From the Carrier Dome to il Duomo di Firenze.
My first all-school field trip with SU Florence was a day centered around the most recognizable feature of the city: il Duomo di Firenze.
We started the day with a visit to the Baptistery – an octagonal structure just west of the cathedral. Almost all Florentine baptisms up until the late 19th century took place in this building – including many of the most prominent artists behind the Renaissance as well as the Medici family. (And, more recently, my host mother!) I was most struck by the stunning mosaic artwork covering the ceiling. Flecks of tile and precious metals, expertly placed by Venetian artists to sparkle in dancing candlelight, depict many scenes from the Bible.
Then, it was time to head next door to the cathedral. We passed through massive and ornate doors into the biggest church I’ve ever seen, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. (Fiore, like the Italian word for “flower,” reflecting some of the city’s earlier names.) The building’s official construction began in 1296, and, after many long, complicated years of planning and building, ended in 1436. The structure’s cupola remains the largest brick dome in the world.
Thoroughly impressed, we made our way to the newly-opened Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Inside we found multiple statues that were once in or on the cathedral, pieces of its original construction, artifacts once used in its religious services, and the original baptistery doors (once dubbed “the gates of paradise” by Michelangelo himself).
It was nearing lunchtime, so we hopped on a bus to the nearby town of Fiesole. Characteristic of old Etruscan settlements, Fiesole was built on a hill for defense purposes. Such hill-top defense tactics are, of course, no longer necessary, but now at least the people of Fiesole can enjoy some great views. While there, we re-energized with lunch and gelato, and were set free to explore the area.
The guided field trip ended in Fiesole, but our leaders informed us of what we could still do with our Duomo tickets. (One ticket is good for the museum, cathedral, baptistery, climbing the dome, climbing the bell tower, etc.) So, wanting to make the most out of the rest of the day, my friends and I decided to climb both the dome and the bell tower. A grand total of 877 stairs one-way. The views and the experience made it totally worth it though!
By then, having worked up some serious appetites, we headed toward the Mercato Centrale for dinner. What a cool place! It’s sort of like a very diverse, very “hip” cafeteria, but with good Italian food. I’ll definitely be back!
Gelato Count: 14