Baptistry of St. John. Florence, Italy. October 2014.
The smallest structure of the big three that occupy Piazza del Duomo (The Baptistry, The Duomo, and Giotto’s Belltower), this beautifully symmetrical and geometric building is definitely not to be overlooked. I think most people stay outside to admire the signature green-white-pink tile work as well as the famous “gates of paradise” by Lorenzo Ghiberti, but the interior of the baptistery is literally a gold mine.
This 10-euro ticket will get you access to The Baptistry of St. John, the cupola of the duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore), as well as Giotto’s Campanile. The Duomo itself is free and requires no ticket. While I think ten euro is a pretty fair price for a 24-hour-valid access to these sights, I also think it’s a lot to cover in such a short amount of time. The cupola and the belltower require serious climbing (more than 400 steps apiece), so a bit of spacing and allotted water breaks might be good ideas there. It is also possible to space it out across 2 days, if you want to only conquer 1 climb a day. Since the ticket is good for 24 hours, you can climb one at midday on day one, and before midday on day two, or whatnot. The views are more than worth it–but more on that on a different post.
As with many Florentine art, particularly religious art that show people visions of hell, the golden tile work on the baptistry ceiling depicts hell largely based on Dante’s Inferno. Dante’s poem also inspired the paintings of hell done by Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and many other artists.
When you’re in there and looking up, it really is hard to look away. So many gorgeous and intricate details. There are also a lot of those small window things and an oculus overhead that let in natural light and make the gold glow.
If you tear your eyes away from the gold and look down, you’ll see that the geometric and intricate tile work there is also amazing, and strangely modern, with hints of Byzantine.
This spot in the middle I think is where the original baptism fountain used to be. Can’t get over these tiles.