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Marta Innocenti Ciulli
ph. Lorenzo Cotrozzi

December 18, 2019

The ten most beautiful squares in Florence

Magnificent en plein air masterpieces of art and architecture

We have chosen them for you. Among the many squares that appear dotted on the maps of Florence, here the most beautiful ones to be found in the historical center. Like the many halls on a very beautiful and animated transatlantic, inviting you to slow down and enjoy, one after the other, their appealing charm which is so full of history.

This is Florence, seen from its squares, a great open-air museum everybody can visit. Just a few square meters loaded with centuries of art, culture and thoughts. They were built so that they would be the seat of religious, political and economic activities, and they are today the very heart of the liveliest social life, whose ancient and strong buildings and streets obey, like tamed animals, to the modern and international passing of people. Let’s talk about their history now.

Piazza del Duomo e piazza San Giovanni An area with a rectangular shape, where the church of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence’s Dome) and the Baptistery, the first Christian building erected in Florence, are to be found. The basilica we see today, decoration of the exterior was completed in 1887, is the fourth rebuilding of a temple that dates back to the 4th -5th Century AC, built on the original project of Arnolfo di Cambio (1296) and finally completed with Brunelleschi’s revolutionary dome (1420-1436). On the right side of the façade is Giotto’s Campanile, one-fourth of which designed and erected by this great artist during the last years of his life (1334-1337), then completed in 1359 by Andrea Pisano and Francesco Talenti.

Piazza Santa Croce This square’s history has always been linked with that of the Franciscans, while the area where it is located had been conceived for the multitudes of people that could crowd the square. Indeed, many celebrations and jousts –among which also that of football- had taken place here from the 14th Century and during the Renaissance. The Antella Palace directly faces this square, as well as the Cocchi-Serristori palace and the basilica of Santa Croce, one of the most famous monuments of Florence for its architectural structure, its frescoes and the number of illustrious Italian personalities buried there.

Piazza della Signoria Once the symbol of Medici power in Florence. The statues standing in front of Palazzo Vecchio and under the Loggia dei Lanzi-built in the 14th Century to be of use for public services - are, for the majority, forgeries. Star of this wonderland are Donatello’s Marzocco, symbol of Florence, a lion whose paw supports a lily, and the Giuditta and Oloferne. But the real king of all is the David by Michelangelo (1500) whose beauty and mastery can be compared just to that of Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseo and to Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women.

Piazza Santissima Annunziata This square already existed in the 13th Century, but it was urbanistically defined by Brunelleschi in the 15th Century only. This square has on its opposite side the basilica, begun by Michelozzo and finished by Leon Battista Alberti; on both sides two similar arched porticos, that of the Spedale degli Innocenti, designed by Brunelleschi in 1419 and the Loggiato dei Serviti of the religious order of the Servants of Mary, designed by Antonio da Sangallo; at the centre a large equestrian statue of Grand Duke Ferdinand I by Giambologna, finished by his scholar Pietro Tacca.

Piazza San Firenze After having recently been pedestrianized, this square has come to a new life to it. This square is located in the historical and powerful heart of the city, just a few steps from Piazza della Signoria and adjacent to the Bargello Museum, and its name derives from the San Filippo Neri Complex (also said Complesso di San Firenze from the name of the old building dedicated to San Fiorenzo that once stood in its place), which has been –until 2012- the seat of the city’s Court and Judicial Offices

Piazza Santa Maria Novella The construction of this square, which started in 1827 and was completed in 1325. It is delimited by the façade of the church, designed by Leon Battista Alberti; by the palaces that have been rebuilt in the 19th Century and by the loggia of the Alinari Museum, which used to be once a 13th-Century charitable complex. In the square are the two marble obelisks by Giambologna erected in 1608. Its pavement has recently undergone restyling works that have given the square a new life.

Piazza Santo Spirito In 1250 Spinello Accolti and Amedeo de Guido, both resident in Florence, sold a house with vineyard to the friars of St. Agostino, and they built there a chapel. In 1262, with the support of the faithful, they commissioned the construction of the church and the convent (the Santo Spirito church). In the middle of the square, where many young people usually gather today, is the fountain designed by Cosimo Ridolfi and built by sculptor Romanelli.

Piazza San Lorenzo On the back side of the Medici Riccardi Palace is located the San Lorenzo square, where, on the edge of the narrow but wide stairs leading to the church is the monument to Giovanni dalle Bande Nere by Baccio Bandinelli. The façade of the church , made of rough bricks, has remained unfinished, in spite of the project by Michelangelo. The tour of the basilica will bring you to the Medici Chapels complex, once the mausoleum of the Medici family.

Piazza della Repubblica This square, completed at the end of the last century after having been rebuilt several times, was created by enlarging the medieval Old Market square where the Forum of the old Roman city once stood. The fact that it has been rebuilt so many times between 1885 and 1895 is considered one of the biggest mistakes ever made. The Colonna dell’Abbondanza (Column of Abundance), built by G.B. Foggini in 1721, which replaced the Donatello’s original statue in the Fifties.

Piazza San Marco It reminds of the first public sermons of friar Girolamo Savonarola and of the night the people attacked his convent and imprisoned him. It reminds of the time when Francesco I de’ Medici met Bianca Cappello, who had left Venice to escape her family. It also reminds of the mournful days of the plague in 1630, of the woman who had come from the village of Trespiano to live in this square, causing the spread of the pestilence in the whole city. In the middle of the square, the garden with the monument to general Manfredo Fanti. On the side of Via Ricasoli is located the palace of the Fine Arts Academy, once the St. Mattew Hospital. On the opposite side of the square is the St. Mark church , where, in the 12th Century, was an oratory dedicated to St. Mark the evangelist. There, in 1437, the Dominicans settled. In 1588 the church was restyled by Giambologna. 

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