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 102 Ratings.

On 2017/11/02
Thomas Wilson said:

Art Viva's reputation is richly deserved. And Angelo is one of the best tour guides I've ever witnessed. Our evening walk of the Oltrarno district and The Original Florence Walk the next day were extraordinary in their depth, historical perspectives, contexts, interesting stories, and his warm delivery. He loves this city. Now we do too. Thanks Angelo. Sincerely, Thomas and Taffi Wilson

On 2017/10/20
Keith and Sue Ferguson said:

We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 tours with Hilde and Tatianna.

We signed up for the day of three tours; Original Florence, Uffizi and David. It was a long day but our guides made it a special experience. We would heartily recommend the tours to others visiting Florence. Our guides knowledge, passion and stories will be remembered long after our return home.

On 2017/09/10
Kim said:

Best Tours Ever

It was our very first trip to Italy, so my husband and I decided to book tours with ArtViva based on Rick Steves' recommendation. We took the Accademia tour with Ingrid, the Uffizi tour with Klaus, and the Original Florence tour with Tatiana. Each guide was a joy to be with. They were all both extremely knowledgeable about their subjects and were enthusiastic about presenting it. I learned so much about the amazing Florentine art and architecture. It was worth every penny. I would highly recommend ArtViva's tours to everyone!

On 2017/08/31
E said:

Fantastic walking tour with Hilde. I would recommend it to everyone visiting Florence.

On 2017/08/03
Stephanie said:

Fantastic Experience!

We took four tours through Artviva, three from Florence and one from Venice--all excellent! We took this tour the next day from Florence, and it was the perfect half-day to get a glimpse of the Tuscan wine country without committing an entire day (we had Florence sightseeing in the morning, wine country in the afternoon). Vito was our tour guide and driver, and he was so much fun. With the group, we got a chance to chat with folks from all over the world, and the collegiality was equally as enjoyable as the estate, wine, and olive oils we tasted when we arrived at the estate. We tried the fares, learned about the history of the estate and wine in Tuscany in general, and then took a tour of the property. Both the wine-making facilities and the private home of the Lord and Lady were open for us to tour. It was incredible! And there was even a rare piece of World War I history too (you'll have to visit to find out)! Truly, a terrific experience.

On 2017/08/03
Stephanie said:

Fantastic Experience

We took four tours through Artviva, three from Florence and one from Venice. They were each outstanding. Your Own Cinque Terre (private tour): on our last day in Florence, we took a one day private trip to three of the five villages in Cinque Terre. Elenora was our tour guide all day, and our driver was Massimo. Both were fantastic! Elenora especially made our tour truly an experience we will never forget. She's brilliant, easy going, and full of interesting information about the cities and their histories. She even gave us an overview of the towns we traveled through on the drive to the coast. She escorted us through the train system, around the cute and winding cobblestone streets, and even to a fantastic family-owned restaurant for some seafood pasta and wine from the region. It was like having an old friend show you around her hometown. I cannot recommend this tour enough. The sights (!!), the food, the tour guide (seriously, ask for Elenora!)... all were lovely.

On 2017/08/03
Stephanie said:

Fantastic Experience!

We took four tours through Artviva, three from Florence and one from Venice. They were each outstanding. Smart, friendly, adept tour guides led us around. And, friendly, helpful office staff helped us navigate the booking process (even before we arrived, they helped me process the booking and coordinate with meet-up locations all via email in advance). Original Florence Walk & David Tour (private tour): Corrina was our tour guide, and she was a real joy. She met us in our hotel lobby (super convenient!) and gave us a terrific tour of Florence, emphasizing its architecture, culture, history, and the daily lives of Florentines throughout the centuries. It was capped off by a visit to the David, and arriving with a tour meant that we were able to skip that incredibly LONG LINE. It was the perfect way to become acquainted with the city, and I highly recommend making this your first tour in Florence. Be

On 2017/07/18
Kathy said:

We were touring with our 17-year-old grandson. The "Off the Beaten Path" tour with Shannon was the best we had I Italy and his favorite too. To see things that are not crowded with other tourists and so unique was a nice change from the "usual." Other tours with Artiva were excellent as well with very knowledgeable guides who seemed to be able to answer every question, even from a teenager who was anxious to know "everything." Thank you, Shannon and Artiva

On 2017/07/14
Joe Fisher said:

Thank You, Elisabetta!

We enjoyed our wonderful day with you in Firenze. Thank you for your knowledge, humor, guidance, and keeping us in the shade! Your love of Firenze is obvious. The five Elizabeths, and the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed this unique experience and would recommend it to anyone!

On 2017/07/08
Jennifer said:

Made Florence and Venice come alive!

My Zicasso travel agent booked tours through ArtViva for myself and my husband. We were so pleased she did! In Venice Leticia took us on the water by gondola and speed boat; this is the way to see Venice! Then Tatiana took us through St. Mark's and Doge's Palace, helping us understand the symbolism, art, and history of these places. In Florence, Rodrigo led us to better understand the David and spent time going into our questions with thoughtfulness. A 3 hour walking tour with Kate opened our eyes to what was in plain sight! We would not have understood Florence without her! Finally, the piece de resistance was Klaas and the tour of the Ufizzi Gallery. His storytelling and excitement was effervescent! We adding his tour because of the pleasure we had on the other booked tours, and I'm so glad that Klaas was our last ArtViva tour - what a beautiful ending to being in Florence! Thank you, ArtViva, for making these two cities come alive. I was so pleased with your guides, professional office staff, and joy!

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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. 
€ 109.00

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.
€ 55.00

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...