way up 463 steps! Entrance to the Duomo is free, but pay the 8 euro to climb to the top! My advice is to get there early (it opens at 8:30 am Mon-Sat).View from The Duomo and Florence Italy Skyline It is cooler, and in some places people are going both up and down the narrow staircase, which can be a close fit. A little over half way up, you will come face to face with the frescoes painted on the inside of the dome, and the final treat is the view of Florence. There is no better way to appreciate the miracle of something that large built 500 years ago than to get up close and personal with it. You will be glad you did! You will find the entrance located on the back left side of the church as you face the front.

Gilded bronze panels Baptistry, Florence, ItalyThe Baptistry is actually the oldest building in the piazza, having been erected between 1059-1128. Up until the early 1900’s all Florentine Catholics were baptized here including many of the Medici family and Dante Alighieri . The east doors of the Baptistry, are gilded bronze panels created by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1425-53). The originals are in the Museo del Duomo, located in this piazza behind the Duomo, but these are beautiful replicas. Michelangelo called them “the gates of Paradise”, and the name has stuck.

In the piazza, between the Duomo and the Baptistry, you will also find horse and carriages ready to take you through the city on a historical tour. Ask about the prices, and if you don’t like what you are quoted, make them an offer.

After climbing the Duomo and seeing all the sites here in the piazza, you will probably be ready for lunch,Ristorante Pizzeria Lo Scudo Florence Italy and there is a great place located in the back right corner of the Duomo as you are facing it called, Lo Scudo. Via del Oriuolo – 53r 50122 Lo Scudo has excellent pasta and wood oven pizzas, and is open and serving at all hours of the day. The prices are reasonable and they have a wonderful house wine by the carafe. You won’t find a better deal in this area! For more information on Florence sites, visit

Karen Mills is an American woman who made the decision to leave her corporate life behind to live “la dolce vita” in Florence, Italy, Read more about her experiences at or contact her at

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