In 2017, 74.4% of the Italian population identified themselves as Roman Catholics. It comes as no surprise when the city is dominated by some of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals – an ode to the long history of the Catholic Church.
When it comes to cathedrals — every small or big town, village and city in Italy has a dizzying number of magnificent cathedrals with stunning works of art inside. While you might not get to cover all the Italian city centres on your visit, it is still possible to unveil the region’s rich history, art and architecture by visiting some of the most famous cathedrals, which are as follows:
Santa Maria Del Fiore – Florence
Florence’s Cattedrale de Santa Mria Del Fiore, is undoubtedly a true Italian icon designed innovatively by Filippo Brunelleschi. Located in the historic centre of Florence the cathedral took over 140 years to complete. This is due to the structure of the dome, which at the time was an ambitious task for any architect. The lack of technology and know-how is what took so long, not the intricately designed panels, windows and statues, although we’re sure that wasn’t done overnight.
“Duomo” is one of the biggest churches in the world and features the best of Renaissance art and architecture. While the façade of this spectacular church features white, pink, and green marble patterns, inside, you’ll be charmed by incredible artworks and paintings to cherish for a lifetime.
Duomo Di Milano – Milan
While it took more than 6 centuries to complete, this impressive cathedral is counted among the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world. In fact, it is said that this gothic-style cathedral houses more statues than any other building on earth. To be specific, there are about 135 gargoyles, 700 figures and 3200 statues that decorate the Milan cathedral. What’s more; the cathedral also features an amazing rooftop from where you can see breathtaking views of the city, and on clear days, the snow-clad peaks of the Alps.
Initiated by the Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo in 1386, the Duomo of Milan tells a story of faith and art, spanning 600 years. Although iconic to Milan and constructed in Italy, the church was built by people from all over the continent. By using Candoglia marble instead of the traditional Lombard brick, the organisation was forced to look for engineers and architects from all over. It’s therefore hard to trace these architects and engineers, not only due to their international identities, but because of how long the construction took, involving future generations in an endless commitment. Today it is a pinpoint for tourists as people gather from all over the globe to be mesmerised by this magnificent bit of architecture.
Duomo Di Siena – Sienna
A medieval church dedicated from its earliest days to the Roman Catholic Marian Church, and now dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. This majestic cathedral looms large over its surroundings, with Romanesque, French Gothic and Classical architecture all evidenced in its design. This mixture of styles makes the Duomo di Siena overwhelmingly rich in artistic detail, with glass windows, statues, 3D images, arches, parapets, a dome and more. It seems to be a combination of Italian church design in one. Attempt to digest the cathedral in all its glory by taking a walk around the buildings structure to soak in all its intrinsic beauty. Get a different perspective from other tourists and you may spot something they haven’t. Then step inside and witness the marvellous marble mosaic flooring, and the masterpieces by Michelangelo and Donatello. Can’t get enough of cathedrals? Well, whilst you’re there, visit the neighbouring Baptistery or the unfinished Duomo Nuovo.
Basilica San Marco – Venice
Basilica San Marco or the Venice‘s cathedral is a profusion of stunning mosaic-covered domes and the opulent, Byzantine style of architecture. Founded in the late 9th century in memory of Venice’s patron saint, Saint Mark, the cathedral boasts brilliant paintings, artefacts, and relics by top Venetian artists. When the original building burnt down in 932, Venice rebuilt the basilica in its own cosmopolitan image. The sumptuous church became the doge’s private chapel, and didn’t become know as Venice’s cathedral until 1807, following the demise of the Republic. Moreover, the basilica has a separate campanile or bell tower that is 98.6 meters tall and crowned as one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
There is not fee for entering the building, although you can purchase €3 ‘skip the line’ tickets between April and October when the attraction gets its busiest. Those just wishing to attend Mass or prayer can do so by entering the church on the north side.
Duomo di Amalfi – Amalfi Coast
If you’re located on the south coast, then why not explore the Amalfi Cathedral? Dedicated to the Apostle St. Andrew this medieval, Roman Catholic cathedral is unique in its dark, striped design making it stand out against the light and bright buildings of the Amalfi Coast. Stand outside with other tourists whilst you take in the mixture of elements before you, or pay €3 to go inside. Its interior consists of a 13th century crucifix, paintings and twisted columns. A popular attraction with tourists, we recommend getting there early and enjoying a gelato in the sun on the steps whilst they’re quiet.
Remember when you’re visiting any religious site in Italy (especially the Vatican!) to dress appropriately, otherwise you could be refused entry. This means making sure your knees and shoulders are covered.
Related article: Visiting Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’
Tour Italy's famous buildings
Amalfi Coast Tour from NaplesExplore the stunning cliffside towns of Positano, Amalfi & Ravello, with guided commentary on board
Tuscany Day Tour – Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and Chianti Winery LunchSee the best of Tuscany, including a wine tasting class and a delicious Tuscan style lunch
Afternoon Florence Bike TourTravel through the streets of Florence taking in the historical sites with local guide
Discover Venice Day TourMarvel at the fascinating monuments of Venice as you learn the history of this charming city.