Florence is one of these cities that you can visit dozens of times, but there is always something left that you have not been to yet. It’s almost incredible the amount of wonderful hidden gems this city houses and preserves. 

That’s why I have always enjoyed going to Florence when I used to live in Tuscany. in the city of the Leaning Tower. Any chance was good to add another tiny piece to this gigantic puzzle and to learn every time a bit more about the history of this wonderful city. 

But let’s buckle up and dive into this “Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy” without further ado!

Disclaimer: I am going to split this article into 3 parts for the sake of comprehensiveness.

This map was made with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app

1. Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

The Basilica is one of the most important religious buildings in Florence. It is the first to welcome visitors arriving in the city from the homonymous train station. 

Founded by Dominican monks at the end of the 13th century, they nearly completed the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and its associated convent by the middle of the 14th century.

In 1470, Leon Battista Alberti created the marble facade. He kept some of the old Gothic elements while incorporating Renaissance geometric designs and ideas. A marble astronomical dial (1674) and a bronze equinoctial armillary are among the other ornaments on the front (1572).

Its internal structure is like that of Cistercian gothic churches, with large bays separating the nave from the aisles and gothic vaulting.

It houses several magnificent works of art, the most famous of which is Masaccio’s early Renaissance painting of the Holy Trinity, completed between 1425 and 1427. He presented his views about perspective and mathematical proportions in art in this piece. Several chapels, including Filippo Strozzi Chapel, Strozzi di Mantova Chapel, Gondi Chapel, Bardi Chapel, and Rucellai Chapel, are in the Basilica. The Strozzi Chapel and the Gondi Chapel are by far the most prominent chapels, with Strozzi serving as the setting for Giovanni Boccaccio’s first Decameron narrative. The Gondi Chapel, which dates from the 13th century, is well worth seeing.

This vast church and former Dominican monastery complex contain multiple cloisters, most of which are Gothic, as well as a bell tower that is a blend of Romanesque and Gothic. It stands at a height of 62 meters (203 feet) and is not exposed to the public.

Admission fee: 7.5 €/8.7 $ p.p. (it grants access to the Basilica, the Avelli Cemetery and the Santa Maria Novella Museum (Grand Cloister, Cloister of the Dead, Green Cloister, the Spanish Chapel, the Ubriachi Chapel and the Refectory)). 

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Basilica of Santa Maria Novella by Aldo Cavini Benedetti
Florence - Basilica of Santa Maria Novella by Aldo Cavini Benedetti

From the south side of the Cloister one gained access to the old pharmacy and perfumery, which is today reached from Via della Scala.

2. Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

The origins of the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella may be traced back to 1221 in Florence when Dominican friars constructed the Santa Maria Novella convent and planted a vegetable garden. It is thus the world’s oldest pharmacy.

It was typical for monks to have private gardens with a variety of medicinal herbs that were used to make ancient remedies, balms, and tinctures. Originally dedicated to treating monks within the monastery, word of the healing properties of the cures at Santa Maria Novella had travelled outside the convent gates by the 14th century. They employed perfumed waters for a variety of therapeutic purposes, including battling the plague in 1381.

Wealthy Florentine entrepreneur Dardano Acciaioli initially built it as the Chapel of St Nicholas, which you can see now as a thank you present to the Dominican friars for healing him.

When Caterina de’ Medici was betrothed to Henry II, the future King of France, in 1533, she enlisted the help of the Dominican friars at Santa Maria Novella to produce an essence that encapsulated her beloved Florence. They originally knew the work as “Acqua della Regina,” or “The Queen’s Water,” and it was an enormous hit in the royal courts of France. Acqua della Regina had not just a lovely aroma, but it was also one of the first alcohol-based perfumes in the world. The same perfume, now known as “Acqua di Santa Maria Novella,” is still available today.

In 1612, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was officially founded. 

Free admission.

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
Florence - Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

3. Santa Maria Maggiore Church

According to legend, In the year 580, Pope Pelagius II discovered Santa Maria Maggiore. It received substantial Gothic-style renovations to the facade and sides in the 13th century; yet the exterior remained relatively unadorned, with stone walls and gates crowned by tympani. The Romanesque building’s bell tower has survived, however, they have decreased it in height. It looks that the head of a woman, known as Berta, is embedded in the walls. They said her to have made fun of a passing condemned prisoner, who cursed her and turned her to stone, according to legend.

The interior is modest, with a nave and two aisles, ogival arches, and groin vaults, and was restored in the 17th century. The carved wooden ceiling by Felice Gamberai, frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti, a Nativity by Matteo Rosselli, and a polychromed stucco relief panel, the Madonna del Carmelo, above the altar of the left transept chapel, have all been attributed to the 13th-century artist Coppo di Marcovaldo.

Look for the tomb of famous scholar and philosopher Brunetto Latini, who was Dante’s tutor and introduced him to antiquity’s authors, in the church chapel. Latini was also a role model for aspiring poets interested in the political life of his city, as he was one of the most influential Florentine politicians. Dante clearly admired and respected his master, albeit, in his Comedy, he places Latini in the seventh circle of Hell, alongside the sodomites, for some inexplicable reason.

Behind the church stands the former convent’s 16th-century cloister.

Free admission.

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Santa Maria Maggiore Church by sailko
Florence - Santa Maria Maggiore Church by sailko

4. Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral

Florence Cathedral is a huge Gothic construction built on the site of the 7th-century church of Santa Reparata. You may see the remnants of that in the crypt. They named it after Santa Maria del Fiore, the Virgin of the Flower, an obvious connection to the lily, the city’s symbol.

Arnolfo di Cambio began construction on the cathedral at the end of the 13th century, and Filippo Brunelleschi designed the dome that dominates the façade in the 15th century. Outside to the right of the cathedral, a statue of each of these major architects can be located, both appreciating their work for the rest of eternity.

They used a colourful blend of pink, white, and green marble to cover the exterior. The interior is sparse and uninspiring. Within, the stunning mosaic pavements are unquestionably the major attraction.

Santa Maria del Fiore is a basilica in structure, albeit it lacks the conventional axial apses in favour of a circular triconch closed on the east side. Huge pillars split into three naves in the church. The architectural components begin at the base of the pillars and culminate in the ogival vaults. The dimensions are massive, measuring 153 m/ 502 ft in length and 38 m/ 125 ft in width. 90 m/ 295 ft separates the north and south apses.

The Dome is a great work of art that has enchanted the globe since its construction: it is a symbol of Florence, the Renaissance, and humanism.

The dome is the world’s largest masonry vault, with a diameter of 45.5 m/ 149 ft and a total height of over 116 m/ 380 ft. Filippo Brunelleschi erected it between 1420 and 1436.

Brunelleschi’s most notable achievement was the construction of the Dome without the use of a supporting framework. The Dome comprises two distinct domes: one internal, over two meters thick, with a deeper angle than the other and comprising large arches held together by ribs and made of bricks arranged in a “herringbone” pattern, and the other external, over two meters thick, with a deeper angle than the other. The terracotta tiles on the exterior dome are accented by eight white marble ribs.

A huge lantern, a 21-meter/69-foot white marble tower built after the artist’s death (1446) topped the Dome’s oculus but in the same style as Brunelleschi’s idea. Andrea di Verrocchio set there the golden copper ball with an apical cross on top in 1471.

Over a century later, between 1572 and 1579, Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari painted a massive Last Judgment on the Dome’s internal vault, partly inspired by the Baptistery’s mosaics: the world’s largest mural.

Free admission to the Cathedral.

Admission fee to Brunelleschi’s Dome: 20€ / 23.2$ p.p.

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral by Frank van Dongen
Florence - Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral by Frank van Dongen

5. Opera del Duomo Museum

The Opera del Duomo Museum was founded in 1891 as an educational path to discover the places and artists who gave life to the monumental complex of the Opera, the cradle of the Renaissance, and it is now one of the world’s most important museums, both in terms of the value and number of works of art kept inside, as well as the architectural and technological avant-garde of its environments and museographic equipment. The original works of art that have adorned its monuments for over seven centuries are conserved here: from Michelangelo to Donatello, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, and many more.

Admission fee: 10€ / 12$ p.p.

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Opera del Duomo Museum by Sailko
Florence - Opera del Duomo Museum by Sailko

6. Baptistery of St. John

The Baptistery of St. John, located just across from the cathedral, is one of Florence’s oldest churches.

They covered it in slabs of white Carrara and green Prato marble in an octagonal pattern. It is topped by a flattened pyramidal roof and covered by an eight-segmented dome sitting on perimeter walls. However, the dome cannot be seen from the outside because of the walls being raised above the arcade on the second level.

They thought the baptistry to be an ancient construction dating back to the Roman era, a pagan temple turned into a church, by the people of Florence in the Middle Ages. And a substantial portion of the marble cladding of the baptistry comes from Roman Florentia’s remains, presumably from a pagan temple.

At any rate, the current structure results from an earlier baptistry, which dates from the 4th or 5th century AD, being reconstructed on a larger scale.

The interior mosaic ornamentation of the cathedral began in the 13th century, with Tuscan mosaicists covering the square-ended apse and dome.

Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene and the Silver Altar, both of which are now on display in the Opera del Duomo Museum for conservation, were once housed in the Baptistery.

Admission fee: 5€/ 5.8$ p.p.

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Baptister of St John by AntoineJoub
Florence - Baptister of St John by AntoineJoub

7. Giotto's Bell Tower

It is the most eloquent example of 14th-century Gothic architecture in Florence, standing 85m / 279ft tall and approximately 15m / 49ft wide, and combining a strong vertical thrust with the principle of sound solidity, with its corner buttresses rising the full length of the tower to the projecting terrace at the top.

The majestic square bell tower, clad in white, red, and green marble like the cathedral next to it, was begun by Giotto in 1334 and completed by Andrea Pisano and Luca della Robbia after Giotto’s death. It is considered the most beautiful campanile in Italy and was probably designed more for decorative than functional purposes.

Admission fee: 15€ / 17.4$.

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Giotto's Bell Tower by Luca Perino
Florence - Giotto's Bell Tower by Luca Perino

8. Oblate Library

The Oblate Library, which opened in May 2007, is a hidden gem in the heart of Florence. It is a cultural and multimedia centre that unites the antique and modern soul of the city, in the old Oblate convent between Via dell’Oriuolo and Via Sant’Egidio.

The Oblates were a secular order of devoted women who lived in seclusion and volunteered to care for the sick. Oblate is a Latin term that means “one who offers oneself to the other.” They were supposed to look after sick women, cook for them, and clean their beds. Until 1936, it housed here the order.

The Oblate Library stretches along a part of the main cloister, with three levels linked by stairwells and elevators.

The entire complex is approximately 10000m2/107640ft2, with the Section of Conservation and Local History on the ground level displaying many antique papers depicting Florence and Tuscany’s historical history.

Three big reading rooms with modern workplaces, laptops, TVs with satellite connections and DVD players, and open bookshelves for visitors’ free use are on the first level. On the top floor is the Museum of Prehistory, which houses a priceless collection donated by Paolo Graziosi, a Florentine anthropologist and palaeontologist.

A lovely wide washing deck, a children’s section, a newspaper library, and a café with a fantastic view of the Duomo and Brunelleschi’s Cupola can be found on the second floor.

Free admission.

9. Leonardo da Vinci Interactive Museum

Leonardo da Vinci Interactive Museum is a museum dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci’s universal brilliance, in the centre of Florence.

It contains the actual machine codes drawn from Leonardo and serves as a point of reference for visitors as an instructive and cognitively comprehensive tool. They have accomplished an astonishing and unique feat by creating real machines that are all running, huge, and entirely built of wood. The interaction of the devices is really important.

They divided the Museum into five sections: Mechanisms, which reveal how Leonardo employed ideas like motion transformation, looking system, flywheel, worm screw, ball bearer, and eccentric cam to codex his machines; Many interactive machines, such as printing presses, spinning cranes, oil presses, automaton, rolling mills, odometers, theatrical machines, and fascinating animals, are available to visitors on Earth. Water, as seen by Leonardo’s inventions such as the hydraulic saw, the Archimedean skew, the water floats, and the webbed glove, which were all inspired by water; Air, with Leonardo’s parachute, the ornithopters, wing trials, anemometers, anemoscope, hygrometers, the comedy bird, etc. on display; and Fire, with artillery machines inspired by the Atlantic Codex, such as the mortar fire and the machine gun, are on display. The armoured tank, which is unique in the world for its proportions and is completely interactive, is featured in this part.

You can examine and compare high-resolution reproductions of Leonardo’s key visual works, including the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, the Annunciation, and the Lady with Ermine, in a unique environment, besides genuine encounters with his inventions.

Admission fee: 7€ /8.12$ p.p.

Leonardo Da Vinci Interective Museum by Sailko
Florence - Leonardo Da Vinci Interective Museum by Sailko

10. Laurentian Medici Library

The Laurentian Medici Library includes what is unquestionably Italy’s most important and prestigious collection of antique books. It contains the most enduring cultural legacy that the Medici family has left to posterity’s attention, care, and respect.

Its most valuable asset is its collection of 10500 manuscripts, over 700 of which come from before the 11th century. Some of the most ancient or unique manuscripts containing Tacitus, Pliny, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Quintilian, the codex of Vergil, corrected in 494 by Turcius Rufius Apronianus Asterius, and the oldest extant copy of Justinian’s Corpus Iuris, copied shortly after its promulgation, is listed among the Laurentian’s treasures. The Laurentian also houses one of the three complete collections of Plato’s Dialogi in so-called Carta bona, which was given to Marsilio Ficino by Cosimo the Elder to translate, the Squarcialupi Codex, the only existing source for the study of profane music between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, some autographs of Petrarch and Boccaccio, the Storie by Guicciardini with notes by the author, and the autograph biography of Benvenuto Cellini.

Cosimo the Elder’s humanistic interests gave birth to the collection. Piero, Cosimo’s son, added to the basic nucleus of volumes. Following that, Lorenzo completed the collection by purchasing Greek literature.

Following Piero the Unfortunate’s exile and the expulsion of the entire Medici family from Florence in 1494, the library was confiscated by the republican government and integrated with its entirety into the library of the San Marco monastery. Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici (the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who later became Pope Leo X) renamed it and moved it to Rome in 1508. In 1523, Clement VII (Giulio de’ Medici, son of Giuliano di Piero) returned to Florence with the collection and promptly commissioned Michelangelo to create a library to hold it.

The papyri collection, which is estimated to number over 2,500 items, is a rare site in both Italian and foreign libraries. We can trace its origins back to different campaigns launched by Italian papyrologists in Egypt around the turn of the twentieth century. The Laurentian boasts remarkable witnesses of the ancient world’s literary production, such as Sappho and Callimachus verses, thanks to their discovery. The Laurentian Medici Library, which survived WWII by keeping manuscripts in the Abbey of Passignano and benches (the so-called plutei) in the vaults of S. Lorenzo, is still an endless source for classical academics today.

Admission fee: 3€/ 3.5$ p.p. (included in the Basilica of St Lawrence ticket, see the following point).

Florence - Laurentian Medici Library by sailko
Florence - Laurentian Medici Library by sailko

11. Basilica of St Lawrence

They documented none of the ecclesiastical structures in Florence before St. Lawrence. St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan consecrated it in 393 and it served as the city’s cathedral before the Baptistery or Santa Reparata.

Inside, they designed the church as a Latin Cross, with Corinthian columns separating the nave from the aisles and lofty sculpted entablature blocks supporting rounded arches. A coffered ceiling with golden rosettes on white ground covers the nave. The interior of San Lorenzo is one of the pinnacle architectural marvels of the Florentine Renaissance, thanks to the thin beauty of Brunelleschi’s architectural shapes and the juxtaposition of grey Pietra Serena and white plaster.

The history of the church’s building is inextricably related to the Medici family’s patronage, which paid for most of the artwork inside. The Old Sacristy, commissioned by the Medici as their family mausoleum, finished the basilica. Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici entrusted with the project Filippo Brunelleschi, and between 1421 and 1426, he erected one of the most complicated masterpieces of Renaissance architecture. It’s shaped like a cube and is covered by a hemispherical umbrella dome separated by ribs. It’s dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The painted stuccoes: the frieze with cherubim and seraphim, the roundels with the Evangelists on the walls and the ones in the spandrels of the dome with Scenes from the Life of St. John the Evangelist, by Donatello, who was also responsible for the bronze doors with Saints, Martyrs, Apostles, and Doctors of the Church, accentuate the chromatic interplay of grey stone and white plaster. The Sun and constellations as seen over Florence on the night of July 4, 1442, are shown in frescoes in the tiny dome in the apse. This celestial map is supposed to have been created by Giuliano d’Arrigo, also known as Pesello, an eclectic painter and decorator. Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano commissioned the burial monument to Piero and Giovanni de Medici, sons of Cosimo the Elder, from Verrocchio in 1472: one of the most refined achievements of Laurentian artistic culture.

Look up to see a pair of bronze pulpits by Donatello, the artist’s last masterpiece, built about 1460 by his students and brilliantly showing episodes from the life of Christ and the saints on either side at the end of the nave. They also assumed he designed the marble balcony over the cloister door in the left aisle.

Admission fee: 7€ /8.12$ p.p (only Basilica) or 9.5€ /11$ p.p (Basilica + Laurentian Medici Library). 

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - Basilica of St Lawrence by Teo Pollastrini
Florence - Basilica of St Lawrence by Teo Pollastrini

12. Medici Chapels at the church of St Lawrence

The Medici Chapels are part of a colossal complex that grew up in proximity to the adjoining church of St Lawrence, which was considered the “official” church of the Medici family who lived in the nearby palace on Via Larga for almost two centuries (it is now known as the Medici-Riccardi Palace). We also know them individually as New Sacristy and Chapel of the Princes.

Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici and his cousin Pope Leo X designed the New Sacristy as a mausoleum or funeral chapel for members of the Medici family. It has the same format as the Old Sacristy, with a cubical chamber topped by a grey Pietra Serena dome and whitewashed walls. It was Michelangelo’s first architectural essay (1519–24), for which he also constructed monuments dedicated to various members of the Medici family, with sculptural figures of the four hours of the day that would influence sculptural figures reclining on architraves for many decades.

The tombs of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano (modestly buried beneath the altar at the entrance wall) were never completed. As a result, the two most spectacular Medici tombs still exist: those of Lorenzo di Piero, Duke of Urbino, and Giuliano di Lorenzo, Duke of Nemours, both of whom were relatively minor Medici.

Cosimo I designed the octagonal Chapel of the Princes, topped by a 59-meter/194-foot-tall dome, and built by Ferdinando I de’ Medici built it. Matteo Nigetti planned it, based on certain sketches created by Don Giovanni de’ Medici, the natural son of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and the architect Buontalenti.

They deposited the Medici’s bones in the crypt below. Therefore, the chapel’s six magnificent sarcophagi are vacant.

Although the Medici chapels are part of San Lorenzo, you must see them individually and through a separate door.


Admission fee: 9€ /10.5$ p.p.

13. St Lawrence Market

St Lawrence Market is divided into two sections: an indoor market, known as the Central Market, which sells everything food-related, and an outdoor market that lines the streets surrounding the massive Central Market building and sells leather, apparel, and a variety of souvenirs.

The outdoor market, which is open Tuesday through Saturday, is a terrific spot to pick up gifts for friends and family.

When Florence was still the capital of Italy in the 1870s, they erected the Central Market as a two-level food market. The building combines classic and modern elements with cast iron and glass throughout: the exterior is a large, squat base made of local Pietra Serena, similar to the nearby Medici Riccardi Palace, with loggias and 10 arches on each side, while the interior is spacious and bright with its glassed ceiling. It is unmistakably reminiscent of European architecture, particularly Parisian architecture.

Butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable vendors, and tiny speciality shops selling local olive oils, meats, cheeses, and much more can be found on the ground floor. It is open every day except Sundays and public holidays.

The second floor of the market, which is open seven days a week, was recently re-opened to the public and refurbished. The area is extensive enough for twelve independent stalls or sections, each dedicated to a particular Italian speciality such as cheese, Chianti wine, or baked products, with 3000m2/ 32300ft2 of space and 500 seats.

Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy - St Lawrence Market by Sailko
Florence - St Lawrence Market by Sailko

14. Medici-Riccardi Palace

In 1444, Cosimo the Eldest, the Medici family patriarch, commissioned Michelozzo to build a mansion in via Larga (now via Cavour), next to the church of St Lawrence: the palace is Florence’s earliest Renaissance structure.

The Medici-Riccardi Palace stands out from the arched windows positioned along its front and the partially shuttered loggia on the corner of the building thanks to its clearly outlined and rusticated floors and a large cornice capping the roofline. The classic 15th-century courtyard, built after Brunelleschi’s models and adorned with graffiti, originally entered into a typical Renaissance garden through two asymmetrical doors.

The palace was completed by 1460 (it was also the house of Lorenzo the Magnificent), though the original structure was renovated in 1517 by covering the loggia and adding the two “kneeling” windows, as per Michelangelo’s design. Originally planned as a cube, with 10 windows on each floor and three massive doors on the front.

After Cosimo de’ Medici became Grand Duke and moved to Palazzo Vecchio in 1540, lower members of the family inhabited it until Ferdinando II sold it to the Riccardi marquises in 1659. It was the enlargement and considerable alteration of the palace’s layout. The most noteworthy works included the vast hall filled with Luca Giordano’s frescoes, which is one of Florence’s most famous examples of Baroque architecture and the new entrance staircase designed by architect Foggini. They also added Baroque ornamentation to the courtyard by incorporating antique marbles from the Riccardi collection.

The Chapel of the Magi, frescoed in 1459 by Benozzo Gozzoli, a pupil of the great Fra Angelico, and depicting the Cavalcade of the Magi to Bethlehem, is still the most notable component of the palace today. The frescoes referred to the Concilium train, which met in Florence in 1439. Many of the characters depicted are wealthy people of the time, including members of the Medici family.

Admission fee: 7€ /8.12$ p.p 

15. Accademia Gallery

The Accademia Gallery is well known for its sculptures by Michelangelo, the great Renaissance artist. His Prisoners (or Slaves), his St. Matthew, and, above all, the majestic statue of David within the Tribune draw each year hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Museum.

The Accademia’s major rooms also feature paintings by famous Italian painters including Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, Alessando Allori, and Orcagna, to mention a few. Many of the works of art commissioned by and in the collection of the powerful Medici family were bequeathed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany by the last of the Medici so that everyone may enjoy them and they could become part of humanity’s cultural legacy.

The Medici commissioned the Museum of Musical Instruments, which houses antique, one-of-a-kind masterpieces by Stradivari and Bartolomeo Cristofori, the inventor of the piano.

Admission fee: 12€ /14$ p.p 

With the Academy Gallery, this first part of “Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy” comes to an end.

P. S. Subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the following part of this travel post.

 
Share this:

You might also enjoy:

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *