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What Most Influencers Won’t Tell You About Giotto’s Bell Tower

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – Taken from Giotto’s Bell Tower

In the age of influencers, Instagram-worthy selfies at the top often steal the spotlight, but what they don’t tell you is the real story – the climb. Campanile di Giotto, often known as “Giotto’s Bell Tower” in Florence is a timeless Italian masterpiece. While the incredibly captivating payoff at the top is undeniably worth it, our journey revealed a series of unspoken realities that most influencers conveniently overlook, or downplay for views. As two fitness enthusiasts, we found ourselves facing unexpected challenges that added a layer of intrigue to our ascent. So, let’s dive right in and reveal what most influencers won’t tell you about Giotto’s Bell Tower. 

1. The Legacy of Giotto di Bondone

Crafted under the watchful eye of Giotto, one of the principle artists and most revered architects of the time, the bell tower’s construction began in 1334. Only three years into the construction, Giotto met his untimely death and his pupils continued on with his legacy. Andrea Pisano, who followed the original design, finished the first two floors and then it was completed in 1359 by Francesco Talenti, after the Black Plague interrupted the work done by Andrea. The rooftop terrace and the highest point where one can reach was actually an idea of Talenti. 

And on the exterior there is a mosaic of marble and sculpture. Adorned in white, red, and green marble, the exterior boasts geometric motifs, stylised flowers, and white marble statues (half by  Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and the other halfby Donatello and Nanni di Bartolo). Each statue and panel tells a story, transporting visitors back in time. 

ROCKSTAR TIP: For conservation reasons, many of the originals were transferred to the Opera del Duomo Museum, which can be accessed with one of the special passes

So as you make your way to the top, be sure to stop and marvel at the intricate details of three loggias, elegant mullioned windows, and breathtaking panoramic views. All of these are a testament to Giotto’s artistic brilliance and Florentine Gothic Architecture. Not to mention, we highly encourage you to take your time and take breaks at every platform. Keep reading to see why! 

2. The Best Passes To See All Of The Monuments

Unlock the secrets of entry like we did by purchasing one of three passes – Brunelleschi, Giotto, or Ghiberti through the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. Giotto’s Bell Tower is exclusively featured in the Brunelleschi and Giotto passes. We opted for the Giotto Pass, which is a single ticket that allows you to visit Giotto’s Bell Tower, Baptistery, Opera del Duomo Museum, and Santa Reparata. Brunelleschi Pass will also give you access to the Cupola, but we wanted to see the Cupola from above. 

Recently, the Duomo Complex introduced a reservation system. This means no more spontaneous ascents, but in our opinion planning ahead will ensure you an enchanting experience. Purchase your tickets ahead of time and select a reservation spot that best suits you. This is something that we did not do, because we saw SO many instagram posts saying that “any time you visit the tower is magical”. 

3. How Important It Is To Pick Your Reservation Time

Before arriving in Florence, we decided which day would be best to utilize our Giotto Pass and chose an early afternoon time slot to climb the tower. Our that was that we could stop by one of our favorite breakfast spots beforehand, hear the bells during our ascent, and get done early enough to take photos around the city. After all, we would be dressed for the occasion already, right? (We will circle back to that comment later) Needless to say, I wish someone had told us otherwise. 

To enjoy the climb with minimal crowds, aim for early morning or late afternoon visits, especially during Florence’s peak season between April and September. Visiting right after the Duomo opens helps beat the summer heat and the crowds. A lot of influencers and bloggers were posting about climbing at noon to hear the ringing bells, but we can assure you that on a hot sunny day you would much rather opt for less crowd over more bells. Not to mention, the line that you are waiting in for your timed entry is on the east side of the tower. During the Summer and Fall there is absolutely no shade mid-day. We learned this the hard way and ended up sweating before we even started climbing.

ROCKSTAR TIP:  Bring water for the wait in line. There is nowhere to purchase water once you’re inside and the line could take much longer than you expect. (At the end of September we waited almost 45 minutes in the sun to enter for our “timed entry”) 

If you don’t mind the crowds, Sunset is also an incredible time to climb. The enchanting sunset views turn to twinkling city lights, making for a romantic start to your evening. Save our graphic for quick reference while planning your trip.

4. The Convenience of Traveling Light

Bloggers and influencers, with their picturesque posts and charming narratives, often play a significant role in shaping our travel experiences. However, when it comes to climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower, their advice on dressing “cute” can be deceiving. They may jokingly assure you that fashionable attire, even flip flops, won’t matter when you reach the top – but trust us, it does. Having learned the hard way, we initially embraced the dressed-to-the-nines Italian fashion style paired with sneakers, only to find ourselves yearning for athletic wear as we tackled the 414 steps. A quick retreat to our Airbnb for a wardrobe change became a necessity. Do yourself a favor and plan for athleisure wear instead of jeans and a nice top.  

ROCKSTAR TIP: If you’re able to ditch the large backpack at the hotel or airbnb, as storage is mandatory before your ascent. But if you have to bring backpacks or luggage with you, leave it at the designated storage area in Piazza Duomo (number 38/r). If you try to enter with it, you will not be allowed to enter and there is no where to place it at the tower’s entrance. 

5. Tips for the Ascent: A Test of Endurance and Motivational Views

Now that you’ve purchased your pass, placed your luggage and prepared for the climb, it is time to embark on the ascent of Giotto’s Bell Tower. Even for the most physically fit individuals, the climb can induce an unexpected and unique set of sensations. Picture this: two avid gym-goers finding themselves grappling with unexpected challenges as they scaled the tower. What Most Influencers Won’t Tell You About Giotto’s Bell Tower Is that the journey is not as easy as it looks on Instagram or Tiktok.

ROCKSTAR TIP: Without a lift/elevator, be prepared to walk all 414 steps to the top and then back down. Taking it slow is the way to go! Pace yourself and make it a point to take breaks on each platform. Not only is the view mesmerizing, but it gives you a chance to listen to your body as you climb.

Unexpectedly for Emma, the tight spaces amplified a sense of confinement that would have been a struggle to shake off without the platform breaks. The narrow stairways, initially built for maintenance workers, became an intimate dance with discomfort and fellow tourists climbing down as you’re climbing up. The absence of handrails on the final spiral-style stairs intensifies the sensation that the walls are closing in, but the panoramic rewards at the top become all the more satisfying. All proving that the exclusive secrets of the ascent are reserved for those willing to embrace the discomfort and conquer the extraordinary. You only live once… climb the f***ing bell tower. 

Conclusion: What Most Influencers Won’t Tell You About Giotto’s Bell Tower

This is not just a climb; it’s an exploration of art, history, and a city’s soul – a journey that most only scratch the surface of if they’re only climbing to take a selfie at the very top.  Take the time to marvel at the little details, steal a kiss at the top of the tower and leave with an unforgettable tale to tell. Hopefully with these tips, yours will not be as comical as ours was. And yes… it’s much funnier now than it was then.

xo – Emma Jaye & Michael Thomas

Looking to plan lunch after a lengthy climb? Check out one of our favorite restaurants in Florence that is within walking distance!

Learn more about the passes here

If you want to learn more about the dome, its history and construction you would love reading Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture before your trip.

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