The Cathedral – Santa Maria del Fiore
The Cathedral (or “Duomo”) in Italian, was begun in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio on behalf of the Republic. When Arnolfo died in 1303 the works were continued by Giotto until his death in 1337. After that the construction was interrupted and started again by Talenti and Brunelleschi. In fact only in 1436 Pope Eugene the fourth consacrated the Cathedral with a solemn ceremony dedicated to S. Maria del Fiore.
Formerly the Basilica of San Giovanni (11th century). Truly a building of great historic and artistic importance, where the most representative ceremonies of the city, such as the feast of the Patron Saint, were celebrated and where new ambassadors were first received. Rich in works of art, the octagon-shaped building is one of the most original in the city. The Baptistery remained in use until after the Second World War. Many famous people, Dante among them, were baptized there.
The Dome of the Cathedral
The Dome was built between 1420 and 1434 by Brunelleschi. The terrace of his marvellous masterpiece (height 114 meters) affords an incomparabile panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. In the background, the bell tower of Giotto.
The Bell Tower of Giotto
The bell tower (height: 84 meters) was begun by Giotto in 1334, at the request of the Signoria. After Giotto’s death in 1337, the construction was carried on by Pisano and subsequently completed by Talenti (1359). This bell tower is entirely decorated in hexagons and rhomboida, and niches with statues of Prophets and Sybils (the originals can be found in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo). The lower bas-reliefs represent “The life of man in the creation and human arts”; those above represent the Planets, the Virtues, the liberal Arts and the Sacraments.
The Church of Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella was begun by the Architect Friars Sisto and Ristoro in 1246 and finished by Jacopo Talenti in 1360. The interior, of Gothic-Roman style, is divided into a nave and two aisles. The bell tower dates back to the 14th cantury. A visit to the magnificent thirteenth-century cloisters, on the left of the Church, is highly recommended.
The Church of Santa Croce
It is one of the oldest and largest Franciscan churches in the world. Founded in 1294 with designs by Arnolfo di Cambio, it was paid for by the Florentine Republic and replaced an existing little Church built by the Franciscans a few years after St Francis of Assisi. The large and stately interior has the shape of an Egyptian cross and it is divided into a nave and two aisles. The rear section of the church was once a convent. The Refectory and the several Chapels now house the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce, the most important element of which is the Crucifix of Cimabue, seriously damaged by the flood in 1966 and recently restored.
The Church of San Lorenzo
It was built on a church consecrated in 393 by the Bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrogio. The present building, commissioned by the Medicis, was begun in 1419. In 1442, Brunelleschi was appointed to the project and was responsible for completing the Basilica. The interior, in the form of the Latin cross and divided into a nave and two aisles, is certainly one of the masterpieces of the Florentine Renaissance.
The Medici Chapels represent the burial place of the Medici Family and have been built inside some of the rooms belonging to San Lorenzo Church. The museum is composed of two main rooms: the New Sacristy and the Chapel of Princes. The New Sacristy, made by Michelangelo between 1520 and 1524, has among its monumental sepulchers, those of Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici. The stately Chapel of Princes, designed by Buontalenti, was built in order to house the mortal remains of the Grand Dukes Medici. Inside the museum there are several objects that constitute the precious Treasure of the Church of San Lorenzo.
Church and Museum of Orsanmichele
The XIII century building used to be the Oratory of San Michele, that’s the origin of the name “Orsanmichele”. It became a place of worship in the XV century, when it was turned into the church representing the Arts and Guilds that commisioned the statues for the external aedicules, dedicated to the patron saints. They were later placed in the museum on the first and second floor and replaced by copies.
The Church of San Marco
It was founded in the XIII century by the Silvestrine monks. Beato Angelico, Dominican friar and artist of the early Renaissance period, worked and lived here. The Cloister of Sant’Antonio is decorated with frescoes by Fra Angelico and other Florentine artists. Inside the “Ospizio dei Pellegrini”, where the pilgrims were given hospitality, there is a great collection of Fra Angelico and his students. On top of the stairway that leads to the dormitory there is the “Annunciation” by Fra Angelico (1440), distinguished for its grace and tenderness.
Church of Santa Maria del Carmine and Brancacci Chapel
Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmel, the Church was built in 1268 as a part of a Carmelite convent which still exists today. The interior is a Latin cross and is composed of a single nave, the ceiling is frescoed. Paintings from the XVII century are hosted in the chapels; among them the Crucifixion by Giorgio Vasari (1560). The Church of Santa Maria del Carmine is mostly known for the Brancacci Chapel, masterpiece of the Renaissance. The frescoes that decorate the chapel are the result of the collaboration of two of the greatest artists of that period, Masaccio and Masolino da Panicale, and we should note the contribution of Filippino Lippi, called upon to complete the work fifty years later.
Church of San Miniato al Monte
Built between the XI and XIII century, the Church of San Miniato al Monte stands atop one of the highest points in the city. It has been described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany. The splendid facade is made of white and green marble and the central mosaic portrays St. Miniato, the Virgin and Christ. On top of the facade, as well as inside the Church, there are representations of the eagle, symbol of “Arte di Calimala” (cloth merchants’ guild), that financed the construction of this Church on the spot where there first was a little oratory dedicated to Christian martyr San Miniato.
Antica Torre and Palazzo Gianfigliazzi of Via Tornabuoni n.1
In the deepest heart of Florence, in a 13th century palace, you will find the lovely historical residences “Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni n.1” and “Palazzo Gianfigliazzi di Via Tornabuoni n.1”. The historic complex, owned by the Gianfigliazzi fanily until the end of the 18th century, became the seat of the “Pensione Piccioli” in the 20th century, beloved of many famous English aristocrats and artists as their favourite place to stay. Recently, thanks to the careful restoration which has safeguarded all its original glamour, the ancient rooms of the palace took life and charme again. The “house-tower”, typical of the Florence middle-age architecture, still today keeps its typical elements: a unique place, rich of glamour and history, which offers all the privileges of a luxury, refined modern environment.
The Old Bridge
It is said that Ponte Vecchio existed in Roman times as a passageway along the Via Cassia. After being destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, Ponte Vecchio as we know it today was reconstructed on three arches in 1345, probably by Neri di Fioravante. The tiny shops of goldmerchants (in the Middle Ages there were fishmongers, butchers and leather craftsmen) and the small houses on the sides of the bridge are its most characteristic features.