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Western Florence-Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, its museum and Officina-Profumo di Santa Maria Novella

The Santa Maria Novella quarter in Florence is also a haven of designer boutiques, stunning palaces and churches bedecked with art work.
Walking southwards from the railway station of the same name is Basilica di Santa Maria Novella (tel. 055 21 59 18; Piazza di Santa Maria Novella; open 9am-5pm Mon-Thu, 1-5pm Fri).
It was home to the Dominican order in Florence in the 13th century when building started. It was finished in the 14th century yet its façade and interior were still being modified up to the 15th century.
Its green and white façade‘s lower part shows the shift from Romanesque to Gothic style and the upper part had Leon Battista Alberti as its designer, along with the doorway.  The second half of the 15th century saw its completion.
The first masterpiece to draw attention once you step inside the basilica is the frescoed Trinity by Masaccio, who used the, at the time, innovative ways of depicting  perspective and proportion. Just off here in the nave is Giotto’s Crucifix, (c1290).
You can begin with the first chapel on the right, Cappella di Filippo Strozzi frescoed in the 15th century by Filippino Lippi, depicting Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Philip the Apostle. The 15th century Ghirlandaio’s frescoes are the greatest attraction in the basilica located in the Sanctuary. They connect the events in Mary, Saint John and others´ lives. It is possible to spot some of his contemporaries and some members of the Tornabuoni family in these images. Cappella Strozzi is on the left and was frescoed by Narno di Cione with the altarpiece created by Andrea Orcagna.

The route to the  Museo di Santa Maria Novella (tel. 055 28 21 87; open 9am-5pm Mon-Thu and Sat) is well sign-posted.
The museum was established around the Green Cloister of the monastery built between 1332 and 1362. The cloister was named after the green earth used for some of its frescoes. The main attraction of the museum is the northern Cappellone degli Spagnoli. Its display of frescoes of Andrea di Bonaiuto is unrivalled. Both biblical and worldly subjects are depicted. There are portraits of Giotto, Boccaccio, Dante and Petrarch, and symbols of art and the sciences together with frescoes such as the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost (on the vaults), Via Dolorosa, Crucifixion and Descent into Limbo (altar wall) and the Militant and Triumphant Church (right walls). Other rooms and particular places to visit are the Cappella degli Ubriachi erected in the 14th century, a refectory housing Christian relics and Alessandro Allori’s Last Supper painted in the late-16th century.

The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella has been running for over 4 centuries (tel. 055 21 62 76, Via della Scala 16; open 9.30am 7.30pm Mon-Sat, 10.30am-8.30pm Sun. The museum is open from 10am-5.30pm Mon-Fri). It was set up when the Dominican order of the monastery prepared perfumed products with the medicinal herbs which they grew themselves. Entering the perfumery you will feel as if you have travelled back in time since very few changes have been made.