Florence Duomo tour at a glance
Gates of Paradise
The private Florence Duomo tour will show you any detail of the Duomo complex, including the Cathedral, the Baptistery, and the Opera del Duomo Museum.
The tour starts in Piazza San Giovanni 1, in front of one of the most ancient orphanage facilities in Europe, founded in the 14th century as a consequence of the black plague. Your guide will introduce the history of the square, an ancient Roman cemetery that later became the religious center of Florence.
You will see the Baptistery of San Giovanni, an ancient building (probably 5th century) renovated and enlarged over the course of the 12th century. Your expert guide will tell you which was the purpose of such a huge building dedicated only to baptism and will show you the fine decorations and the architectural style.
Next is a brief look at the Gates of Paradise, the gorgeous Eastern doors of the Baptistery cast in bronze by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the early Renaissance. Today, what you can see is just a copy, but the original doors are inside the Opera del Duomo Museum and you will see them in detail later. It’s now time to visit the Baptistery inside, to admire the wonderful mosaics that decorate the ceiling and the tomb of an “unofficial” Pope. You will get to know the political intrigue that allowed the House of Medici to become the bankers of the Vatican.
Once outside of the Baptistery, it’s time to visit the Cathedral, better known as Duomo. Not many know, but the facade is actually a late addition of the 19th century. Thanks to your tour guide, you will skip the long lines and get inside. Here you will see the largest collection in Italy of original stain glass windows, all made between 1350 and 1405, but also a clock going counterclockwise and the largest fresco ever made in history. You will learn how the church was the place where, in 1478, a family of rival bankers tried to kill Lorenzo and Guiliano de Medici to take over the city.
The ticket will give you access to the crypt, where you can see the remains of the ancient cathedral of Santa Reparata. The new Cathedral was initially built around the old one, which was torn down only when the roof of the new church was in place. The crypt also contains the tomb of Filippo Brunelleschi, the most famous of the master architects of the Cathedral.
Once outside, you will walk around the Duomo, starting from Giotto’s Bell Tower. Your guide will tell you why this bell tower is unique in the Gothic age, and what the bas-relief decorations mean. Next is the most important achievement in architecture during the Renaissance: Brunelleschi’s Dome. The guide will show you how the golden sphere on top of the dome was created and pulled up there by Andrea del Verrocchio, teacher of the young Leonardo Da Vinci, and how the decoration in the lower part of the dome is unfinished because of Michelangelo’s opinion.
You will then stop at the Canto De Bischeri, to learn about the history of this family that originated one of the most typical Florentine words.
Finally, you will reach the Opera del Duomo Museum, recently enlarged and totally renovated. Inside the museum, you will see a large room where the ancient facade of the Cathedral has been rebuilt with the original statues and the original doors of the Baptistery, both the North doors and the famous Gates of Paradise, learning about the competition held in 1401, which is conventionally considered as the start of the Renaissance.
You will then go upstairs to see the original decoration of Giotto’s Bell Tower, featuring statues by Donatello that inspired Michelangelo’s David, plus an interactive room about Brunelleschi’s Dome. You’ll see many more attractions, including an altar made in silver and gold by various artists for the Baptistery, before going downstairs for the grand finale. Here, you will see two absolute masterpieces of sculpture: the Mary Magdalene by Donatello and the Pietà Bandini by Michelangelo.
The tour ends at the exit of the museum, but it’s not over: the ticket is valid for 24 hours from the activation, and you can use it to climb on Giotto’s Bell Tower and/or Brunelleschi’s Dome on your own.
Florence Duomo tour itinerary
This tour has a duration of three hours. Here is an approximate timetable of the tour:
- START – Piazza San Giovanni
- 00H:10M – Baptistery of San Giovanni
- 00H:40M – Cathedral inside
- 01H:00M – Walk around the Cathedral
- 01H:30M – Opera del Duomo Museum
- 03H:00M – End of tour
Pick-up and Drop-off
Meeting point: Piazza di San Giovanni 1, South side of the Baptistery, in front of the door marked as “Orfanotrofio del Bigallo”
Hotel pick-up: available for selected hotels, you must contact the guide after booking the tour
Drop-off: Piazza del Duomo
Things to bring (and not to)
You will have to pay the price of museum tickets. Your guide will assist you and you will pay at the museum ticket office directly, by cash or credit card. After booking, you can directly contact your guide for more information.
Having a camera with you is your choice. Someone prefers to immerse in beauty not being distracted by taking pictures/making videos, someone else prefers to build printable memories of his trip. It’s really up to you. Inside the Duomo complex, pictures and videos are allowed, but the use of a flash or selfie-sticks is prohibited.
Entrance to the Duomo and any other religious place is subject to restrictions: your clothing must be appropriate and cover your shoulders and knees.
What’s included in the price (and what is not)
- 3-hour private tour with an expert licensed tour guide of Florence
- hotel pick-up (on request and free of charge: available only for hotels in central Florence)
- Duomo tickets (€ 15/person). Your guide will assist you in buying the tickets.
- any other personal expense
Here are some important things to know in order to ensure you have the best possible experience with your Florence Duomo tour:
- the itinerary is indicative and can be changed in case some monument is inaccessible for restoration;
- the times of access to the monuments are subject to changes in time due to extraordinary events. The timetable is guaranteed weekly. Your guide will check the timetable one week before the tour and will communicate any variation;
- Duomo skip-the-line tickets do not exist, and whoever tells you otherwise is lying. That said: there are no lines at the Baptistery; there are lines at the Duomo, but guides with up to 5 people (or with groups that do have headsets) have a privileged access; the Opera del Duomo Museum opened in November 2015 after restoration, and we can presume that there will be lines in 2016. There are lines to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower and Brunelleschi’s Dome, but those are not included in the tour (although you can do it on your own after the tour is over).