Florence Bell Tower
The Florence bell tower is one of the most iconic and distinguishing of all of the buildings in the city. It is more commonly and appropriately referred to as Giotto’s Campanile, after the famed artist and architect commissioned to carry out its illustrious design. Construction of the free-standing bell tower began in 1334, and although the great Giotto would die three years later, successors would carry on and ultimately complete the impressive structure. This jewel of Florentine architecture achieves a height of nearly 280 feet and is approximately 50 feet wide on its four sides. The Campanile of Florence is a part of the Florence Cathedral Complex located on the Piazza del Duomo. The entire cathedral complex consists of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (the cathedral church or Duomo of Florence), Giotto’s Campanile, and the Baptistery of Saint John. Together they have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the rest of the historic center or Florence.
Many of the works of art that once were contained within the Florence bell tower have now been moved to the nearby Museo dell’Opera del Duomo after a disastrous flood threatened many precious items in 1966. This does not mean that there is nothing upon which to fix your gaze of any worth at this popular tourist attraction. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Where once there were important works of art, replicas have taken their place, but this does nothing to detract from the true beauty of this immense structure and its ornate marble engravings and exterior decorations.
For instance, the hexagonal panels that adorn the façade of the Campanile of Florence are breathtaking and depict such scenes as the creation of man and woman, and the advent of the creative and visual arts. The niches in the façade contain impressive statues completed by renowned artists such as Donatello and Andrea Pisano. Some of these statues date as far back as the middle of the fourteenth century. If you plan to climb to the top of the Florence bell tower, be sure to bring two things: your walking shoes and a camera. First of all, it is a bit of a hike to get to the top at a cool 414 steps, but when you ascend to the top and view the panoramic vistas of the city below, the slight aches and pains in your calves will dissipate as quickly as morning fog rising from the Arno River in the late months of spring.
When you visit Giotto’s Campanile, you have within your reach many of the most alluring and popular sights in all of Florence. You can walk up to the top to enjoy an unparalleled view of the city, visit the Duomo Museum to witness amazing art, and enjoy a meal on the Piazza del Duomo. Then there are the dozens of other churches, galleries, museums, parks, cafes, and restaurants, all within easy walking distance. The Campanile of Florence and the entire Florence Cathedral complex are one of the first stops you should make when sightseeing in this cradle of the Renaissance.