Welcome to Florence, the enchanting city nestled in the heart of Tuscany, Italy. Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is a treasure trove of art, culture, and architectural wonders. From its iconic red-roofed buildings to its magnificent cathedrals and world-renowned museums, Florence captivates visitors with its timeless beauty and rich history.
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Basilica di Santa Maria Novella
The most obvious thing to see while in the Santa Maria Novella area is of course the majestic basilica. Built throughout the 13th and 14th centuries by order of Dominican friars, the façade’s marble colors are reminiscent of those of the monumental Duomo and charming Santa Croce Church. The interior proves that this is one of the most beautiful churches in the entire city, which is no mean feat considering the sheer number of religious buildings in Florence. Everything from the chapels to the Holy Trinity by Masaccio to the stained-glass windows is stunning and definitely worth a visit.
Although this museum might not rank highly on most tourists’ lists, considering that it is inevitably compared to the popular Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia, it is worth a visit for those who want to explore the Santa Maria Novella area in depth. It has been recently renovated and now has some wonderfully creative interactive exhibits. It showcases, as its name states, art from the 1900s onwards, and has some exemplary contemporary art. The views of the Basilica from some of the rooms on the upper floor are pretty amazing, but tourists should not neglect all of the art that the museum has to offer.
Sample the local food
There are many great dining options and bars near the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. Be sure to head over to the area’s best restaurants, and enjoy delicacies ranging from a simple Caprese salad and tantalizing bruschetta to enormous, juicy Florentine steaks. The extraordinary culinary experiences available at these restaurants will be the perfect addition to a cultural day out, and visitors will leave feeling all the better for it.
Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
The pharmacy is another classic place to visit in the Santa Maria Novella neighborhood, as it is one of the oldest in the city. The interior is so luxurious and decadent that just setting foot inside is a unique experience. The pharmacy was founded in 1221 by the same friars who were in charge of the construction of the basilica. Tourists will never see a pharmacy like it: frescoes, statues, ancient books and stunning architecture make this establishment one of the top things to see in this part of Florence.
After a hearty Italian meal and some more sightseeing, there is nothing that beats drinking one of the healthy juices at this cafe while sitting outside on their terrace and admiring the close-up views of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. From juices, smoothies and hot chocolates to yummy bagels, this locale is the perfect place to go for a much-needed rest and dose of vitamins. Visitors can try a Green Detox made with fennel, apple, celery, mint, parsley and lemon, or a white chocolate smoothie made with banana, white chocolate, yoghurt and raspberries amongst many other delicious options.
Go to the train station
The staple of the Santa Maria Novella area, apart from the church, is the huge train station, which is the main one in Florence. So why not take a train to Lucca, Siena, or San Gimignano from prices starting as low as €8 for a return ticket? Booking in advance online can guarantee the best prices, and visitors can practically go anywhere in Italy from this train station. Those who are looking for an adventure can visit Rome and come back the same day, while those who want a more relaxed day-trip can visit one of the many picturesque towns in the Tuscan countryside.
Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano
Located on one of the main shopping streets in Florence, Via Tornabuoni, which is home to the most luxurious designer brands in the city, ranging from Chanel to Ferragamo, visitors will stumble upon the awe-inspiring building that is the Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, more often called San Gaetano. This Catholic church is one of the most important Baroque buildings in the city, and it is fortunately free to visit. Travelers can wander in until 6pm, when most churches close for mass, and explore the stunning interior at their own pace.
Meters from the Arno, at the end of the Via Tornabuoni stands this beautiful Renaissance palace, residence of the Antinori family since the beginning of the 16th century. The façade is pretty simple at a first glance, not unlike the Palazzo Pitti or Basilica di San Lorenzo, but if visitors look carefully they will be able to observe some details, such as the family’s coat of arms. There is a beautiful garden and courtyard on the ground floor, and above it a space where most of the family’s artwork, statues and tapestries are now located.
Want to see lots of what Italy can offer at once? Join our nine-day tour of Northern Italy where you can tuck into authentic food at a local lunch spot and seek out the best of the city’s baroque architecture.
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