neighbourhood is dominated by the Franciscan
basilica of the same name and is transforming into a fashionable spot with top restaurants continuing to pop up.
The piazza was created in
the medieval times when churchgoers were of much greater numbers and so this large space was needed to house them all.It was also the place where those found guilty of
heresy and sentenced to death died were killed back in Savonarola
was also a site where joust competitions and festivals were held. The calico
storico which is a blend of rugby and football is still played here (www.calciostorico.it
). A violent game, players can head-butt, punch, elbow and choke but cannot sucker-punch or kick heads!
halfway line is “drawn” by means of a marble stone on the façade of the
The Roman amphitheatre used to be on the site the piazza
occupies, including the area of Piazza dei Peruzzi and the zone
bordered by Via de’ Bentaccordi and Via Torta.
The stark but beautiful Franciscan Basilica di Santa Croce
(tel. 055 246 61 05; open 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Sat, 1-5.30pm Sun) features a neo-Gothic
façade covered with marble in different shades. The façade and the bell
tower were added in the 1800s. Arnolfo di Cambio was the designer and
took about a century to finish it. It was named after a splinter of
wood of the Holy Cross which Louis of France donated in the mid-13th
Among its attractions for visitors are Michelangelo,
Galileo ad Ghiberti and Machiavelli’s tombs and Giotto and his school´s frescoed chapel. Saint Francis’ life is
represented in the Cappella Bardi
. The expert hands behind the frescoes of the Cappella Majeure
and Cappella Baroncelli
are Giotto and Taddeo Gaddi’s. The theme depicted in the Cappella Baroncelli is the Virgin Mary’s life.
Agnolo Gaddi frescoed the Cappella Castellani
taking as its subject Saint Nicholas’ life and painted the frescoes over the altar.
is reached through a corridor starting in the transept chapels. This 14th century sacristy is dominated by the Crucifixion
by Taddeo Gaddi. In this room Saint Francis´s cowl and belt are on
display. The corridor finishes with the Medici Chapel
where Andrea della Robbia´s glazed terracotta altarpiece is.
The other cloister was Brunelleschi’s work. The Renaissance Cappella de’Pazzi
is a remarkable work, decorated with medallions of the Apostles created
by Luca della Robbia. The chapel was commissioned by the rich bankers
whose family was killed in the Pazzi Conspiracy
to remove the Medici from power of Florence. Even though the 1966
flood reached over 4 m in the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce (open
9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Sat, 1-5.30pm Sun), the Crucifixion
Cimabue was restored as much as possible, rather successfully. Among favourites are Saint Louis of Toulouse, a gilded bronze
statue by Donatello, a bust representing the stigmatized Saint Francis by
the della Robbia´s workshop, and some of Taddeo Gaddi’s frescoes particularly his Last Supper
The Palazzo del Bargello
(Picture 2) was the first public building which the podestà used to carry out punishments from the 13th to 16th century. At present the palazzo
houses the Museo Nazionale del Bargello
covering the most complete displays of Tuscan sculpture from the Renaissance period.
The Sala di Michelangelo
houses many of his first pieces. At 21 Michelangelo put his Bacchus on show here. Brutus
(c 1539-40), David/Apollo
(1530-32) and the Tondo Pitti
(1503- 05) are also displayed here. The Adam and Eve
by Bandinello (1551) and Cellini’s Ganimede
are exhibited in this room. Both these sculptors took over sculpting when Michelangelo left Florence.
The Sala di Donatello
is on the first floor. It occupies the room which was long ago the Salone del Consiglio Generale
. Not only are Donatello’s works on show here but also those by other artists. The Saint George
by Donatello (1416-17), which has been placed in the hall, is the piece
which adorned the façade of the Chiesa di Orsanmichele and began the move towards
perspective and movement in sculpture. Other highlights are the bronze
bas-reliefs for the baptistry doors competition.
The two spectacular Davids (Picture 3) by Donatello are also in the
museum, one dressed in marble and the other the famous statue in bronze.
The Cappella del Podestà,
housed in the palace,
is frescoed by Giotto with Hell
as well as events of Mary ‘s life in Egypt, Mary Magdalene and John the
Baptist. The vestiges of these frescoes were found in the 19th century
when the cappella was used as prison. In this chapel criminals
sentenced to death used to be blessed and carried out confession for the last time.
The second floor displays fabulous terracotta works by della Robbia artists. Among them are Ritratto Idealizia di Fanciullo
by Andrea della Robbia, Pietà
by Giovanni, whose pieces of art are more colourful and detailed.