on August 10, 2008
A reflection of duomo and baptistery, the thin and spindly campanile is lovely. A puzzle of white arches, green banding and red lozenges, it is a wonderful symmetrical upended cuboid. Work was commenced on this bell-tower by the artist Giotto, better known for his frescoes. You can climb the campanile between 8.30 and 6.20 daily. I arrived fairly early in the morning, only some 45 minutes after it had opened, which meant that the usual queues were not in evidence. I paid my €6.00 and started to climb. The stairs here are considerably steeper than those up to the cathedral’s dome, and they are tiring. Reaching the viewpoint I gratefully filled my lungs. My first thought was ‘Great views – but it’s not half as tall as it looks’. Well, it wouldn’t be. I was only on the first stage – there were three more to go. From each stage the views became more and more ridiculously fine. This really seemed to be a ladder up to the heavens. And then, at last, you are at the very top walkway. From here, 85m up in the air, you are almost at the same level as those up at the lantern of the dome. I tried waving to them. No one waved back. The views of the rust-red dome from here are really first class. Beneath it the duomo’s marble shone in the morning light. The views through 270 degrees of Florence are wonderful (the duomo occupies a quarter of the panorama), from Santa Croce in the east, south to the Palazzo Vecchio, the Baptistery to the west, and then down into the courtyard ofSan Lorenzo to the north. To look down to the Baptistery you really have to crane your neck , you are that high. One interesting aspect of the skyline was that even though the light picked out the buildings of Florence in great detail, the hillsides in the distance were hazy, softening into the background in a pretty green-grey blur. This is the ‘sfumato’ you can see in Florentine art – check out the pale landscape to the rear of the Mona Lisa. A climb up either the campanile or duomo dome should be compulsary when visiting Florence. They are both open the same hours, they both charge the same fee (€6), and there is not much to choose between them in terms of queues it seems. While the dome offers a full 360 degree panorama, the campanile has the advantage of giving you the best view in town of the dome itself.
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