Giotto’s Campanile (or Bell Tower), Florence

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At 414 steps, the climb to the top of Giotto’s famous Bell Tower (Campanile in Italian) probably shouldn’t have been undertaken at 12:30 in the afternoon, in August. But the queue for Santa Maria Del Fiore and the famous cupola was massive (take note; early morning, it opens at 10, or late afternoon are better unless you book a tour which lets you skip the queue) and I wanted to make a Flip Florence Video with a panoramic view of the centre of Florence. I needn’t have worried as there are 3 stops on the way up which offer gradually more spectacular views. Be aware that although it doesn’t appear in most of the video, there are wire grids covering the apertures which can make photos less impressive.

There’s an interesting trick of perspective going on with the Campanile which is almost as good as David’s wonky eyes. The three top levels of the Campanile (which were designed by Francesco Talenti not Giotto) are not the same size so that they appear to be the same size. Follow? Each of the three is larger to give the illusion from ground level that they are in fact the same size. Plus, you can thank Francesco for not following orders not building the spire that Giotto had planned. With it, the tower would have been higher (by 120m) but would have been lacking the flat observation deck from which some of this video is taken.

The history of Giotto’s Campanile, like most Italian monuments is a long one. The Campanile was not even planned until 30 years after the death of the first Master of the Works of the Cathedral, Arnolfo di Cambio. At this time Giotto was a not-too-spritely 67 (this was 1334, remember) but he set about planning a great tower to accompany the main cathedral. Unfortunately (not for Francesco), Giotto died three years later having only finished the lower floor – just be grateful he wasn’t fitting your bathroom. In Giotto’s place, Andrea Pisano (he did the bronze door on the south side of the Baptistry; it took him 6 years) was appointed and he followed Giotto’s design exactly until the Black Death arrived in 1348. This was Francesco’s chance and he completed the campanile to his own specifications in 1358. 24 years after Giotto first put pen to paper, or quill to parchment.


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