Florence is one of the most magnificent cities in Italy. So much, that both visitors and locals have described it as an open-air museum.
Most buildings are impeccable with unique Renaissance architecture, impressive artwork, and historical perspective.
This is the city that once housed top artists like Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. It also has wonderful churches, cathedrals, beautiful squares, and streets that cannot be missed.
With a ton of things to see, Florence will definitely fascinate you whenever you decide to visit. The article below highlights ten famous buildings in Florence and the talents behind these exquisite structures.
Famous Buildings in Florence
1. Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral, also referred to as Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of the biggest churches in the world. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294, although construction started in 1296.
It is popular for its 19th-century Gothic revival architecture, beautiful dome, and polychrome marble in pink, white and green shades.
The dome, which is one of the most beautiful and noticeable features of this structure, was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. At the moment, it is the biggest brick and mortar dome globally.
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Even though the exterior is the highlight of this structure, the interior is also impressive with a gothic style.
Most decorations have been lost through time, and some have been taken to the Museum Opera del Duomo for storage and display. Still, the cathedral has beautiful sculptures, frescoes, and mosaics, all thanks to famous artists in Florence.
Note that you cannot be allowed into the building when wearing sandals, sunglasses, hats, or showing bare legs. If you plan to visit, wear suitable clothing.
2. Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the impressive town hall of Florence, originally called Palazzo Della Signoria. This fortress-palace has a tall Romanesque and gothic bell tower which symbolizes an image of power and strength.
The structure was built between 1298 and 1314, thanks to Arnolfo di Cambio. However, in the late 16th century, other additions were made to the structure by Buontalenti and Giorgio Vasari. They completely redecorated and reorganized a large part of the interior.
At the time of its construction, Florence was facing political turmoil, and this structure was created to signify democracy.
One of the highlights of this structure is the Salone dei Cinquecento, an enormous chamber that features battle scene frescos and impressive paneled sculptures and ceilings. There are also apartment rooms known as elements, which will be worth your visit.
3. Pitti Palace
Another famous building in Florence is the Grand Pitti Palace. It is located close to the Arno River and is one of the biggest museums in Italy.
The building dates back to 1458 and was originally the home of a Florentine Banker named Lucca Pitti, which is where the building gets its name from.
Later on, it was bought by Toledo, and until 1919, it was under the Medici Family before being transformed into a museum.
From the symmetrical elements, you can tell that the structure has been highly influenced by renaissance architecture.
Today, it has been divided into four museums: the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, located on the ground floor, the Imperial and Royal Apartments and the Palatine Gallery, located on the first floor, and the Museum of Costume and Fashion and the Gallery of Modern Art, on the second floor.
4. Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
This is an old church of the Dominican Order and dates back to the middle ages. It was designed by Fra Ristoro da Campi and Fra Sisto Fiorentino, two Dominican friars. But while construction started in the 13th century, it lasted about 80 years.
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The building has been created using various architectural styles. It started with a gothic style, and this lasted a couple of centuries. In fact, in 1360, several gothic arcades were added to the building with the aim of containing the sarcophagi.
The building was finally finished using a renaissance architectural style, which you will notice in the arches, columns, and pediments.
5. Florence Baptistery
Although the origins are unknown, it is believed that this structure was built over Roman temple ruins between 1059 and 1128, and is one of the oldest religious structures in Florence.
Up until the late 1900s, all Catholics residing in Florence were baptized here. Today, young kids are still baptized here, but they only do four at a time. Famous people like Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet, and family members of the Medici family, have been baptized in this building.
The baptistery has an octagonal plan which is one of its outstanding features. Outside, it contains geometrically patterned green Prato marble and white Carrara marble, which is common in Florentine Romanesque architecture.
The interior, although a bit dark, has been divided into lower and upper parts and decorated in white and dark green colors with geometrical patterns.
The most outstanding features are the doors, particularly the bronze doors that Michelangelo called gates of paradise and the relief sculptures.
6. Uffizi Gallery
Overlooking the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio is Uffizi Gallery, an iconic and major museum in Florence. Construction began in 1560 by Giorgio.
Originally, the building housed the offices of Florentine magistrates, thus the name Uffizi (offices)
It became an art gallery after the Medici family lost power. The doors were officially opened to the public in 1765, showcasing exquisite collections of Renaissance art and treasures
Some of the many paintings in the Uffizi Gallery include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and Sandro Botticelli.
7. Giotto’s Campanile
If you are looking for the best place to enjoy the view of Florence city, this is the place to go but be prepared to climb 414 stairs. Fortunately, the stairs are easy to climb, and there are several viewing platforms where you can rest as you enjoy the view
This free-standing campanile is part of the multiple complex structures that make up the Florence Cathedral. It was constructed between 1334 and 1359 and was a contribution of three artists. Giotto started it, then Pisano and Tale finished.
The structure also has beautiful works of art, although they are copies. The originals were removed and taken to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
8. Basilica di San Lorenzo
It is claimed that it is the oldest structure in Florence and records show Saint Ambrose consecrated it in 393. But the structure we have today was built by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419. This parish was the church of the Medici family during the 1400s, and up to now, it is still honored in the community.
From the prestigious architecture and works of art that make up this building, you can tell why this structure is among Florence’s famous buildings.
The basilica was built on an artificial hill to avoid the marshy and unstable ground. And while it might not look much from the outside, take a look inside, and you will be amazed by the renaissance artwork.
There are plenty of things to see, including the cloister, Medicea Laurenziana Library, the main body of the church and old Sacristy, and the Medici chapels.
Also, note the library is open to the general public only when there is an exhibition. Other times it remains closed.
9. San Miniato al Monte
This has been named after St. Minias, who was an evangelist in Florence. Emperor Decius beheaded him, and legend claims that when he was decapitated, he picked his head and put it on his shoulder, then went to die in a cave. That cave is the location where the San Miniato al Monte stands.
The present structure, built in 1018, has been described as one of the most scenic churches in Florence using the Romanesque style of architecture.
The oldest part of this structure is the crypt. Rumour has it that the high altar contains St. Minias bones, but evidence suggests they were removed before the church was built.
The white and black marble panels on the interior and exterior are some of the most notable decorative elements of this church.
10. Basilica di Santa Croce
This is the largest Franciscan church worldwide and was built in the 13th century. One of the elements that make it famous is the 16 chapels decorated with frescoes.
It also has tombs and cenotaphs of important people Florentines like Dante Alighieri, Michelangelo, Galileo Chini, and Zanobi Machiavelli.
The construction for the current church started in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio and was paid for by some of the wealthiest families in Florence.
A façade of the building was greatly damaged in 1966 by floods but restored later. The interior has been decorated with beautiful frescoes and stained windows.
Santa Croce has housed more than 4000 works of art since the 13th century. And when you consider that most works in this church are original, it explains why some people call it a living heritage.
There are many places to discover inside this building, including the basilica, the Sacristy and Novitiate, cloisters, refectory, museum, and the crypt and Famedio. To understand this structure well, consider one of the themed tours offered when purchasing a ticket.