Brunelleschi's Dome

La Cupola di Brunelleschi, the spectacular dome of Florence's Cathedral.

Artviva: The Original and Best Walking Tours
Average Rating:   4.9
out of 5 stars
   Based on 82 Ratings.

On 2016/11/04
Tasha said:

BEST way to see Rome

My husband and I were on our honeymoon and booked the "Original Rome Walk" for a Monday afternoon on Halloween; it ended up being a private tour with our guide Sylvie and it was FANTASTIC! She was super knowledgeable and funny, and took the time to answer my husband's multiple questions. The tour itself was also great - I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting Rome!

On 2016/11/02
Dawn Everidge said:

Tour of a lifetime

My friend and I took the Genius of Michelangelo Tour by Artviva and it was absolutely brilliant, the highlight of our time in Florence!! We cannot recommend it enough!! Our tour guide was fabulous, a riveting former art history professor, who brought The Renaissance to life for us as he guided us through Florence. His stories pulled us back to the Florence known to Michelangelo and his contemporaries. The crowds disappeared for us as we were transported through time and were guided to Michelangelo's well-known and lesser known works. Ultimately the masses literally parted for us, momentarily, as we realized the dream of a lifetime, seeing his masterpiece, The David. It was the tour of a lifetime that we never wanted to end!

On 2016/08/06
Bruce Auster said:

We cannot imagine any other way to visit the Uffizi than with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide. Angelo was both -- funny and smart. He told stories: about the art and the artists and the Medicis and we came away understanding key concepts. We learned a lot and smiled the entire way. Thank you for a wonderful tour.

On 2016/06/16
The Caiarelli Family said:


Our June9,2016- Original Florence Walking Tour with guide Barbara,was wonderful. Barbara was very informative about sights and history of Florence.We really enjoyed her and the beautiful sights. We would recommend your tours to anyone visiting Florence area.Thanks again,The Caiarelli's

On 2016/06/01
Amber Weekes said:

Everything I wanted and so much more!

I am forever grateful to the staff at Art Viva! My whole life, I had always wanted to see the Statue of David, and I made my request, and it was granted! I wanted to be there at a time that was not crowded so that I could take unobstructed photographs and drink in the Statue as long as I could. Elisabeta was amazing and incredibly informed about the Statue and Florence. She shared with me wonderful places in Florence that I never would have considered. I had my time with the Statue, and I will be forever grateful to her and to Celeste who manages Art Viva. I was so impressed with having my own tour guide that I booked a small group tour for the following day through Art Viva and went to the Uffizi. Lovely as well. I will recommend this company over and over again. I owe a debt of gratitude. I felt so well taken care of and had my dream come true. I was so moved at being able to see the Statue of David completely unobstructed that I cried for hours afterward. Thank you and cheers!

On 2016/05/31
Angelica Blanks said:

Best way to see such an amazing city

What a wonderful way to experience the best of Florence. Ismael and Elisabetta were charming, funny, and knowledgeable guides. Thank you for allowing us to fall in love with Florence, it's truly a gem.

On 2016/05/22
Maggie said:

We had an amazing time touring Florence and understood so much more due to the great guide we had with Artviva (Brenda). Being a local, she was passionate and knowledgeable about the history and culture of Florence. Definitely a 5/5!

On 2016/05/10
The Moores said:

Our tour guide was excellent. He provided a great many historical details about the monuments and building and the way of life in past centuries. He made the city past come alive in a very meaningful way. We could imagine Galileo or Michelangelo walking the same streets. Our 3 hours were over too soon. The guide was from Augtralia, but truly could relate Florence history in a fun way.

On 2016/01/15
Ann Martelli said:

My family's ArtViva tours on Dec. 22, 2015 were everything we paid for. Brenda walked us around the city center pointing out the architecture, symbols, statues and great places to eat/hang out. Her in depth description of Michelangelo's David was so interesting, even my teens/young adults listened and remembered. Fantastic! In the afternoon, Hilde was our guide through the Uffizie Galleries. She gave an art history lesson that was forever memorable. Again, the teen/20's kids were listening. We got so much out these private tours. Well worth it!

On 2015/11/24
Hope said:

Great tour, great guide

The tour was excellent. Our guide, Adrianne, was very knowledgeable and able to answer our many questions. She also went above and beyond her duty by helping keep our three-year-old entertained during the lunch so that we could enjoy ourselves without worry.

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The XVth-century Cupola or dome to the cathedral of Florence, designed by and built under the supervision of Filippo Brunelleschi is still the largest brick dome on earth with an interior diameter of 45 meters (135 feet). The cupola is a feat of engineering by which Brunelleschi succeeded solving a number of difficulties which had prevented any attempt to raise a dome above the very high drum on which it was to rest, particularly the fact that, given its size, this dome could not be built using beams to support the structure as it rose.

Although having been projected in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio, Florence’s Cathedral – Il Duomo – remained domeless for centuries.

The foreseen dome (“cupola” in Italian) was greater than any other that had ever been built, leaving architects baffled as to how to construct di Cambio’s ambitious project.

Several designs were created, but eventually rejected for reasons including a lack of know-how and indeed materials to actually implement them.

In 1367, Neri di Fioravanti created the model for the dome that would eventually be constructed. It broke away from Medieval Gothic design and is said to have sparked a new Renaissance styling. With an opening similar to the Pantheon in Rome, Neri came up with the idea of having an inner and outer dome balanced together. All that was missing was a means to construct it without it collapsing due to “hoop stress”.

Alas, the dome remained unbuilt for decades, until along came Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 –1446).

Brunelleschi studied various dome structures, including that of the Pantheon, and came up with a unique solution to the problems of building Neri’s Cupola design.

The major problem he had to face was the proportions of the hole to fill. The octagonal dome base was so wide and so high, such as had never been built before. It would be difficult to construct a dome that could cover the hole, and not collapse on itself.

Not wanting to have anyone else be given the project of carrying out the building of the dome using his ideas, Brunelleschi created an incomplete model (that still exists today) using bricks to show what he could do.  

This secrecy continued throughout construction of the Duomo’s dome. Although throughout the centuries, technology has allowed for an accumulation of knowledge, much of the construction remains a mystery.

Brunelleschi’s two domes structure has a delicate balance between the inner and outer shells, with the thickness of each and the spaces between perfectly calculated to provide mutual support.

He used a series of stone chains to balance the dome as it was constructed of iron, bricks (around 4 million of them!) and mortar – all without any internal scaffolding. The end result is slightly steeper than that foreseen by Neri.

Hoisting devices were invented by Brunelleschi to take up the near-40,000 tons of material using specially-created machinery that inspired much of the hoisting technology still in use today.  


On top of the dome is a roof lantern, an ornate structure that serves as a skylight to allow natural light to enter into the dome. During construction, this was quite a contentious point and Brunelleschi had to bid for the right to build it against other esteemed local architects and engineers. Alas, it was not completed by the time of Brunelleschi’s death in 1446.

For the next 15 years, many others tried to complete the roof lantern, each making slight adaptations to the original design. Eventually it was completed in 1461 by Michelozzi, a friend of Brunelleschi, with a large copper ball placed atop.

In the year 1600, lightening struck the ball, knocking it down. It rolled down the side of the cupola. A round stone piece was placed on the ground where it struck to commemorate the event.

The ball was eventually replaced two years after, with an bigger ball that came from the workshop of sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio, whose apprentice at the time was none other than Leonardo da Vinci. This may have been what sparked his lifelong interest in studying, drawing and designing machines such as those invented by Brunelleschi.

A statue of Brunelleschi was placed just by the side of the Duomo, from where he glances eternally up at his amazing construction.

€ 29.00

The Original Florence Walk

Join the fun – we offer the chance to experience the entertaining walking adventure featured on numerous TV documentaries. Highly recommended by just about every major travel guide, our exploration of the city’s streets is a great way to learn about its fascinating past. 
€ 100.00

My Exclusive Florence in One Glorious Day (or Two!)

Experience the beauty and romance of Florence with your own personal guide when you book a place on this discounted package that explores the city’s intimate ancient stories. Join our local experts for six hours of the best sites and scenes, including the historical centre and the two world-renowned museums - the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery Museum.
€ 49.00

Original Florence Walk & David Tour

See Florence’s urban history come to life on this exclusive guided visit of the historic centre that also includes a viewing of Michelangelo's original David at the Accademia. Focusing on the historically-rich areas north of the river and to the west of Santa Croce, you’ll be flipping through the proverbial pages of over 2,000 years of tantalizing history.
€ 20.00

The Original Florence Walk - A Private Tour

Step back in time through more than 2,000 years of tantalising and tumultuous history to find out how this glorious city became one of the most important art centres of all time. See fabulous masterpieces and hear about the astounding events that happened here which shocked the Florentines...
€ 64.00

Sites & Statues - Florentine Stories & Michelangelo's David

If you’re short on time, we have the ideal excursion for you. Our good-humoured guide will accompany you on a 2.5 hour walk around the city to take in its sites and stories, as well as giving you pre-reserved access to the Accademia.
€ 64.00

Monumental Marvels: Duomo Museum & Baptistery

Our unparalleled guides will unveil the secrets of one of the oldest monuments in the city, the Baptistery, plus the newly-renovated Opera del Duomo Museum. Don’t miss the chance to access the crypt of the cathedral, Brunelleschi's Dome and climb Giotto's Bell Tower at your own leisure.
€ 32.50

Original Florence Walk Winter Special

Explore the Florentine winter magic! For a limited time, take advantage of a personal guided tour of this beautiful city in the winter.