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Florence view from the Duomo Cupola
Photo © Annette White
Photo © Annette White

Enjoy the view from the top of the Duomo in Florence

Climbing 463 spiral stairs to get to the top of the Basilica of Saint Maria del Fiore

Florence's cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is hard to miss, not only because of its stunning architecture and breathtaking grandness, but also because of its famous, climbable dome. There are 463 stairs to get to the tippy top of the Duomo. And today we would be climbing them.

We started by walking through the interior of the cathedral to get to the bottom of the dome steps. From the ground floor, we looked up to get a beautiful glimpse of the Duomo’s intricate fresco. It was hard not to be impressed by the detail, even from the base of the stairs. But, this would not be the best view of the day.

A view of the inner shell of Brunelleschi's Cupola
A view of the inner shell of Brunelleschi's Cupola - Credit: Annette White

We started our climb of the narrow, spiral stairs with ease and anticipation, chit-chatting along the way. And it stayed that way for the first 50ish or so steps. Then we started to hear less conversations and more of the huffing and puffing noises that came with physical exercise. And each step after was a bit of a struggle, especially for me who avoids exercise at all costs. Everyone was grateful for the platforms found at about every hundred stairs, a chance to catch out breaths.

About halfway to the top, when I thought I couldn’t go on, a bit of inspiration came in the form of 76 year old dynamo who was climbing along side of me, with much less effort. Maybe it was more embarrassment than inspiration, but it was all I needed to pick up my pace and make it the rest of the way.

Florence at its best

The last stairs were the steepest, though they were what led to the fruits of our labor. Making it to the pinnacle of the Duomo gave us to the most spectacular 360 view of the dazzling city. Every direction we looked led to visions of red tiled rooftops, green rolling hills and historical buildings.

This was a sight that I could not imagine getting tired of. But, at some point, we had to get back to the ground floor. And that meant descending the stairs that we had just climbed. Down has to be easier than up. Right?

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