The Opera del Duomo Museum in Florence has a new look and I really like it! It’s more social, more beautiful and more convenient, what else? Here some info and curiosities you should know about it and its treasures.
What’s the Grande Museo del Duomo?
Generally speaking this museum is not in the top list of museums for visitors in Florence and this is just a shame. It holds the city’s religious heart (Insula Episcopalis) and some of its greatest treasures like Brunelleschi’s Cupola. So, let’s have a look at the jewels of Grande Museo del Duomo.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the most renowned church in Florence. It was begun in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio in Gothic style and (almost) finished by Filippo Brunelleschi with the Cupola. Inside the Duomo you can admire several important and stunning artworks such as the Clock by Paolo Uccello. Actually have a closer look at this clock: it goes anti-clockwise because the hour hand follows a sundial’s shadow and the 24th hour in the clock indicates the dusk hour and not midnight, called Hora Italica. Another peculiarity is the Gnomone that you can admire during the Summer solstice.
It’s still one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in history how Filippo Brunelleschi built the biggest dome ever made. There are several legends about it, as well as several important studies. Apart from that, you should definitively climb the 463 steps to reach the top. From up there the view over Florence is stunning! On your way up take a look at the red bricks set with the peculiar fish-bone layout. The red bricks are made of cotto from Impruneta (where I grew up) and legend has it that Brunelleschi while invented the delicious Peposo all’imprunetina while cooking these bricks!
Giotto’s Bell Tower
Other steps to be climbed, actually 414 steps, but still another amazing view of Florence! Giotto started working at the Campanile in 1334 and designed a taller and differently shaped tower. But he died three years after and was replaced by Andrea Pisano first, and the by Francesco Talenti who completed the bell tower in 1359. It counts a total of 12 bells, but only 7 bells play (generally during solemn celebrations). Originally the tower and the Duomo where linked by a wooden bridge, nowadays replaced by a steel bar.
Opera del Duomo Museum
Original designs and sketches, scale models, sculptures and several artworks are held in the museum. Here you can admire the impressive Pietà by Michelangelo, the touching Penitent Magdalene by Donatello and the breathtaking Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The huge golden doors of the Baptistery have been recently restored and now are stored with nitrogen. Legend has it that was Michelangelo to nicknamed the gates as “paradise’s gates” by saying ‘… these doors are so beautiful that would be perfect as the gates of Heaven!‘ (‘… che elle son tanto belle che elle starebbon bene alle porte del Paradiso!’).
Baptistery of Saint John
Dante used to call it “… mio bel San Giovanni” and he definitively had a point. The octagonal shape, the huge bronze gates, the mosaic ceiling and the geometric patterns on the floor make the Battistero really unique. In addition the Baptistery holds several curiosities such as the “foot of Liutprand“, i.e. the official unit of measurement of Lombards impressed by the the king Liutprand himself in 7th century on the right column of the gates towards Via de’ Calzaiuoli. Another peculiarity is the Roman sarcophagus set inside the basement on the side of Via Roma to remind the Roman roots of Florence.
The Church of Saint Reparata was the former cathedral of Florence. It’s located under the Duomo and some of its remains are visible, such as the beautiful mosaic floor with a gorgeous peacock and other geometrical designs. In the crypt there is also the tomb of the great master Filippo Brunelleschi.
As I already said the Grande Museo del Duomo is one big museum. This means that you purchase just one ticket to visit all the aforementioned attractions. The cumulative ticket costs just 10 euros and is valid for 24 hours, for one entry to each site. You can buy it online or directly at museums. Each site has its own schedule and I suggest you check them on the official site of Grande Museo del Duomo. What else? All these places are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List and when you’ll be there I’m sure you’ll understand why.
- If you’re in town on September 8th don’t miss the guided walks along the balcony of the Cathedral. Unique views of the Duomo and the monuments around to celebrate its construction!
- If you’re in town in late June don’t miss the sun inside the Duomo, a spectacular astronomic event.