Visiting Florence

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The historic center of Florence focuses many beauties in a space slightly extended.

The four historical districts of Florence are Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni, Santa Croce, Santo Spirito.

 

 

 

SANTA MARIA NOVELLA

 

SANTA MARIA NOVELLA RAILROAD STATION 
This is one of the first buildings of Italian rational architecture. It was designed by a team headed by Giovanni Michelucci, and was built between 1933 and 1935.
FORTEZZA  DA BASSO 
Designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1533-35), the Fortezza was recently remodeled and is now an exhibition and conference center.
CHURCH AND MUSEUM OF SANTA MARIA NOVELLA 0022-al_piazza_santa_maria_novella
Begun in 1246 for Dominican friars, the church was completed in 1360. The white and green marble Gothic-Romanesque façade was completed by Leon Battista Alberti who designed the upper part. Inside the church there are splendid masterpieces including "The Trinity" by Masaccio, frescoes by Filippino Lippi and Ghirlandaio in the Tornabuoni chapel, a Crucifix by Giotto and a wooden Crucifix by Brunelleschi. The Museo di Santa Maria Novella is adjacent to the church. Here you can admire the splendid Green Cloister frescoed by Paolo Uccello and his school. In the Chapter Room, known as the "Cappellone degli Spagnoli" is a famous fresco by Bonaiuto. Just a short distance from the church is the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, where perfumes, soaps and fragrances are made and sold in a Neogothic setting.
MUSEO MARINO MARINI 
The deconsecrated church of S. Pancrazio houses the museum dedicated to Marino Marini, one of the foremost 20th century Italian sculptors. Near the museum, in the Rucellai Chapel is the extraordinary Temple of the Holy Sepulchre by Leon Battista  Alberti.
PALAZZO  RUCELLAI 
Bernardo Rossellino built this palazzo for Giovanni Rucellai to designs by Leon Battista Alberti between 1446 and 1458. The loggia is also attributed to Alberti. 
MUSEO DI PALAZZO DAVANZATI 
This building dates from the mid-14th century. In the early years of the 20th century it was purchased by the antique dealer Elia Volpi, who restored and furnished it to recreate a period Florentine home. The many rooms, several of which are decorated with frescoes and fine coffered ceilings, contain carved and inlaid furniture, chests, benches, paintings, tapestry, sculptures, ceramics, items used every day and in the kitchens.
PALAZZO STROZZI 
Filippo Strozzi the Elder commissioned Benedetto da Maiano to build this palace. He began working in 1489 and was replaced by Cronaca who built the cornice and courtyard. Palazzo Strozzi is one of the finest expressions of Renaissance architecture.
CHURCH OF SANTA TRINITA 
This church, built in the second half of the 11th century, was enlarged and modified according to the Gothic style in the early 14th century. The pietra forte façade was made to designs by Buontalenti towards the end of the 16th century. The major artworks inside the church are the Sassetti Chapel with the fresco cycle depicting "Scenes from the Life of St. Francis of Assisi" and the panel painting of the "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1483-86).
CENACLE OF GHIRLANDAIO 
The former refectory of the monastery adjacent to the Church of Ognissanti is graced by Domenico Ghirlandaio's painting of the "Last Supper", of which even the synopia is visible.


SAN GIOVANNI


0033-al_piazza_del_duomoCATHEDRAL, BAPTISTERY, MUSEO DELL'OPERA DEL DUOMO 
Santa Maria del Fiore, the Gothic cathedral erected over the ancient basilica of Santa Reparata, was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio who began construction in 1296. Brunelleschi completed it in 1436 with the elegant dome, the inside of which was entirely frescoed by Vasari and Zuccari. The final phase in the construction of the cathedral, that is the completion of the façade, dates from the mid-19th century.
To the right of the cathedral rises the Bell Tower, or Campanile, designed by Giotto in 1334. The square tower is covered with red, green and white marble inlays, decorated with panels and carvings, and made graceful by double- and triple-windows.
Opposite the Cathedral stands the green and white marble Baptistery of San Giovanni (1128), a masterpiece of Florentine Romanesque architecture. The interior of the dome is decorated with mosaics. The splendid bronze doors (including the Door of Paradise) were made by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo houses artworks from Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery and the Campanile, including sculptures that had been made for the cathedral façade. The most important works in the museum are by Michelangelo ("Pietà"), Donatello ("Mary Magdalen", "Cantoria"), Arnolfo di Cambio ("Boniface VIII"), Luca della Robbia ("Cantoria").
CHURCH OF ORSANMICHELE 
Originally this building, a loggia designed by Arnolfo di Cambio (1209), was a granary and market. Only later did it become a house of worship: the loggia arcades were closed off by Simone Talenti and the exterior embellished with Florentine Gothic sculptures and ediculas.
PALAZZO  MEDICI RICCARDI 
This is the most typical example of privately commissioned Renaissance architecture. Cosimo the Elder commissioned Michelozzo to design a palace in 1444. Inside there is an elegant courtyard, a small Italian garden and the famous chapel with Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco the "Procession of the Magi" (1459).
BASILICA OF SAN LORENZO AND THE MEDICI CHAPELS 
The original church that stood on this site was consecrated by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan in 393; Cosimo the Elder had it enlarged and remodeled by Brunelleschi. Inside there are works by Rosso Fiorentino, Desiderio da Settignano, Donatello and Bronzino. The church is flanked by the splendid, square-shaped Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi and the New Sacristy, by Michelangelo (1524), that houses the Medici family tombs. Along with the Baroque Chapel of the Princes, the New Sacristy comprises the museum of the Medici Chapels. To the left of the church is the Laurentian Library, also designed by Michelangelo, by order of the Medici family who wanted a place to conserve their fine collections of books, papyri and manuscripts.
Not far from the San Lorenzo complex is the Mercato Centrale, or central market, a fine example of late 19th century steel and glass architecture.
MUSEO  FIRENZE COM'ERA  AND MUSEO  DI PREISTORIA 
The Museo e Istituto Fiorentino di Preistoria and the Museo Storico Topografico "Firenze com'era" are situated in the former convent of the Oblate Nuns, whose buildings were once part of the Arcispedale di Santa Maria Nuova, the city's oldest (and still functioning) hospital that was founded by Folco Portinari in 1286.
GALLERY OF THE ACCADEMIA 
This is one of the best known museums in Florence, because it houses famous sculptures by Michelangelo, including the "David". There are also many paintings, collected by the Grand Duke Peter Leopold to help the young artists enrolled in the Accademia d'Arte, which is still next door to the gallery.
OPIFICIO DELLE PIETRE DURE 
The Opificio was founded by Ferdinando de' Medici in 1588. It is an important center for the restoration of inlays and mosaics, and it has a fine display of inlays, studies and drawings.
CONVENTO  DI SAN MARCO 
Michelozzo rebuilt and expanded this convent for Cosimo the Elder, and it still contains the splendid frescoes that Beato Angelico painted to decorate the monks' cells. Inside there is also a beautiful library that Michelozzo designed in 1448; this, the first public library of the Renaissance, contains many fine illuminated manuscripts.
The church of San Marco that stands alongside the convent was redesigned by Michelozzo.
UNIVERSITY MUSEUMS AND BOTANICAL  GARDENS 
The entrance to several of the University's scientific museums are on Via La Pira: Geology and Paleontology, Mineralogy and Lithology and the Botanical Gardens, or "Giardino dei Semplici", founded by the Medici and then enriched under the Lorraine rule; the Botanical Museum, on the other hand, dates from the 19th century.
CLOISTER DELLO SCALZO  AND CENACLE OF SANT'APOLLONIA 
The Cloister "Dello Scalzo" is located in Via Cavour; it contains monochrome frescoes by Andrea del Sarto portraying "Scenes from the Life of St. John the Baptist" and two "Allegories of Virtue". The entrance to the cenacle of Sant'Apollonia is on Via XXVII Aprile; on the back wall there is a "Last Supper" by Andrea del Castagno.
BASILICA OF THE SS. ANNUNZIATA 
Founded in 1250 and then expanded over the centuries, this is one of the most important churches in Florence. The Cloister of the Voti and the Cloister of the Morti contain frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, Rosso Fiorentino, Franciabigio and Pontormo. Inside the temple of the Annunziata, designed by Michelozzo, there is an image of the Virgin Mary that is considered miraculous.
SPEDALE DEGLI INNOCENTI 
This building was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, with a fine loggia decorated with glazed terracotta roundels by Andrea della Robbia. Originally a foundling hospital, it hosts activities for children even today, along with the Galleria dello Spedale that contains many fine paintings such as the "Adoration of the Magi" by Ghirlandaio.
ARCHEOLOGICAL  MUSEUM 
This collection, begun by the Medici and continued by the Lorraine, contains many important items related to Etruscan art and civilization such as the "Chimera of Arezzo", the "Orator" and the "Minerva of Arezzo", as well as several tombs that are in the garden. The Greek and Egyptian sections are also quite noteworthy, in fact, this is one of the major archeological museums in Italy.

SANTA CROCE


0001-ng_chiesa_di_santa_crocePALAZZO VECCHIO  AND PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA 
This is the most important civil building in the city; construction, to plans by Arnolfo di Cambio, was begun in 1299. It was the seat of the Priori delle Arti, of the Signoria and the ducal residence; over the centuries it was remodelled several times. The 14th century courtyard, graced with the fountain with the "putto", a copy of Verrocchio's original, was later modified by Michelozzo. Inside, it is worth seeing the Salone dei Cinquecento, the study of Francesco I, the room of the Elements and the Sala dei Gigli.
The Loggia della Signoria or "dei Lanzi" overlooks the square; here there are several important statues including "Perseus" by Cellini and the "Rape of the Sabine Women" by Giambologna. 
UFFIZI GALLERY, VASARI CORRIDOR AND PONTE VECCHIO  
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the greatest museums in Italy and the world. It was founded in 1581 by Francesco I de' Medici, who collected numerous artworks in the building designed by Vasari. Today the Uffizi contains masterpieces by Italian and foreign artists from 13th to 18th century such as Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Beato Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Caravaggio, along with Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya and many others. The Vasari Corridor that connects the Uffizi Gallery with the Pitti Palace hosts a rich collection of self-portraits by past and present artists. Built by Vasari in 1565, it passes above the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city, with its many jewelry shops. The same building houses the Contini Bonacossi Collection.
ISTITUTO E MUSEO  DI STORIA DELLA SCIENZA 
Palazzo Castellani houses the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, containing the Medici collections of scientific instruments that was enriched by the Lorraine rulers, along with Galileo Galilei's original instruments.
MUSEO NAZIONALE  DEL BARGELLO 
This building dates from 1255, when it was built as the seat of the "Capitano del Popolo", the commander of the local militia. Later it became the seat of the "Podestà" and then of the Capitano di Giustizia (the magistrate) or "Bargello", from which it gets its name. Since 1859 it has been the home of the National Museum dedicated to sculpture and the minor arts. It contains masterpieces by Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Cellini, Giambologna, and Donatello along with priceless ivories, enamels, jewels, tapestries and weapons.
The Badia Fiorentina, the city's oldest monastery (978) is just a short distance from the museum. Here there is a masterpiece by Filippino Lippi. And nearby in the Palazzo Nonfinito is the rich Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology, while the Museo Casa di Dante (Dante's house) is right behind the Badia.
CASA BUONARROTI 
This building was constructed by Michelangelo's great-grandson, and since then many descendants of the family have brought together works by the great master, such as drawings, portraits, and early pieces. The purpose of Casa Buonarroti is to collect and enhance Michelangelo's art and among other items it contains the "Battle of the Centaurs" and the "Madonna of the Stairs".
BASILICA OF SANTA CROCE AND MUSEO DELL'OPERA DI SANTA CROCE 
This Franciscan basilica was begun in 1295 to plans by Arnolfo di Cambio. It contains countless artworks, including Giotto's famous frescoes in the Peruzzi and Bardi chapels, and it is universally famous as the final resting place of several great Italians. The most important monuments include the tomb of Alfieri by Canova, the tomb of Leonardo Bruni by Rossellino and the tomb of Carlotta Bonaparte by Bartolini. The Museo dell'Opera contains renowned artworks such as the "Crucifix" by Cimabue, frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi and Andrea Orcagna and the graceful Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi.
MUSEO  DELLA FONDAZIONE HORNE 
This museum contains fine collections of artistic and crafted items dated from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries donated to the city of Florence at the beginning of the 20th century by Herbert Percy Horne. This English antique dealer recreated a noble Renaissance residence in his home; one of the most interesting pieces is a "St. Stephen" attributed to Giotto.
SYNAGOGUE AND JEWISH MUSEUM 
The Byzantine-style Synagogue was built at the end of the 19th century to plans by Marco Treves. The mosaics inside create a sumptuous Eastern atmosphere. The Jewish Museum reconstructs the history of the Jews in Florence through photographs, documents, etc. and it contains a fine collection of ceremonial items.
CONVENT DI SANTA MARIA MADDALENA  DE' PAZZI 
The Chapter Room of the convent is decorated with Perugino's famous fresco of the "Crucifixion" (1493-96). 

 

SANTO SPIRITO


0025-al_chiesa_di_santo_spiritoCHURCH OF SANTO SPIRITO 
The district of Santo Spirito in Oltrarno, the picturesque neighborhood populated by craftsmen, restorers and antique dealers, gets its name from the Church of Santo Spirito. Designed by Brunelleschi and begun in 1444, it is one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture. The interior, in the shape of a Latin cross with three naves, is pure Brunelleschian style. Inside the church we can find a wooden crucifix by Michelangelo. The sacristy was built to plans by Giuliano da Sangallo. Next to the church is the Cenacle of Santo Spirito, where there is still a fragment of the "Last Supper" by Andrea Orcagna.
BRANCACCI CHAPEL  
This chapel is famous throughout the world for its frescoes by Masaccio, a masterpiece of Renaissance painting; it is located in the 13th century church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Masolino was commissioned to do the frescoes and he began work in 1424 with the help of Masaccio. When Masaccio left Florence, the frescoes were completed after 1480 by Filippino Lippi.
MUSEO ZOOLOGICO  LA SPECOLA  
This museum contains a rich zoological collection of both existing and extinct animals, but above all it is famous for its collection of 18th century anatomical wax figures by Gaetano Zumbo: it is considered the finest in the world for beauty and quality. 
CHURCH OF SANTA FELICITA 
Inside this church, in the Capponi chapel is Pontormo's painting of the "Deposition" (1525-28) which is considered one of the masterpieces of Florentine Mannerism.
PITTI PALACE AND THE BOBOLI GARDENS 
This palace was commissioned by Luca Pitti in 1448. The original plans, attributed to Brunelleschi, called for a much smaller building than the one we see now: it was enlarged in 1549 when ownership passed to the Medici family. The beautiful courtyard by Ammannati dates from that period. The Pitti Palace was enlarged and modified many times over the centuries: it was the seat of the Lorraine dynasty and, when Florence was capital of Italy, of the Court of Savoia. Today it houses several museums and galleries the most important of which is the Palatine Gallery, containing the private collections of the Grand Dukes, with masterpieces dating from the 15th to 17th centuries, including paintings by Titian, Giorgione, Raphael, and Rubens. The other museums are the Gallery of Modern Art, the Silver Museum, the Costume Gallery, the Carriage Museum, the Porcelain Museum, the Royal Apartments and the Apartment of the Duchess of Aosta.
One of the most beautiful Italian gardens extends on the Boboli hill between the Pitti Palace and Forte Belvedere. It was designed by Tribolo in 1549 and then enhanced by Ammannati and Buontalenti. The 16th century fortress, Forte Belvedere, dominates the gardens and the entire city; it was designed by Buontalenti for the Grand Duke Ferdinando I.
PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO  AND SAN MINIATO  AL MONTE 
Piazzale Michelangelo was built in 1869 to plans by Giuseppe Poggi; it offers a splendid panorama of the city. In the middle of this plaza stand bronze copies of Michelangelo's "David" and the four statues on the tombs in the Medici Chapels.
Just above Piazzale Michelangelo is the basilica of San Miniato al Monte. Its green and white marble façade is considered one of the finest examples of the Florentine Romanesque style. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, it contains fine artworks such as the chapel of the "Crucifixion" by Michelozzo and the chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal both decorated by Luca della Robbia and the splendid frescoes by Spinello Aretino, depicting "Scenes from the Life of St. Benedict".
MUSEO BARDINI 
This museum contains the fine collection of art objects bequeathed to the city by the antique dealer Stefano Bardini. The many masterpieces of painting and sculpture include works by Nicola Pisano, Tino da Camaino, Pollaiolo and Donatello.

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