Wandering the narrow streets of Florence, you are in an intimate relationship with the city. And no matter where you go, you will at some point come face to face with its iconic symbol – Florence Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, or just Duomo. The colossus will burst into your eyesight in the passage and will rise like a wave, growing as you come closer.
You don’t need us to tell you that the grand Duomo is a masterpiece, but what is the best way to look at this marvel that started in 1296 and was finished in 1436 by Filippo Bruneleschi? How do you get the best view of the neo-gothic façade in white, green and red marble, finished in 1887? We can tell you – go to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo situated behind the Cathedral.
A not-so-well known terrace of the Museum offers a great close view of the Duomo, where you can thoroughly examine it at eye level. But there are many other reasons to visit the museum. Founded in 1891, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo possesses the world’s largest concentration of Florentine monumental Renaissance sculptures, including works by Donatello, Andrea del Verrocchio, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and many others.
All works at the museum were originally made for the Duomo and removed due to conservation or modifications and upgrades. There you can see the original golden “Gates to Paradise” (as Michelangelo called them) by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The ones installed at the Baptistery outside are a copy, substituted to preserve the panels after five hundred years of exposure and damage.
The museum was first opened in 1891, renovated in the 2000s, and reopened its doors at the end of 2015, so the collection is presented in a world-class setting. The museum gives a better understanding of art, architecture, craftsmanship, passion and explains the history of the Duomo through an easy and helpful app and audio guide (just don’t forget the headphones for your mobile), as well as thorough summaries and labels.
After your visit, take some time to visit the café. It’s small, but with a view on the Duomo square where you can relax, have great Cappuccino and gain inspiration from the Cathedral.
Tip: Download the free guide from the museum site and take your headphones.
Purchase a 48-hours Euro 15 ticket to visit the Duomo complex – Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the Baptistry, Santa Reparata (a museum underneath Duomo), Giotto's bell tower, and the cupola of the Duomo.
Fact: The building was once the studio where Michelangelo sculpted his world-famous David.