The most important building located in this section of the capital city is its marvellous Cathedral:Il Duomo.
By chance, nowadays traffic is forbidden in Piazza del Duomo and on its environs.
The enormous structure of Il Duomo needs a free large space all around it which permits to examine its stateliness.
In this area there is another stunning religious building: The Church of Santa Croce, which houses splendid art works and the sepulchres and monuments of several illustrious Florentines.
Several prominent palaces with high Italian fashion firms in the indoors are included in the neighbouring streets, as well as antique shops and restoration workshops.
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Piazza del Duomo hosts the magnificent group composed by the Duomo, the Baptistry, and the Campanile di Giotto. The Duomo was started in 1296 on the design of the architect Arnolfo di Cambio, a Sienese, and took almost 150 years to complete. The neo-Gothic facade was built in the 1th century after the unfinished one by Arnolfo di Cambio was torn down in the 16th century.
The iside of the Duomo features frescoes of Vasari, Zuccari, and stained-glass windows by Donatello, Andrea del Castagno, Paolo Uccello and Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The vastity of the interiors (155 by 90 meters) can come as a surprise in contrast with the effervescent look of the facade. In addition, the indoors are pretty bare with decorations. The frescoes in the northern isle are noteworthy pieces of art reminescent of the Condottieri (mercenary leaders) Sir John Hawkwood and Niccoló da Tonentino. Also on the same isle is a painting by Domenico di Michelino of Dante and the Divine Commedy. Near the main entrance is a stairway leading to the crypt where is laid the tomb of Brunelleschi and are the excavations of the foundations of the Basilica di Santa Reparata.
Brunelleschi was put in charge of the Duomo's Dome project after winning a public ban. A unique engineeristic marvel, the Dome has been admired for for its static equilibrium and aesthetic lightness.
The inside of the Dome is frescoed with beautiful frescoes of the Universal Judgment.
Campanile di Giotto
The Campanile (bell tower) was designed and built by Giotto. The works started in 1334, but Giotto never saw the end of it. Andrea Pisano and Francesco Talenti were put in charge of the 82 meter-high, 414 steps tower after the death of Giotto. The bas-reliefs on the first tier at the base of the tower depict the Creation of Man and the Arts and Industries designed by Giotto, while the second tier represents the planets, cardinal virtues, the seven sacraments and the arts. The niches in the upper stoies are filled with sculptures of the prophets and sybills which are a copy of Donatello and other artists. The originals are inside the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.
Built in the 11th century, the Baptistry was built on the site of a Roman temple. Dadicated to St. John the Baptist, it is the oldest building in Florence. Even Dante Alighieri was baptised here in 1265. Raised on an octagonal structure, it is chiefly famous for its glided bronze doors. The eastern one is adhorned with 10 bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the Old Testament by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Built in the 15th century, the portal is also known as the Gate to Paradise or Porta del Paradiso. The southern door was completed by Pisano in 1330 and is the oldest one. Its 28 compartments deal with the life of St. John the Baptist. The northern door was made by Ghiberti, completed in 1401. Some doors display copies, while the originals will be exposed at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo after restoration. The inside of the Baptistry is a unique sight not to be missed, with a dashing composition of angels over a golden backdrop.
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Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
The museum mainly features sculptural pieces from the Duomo. Among other pieces of interest are the instruments that Brunelleschi used to build the dome and his death mask. Michelangelo's Pietá was intended by the artist for his own tomb, but you can find it on the mezzanine floor of the museum. Interestingly, the sculpture was partially destroyed by Michelangelo (later restored and completed by one of his students) because he was dissatisfied with the quality of the marble and of his work.
The most striking work of Donatello is his wood carving of the Prophet Habakkuk and Mary Magdalene.
For more details about Museo dell´Opera click here.
Museo degli Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery is set in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, which was built by Vasari in the second half of the 16th century on order of Cosimo I de' Medici to host the city's administration offices (uffizio means office).
The Gallery itself is home to the Medici family's private collection which was left as heritage to the city in 1743 by Anna Maria Ludovica, the last of the Family.
Home to the single largest collection of Italian and Florentine art, the gallery was bombed by the Mafia in 1993, when 37 people were killed and several artworks were destroyed. As a result, the restoration process will lead to a new Uffizi, reorganized following new criteria.
On the ground floor you can find the remains of the 11th century Chiesa di San Piero Scheraggio. The first floor hosts works of masters from Tuscany executed during the 13th and 14th centuries. The three Maestá by Giotto, Cimabue, and Duccio di Buoninsegna are the must-see. The Sienese Simone Martini's Annunciazione also appears on this floor. Here the first attemp to represent perspective by Paolo Uccello and Piero dell Francesca. Not to be missed are of course the Botticelli rooms with the Birth of Venus, the Primavera and La Calunnia. Continuing on this floor one finds Da Vinci Adorazione dei Magi and Annunciazione. Michelangelo's Tondo Doni also resides here, depicting the composition of the holy family. Other great ones on this floor are Raphael and his Leo X, Titians with the Venere di Urbino, Paolo Veronese, Federico Barocci, Caravaggio, with his Il Sacrificio di Isacco, Rubens, Van Dyck, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Tiepolo, Goya, Crespi and Longhi.
The corridoio Vasariano connects Palazzo Pitti with Palazzo Vecchio, as the Medici family wanted to keep the communication between their new home (Palazzo Pitti) and their old one (Palazzo Vecchio).
For more details about Museo degli Uffizi click here.
Museo della Casa di Dante Alighieri
Located East of the Piazza della Repubblica, the house of Dante Alighieri contains a museum tracing the life of Dante. It is said to be a historic false, and that Dante has never lived there.
For more details about Casa di Dante click here.
Originally built by Arnolfo di Cambio for the Signoria, the highest form of government in republican Florence, it features one of the symbols of Florence, the Torre di Arnolfo.
Cosimo I de' Medici came to live here in the 16th century, before moving to palazzo Pitti. Vasary was commissioned to reorganize the interiors and create a much more sumptuous environment. Te courtyard was built by Michelozzo. The Salone dei Cinquecento (Fivehundreds) was the government reunion chamber at the time of Savonarola. Later used by the Medici for banquets and celebrations, it has been decorated with astonishing ceilings, statues, and frescoes. Vasari designed the famous Studiolo commissioned by Francesco I.
On the second floor the Sala dei Gigli features Donatello's Giuditta e Oloferne.
From atop Palazzo Vecchio one can enjoy a magnificent view of the whole Florence.
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Piazza della Signoria
The Florentine hub of political life was (and still is) Piazza della Signoria. Enriched by artistic elements of great prestige, the Piazza resembles an outdoor art gallery. The large space opens to the eye of the casual spectator with a spectacle of architectonic and artistic elements, such as Ammannati's enormous Fountain of Neptune. With a glorious statue of Neptune set atop the large octagonal marble basin of water, the fountain stands aside the Palazzo Vecchio.
The doors of Palazzo Vecchio feature a real-size copy of the statue of the David on the left (the original is in the Galleria dell'Accademia), and a copy of the Marzocco, the Florentine heraldic lion, by Donatello (the original is in the Museo del Bargello).
The center of the Piazza is commanded by a statue of Cosimo I de'Medici by the sculptor Giambologna.
An interesting quest that you might want to take upon yourself is the search on the floor of the Piazza paved with Pietra Serena of the bronze plaque commemorating the spot where Girolamo Savonarola was hanged and burnt in 1498.
Set on the left of Palazzo Vecchio with its side facing the palace is the Loggia della Signoria, which was originally built in the 14th century as a stage for public ceremonies, it later became a showcase spot for scilptures. Cellini's Perseo, a bronze statue representing the mithological hero with the head of the beheaded Medusa, is on the left of the stairs, while on the right is the last work of Gianbologna, Il Ratto delle Sabine.
For more details about Piazza della Signoria click here.
Est Side of Florence
The Cathedrals : Duomo - Sant Croce - Baptistery
Main Monuments : Palazzo Vecchio – Piazza della Signoria
Main Museums : Casa di Dante – Museo Uffizi – Museo Dell´Opera
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