Multicolour marble patterns at the base of the Campanile

GIOTTO’S BELL TOWER (CAMPANILE ) at the Piazza di San Giovanni, with its intricate marble façade, measures 90 metres high — 6 metres shorter than the dome of Brunelleschi’s cathedral beside it.






The Campanile

GIOTTO AS DESIGNER AND ARCHITECT. Construction of the tower began in 1334 by which time Giotto had been appointed Master of Works of the Cathedral and Superintendent of the Walls and Fortifications of Florence.

Giotto, a humble shepherd boy, became a multi-talented genius. His talent for drawing brought him to the attention of the artist Cimabue who took him into his workshop and trained him. Giotto became a great stylistic innovator in frescoes., which is evident from the expressive frescoes he designed for Florence’s Bardi Chapel in the Church of Santa Croce.

Giotto turned his talents to architecture in an era when university education for architects was non-existent. His main creation was the Campanile or Bell Tower, which bears his name. Giotto’s original design included a spire on the top of the tower, but this was never built.


Detail of base band of the Campanile

Giotto started work on it in July 1334. Only the first two levels were completed when Giotto died in July 1387. On Giotto’s death, Andrea Pisano took over as supervising architect. Engineering had not been Giotto’s strong point, so Pisano had to increase the thickness of the walls to strengthen the tower.

Niches were added to the Giotto’s original design to house the magnificent statues carved by Donatello, Pisano and others. Today the originals of these statues are held in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The tower is clad with interlaced pink, black and green marble.

Those with a head for heights should climb the 414 steps of the tower for a stunning view of the dome of the Cathedral and the roof of the Baptistery. But be warned this is a very strenuous climb.

STREET ADDRESS: Piazza di San Giovanni. Phone 055-230-2885 or Google the cathedral website on or phone 055-230-28825 As a general rule the bell tower is open from Monday-Saturday 12.15 to 7pm, (earlier openings in summer) also open on the first Saturday in each month and Sundays from 8.30 am to 2 pm. Opening times can be changed so it’s wise to check them before your visit.