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 91 Ratings.

On 2017/06/08
Eddie Wong said:

Ishmael is Excellent

Ishmael led us on a fascinating food tour in and around the famed Mercado in Florence. After sampling tasty pizza dough poppers and lattes, we ventured into the indoor central market (mercado) and met several family owned businesses that sold olive oil, cheese, and other goodies. I'm not a huge foodie but enjoyed the food and learning about the process of aging olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We also had a full lunch at a local restaurant with delicious pasta and oxtail. I can't say enough superlatives about Ishmael. He is knowledgeable, personable and attentive. I would love to invite him over for dinner in San Francisco so that we can continue our conversations about food, music and art. There's so much more than food on a tour with Ishmael. Peace and blessing on to you. Ciao, Florence. We will return.

On 2017/06/04
Marita said:

Artviva guides set a high standard

I booked Artviva's Original Florence Walk for 5 people and the Uffizi and David tours for three people. Our Artviva guides lived up to their reputation for being extremely knowledgeable about the city and its many wonders and their ability to transmit it all in flawless English was amazing. We really could not have wished for more. It was also great to spread this tour package over three days -- more time to take in all the interesting stories that we were offered. Special thanks to Barbara and Brenda for sharing their passion.

On 2017/05/24
Kathy Harris said:

Florence walking tour

During a recent visit to Florence I was on a small group walking tour called "Sites and Statues" with tour guide Brenda. It was a delight spending the time with Brenda as she shared her stories and her knowledge of her beloved Florence. Thanks ArtViva for sharing Brenda with us!

On 2017/05/02
John Aldeborgh said:

Just A Fantastic Tour

We took the tour of the Uffizi Gallery on April 22nd with Loredana as our guide. Just an outstanding way to see the museum as you get the opportunity to merge the art with the history of Florence and the Medici family history. If you love art history and the renaissance then Florence and the Uffizi have to be on your bucket list. Loredana is an outstanding guide, she is very personable and a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on both the art in the gallery as well as history of Florence and the renaissance. A great way to spend an afternoon.

On 2017/04/02
Kathleen O Pierce said:

We were a group of 6 that had taken 4 tours in Florence and loved all of them. This tour in Rome was significantly different. This tour is not for the faint of heart. It is crowded and loud and tiring. I would never do it again even though our tour guide, Rosie, was great.

On 2017/04/02
Kathleen O Pierce said:

Elisabetta gave us the two hour tour at the Uffizi Gallery. She was an EXCELLENT tour guide. We had a group of 6 and she held all of our attention. I would highly recommend this tour and this tour guide.

On 2017/04/02
Kathleen O Pierce said:

We loved our tour to visit the David with Claas. It is only an hour long, and it is a MUST if visiting Florence. The only issue was that it was crowded and Claas did not hold his microphone up to his mouth, but pinned it on his shirt. There was a lot of background noise, walking to the tour, and inside the building. I would highly recommend he talk slower and hold his microphone to make the tour even better. I would highly recommend this.

On 2017/04/02
Kathleen O Pierce said:

Our family of 6 spent the day visiting Tuscany with Stefan. We had a glorious day. Stefan was knowledgeable and fun...we learned so much. I highly recommend this tour! Couldn't have been better!

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!

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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.