The city of Florence is filled with Renaissance architecture to whet the appetite of any analogue photographer. The pièce de résistance is the Duomo, and the focus of the centro storico.
The cathedral, officially known as Santa Maria dei Fiori, was several hundred years in the making. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, he was also the mastermind behind the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio. Construction began in 1296 and was not completed until the late 1400s.
Dominating the skyline of Florence, the terracotta-tiled dome provides a landmark which helps the tourist negotiate the narrow Florentine streets. On first glance, it is the muted greens and corals of the exterior marble, contrasted against a blue sky, which takes your breath away and has you removing the lens cap. This facade was a later addition to the Duomo, and is characteristic of a style prevalent in the city. The cupola, the creation of Filippo Brunelleschi as a result of a competition run to find the best design, was inspired by the domes of antiquity, most notably, the Pantheon in Rome. The cupola of the Duomo in Florence went on to inspire Sir Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral dome in London. Brunelleschi’s dome was completed in 1436, and the model that won him the contract can still be seen in the nearby Museo dell’Opera.
Scaffolding around the building is testament to the long process that goes into maintaining the colours of the facade and protecting the exterior from 21st century grime. The interior of the building, with the exception of the staggering painted dome ceiling, is fairly bland. Go to Santa Croce for something more special.
Once you’ve exhausted your film on the exterior of the Duomo, make a choice. It is possible to climb 463 steps to the top of the cupola, or you can opt for the climb up the campanile.
The campanile, or bell tower, was the contribution of Giotto di Bondone (known simply as Giotto), and a climb up its 414 steps rewards you with tremendous views over the city and the dome. If narrow staircases are not your thing, rest assured that it’s only the final stage of the climb that is somewhat restrictive – it is possible to enjoy great views without making it to the very top. Having clambered up to this penultimate stage you will also find the bell, no longer hung for ringing. The final exertion, the narrow climb, brings you to the top to enjoy panoramic views of Florence’s Renaissance rooftops.
The building as a whole offers much to any photographer, but presents so many opportunities to experiment in true Lomographic style. I’ll leave you to enjoy the view with whichever camera, film, lens and technique you choose. Great shots are guaranteed.