Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Stair Master

There are 463 steps to the top of the lantern atop the dome of the Duomo in Florence, Italy.  I know because I've climbed it more than once.  The first time, I was a 21 year old student with about ten of my classmates.  It was not a big deal to make the climb, it was exciting and I was more fit at that time and the exercise was not that taxing.  However, when one ascends to the top of this dome, not only is a panoramic view of the red tiled roof city presented before you, but across the square from the dome is the slightly lower but still higher than everything else, bell tower.

The Bell Tower, Before We Ran Up Its Stairs

So instead of being satisfied with the current view from the highest point in Florence, my friends and I began to wonder what it would be like to see someone we knew on the top of the bell tower.  How funny would that be?  It was too enticing.  My classmate Brian and I volunteered to go all the way down to the piazza below, buy a ticket to the bell tower, climb those stairs, and fulfill the fantasy.

Those staying behind pooled their money to help pay the 20,000 lire to get us in.  They were going to enjoy the experience, too, but they didn't have to do any more stair climbing.  I honestly don’t remember running down those cathedral stairs, but from the trip up I remembered that they are some of the oddest treads and rises I've ever experienced.  The lowest stairs in the Cathedral are fairly conventional, but as soon as you get to the stairs in the dome itself, the structure of the double walled dome is primary and the stairs fill in between the skins as best they can.  As you near the top of the dome, not only are you going up stairs but also the side slope reaches nearly 45 degrees so some areas have you bending over in half so not to hit your head on a beam.  So how I made it down without knocking myself out or twisting an ankle, I don’t know.

A Look Back to the Duomo

After passing through the largest bronze doors I have ever seen, I followed my friend Brian up the stairs of the bell tower.  The trip up these steps I recall more clearly, not for the details or the space, but of the pace.  Brian was an avid jogger and we essentially ran up these next 414 steps.  It was a cool day and there was a misty rain outside, but by the time we reached the top I was pouring with sweat and completely out of breath.  But the site at the top was worth it.  Across the plaza and slightly elevated, we could clearly see the figures of our classmates waving ferociously. 

Our Friends, in the Middle, The Future Mrs. Yeoman, Centered

Was it worth it?  Sure.  By the end of a short period of time, Brian and I climbed up and down a combined total of 1754 steps in tight, awkward spaces just to see the city (and our friends) from a different perspective.