One of the most popular things to do in Italy is to climb things. You got to see a bit last week of my own hiking and the amazing views from the hills of Assisi, so you know that climbing a bit can result in a totally fabulous view that makes all that sweat worth it. Florence is no different, and you’ll find a ton of people willing to wait hours in line to climb things here, in particular the famed Duomo. You can also climb the bell tower, right in the same piazza, but the Duomo, the dome itself, is by far the most popular. The line stretches for hundreds of people; I snapped this shot one time looking at the line. Technically this is the line to enter the church. Put another one beside it that goes up the side of the building and almost all the way to the back of the church… yeah, you’re starting to get the picture.
Don’t get me wrong– I have personally climbed the Duomo and it’s amazing. But if you only have a couple of hours and you have to choose one thing to climb, I would argue that the view from the Duomo in fact is not the best one in the city. What’s really cool about climbing the Duomo is getting up close and personal with the art and architecture and frescoes inside the dome as you climb up to the tippy-top. But when you look out over the city of Florence, you are missing one key landmark in your view–because you are standing in it.
Instead, I recommend going to Palazzo Vecchio, the former seat of the Florentine government and a really interesting building in and of itself. There are famous frescoes on its walls of battle scenes, notably between Florence and Pisa, and you can tour some of the rooms of the palazzo where famous governors of the state lived. For an extra fee, you can climb the bell tower of Palazzo Vecchio. The view is amazing; but don’t just take my word for it. See for yourself. You really get a feel for the city, all the red rooftops when you are up high.
If you can do both, by all means. But if you have to choose, think about why you are climbing–for the art, or for the view? If it’s a great view of the city you are seeking, choose Palazzo Vecchio– or if you have a bit more time, climb into the hills and check out the view of the city in whole from either Piazza Michelangelo or Fiesole. È bella!