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Oltrarno-Basilica di Santo Spirito, Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmne, Basilica di San Miniato al Monte

Oltrarno’s main piazza, Piazza Santo Spirito, is a hive of activity presided over by the Basilica di Santo Spirito (open 9.30am-12.30pm, 4 to 5.30pm Thu-Tue). The piazza plays host to concerts and is a meeting point for many, especially the young. The inside of the basilica is flanked on both sides by semicircular chapels and Corinthian columns of pietra forte (Picture 1) which lend a grand atmosphere. Check out the Cappella Velutti’s Madonna of the Relief by Dominico di Zanobi (1485) and Filippino Lippi ‘s Madonna with Child and Saints which he painted between 1493 and 1494 and which is housed in the Cappella Nerli. The baroque main altar seems awkward in such an austere interior. The sacristy houses a wooden crucifix supposedly by Michelangelo.
By the church sits the Cenacolo di Santo Spirito (tel. 055 28 70 43; open only Sat 9am-5pm Apr-Oct, 10.30am-1.30pm Nov-Mar) dominated by the Last Supper and Crucifixion by Andrea Orcagna (c 1370) and some unidentifiable pre Romanesque sculptures are also on show here.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine on Piazza del Carmine was built in the 13th century, destroyed by fire in the 18th century. However, the Cappella Brancacci’s frescoes survived the fire (tel. 055 276 82 24/055 76 85 58; open 10am to 4.30pm Wed-Sat and Mon, 1-4.30pm Sun). The access is through the cloisters sitting to the right of the church entrance. Only 30 visitors can visit the chapel at once and just for 15 minutes. Booking is also necessary.
Masolino da Panicale, Masaccio and Filippino Lippi‘s artwork is housed in the chapel. The events in Saint Peter’s life were depicted by Masaccio who departed from the Gothic style to start using the Renaissance techniques. His best  pieces are the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise cycle and the Tribute Money, also here. They were not completed by him since after a trip to Rome he died and the cycle had to be continued by Masolino and then finished by Filippino Lippi. Masaccio portrayed himself in Saint Peter Enthroned as well as Brunelleschi, Masolino and Alberti. Botticelli and Filippino Lippi appear in Saint Peter ‘s Crucifixion painted by Lippi himself. It was fairly common among artists to feature themselves in their work, even if only in crowd scenes.

The Romanesque Basilica di San Miniato al Monte (Via Monte alle Croce; open 8am- 7pm May-Oct, 8am-noon, and 3-6pm rest of the year) features a terrace with wonderful views over Florence. The church owes its name to San Minias whose life after death has many versions such as him being able to fly or walk around beheaded! He was one of the first martyrs in Florence.
The church was constructed in the 11th century. Its facade (Picture 2) is composed of marble in many colours. Christ, the Virgin and Saint Minias are represented on the mosaics on the façade, and it is widely regarded as one of the prettiest in the country.
Its interior (Picture 3) is decorated with frescoes and inlaid marble on the nave walls. Spinello Aretinopainted the frescoes themed on Saint Benedict in the sacristy. The choir and presbytery’s pulpit are constructed in ornate marble decorated with geometrical motifs.
The Cappella del Crocefisso features a tabernacle created by Michelozzo and adorned by Agnolo Gaddi and Luca della Robbia.
In the Cappella del Cardinale del Portogallo constructed in the 15th century there is a tomb decorated by Antonio Rossellino and Luca della Robbia‘s terracotta tabernacle ceiling.