3 Florence Churches You Must Visit
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Florence was the city of the Renaissance, or rebirth. Where better to go for your own reawakening than a beautiful Florentine church? There are more than 100 churches in Florence, so it would be nearly impossible to visit them all in one trip. While the Duomo is always worthy of a visit, here are my next top three picks:
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Where to stay in Florence
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Things to do in Florence
The gem of the Piazza di Santa Croce (if you ask me, maybe all of Florence), Santa Croce has graced its namesake neighborhood in Florence since its completion in 1442. The Neo-Gothic Franciscan basilica is most well known for its Giotto frescoes and tombs. When visiting the church, don't forget to grab one of the provided maps to help you find the tombs of Leonardo Bruni, Michelangelo, Galileo Galili (in the Medici Chapel!), Dante Alighieri, Niccolo Machiavelli and so many more. Be sure to give some attention to the smaller tombs all throughout the floors, sometimes adorned with effigies worn down throughout centuries of foot traffic. The basilica opens up beyond the main chapel to smaller rooms and chapels as well as two courtyards.
Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel, which served as the friars' chapter house, sits center stage in the main courtyard directly off the side of the main chapel. Across the same courtyard, right before the exit, is the refectory where friars shared meals. Taddeo Gaddi's Tree of Life and Last Supper immediately capture your attention as you walk through the entrance. The fresco was completed in the mid 14th century and has watched over the refectory through centuries of changes. Visit the refectory to admire Giorgio Vasari's last supper as well. A second courtyard offers a serene setting for contemplation. On each of my visits to Santa Croce, one or more artists had settled in to paint in the tranquility.
Santa Croce is the one church in this guide that requires an admission fee; it is well worth it to admire the grandeur and rich history of the complex. You can purchase tickets online here to bypass the line.
It wouldn't be a trip to Florence without a hike to Piazzale Michaelangelo to watch an enchanting Tuscan sunset. Venture just a few minutes walk further uphill to find San Salvatore al Monte. Constructed in the 15th century as a chapel and convent, San Salvatore is also the seat of the Franciscan Missionary Center. On first glance the chapel presents itself as small and humble. However, among further investigation, you will find a dozen sacristies and two other small chapels. Michelangelo himself is said to have greatly admired this place of worship, beautiful in it's simplicity. For me, San Salvatore al Monte is a refreshing reminder of the purity of religious, purpose-filled architecture, before the complexities of the competitive, elite Renaissance families became a major factor in religious architecture and interior design.
A fortified 12th century church and 14th century monastery, San Miniato sits high above Florence and affords one of the best views of the city. San Miniato is a very popular setting for wedding photo sessions. On the other hand, it has a peaceful cemetery, and you can take a peek at the centuries old crypt behind the altar in the interior. I guess one could say that San Miniato is a hub for all of life's stages. The Vatican's pharmacy is famous, and rightfully so, but San Miniato has an alternative with no long lines, no entrance fees, and no labyrinthian corridors. If you're into monk-made, heavenly scents (pun intended), but can't get to San Miniato's pharmacy in the near future, you can shop part of the sweet selection here!
Places to eat & drink in Florence
Osteria della Sgrano is the first place I recommend to anyone going to Florence. Sgrano is only a block from the Santa Croce Basilica and offers an unbeatable ambience, whether you opt for the outdoor or indoor seating. Any item on their menu can be made gluten free and it is still absolutely delicious!
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out Fora Travel Advisor Jennifer Schwartz's guide, Guide to Picturesque Picnics in and around Rome.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Florence.