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The Cathedral in Florence is a definite for anyone visiting Florence, and its hard not to visit once you are in Florence. It would like be someone in Agra not going to see the Taj Mahal, or a tourist in Giza refusing to visit the Pyramids. For all it's cliche to say this, it is a must see in Florence. And seeing as though it is in the centre of Florence, no queues and free, it would be harder for you to avoid a visit to the Cathedral. The real question is whether it's worth the trip from other parts of Italy to see the Cathedral and Florence's surrounding landmarks.
The Cathedral is harder to miss than to find. Florence is a relatively small town in comparison to other popular Italian destinations like Rome and Milan, and the Cathedral towers above the rest of the city so it's very easy to find. From the main station in Florence it is about half a kilometre, and the roads are easy to negotiate, as you only have to turn left once onto via de' Cerretani. However once you're at the Cathedral it becomes slightly harder, as you have to be aware of which queue means what, and which door leads where. I cannot remember which door lead where at the top of my head, and there's little info online, even for pricing. But I found it rather misleading as a lot of doors would show the prices for various parts of the Cathedral, i.e. the Cupola, even if it didn't lead there.
I strongly recommend visiting the top of the Dome for pretty obvious reasons. You get a closer look at the paintings on the ceiling, which are excellent no matter how peculiar they are, and fantastic sights of Florence and the surrounding countryside. It costs around 8 Euro to go to the top in August, however I'm not sure if prices vary throughout the year or not. However if you intend to go in the summer as I did, expect some quite large, yet manageable queues. And the Cupola is also unfortunately not wheelchair friendly as you have to navigate your way through hundreds of narrow steps that exhausted quite a few people. Personally I did not visit the Bell Tower just opposite the Cupola, but I expect that it provided very similar views, didn't seem as popular and didn't have the intriguing church décor, so it would seem that the cupola was the better of the 2.
However if you are on a budget you can't go wrong with just a quick trip inside the Cathedral, or for that matter just outside. It's easy to see why so many people buy so many souvenirs and take so many photos of the cathedral; it's the Firenzian Eiffel Tower. You have the option to spend 10s of pounds or nothing at all. There are optional audio guides, gift shops, collection plates, closed rooms etc. that you could fork out for if you want to get into every nook and cranny of the cathedral. Or you could just stand outside and inspect the carvings on the walls or admire the grand interior paintings.
Even if you see the Cathedral and aren't impressed remember you are still surrounded by other famous landmarks that are within walking distance. Michelangelo's David is housed Academia Galleria nearby, the Uffizi Gallery boasts some of the finest works of art in the world such as 'the Birth of Venus' aswell as Ponte Vecchio, the Baptistery, San Lorenzo Basilica and tonnes more.
Florence's cathedral is an image which many would be able to identify. It is one of the symbols of the city, and the reality is no less astounding.
The cathedral was begun in the 13th century, although it was not consecrated as a church until nearly 150 years later. It was altered and added to right up to the 19th century.
The cathedral is right in the centre of the city. You won't be able to miss it, because of the huge dome and the even taller bell tower. Its around 10 minutes walk from the main train station. I found that everything I needed in Florence was walkable so I'm not sure about the public transport within the city.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, but beware the hidden extras!! As nice as the cathedral is, it is quite empty. If you want entrance to the museum, want to go up into the dome, up the tower or into the baptistry, then you have to pay extra for these, and if you do all of them you could end up paying nearly 20 Euros!
The first thing to look at is behind you after you enter, and this is a clock. Not just any old clock, but a very old clock that moves the wrong way round. The interior is overall very reserved and austere (said to mirror the feelings of Florence's spirituality at the time of building). There are some paintings and busts of men such as Giotto and Brunelleschi who helped design and build the cathedral. The inside of the dome is highly decorated with scenes from the last judgement. The outside of the cathedral is perhaps the most fascinating part, covered in white and green tiles. Although this is mostly 19th century work it is based on the originial plan.
I didn't climb up into the dome but climbed the bell tower instead. This gives the best views of the city and the best part is that you can see the cathedral laid out before you. However, anyone who doesn't like heights should think carefully before buying a ticket to climb up here. It is very very high, the stone steps are dark, narrow and very uneven, and the platform that you stand on at the top is ridiculously narrow. If all that doesn't worry you then go for it....!! If you can face the climb it is well worth the effort, even if you only get part of the way up, you'll get the idea of the views.
I didn't go into the baptistry but imagine that this is also well worth a look if you don't mind forking out the extra cash.