Giotto's bell tower is an overlooked architectural masterpiece that stands upright in central Florence.
Leaning towers get more press, but this masterpiece remains beautifully upright. Giotto's bell tower, built in the 1300s, rises 278 feet above central Florence. An ornate patchwork of green, white, and light-red Italian marble brightens the Gothic facade, and the seven bells still ring. Two were recast from the originals, the oldest and largest of them in 1705.
Brave the 414 steps to the tower's top, and you’ll get a well-deserved panoramic view of the city, including the stunning Duomo cathedral next door. Climb while the bells are ringing—at noon, sunset, and during certain church celebrations and special occasions—and you'll feel the vibrations from your eardrums to your toes.
A series of 21 marble carvings adorns the tower's base, representing the story of humankind's creation and evolution. Other scenes depict skills, including blacksmithing and the art of building. That last one may be redundant: The tower itself, straight and sound, stands as tribute to architects.
This article was first published in Winter 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
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