Looking down on the Duomo

My only real disappointment in Florence came with the Duomo.  I arrived too late in the day to be able to climb high into Brunelleschi’s dome to see for myself this amazing construction.  I had to be content with worshipping from the ground, but I knew that there was more than one place to admire from.  Palazzo Vecchio provided a perfect viewing platform, and so much more.

Funny to think of this grandiose building as the town hall of Florence, but so it is. Built in 1299 as Palazzo della Signoria, to house the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, the Signoria, its fortress-like appearance belies the opulence inside. Much of this was added when Duke Cosimo 1 de Medici made it his official residence in 1540.

Intrigue was rife and in 1549 Cosimo moved his family across the River Arno to the security of Palazzo Pitti, renaming his former residence Palazzo Vecchio. The ‘Old Palace’ houses many secrets.  Can you imagine the extreme need for privacy that led to the commissioning of an above-ground ‘hidden’ walkway?  The Vasari Corridor leads from Palazzo Vecchio, through the Uffizzi, and across Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace.

Impossible to orchestrate the full history of this palace, but come with me to whet your appetite a little.

And we’ve barely reached the cloisters!  In the vast ground floor space I was challenged as to which ticket to purchase.  ‘Tower plus Museum’ sent me off in the direction of my first flight of steps, while the other half reclined with a coffee.

A statue beckons from a niche, and in no time I’m on a level with the roofs of Florence.  The 94 metre high tower sits on the solid structure below and contains 2 small cells.  Savonarola was detained here before his trial.  A not too challenging stairwell leads you upwards until you are atop the tower, with sweeping views across Florence, even on a grey day.  I watched the clouds anxiously as I knew the tower is closed if it rains.

The impact of the Salone dei Cinquecento  defies description. Built in the 15th century to house Maggiore Consiglio, Florence’s legislative assembly, the ‘Hall of the 500’ is still used today for ceremonial events.  Folding chairs sit in the hush, while you try to take in the wonder of Michelangelo and his contemporaries, all around you.

Using my Museum ticket I was free to go at my own pace.  A circuit of the palace takes you through a sequence of splendour, each ceiling a work of art, the walls bathed in beauty.  The culmination is a view down into the hall from the second floor. Breathtaking!

Through realms of fantasy, pomp and splendour to Eleanora’s private apartments and chapel. Did ever a family live in such style?

And then the Room of the Elements.  You don’t have to be an art lover to be spellbound by this place.  Not for everybody, the style and eloquence of the de Medici’s.  But you can’t help but be snared by the imagination and sheer daring of these people.

I don’t want to spoil it for you by revealing more.  I can only urge that if you find yourself in Florence, you dedicate a little time to Palazzo Vecchio. You can take a number of tours that delve deeper into the history, or simply do as I did.  And it is a simply splendid place to be Atop Florence.


  1. The art is amazing, if not my thing, yet I am always fascinated by the incredible history behind the artwork, and of course your amazing photos Jo 🙂 Your first few photos remind me a little of the view from the city walls of old Dubrovnik 🙂 xxx

  2. oh my . . . what beauty, but a bit like in Porto the extravagance is almost overwhelming. Quite extraordinary to think people lived and worked in this extravagant Palazzo. I wonder if after a while they didn’t notice or it?

    Thank you so much for sharing, and apologies I am so late to join you. I got very behind whilst in Lisboa and Porto, still it does mean I am having an extravagant morning myself today as I scroll through everyone’s posts 🙂

    1. Hi Becky 🙂 I wasn’t sure exactly when you were back and I knew you’d had a full on time so I wasn’t sitting waiting 🙂 🙂 I saw a couple of Instagram photos but not much else because we fitted in a trip to Anglesey last week. Feet never touched the ground. And then you’ll have all those lovely photos to sift through. Weeks of dedication 🙂 🙂 When do you go back to England- remind me again?

      1. hee hee . . . glad you have not been sitting there waiting!

        We fly back Sunday evening so will be watching out for you Sunday morning as you fly in! Looking forward to our catch up the following week xx

  3. It’s on my list of things to inhale whenever I get to Florence, Jo. I’ve read so much about the city, the architecture and the art, I feel like I’ve been there! Thanks for the wonderful photos. That secret passageway was a central feature in Dan Brown’ second book, I believe.

  4. Impressive pictures Jo, I especially like how you captured the statues in that beautiful light. It’s not easy to capture an artistic masterpiece on camera, but you pulled it off. All beautiful! You picked the perfect time of year to go to Italy, it looks as though you had the streets to yourself. We went a few years ago to Florence in late May, and it was a mob scene. Loved it, but felt like I would have loved it more when others weren’t trying to love it so much, too!

    1. We took a risk with the weather because it could have been damp and miserable, but we were very lucky. No crowds and no Summer mosquitos 🙂 Thank you very much. I had to do a little cropping and tweaking but I was pleased at this collection of memories.

      1. We’re heading out to Southern California to celebrate our daughter’s graduation from University. I can’t believe how quickly those 4 years flew by. It will be more of a family vacation than a wander. I’ll be cooking up something else soon, I hope! Have a great evening, Jo. Love catching up with you!

  5. So over the top Jo and I love it! The frescoed ceilings and walls are so incredible, I find I get a sore neck in some of those buildings because I’m always looking up. What a grand view of duomo and piazza, will have to make the climb myself should I find myself in Florence again.

      1. Ha ha! What lives they led and I wonder if they ever considered that in the future people would pay to traipse through their homes and see where they slept 🙂

  6. Mesmerising photos, Jo – the opulence and creativity of Palazzo Pitti is wondrous indeed. The secret walkway is a delight which we enjoyed on our trip and we also didn’t get to see the inside of the Dumo. However, our hotel had a dining area outside on the roof overlooking the Dumo and at Easter we sat and listened to the fireworks let off inside – amazing!

    1. Palazzo Vecchio was one of the highlights of my visit, Annika. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to climb the narrow stairwell in the Duomo and the palace tower made a good substitute. We did stand inside and gaze up at Brunelleschi’s handiwork. The fireworks sound fun and I’m sure the festival in June must be amazing to see. But busy, of course. 🙂 🙂

    1. It was about 3 in the afternoon, I think, Andrew, because we’d already been up to Piazzale Michelangelo and the Fort and got lost in a few side streets. We made do with a gelato on a bench admiring the Duomo after a look inside 🙂 🙂

  7. Sorry you didn’t get the chance to make the climb up into the Dome Jo, but I loved the panoramic view you shared with us with it in the center. This post has made me so excited to visit Venice next week. Can’t wait!

  8. bisogna visitare Firenze e la sua arte, senza di questo non si può pienamente capire, anche se le tue immagini sono veramente splendide, in particolare quelle del salone dei 500! impossibile non rimanere contagiati da tanto splendore assommatori nella storia dei secoli
    ti ringrazio Giovanna, un grande abbraccio amichevole

    1. Buon giorno, Annalisa 🙂 I am working on a post for tomorrow’s walk in a place you know and love. I think it will take me a long time to get the details right. I had forgotten how much I love Italy. Sending you huge hugs and thank you for your kindness 🙂 🙂

    1. Palazzo Vecchio? It’s impossible to know what the inside contains, Alison. I had watched a TV series- Italy’s Invisible Cities- in which they showed the Vasari Corridor and all of Florence in 3D visual imaging. It was an incredible programme, but I was still staggered to see the reality. The links in the post will give you many more details. 🙂 🙂 How are you doing?

  9. I loved the post Jo but especially one of your replies in the comments about being whipped over the head with beauty. Rather stunning I’m sure to have all of this astounding art and architecture all about.

  10. Well I think the Duomo view from here is much better than being inside it. (what do I know!) and the inside of this place is not what I’d have expected from the outside. Thanks for climbing the tower as I won’t be doing that. And thanks for all the wonderful artwork including the naughty bits and the cherubs. I have a soft spot for cherubs 🙂

    (I shall have to do some reading about Florence and the Medicis etc before I visit as I know nothing!)

    1. The cherubs are for you. I know you like them 🙂 🙂 (and I’m quite partial myself) I wasn’t sure that I fancied being scrushed in a narrow 2 way space actually, but if I could have got a ticket I’d have given it a go. That’s my middle name. 🙂
      I would recommend Palazzo Vecchio over the Uffizzi, probably, Jude, though that may be sacrilege. Certainly packs a punch. Happy weekend!

  11. So sorry to hear that you couldn’t climb Duomo but you got to see Palazzo Vecchio. What a view, and look at all the architecture. It must be a desperate idea back then to built an above-ground hidden walkway. So you got a ticket. Did you end up going up the steps? 😀

  12. Amazing and fabulous as ever Jo 🙂 Hope you get to see at least some parts of Anglesey next week – I look forward to some photos in due course 🙂

    1. Thanks, Eunice 🙂 Home again! It was just a flying visit, sadly, but it was highly amusing that we were based at Cemaes, just below Parys mine. Lovely little spot 🙂 Happy weekend!

  13. What an amazing set of photos you’ve managed to take Jo! Some of those angles! You’re really captured the opulence and grandiosity of the de Medicis not to mention the intrigue and machinations! I must get back to Florence one day and really appreciate it with a more “mature” perspective (as an 18 year old backpacker had no money to go anywhere!). Hope you’ve had a good week and wishing you a lovely weekend xx

    1. Hiya darlin! 🙂 I don’t know when I last spent so much time looking up! I wonder if the de Medicis did or if they took it all for granted? Imagine living with all that! When would I find time to eat toast? 🙂 🙂
      Thanks for your kind words, hon. We drove down to Anglesey midweek to spend some time with friends so my feet have been in constant explore mode. Chores and chilling this weekend. How about you?

      1. I can’t imagine actually living in somewhere as grand as that Jo but I suppose that is what they were used to! A very different perspective! Anglesey would have made a lovely break – last went there years ago for a couple of family holidays! Quite a quiet weekend and it is damp and rainy today – heading out to an engagement party later which fortunately is indoors. Hope to get a walk in before then too! Enjoy your weekend downtime! 🙂

    1. After photo, after photo, Carol! 🙂 I stuck my nose in for a quick look before we went into the Uffizzi, not sure if we’d have time or if I could get tickets. It was still officially closed but I loved my first glimpse. We spent a couple of hours in the Uffizzi till it started to get busier and our heads were spinning with art and then we were heading for Boboli gardens. The ticket office didn’t even have a queue when we came back and I absolutely loved the place. I would recommend it to anybody. And yes- I finally got to climb a tower and look down on those pretty roofs. 🙂 🙂

  14. So much history, so much grandiose splendour and beauty. Simply stunning photos that brought it all back to me. Thanks for sharing Jo. Bellissimo!

  15. Oooh magnifico Tesoro! You couldn’t have known where to look next, everywhere is beautiful and so photogenic. You really packed a lot in, no wonder M was overwhelmed. I like going up towers etc as well and I suspect I’ll be going on my own 🙂 I think my head will be swimming if I try to do too much of the art, so I might have to choose between a couple of places.
    Your photos get better and better, you have a good eye and a talent for composition. Thanks for these posts, they’re a real delight x:-)x

    1. Hiya honeybun! You ok? It does seem a lot, looking at the photos, but I’m not good at sitting about when there are lovely places to explore. (unless I have wonderful company like yourself, of course 🙂 ) Just wait till you get back and we compare notes on how many photos we took! We only did Uffizzi and this one- back to back as it happened, and I’d have to say that this was better, probably because it was so unexpected and just downright beautiful. The tours include back scenes skullduggery and come highly recommended, Gilly, but we just went in ‘on spec’. I was desperate to climb a tower. 🙂 🙂

      1. Ahhm I might just skip the Uffizzi then, I need to be outside, wandering and watching. When we met I was already a bit sick, I’m more energetic and myself now! Havng said that, i’m shattered right this minute, year end and lack of bodies in my office is wearing. Heyho it’s the weekend and I’ve got a leather bag to stitch, love ya honey xx

  16. Another stunning Florence post. You can be my virtual guide any day. The photos are superb and so clear. I’m always startled by the tree-clad hills in the distance. I love the view down into the square, and your ceiling shots are amazing. Your prose is as always fluid. Thank you. As for your query on Viveka’s blog, I have three Warsaw posts under construction, and then I’ll direct you back to wherever I decide to take up cyber-residence. Brain and technology are still a bit compromised.

    1. I did realise, reading Jude’s comments, that sleep and reorientation would play a major part, Meg. I’m beaming at you because so long as I know you’re ok I’ll wait patiently. This took me all morning to construct because my photos aren’t in a desirable order and my head was still somewhere in Wales. Best place for it, some might say! Hugs, sweetheart 🙂 🙂

  17. Your enthusiastic posts on Florence are really inviting…..
    You really know how to appreciate Art and how to capture amazing takes….
    Thanks , from a Milanese Lady , fallen in love with Florence……

    1. You are a sweetheart! Just one more arty post to come on the Uffizzi and lots of ‘miscellaneous bits’ that might never see the light of day, Anna. Have a great weekend! 🙂 🙂

      1. Same back to you!
        As I told you last week , I’m in Ferrara for a few days…
        The town is beautiful worth to be visited….

        Medieval and Renaissance art , everywhere, nice people , nice food!

      1. Coping. Better. I’m trying to learn to concentrate on the now, not the future which scares me alone, and not the past where I miss my husband so much. Just now. Focus, Focus, Focus.

      2. And I’m writing, and painting and making sure I stay connected with people. They say I’m doing all the right things. Now I wait on time. Thank you for asking, Jo.

  18. Beautiful beautiful Firenze, beautifully photographed! Jo and I never dared to climb up, but Andrea our youngest daughter did. Felt happy to see your photos, but also sad, that maybe after so many many visits to this beautiful city we may not make it back there again – but our memories, nobody can take.

    1. I have so many memories, Carina, and some I won’t be able to share here, for fear people die of boredom. Life moves on and already I have been to Anglesey since Florence, and am only a week away from another Algarve visit. It seems to be all or nothing with me 🙂 🙂

  19. Wow! What a treat, Jo. The views of the Duomo and the decor and paintings in Palazzo Vecchio are magnificent, especially that last painting, which you captured so well. I know you are still enthralled! 🙂

    1. Haven’t dared share the Uffizzi yet, Cathy! It’s like being hit over the head with beauty 🙂 🙂 Just got back from Anglesey yesterday evening, with lots of pretty seaside shots. They’ll have to wait 🙂 All well with you? Containing the excitement? I need a mega catch up this weekend.

    1. I’m not a sufferer, Kate, as you can no doubt tell, and that window was actually quite narrow. I was up close 🙂 🙂 Possibly the most amazing place I have ever been inside. (sheltered life? 🙂 🙂 If I went back I’d take one of the many tours. Not underground because crypts and the like don’t do it for me.

      1. I just go dizzy. Years ago I didn’t. Skipped up the leaning tower of Pisa, no prob, no barriers on the crazy floors. Old age? Who knows. I imagine falling out of the narrowest of spaces, because actually you can. I blame it on my parents tbh, but I won’t get into that.
        Vatican? That’s pretty good. Taj Mahal? I’m not sure you can go inside ruins but I loved the Parthenon. Depends on taste. I liked the Conciergerie in Paris. And the royal palace in Madrid struck me as surreal. Although not as surreal as the Dali place in Figueres.
        Don’t tell me you have claustrophobia?! I think crypts are interesting, but it’s the history, or what purports to be the history.
        Anyway, good hol in Firenze eh?

      2. Not done Rome, Agra or Madrid. Lots of scope for me yet- ha! Lost my handbag, with passport inside, at the Parthenon. Colours your outlook! We were flying home that day too. Not claustrophobic as such but I’m not fond of caves, subterranean and bones. Time team is interesting but they are forever digging up skellies and I hate it. There- that’s my petty prejudices for now. Loved Florence and I think you can probably tell. Just returned from Anglesey yesterday. My life is all or nothing 🙂

      3. Did you travel when you were young? Yeah Anglesey is nice actually. I know, been there, done that, shut up RS.
        Your Parth story sounds like one of Andrew’s in Athens. Greek banks were a pain. I tried crying 😥😥cut no ice. Got there in the end. Funny country.

      4. One trip to Paris, 20 and pregnant- last fling before captivity. Tenby, Bournemouth, Filey- do they count? No, not till my 30s, so much ground to make up. 🙂

    1. You cannot imagine the inside, Debs! You simply have to be there. 🙂 🙂 I saw your great Atop post this morning but didn’t have time to stop. I’ll be over later.

    1. I felt like I’d been walloped over the head with beauty that day, Jill! I had already been to the Uffizzi that morning, so climbing the tower was light relief 🙂 🙂 I know- not for vertigo sufferers. I’m sorry!

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