Climbing the Duomo in Florence
We chose to stay at Hotel L’Orologio in Florence, an easy 5-minute walk from the train station and just as close to the Duomo. It’s located at Santa Maria Novello, a quiet piazza overlooking the historic 14th-century picturesque church (worth a visit to see the wonderful cloisters in the back). We dropped our bags off in our spacious room and then walked over to the Duomo where the crowds were immense, even in October. There was a long line, at least an hour long to enter this grand building, the cornerstone of the city. Thankfully, we had already purchased timed tickets to climb to the top of the dome. I can’t recommend this enough. Not only do you gain entrance to the Duomo by skipping the line, you climb the twisting stairs (463 steps) for an up-close view of Brunelleschi’s crowning achievement, built between 1420 and 1436 and an architectural feat to this day. It’s breathtaking to see the interior of the dome so close and to look at Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9), including many ghastly looking devils. An added bonus was the chance to walk outside and get a panoramic view of the entire city.