We climbed 874 steps today.  We started with the Campanile Bell Tower right to the side of the Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo). That was 412 steps.  Straight up! This bell tower was begun by Giotto in 1334 and finished by 2 other guys in 1359.  We plan on doing this again when there is clear blue skies.  In fact, we were thinking about doing this daily (for 10 euros) instead of paying for  a fitness club.  Once we got down we went over to the Baptistery which was starting construction in the mid 11th century.  It is most famous for Lorenzo Ghiberti‘s bronze doors which have been removed to the museum and gleaming copies are in their place at the Baptistery.  Making a breakthrough in perspective, Ghiberti used mathematical laws to create the illusion of receding distance on a basically flat surface.  Michelangelo said that these doors were fit to be the gates of paradise.  Inside, there are medieval mosaic ceilings, where it is always Judgment Day and Jesus is giving the ultimate thumbs-up and thumbs-down.

From there we went into the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, (first stone of the facade was laid in 1296) has the third-longest nave in Christendom.  The radiating apses were finished in the early 1400’s, and the gigantic dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi was completed in just 16 years (1420-36). The last part of the church to be finished was the facade, completed between 1871 and 1887.  The most beautiful part of the cathedral is the dome where you will see a huge Last Judgment by Vasari and Zuccari. This dome, built in only 14 years, was the largest since Rome’s Pantheon.  Michelangelo, setting out to construct the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome, drew inspiration from the dome of Florence.  But before we did the second climb of the day we went down into the excavations of the Santa Reparata which was erected in the 5th century AD.  Here we could see the remains of early Christian mosaic pavement and elements of later constructions of the church up to the mid-1300’s when Santa Reparata was replaced by the present Santa Maria del Fiore.  According to Rick Steves, climbing the Duomo’s Dome is equivalent of 463 plunges on a Renaissance StairMaster.  We did that next and saw close-up the ceiling of the Dome and the stained glass windows, not to mention the fantastic views of the city of Florence once you reached the ultimate peak!  With little steps (they must have had small feet back in the day!), narrow stairways and low ceilings we made it down without too much knee damage!  We then finished today’s Duomo visit at the Santa Maria del Fiore Museum.  Here is where they house Ghiberti’s original bronze door panels (Gates of Paradise) so we had to stand there for awhile and take it all in.  Also, in this museum, is the second of Michelangelo’s three Pieta’s.  You could get so close to it and just study it.  It was wonderful.  See the written info in the picture I took.  On our way “home” it finally started to rain – which had been predicted for 3 days now.  For tonight’s dinner we tried our local pizzeria (right outside our back window).  SO good!  and real Italiano! Molto Bene!