The climb up to the top of il Duomo offers fantastic views of everything in the city. Everything, that is, except the dome itself. Luckily, Santa Maria del Fiore offers another option: climbing up the bell tower.
Construction on the cathedral (begun in 1296) halted in 1302 when designer Arnolfo di Cambio died. Three decades later, Giotto di Bondone was appointed to continue the work, and he set about building a campanile. He designed the tower as a 14.5-metre (47-foot) square plan and about 122 metres (400 feet) tall.
The first stone for the free-standing structure just south of the cathedral was laid in 1334. It seems that Florentine cathedral design is a rather terminal occupation, as Giotto died just three years later with only the lower floor built. In 1343, Andrea Pisano was appointed to succeed Giotto, and faithfully followed his design. Pisano survived just five years in that position, completing two more levels before construction stalled again in 1348.
Three years later, after the Black Death had pandemic had subsided, Francesco Talenti took over the project. In 1359, having survived the construction of three more levels, Talenti decided not to push his luck. He scrapped the spire Giotto had designed and capped the project at a total height of 85 metres (278 feet).
The climb up the campanile is significantly easier than going up the dome. That isn’t to say that there aren’t seemingly-infinite spiral stairways or tight quarters, but several large, open floors along the way provide relief to the claustrophobic, and with only 414 stairs to climb, there’s about 10% less legwork. (I went up the campanile immediately after climbing the dome; I skipped the StairMaster that day.)
The tower has seven bells. The largest and second-largest were recast in 1705 and 1830, respectively. The other bells were replaced in 1956, at which time the rope-pulls were exchanged for a motorized system.
Click the thumbnails below to see photos of the climb up the campanile.
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