Last month, Architectural Digest published an article about their favorite cathedrals throughout Italy and given that we are around the Holidays, we thought this would be a timely article to pass along to our readers. The beauty of the cathedrals throughout Tuscany come from simply admiring the elements that make up these lovely structures. It need not be a religious experience to appreciate their grace.
These are the most well-known, but just about every little town in Italy has their own cathedral, some might even move you more than the best on this list.
6 of the Best Cathedrals in Italy
With a religious history stretching back thousands of years, it’s no surprise that Italy has some of the most beautiful churches in the world
With religious roots as old as modern civilization, it’s no wonder Italy is home to any number of awe-inspiring cathedrals and basilicas. Constructed by some of history’s most admired architects, accentuated by world-renowned sculptures, frescoes, and paintings, and backed by leaders ranging from the Medicis to Napoléon, many of Italy’s churches offer profound insight into the country’s religious and cultural traditions. We’ve rounded up six of the most wanderlust-inducing structures, all sure to make their way onto your travel bucket list.
Photo: Tetra Images/Getty Images
St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice
St. Mark’s Basilica was built in 1071 and is believed to have been constructed by both Byzantine and Italian craftsmen. Over the course of its nearly 1,000 years, this iconic Venetian landmark—located next to the Doge’s Palace—has amassed a vast collection of ornate mosaics, ceremonial objects, and sculptural masterpieces, including its four bronze horses brought to Venice at the time of the Fourth Crusade.
Photo: Oscar Catt/Getty Images
Florence Cathedral, Florence
Perhaps Florence’s most recognizable landmark, the red-roofed Duomo is topped by the largest brick dome ever constructed. With the backing of Cosimo de’ Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi was commissioned to construct the dome in 1420 and completed it 16 years later. This architectural marvel—along with its accompanying baptistery and campanile—is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Photo: Sonnet Sylvain/hemis.fr/Getty Images
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
With a list of contributing architects that includes Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it’s no wonder this Italian Renaissance church is a structural feat and one of the world’s most famous houses of worship. Located in Vatican City, St. Peter’s is the site of numerous annual papal liturgies and is where many popes since the Early Christian period have been interred.
Photo: Peter Zelei Images/Getty Images
Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, Assisi
Both a spiritual and a cultural destination, the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi dates from 1230 and was designated a major basilica in 1288. Among its must-see features are the transept and apse painted by Cimabue, and Giotto’s famous frescoes that recount stories from the life of the church’s namesake.
Photo: dikoz/Getty Images
Siena Cathedral, Siena
Dating from the 13th century, this grand medieval church was designed, in part, by Nicola Pisano. One of the cathedral’s most spectacular features is its library, known as the Piccolomini, which is home to a series of immaculately preserved 16th-century frescoes by Pinturicchio.
Photo: Simone Simone/Getty Images
Milan Cathedral, Milan
The august Duomo di Milano is the largest church in Italy. The cathedral, which is noted in Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, took almost 600 years to complete and therefore melds centuries of architectural traditions into one massive construction. Visitors should be sure to explore the three altars by Pellegrino Pellegrini, as well as the network of sculptures on view on the church roof.