Florence’s cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo, is the city’s most recognizable building. Its famous dome, built by Brunelleschi, made a radical departure from the Gothic Style, and is recognized as the beginning of Renaissance Architecture.
The Duomo’s original cornerstone was laid in 1296, but it took 140 years, with many starts, stops and generations to complete the original. And even after all this time and energy, the original façade was left unfinished.
Finally, in what must be one of the longest makeovers in history, 441 years after the initial construction ended, the façade was completed. If there was ever a testament to the value of perseverance, this cathedral is it. (Actually, Gaudi’s Sagrada de Familia in Barcelona probably deserves to be on this list as well.)
The exterior that we see today is so complex, and intricately designed, it’s almost impossible to appreciate in one visit. The Duomo is a fantastic riot of colorful green, red, and white marble tiles, delicate ornaments, spiral pilasters, and impressive sculptures. On our most recent stay in Florence, we visited 3 times, and noticed something new each time.
It’s unique in the world, and if you’re looking for Renaissance architecture, the Duomo is the place to start.