View of the Florence Duomo's dome at the top

Climbing the Duomo in Florence: 10 Key Things to Know About Brunelleschi’s Dome

Emerging majestically above other rooftops in the Florence skyline, the Brunelleschi Dome adorns the Santa Fiore del Maria Cathedral, instantly recognizable as a symbol of Florence.

I’m always impressed when something built hundreds of years ago retains its superlative status even in the modern age. Brunelleschi’s ingenious design means that, more than 500 years later, he still holds the record for creating the world’s largest masonry dome.

While I usually don’t recommend climbing a city’s most recognizable building for its views (because if you’re on it, you don’t get a good view), the Brunelleschi Dome is a unique exception.

Not only is it fascinating to see the interior of how this vast dome manages to stand the test of time, but it’s also home to some of the most spectacular frescoes of the Renaissance: 3,600 square meters of them, in fact!  

Allison Green, author of the article, looking up at the ceiling with its beautiful frescoes
Taking in the frescoes of Brunelleschi Dome, top level of the dome climb during my March 2024 visit
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When you climb the Brunelleschi Dome, you get to have several unique experiences all at once: being inside such a historic and architecturally distinctive building, seeing these beautiful frescoes up close (almost at eye level!), and then, of course, seeing the gorgeous views of Florence from the top of the dome.

All of these unique factors combined make climbing the Brunelleschi Dome worth even though it’s quite an effort in terms of planning and effort exerted to get there… those 436 steps won’t climb themselves. 

And Brunelleschi may have been ahead of his time, but he didn’t invent elevators!

Interesting Facts About Brunelleschi Dome

View of the Brunellleschi Dome from outside
View of Brunelleschi Dome, as taken from Giotto’s Bell Tower

You would assume that the person who managed to build what is still today the world’s largest masonry dome would be some sort of expert in architecture or engineering, with decades of experience… but not so!

In fact, prior to applying to the contest to build the dome, Filippo Brunelleschi was no more than a goldsmith and sculptor. But when the Florentine government held a contest to design the dome — one with interesting constraints, such as its massive size yet no ability to use flying buttresses or centering supports  — he was intrigued and proposed a plan, eventually winning the proposal in 1418.

The construction of the dome began in 1420 and wouldn’t be completed until 1436, and it used many interesting innovations, like building two domes (nesting-style, like matryoshka dolls) and self-reinforcing herringbone-style masonry.

This fascinating article explores how Brunelleschi managed to build his record-breaking dome — and he’s quite a character, equal parts paranoid and genius, so it makes a fun read.

Tips For the Brunelleschi Dome Climb

There are only 125 tickets for each 45-minute time slot.

Cloudy day looking out at the top of the Brunelleschi dome climb
It was cloudy when I climbed the Brunelleschi Dome, but the views were still spectacular!

In order to visit the Brunelleschi Dome and climb to the top of the dome, you have to book a 45-minute time slot. Each time slot only has 125 tickets available, and they often sell out!

The first time slot of the day is from 8:15 AM to 9 AM and the last time slot of the day is from 6:45 PM to 7:30 PM.

This means you have to book your tickets quite a bit in advance… but it also means that it won’t be that crowded, which you will be grateful for when you are halfway up a super-steep spiral staircase!

Tickets are cheapest on the official website.

View of the fresco murals inside the dome painted by Renaissance masters
Where else can you be eye-level with gorgeous ceiling frescoes?

Depending on when you’re reading this guide, you may have the option to book the tickets on the official website for the Florence Duomo. If it’s not too late — do it! You can find the official website here.

This way, you can get tickets to the dome climb (as well as all the other sites of the Florence Duomo) for just €30 for adults. The price is lowered to  €12 for kids age 7-14 and tickets are free for children 6 and under.

But be aware that tickets sell out two or even four weeks in advance, especially for the most desirable time slots. For example, I’m looking now on April 29th, and I can’t find a single time slot open until May 14th and it’s at the very end of the day.

Even when I look for a month from today, there are full time slots that are already sold out, and May isn’t even quite the peak of peak season!

The official website is confusing. 

While I do recommend buying tickets on the official website, it’s a little confusing. Let me explain how to navigate it in a few steps, with some photos to help!

Note that these steps are listed for use on a desktop. It may look a little different on mobile.

Screenshot of the Florence Duomo website where I point out where you can book tickets and find out if there is still Brunelleschi Dome availability
Hopefully this helps you navigate the website!
  1. Click “Tickets’ 
  2. Scroll down a bit and look to the right side where it says “Brunelleschi Pass first availability.” If the date listed is before your trip to Florence, continue. Otherwise, skip to the next part of the article where I tell you about the other options.
  3. If there are options, then click “View Details” under the “Brunelleschi Pass” section to have the time slots available pop up.
  4. In the “Buy Products” section of the page, first, select the date you want to climb the dome.
  5. Next, click the “+” sign to add the people in your party. For example, if your family of four is visiting, you might click 2 adults, one reduced price entry, and one child ticket.
  6. Look at the booking options that now pop up. If it is a navy blue and has a number larger than the number of people in your party, you can book it. If the slot is grayed out, that time slot is not bookable.

There are other options if tickets sell out!

View of the dome climb interior muralwork
Don’t worry – there are other ways to get last-minute tickets, they just are more expensive.

OK, so you can’t go back in time and book your tickets if it’s too late. But you can do the next best thing and book tickets via a third party such as Get Your Guide, Viator, or Tiqets.

These companies buy some extra tickets for last-minute sale at a markup. These are legitimate tickets and they are guaranteed — you will pay extra, but you won’t get scammed.

I would never trust buying tickets off someone in person around the Duomo — this would almost certainly be a scam.

Note that these companies will usually only have a few time slots, but it’s better than nothing. Here are a few options, starting with the cheapest I could find:

I do recommend trying to book via the official website first since it’s cheaper (starting at €30, about $32 USD at time of writing). But it’s nice to know that you can use either of the links above to try to find a last-minute ticket if the official website is sold out for your dates.

When I looked at both of these options at the end of April, I could find tickets available within the next 48 hours, but note that you may need to book with a little more advance timing in the summer months.

Be prepared for your time slot.

View of the buildings in the rain from florence duomo top of the climb
Don’t be late or you’ll miss the views!

When booking your ticket, the Duomo advises you that you must be at the entrance spot right on time, and they say that they will not honor entries that are more than 5 minutes past the time slot. 

Make sure that you are in line a few minutes before your time slot opens. Don’t worry, as long as you are in the line at this time, you will get in. It takes them a little while to check everyone’s ticket and have them go through security.

My advice is to scout out your entrance area beforehand and make sure you understand where you need to be lining up. You don’t want to be racing around at the last minute trying to find the entrance and risk losing your time slot that you paid good money for!

Check any oversize bags (and backpacks of any size).

Sign in front of the duomo telling you where various places in the piazza del duomo are
Posted maps show you where you can leave your backpacks and oversized bags

Speaking of being prepared for your time slot, you’ll also want to ensure you don’t have any backpacks or medium to large bags. You can read the exact specifics here.

Handbags larger than  35cm x 30cm x 15cm need to be checked, as well as backpacks of any size. This service is free, or rather, included with the ticket price.

Since you’re visiting the dome, you’ll need to use the Large Cloakroom, located at Piazza Duomo no. 38/red.

Personally, I left everything behind at my hotel and just carried my camera around my neck and kept my important belongings in my inside coat pocket since I was visiting in the colder months.

Be aware that Florence is a pickpocket mecca, so I’d caution against backpacks in general.

Be sure to dress appropriately!

Allison taking a picture of her shoes to show sensible footwear for the dome climb
Be sure to wear proper footwear for the climb!

By this, I mean having both the proper footwear and clothing for a challenging climb as well as also being covered enough that you won’t be turned away from the church.

Your chest, shoulders, and knees must be covered to do the dome climb since it is inside a cathedral, after all!

For women visiting in summer, I would suggest a breathable T-shirt that isn’t too revealing and linen pants. If you are going to go with a dress or skirt, I would suggest a midi skirt length. A maxi skirt would be a little difficult to walk up all those stairs in.

For men, you have to also have your knees covered, so I would opt for some breathable trousers and a T-shirt. Don’t assume that the dress code doesn’t apply to you too!

Be aware of changes due to construction.

Ornate door at the entrance to the dome climb
The main entrance to the Brunelleschi Dome climb

When I visited the Brunelleschi Dome, I used the usual entrance, the Porta della Mandorla

However, when writing this post, I noticed that — in typical Italian fashion — they squeezed in a tiny note about a change that is very easy to miss.

The website now reads that from the 6th of May, there will be maintenance work on the Porta della Mandorla and it will be closed for an entire month.
During this month, presumably from May 6 to June 6th, you will need to access the Dome via the Porta dei Cornacchini

However, as with all things Italy, this may or may not be the actual timeframe. It may take longer, so be sure to check the official website for details.

You can find all the details about entry if you follow the steps above as if you were going to book tickets. Look in the “Useful Info” section and look for the “NB” sections at the bottom.

Climb conditions can be challenging, especially in summer months.

Person climbing the dome showing how small it is
Here’s an idea of how cramped the staircase can be!

The dome climb involves 463 steps — the equivalent of climbing more than 40 stories. It’s a lot, and you will feel tired!

The steps are also quite narrow and there are not a lot of places to stop and rest, so you will feel the pressure to keep it moving. There is a spot about halfway up where you can stop and catch your breath, which you will definitely be grateful for.

Also, note that if you are visiting in the summer, there is no air conditioning or even much in the way of airflow in the staircase. 

Additionally, since heat rises, it can be quite hot once you finally arrive at the Dome when you are able to leave the staircase and admire the frescoes. Be sure to be well-hydrated before you do the dome climb!

If you’re visiting in the summer, I recommend booking the earliest possible time slot. The heat will have dissipated a little bit from the cooler night temperatures, and this will be the most comfortable time to climb the Duomo.

Make sure to take in the beauty of the frescos.

Close up view of the frescoes of the last judgment
Detail of the Last Judgment mural

The reason why the Brunelleschi dome is so special is its marvelous fresco of the Last Judgment, painted by two Renaissance masters, Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, who took over when Vasari passed away before the work could be finished.

There are lots of viewpoints all over the world — but there’s no viewpoint in the world that I’m aware of that bring you up-close-and-personal with spectacular frescoes as well as offering you an epic city view!

While you can get similar (and arguably, possibly, better) views of Florence from the nearby Giotto’s Belltower, the fact that you get to see these beautiful frescoes up close and personal is what makes this a must-do Florence activity.

There will be people behind you trying to continue up to the viewpoint. Don’t hold up the line unnecessarily and let people pass if needed, but also, don’t rush yourself from seeing these beautiful frescoes.

They are comparable to the Sistine Chapel’s, in my opinion, and it deserves time to be appreciated, not rushed through.

All the other Duomo sites are included on your ticket.

View of the Belltower of the Duomo
You can also climb Giotto’s bell tower with your Brunelleschi pass

No matter how you book the ticket, whether it’s through the official website or through a third party reseller, it includes all the same sites.

You have to book a time slot for your Brunelleschi dome visit, but you have other sites you can see at any time. You can see them starting on the day you have your Brunelleschi dome visit, but you also have the next two days (3 days total) to use up your pass.

Besides the cathedral, which is free, the other sites included on the ticket are:

  • Giotto’s Bell Tower: This is another viewpoint, requiring you to climb another 414 steps (no elevator). It’s lower than the height you’ll be at when you climb the dome, but you have views of the dome, so it is arguably the better view. However, I still think seeing the fresco paintings up close like you get to makes this a better overall experience. 

  • Baptistery: A separate octagonal building near the entry to the Cathedral. However, the mosaics are undergoing a restoration process so it’s not the most beautiful site as of now. There’s no announced date for the end of the restorations.

  • Opera del Duomo Museum: A museum containing works from the Duomo and other religious artifacts and art, including some beautiful marble sculptures, altarpieces, and more. It’s definitely worth at least an hour of exploration. Note that this museum is closed on the first Tuesday of the month.

  • Santa Reparata: Underneath the ground floor of the Duomo, you can see the archeological ruins of the original basilica atop which the Duomo was built. It dates back to the 5th century, but it was demolished for the cathedral back in 1379. It was excavated between 1965 to 1973, and it’s in remarkable condition! Fun fact: you can find the tomb of Brunelleschi, the architect of the dome you climbed, here.

You can skip the lines for the cathedral by entering at the Santa Reparata entrance.

View of the Florence duomo complex
Lines can get long… the pass helps!

If you have the Brunelleschi pass, you can skip the massive lines for the Florence Cathedral with this handy tip.

Find the specific Santa Reparata entrance, which is located next to the Giotto’s Bell Tower. There will be a sign for Santa Reparata, and someone at the door checking people’s tickets.

This way, you can skip the line that snakes all the way along the edge of the Duomo during its opening hours. Simply visit the Santa Reparata site and then exit into the cathedral, which you can enjoy without waiting in a massive line. Win!

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