The Campanile, or Bell Tower, in Florence, is part of the Duomo complex, which includes the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) and the Baptistery. After the Duomo, the Campanile is one of the most recognizable buildings in Florence. It is 278 feet high and from the top, offers fine views of the Duomo and Florence.
Construction of the Campanile began in 1334 under the direction of Giotto di Bondone, known to history simply as Giotto. The Campanile is often called Giotto's Bell Tower, even though the famous Renaissance artist only lived to see the completion of its lower story. After Giotto's death in 1337, work on the Campanile resumed, first under the supervision of Andrea Pisano and then Francesco Talenti.
Like the cathedral, the bell tower is elaborately decorated in white, green, and pink marble. But where the Duomo is expansive, the Campanile is slender and symmetrical. The Campanile was built on a square plan and has five different levels, the lower two of which are the most intricately decorated. The lower story features hexagonal panels and reliefs set in diamond-shaped "lozenges" which depict the Creation of man, Planets, Virtues, Liberal Arts, and Sacraments. The second level is decorated with two rows of niches in which there are statues of prophets from the Bible. Several of these statues were designed by Donatello, while others are attributed to Andrea Pisano and Nanni di Bartolo. Note that the hexagonal panels, lozenge reliefs, and statues on the Campanile are copies; the originals of all of these works of art have been moved to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo for preservation as well as up-close viewing.
Visiting the Campanile
Other than walking around the exterior of the Bell Tower and looking up, there's only one thing to do at the Campanile—and that's to climb it. Access to the Campanile is included in the combined Grande Museo del Duomo ticket, which includes all of the Duomo sites. We actually prefer climbing the Campanile instead of the Duomo (dome) for a couple of reasons: the lines are always much shorter and the roof of the Campanile affords terrific bird's eye views of the Duomo.
As you climb the Campanile, you can begin to see views of Florence and the Duomo at about the third level. The third and fourth stories of the bell tower are set with eight windows (two on each side) and each of these is split with curving Gothic columns. The fifth story is the tallest and is set with four tall windows, each split by two columns. The top story also features seven bells and the viewing platform with sweeping views of the rooftops of Florence and the neighboring Duomo.
Note that there are 414 steps to the top of the Campanile and there is no elevator. The stairway to the top is very narrow and not recommended for claustrophobes.
Location: Piazza Duomo in the historic center of Florence.
Hours: Daily from 8:15 am to 7:20 pm; closed on New Year's Day, Easter Sunday and Christmas, as well as the first Tuesday of each month.
Information: Il Grande Museo del Duomo website; Tel. (+39) 055 230 2885
Admission: A single ticket, good for 72 hours, includes all the monuments in the Cathedral Complex - Giotto's Bell Tower, Brunelleschi's Dome, the Baptistry, the Crypt of Santa Reparata inside the Cathedral, and the Historical Museum. The price as of 2020 is 18 euros.
Article updated by Elizabeth Heath