Santa Maria Novella is one of the central neighborhoods in the wonderful city of Florence, mostly known for its stunning basilica and busy train stations. In this article we show you the top 10 things to do and see in this lively and stunning part of the city.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This monumental garden by the Palazzo Venturi Ginori belongs to the Rucellai family, one of Florence’s most prominent families, responsible for many beautiful artworks and buildings. This garden was created by them at the end of the 1400s, and the status of the family as patrons of art meant that some of the most famous Florentine scholars and artists frequented it. It is rumored that Machiavelli first read his Discorsi here, and Pope Leone X is also said to have been a regular.
This is one of many depictions of the ‘Last Supper’, denominated a Cenacolo, that can be found scattered around Florence. The Cenacolo di Fuligno is a beautiful fresco by the artist Pietro Perugino, and is located in what used to be the refectory of a building owned by a Franciscan order. Nowadays, the new layout of this part of the building means that tourists will not only be able to admire this jewel, but also similar works of art by Italian artists that were influenced by Perugino.
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.