We arrived back in Florence around noon and immediately began sightseeing. The Duomo complex was first and it was really magnificent. Though the interior wasn't terribly spectacular save for the frescoes on the dome ceiling, the facade of the cathedral, battistero and campanile (bell tower) were fabulous. The white and black with splashes of pink marble created a gorgeous pattern of stone. The brightness of the stone really contrasted well with the bright red roofs of the city allowing for the buildings to really stand out. After seeing a similar style of architecture in Siena, I assumed this was a Tuscan thing since Rome had nothing like this and when we went to Venice later, the architecture was vastly different. In addition, the carving work, though not as intense as Notre Dame, was still worthy of great praise.
As I said above, the interior of the cathedral wasn't that interesting. Like most other European churches there were side chapels containing statues, tombs and paintings and the rest of the cathedral was open and empty. There were only a few pews set up but this may be so in high tourist season it doesn't get too crowded.
The frescoes on the dome ceiling were really pretty and I wish I'd gotten a picture in focus. The colors were bright with lots of yellows and blues. The layout of the frescoes were unique as well since it had concentric circles, each with different images in the layers. Another unique facet of the Duomo was that the gift shop was in the basement adjacent to the tomb entrance. All the original foundation stonework is there so they have items laid out on rocks jutting out of the walls.
One thing that I didn't like about Florence was that everything had an admission price, unlike a lot of places in Rome which were free, and that the admission prices weren't 2-4 Euros, but 6-8 which puts a damper in plans when you're on a budget. The Duomo admission prices were no different so we had to decide whether to spend our money to climb the Duomo (485? steps) or the Campanile. A hostel roommate of mine in Rome told to me that if you could only do one, the Campanile is the better option because you get a view of the famous Red Roof Dome. If you're on the Dome, yes you're a little higher and you might feel more accomplished, but you don't get to see it in all its glory. Therefore, to the Campanile we went. By this point I was getting much better at climbing stairs in an efficient manner without losing my breath after 10 steps and not slowing down the people behind me. Even so, the different floors of the Campanile offered a nice breaking point and I got to see the carvings alongside the Duomo really close up.
From the top of the tower the 360 degree view of Florence was gorgeous! Red roofs seemed to go into the distance forever, much like Siena so it must be another Tuscan thing.
From the roof we had a wonderful view of the Dome on the Duomo, we could see the Medici Chapels, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Repubblica, and Santa Croce, all places we had yet to visit. Seeing the layout of the city beforehand helped me a lot because when you're in a foreign city, knowing where things are in relation to one another helps a lot with direction. I also saw how small Florence was in comparison to Rome and Paris. Most things we were going to, or wanted to see, were within 15-20 minutes walking distance.