Historical Buildings Florence
Piazza Duomo

In Florence’s Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, towers above all with her famous Renaissance dome.  It is an icon of the Florentine skyline, and of Florence itself, and is an architectural wonder for the ages.  The building of the cathedral began in 1296 under the architect Arnolfo di Cambio and it took 140 years to complete the magnificent church.

However in 1418, a problem remained to solved: how to actually build the dome.  Because of the sheer size of the cathedral, it called for an octagonal dome higher and wider than had ever been built before and thus, a competition was called in 1418 to find a solution.   Of all the architects that presented their theories, a goldsmith by the name of Filippo Brunelleschi proposed to build not one but two domes, one nested inside the other, without elaborate and expensive scaffolding.  Because of his revolutionary thinking and outstanding creativity, Brunelleschi would go on to be the creator the most famous dome in the world.

The exterior of the Duomo is covered in decorative polychrome marble, with the white marble from Carrara, green from Prato, and red from Siena.  Besides the Duomo, there is also Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower) and the San Giovanni Baptistery.

The Baptistery dates back to to the 11th century, making it one of the oldest buildings in Florence, and is one of the few examples that remain of the Florentine Romanesque style.  The famous “Gates of Paradise”, as nicknamed by Michelangelo, by Lorenzo Ghiberti are the east doors of the Baptistery, facing the facade of the Cathedral.

Ponte Vecchio

Built close to the old Roman crossing, the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, was the only bridge that crossed the Arno in Florence until 1218.  The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345 and during World War II, it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing soldiers did not destroy.  When the Medici moved out from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, they decided that they needed a connecting route from Palazzo Vecchio to their new home on the other side of the river that would let them move freely and safely, to and from.  The result was the Corridoio Vasariano (Vasari Corridor).  It was built in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari and it runs from Palazzo Vecchio, through the Uffizi, above the goldsmith’s shops on the Ponte Vecchio, through various buildings and medieval towers including the church of Santa Felicita, arriving finally in the Boboli Gardens.  The traditional shops on the Ponte Vecchio were always butchers as it easy for the waste to be thrown in the river, however after the building of the Vasari Corridor, Cosimo de’Medici decreed that they be moved and replaced with the current goldsmiths, as the butchers were an unpleasant sight and smell.

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio, has been the symbol of the civic power in Florence for over seven centuries.  It was built between the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth to house the city’s supreme governing body, the Priori delle Arti and the Gonfalonier of Justice and over time it has been subject to a series of extensions and transformations.  Its current appearance is mainly due to the splendid restoration work and interior decoration carried out in the mid-sixteenth century to adapt the building to its new function as the ducal palace as ordered by Cosimo de’ Medici, because of this Palazzo Vecchio offers treasures of both medieval and Renaissance times.

Palazzo Vecchio is above all, a microcosm where art and history have been indissolubly bound for centuries.  The palazzo also still has a political importance in the present day as it is the seat of the Florence City Council.

Santa Croce

The Basilica di Santa Croce, is the principal Franciscan church of Florence and is also the largest Franciscan church in the world.  The ground was broke in 1294 and construction completed in 1385.  It is best known for its Florentine artwork and its tombs of illustrious Italian dead, thus giving it the name of Temple of the Italian Glories.  Santa Croce is a vast church with its most notable features being its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, its funerary monuments, and the Cappella dei Pazzi (Pazzi Chapel) that is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture accredited to Brunelleschi.

Some of the famous dead buried in Santa Croce include Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.  Dante, whose statue one can also see standing outside the church, has an honorary funerary monument for his contributions to Florence and his role in creating the modern Italian language.  The tomb is however empty, as he died and was buried in Ravenna.

Museum tickets price per person Walkabout Florence Guide
  • 20€ Have the whole of Florence al the tips of your fingers.
Uffizi Museum Tickets & Walkabout Guide
  • 38€ Skip the line to see the masterpieces of the Uffizi.
Accademia Museum Tickets & Walkabout Guide
  • 38€ Skip the line to see the Michelangelo’s David.
Accademia & Uffizi Tickets & Walkabout Guide
  • 70€ Skip the line to see Michelangelo’s David & the Uffizi.
Duomo Inclusive Tickets & Walkabout Guide
  • 35€ See the buildings of the Duomo and climb the Dome.

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