Each year from March through the start of January, you have the opportunity to see the inside of Cathedral from above and visit places which are not usually open to the general public. The Porta del Cielo (Gate of Heaven) tour takes you through the Cathedral; 45 minutes above the floor and 45 minutes on the floor.
A winding staircase in the corner of the church takes you up to where the tour begins. Through narrow corridors and outdoor passages you are led all the way around the Cathedral. Sometimes you walk inside, admiring the view of the Cathedral’s decoration and at other times you walk outside overlooking the Tuscan hills. Except for approximately two months from the end of August some of the floor is covered for protection, but the view of this amazingly decorated room from above is still astonishing. You will look through one of the mosaic windows in the dome and see décor and statues not visible from the floor. You will also stand just below the big circle shaped glass mosaic on the façade of the Cathedral, giving you the opportunity to see all details in this amazing piece of art as well as admiring the enormous room of the Cathedral. While you walk around the outside of the dome give some thought to the construction of this amazing edifice that took place 800 years ago. During the tour your guide will give details about the construction of the church, the renovation and special pieces of arts.
After having walked all around the top of the Cathedral the tour continues for another 45 minutes in the Cathedral – on the floor. It is fun to look up and find the different places where you have just been standing looking into the Cathedral. Inside the Cathedral you will get explanations about the most important pieces of art including some of the amazing pictures in the marble floor, the Piccolomini library and the pulpit.
Tickets and timetable for "Porta del Cielo" tour
The guided tour lasts 1½ hour and there are two tours a day, one in Italian at 12 and one in English at 13.30. If you are a group of maximum 17 you can also book your own tour for EUR 400. When I did the tour we were only seven, so it does not seem to be overbooked, but it is still necessary to book ahead by calling +39 0577 286300 or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ticket costs EUR 25. However, for just EUR 5 extra you can get the Opa Si Pass Plus which gives you entrance to the Crypt, the Baptistery and the Museum dell’Opera as well. Read about these places here. The Pass is valid for three days, giving you enough time to visit the different sites.