An Ode to Florence: Santa Maria del Fiore, aka the Duomo

Similar to my An Ode to Venice series, in my An Ode to Florence series I’ll be posting pictures and information about my favorite places in Florence, including those that figure into The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.


Easily Florence’s most well-known and recognizable landmark is its cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers) or, as it is more commonly known, the Duomo. Despite what you may think, Duomo does not mean “dome” in Italian, but rather “cathedral”.

Construction began on the Duomo in 1296, and by 1380 the building was mostly complete, save for its massive and distinctive dome – for years there was simply a giant hole in the ceiling. Then, in 1420, architect Filippo Brunelleschi came along and was able to design and begin construction on the dome. It was completed in 1436. Even after its completion, many Florentines believed that something so massive simply could not stand and were constantly expecting the dome to collapse.


In The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, Simonetta attends Mass in the Duomo and marvels at the great and terrifying fresco on the inside of the dome, a depiction of the end of days:


As she grows accustomed to her life in Florence, she also learns to navigate in the city by the great dome: something that visitors today, myself included, still do, as the dome is visible from almost anywhere in the city.

Today, not only can you go into the Duomo itself, but you can also climb the stairs to the top of the dome. At 400+ stairs (no elevator) and some pretty tight stairways, it’s not for everyone, but you get a wonderful up-close look at that fresco on the way up, and once you get to the top the view of Florence is unparalleled.