Florence – Duomo Museum, Bell Tower & Baptistry

Hi friends, welcome back to my Italy series! After climbing the dome, Jon and I spent about an hour at the Opera del Duomo Museum. The museum underwent an extensive renovation in 2015 and the exhibits are spread across three floors and twenty-eight rooms. Admission was included with our dome climb tickets and we loved that it wasn’t very crowded inside. The museum has the largest collection of Florentine monumental sculpture in the world and most of the items on display are from the Cathedral, Baptistry, and Bell Tower. They also have an interesting display with models of the dome.

Some highlights of the museum:

Michelangelo designed three Pietas during his life and the one in Florence features Michelangelo’s own face on Nicodemus. This one was intended for his tomb and the other two are in Milan and the Vatican.

Donatello’s Mary Magdalene is another must see item in the museum. It is carved out of white poplar and was originally in the Baptistry.

In 1401 there was a competition to make the North Doors (1403-1424) for the Baptistry entrance, and some say this sparked the Renaissance. Lorenzo Ghiberti won the competition when he was 24. The original doors are all in the museum and copies were made for the Baptistry.

It took Ghiberti over 25 years (1425-1452) to create the East Doors and Michelangelo called these doors the “Gates of Paradise”. They depict Old Testament bible stories and this was the first time in history of accurately seeing perspective and depth on a flat surface.

The South Doors were completed by Pisano in 1330 and are still impressive.

While at the museum, make sure you check out the third-floor terrace for a view of the dome up close. I definitely think this museum is a must. Entrance is included if you have a ticket to climb the dome, the collection features important and famous pieces, and it isn’t a huge time commitment.

Also included with our ticket was a climb up Giottos’ Bell Tower. Not only is the bell tower stunning, but it also has some of the best views of the dome. It is named after the famous painter and architect of the tower, Giotto di Bondone. He began designing the tower in 1334, but died three years later when only the first level was started.


The tower reaches 270 feet tall and there are 414 steps to reach the top. The stairs are easier, and about fifty fewer than the dome, but there’s only one way up and down which can lead to bottlenecks. We went on a rainy morning so we didn’t have too much congestion.

The bell tower has a few different levels and we enjoyed seeing the dome at different elevations. It’s also a good spot if you need to catch your breath.

There is a metal fence enclosing the bell tower, but we didn’t have any issues getting our cameras in between the wires. Even in the rain the views of the dome sure were stunning and definitely worth the climb.

The final excursion of our Duomo combo-ticket was a visit to the Baptistery of St. John directly in front of the cathedral. This building was consecrated in 1059 and some think it was originally created as a pagan temple dedicated to the god Mars before becoming a Christian church. As I mentioned earlier, the original doors are located in the Duomo Museum and the current doors are replicas.

The highlight in here is the mosaic ceiling depicting Judgement Day, but sadly for us it’s currently being restored. There are some tours that allow you to go up and see it, but I didn’t see this until we were there. It would be a cool experience if you’re interested.

We enjoyed seeing as much as we could of the beautiful Duomo complex. If it’s your first time in Florence I think it’s worth buying the pass with all the sights. It’s valid for 72 hours and allows you to visit each site once so you can have some flexibility. Stay tuned for the finale of our time in Florence.

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36 thoughts on “Florence – Duomo Museum, Bell Tower & Baptistry

  1. I love sculpture museums and that poplar statue of Mary Magdalen is stunning. The views from the top of the bell tower were even better in the rain, I think. They have really done a great job of restoring this place. I think I need to go back to Florence on my own time. Thanks for sharing Lyssy. Allan

    1. I do too, it’s just so impressive how people can sculpt, it’s not like you can just glue marble back if you make a mistake. I also think the rain made the Cathedral look even more stunning. I think this is your sign to go back and take it all in at your own pace.

  2. Wow, what a fabulous treasure box of sculptures – a must for anyone interested in Medieval and early Renaissance Florentine art. I love how the rooftop terrace offers a mesmerizing view of Brunelleschi’s dome. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    1. It really is a treasure box, I love that! I don’t think many people know about the roof, but it’s a great view 🙂

    1. Thank you! Hope you make it to Florence soon to see all the beauty for yourself.

  3. It all looks amazing but I can’t get over those Baptistry doors. Could you imagine someone today spending 25 years to make a set of doors?! It wouldn’t happen and that’s why we don’t have doors like that 😊 Maggie

    1. So true, our doors are probably made in 25 minutes these days! They don’t make things like they used to 🙂

    1. It really is! It’s nice they give you time to see it all too. I think the views were better from the bell tower so you can see the dome.

  4. All architectural wonders! Florence is nothing short of breathtaking, and despite the rain and inconsistent weather, you made the most of it! Can’t wait for the finale!

    1. The buildings in Florence really are breathtaking, I’m surprised I didn’t fill my memory card up with pictures ha!

  5. Hi Lyssy, I really enjoyed reading your post about your visit to the Florence Duomo. You captured the beauty and history of the place so well with your photos and descriptions. It sounds like you had an amazing time exploring this iconic landmark.

    1. Thank you! I loved the view from the bell tower, especially with the moodiness from the rain. I can’t imagine spending so much time on doors.

  6. As soon as you mentioned the baptistry my mind went to Ghiberti’s doors. As soon as you mentioned the bell tower, Giotto. I hadn’t thought about either designer in decades. Fascinating how those little details are permanently lodged in the brain from my long-ago architecture degree.

    1. It is fascinating what the mind remembers, but those are good things to remember! I wish I studied abroad in college.

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