History

The rich past of Florence comes alive before your eyes.

To learn more about all the on-site activities you will enjoy, check out our 2014 Calendar.

Daily activities that will open your eyes to the history of Florence include:

Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)
Begun in 1296 and not officially finished until 1436, Florence’s cathedral is a treasure trove of over a century of artistic production. The crowning architectural achievement of the duomo is Brunelleschi’s stunning bell-shaped dome.

Cathedral Dome In Italy, a building must be climbed to be fully appreciated. Florence’s Cathedral provides a particularly unique route within the walls of Brunelleschi’s double-shelled dome. See this victory of ingenuity up close and personal.

Campanile Giotto’s bell tower, a stunning and rare example of Florentine Gothic design, offers unparalleled views of the duomo, its colossal dome, and the religious center of Florence.

Baptistery This (relatively) unassuming building is one of the oldest in Florence and has a rich history. Everyone from Dante to the Medici dukes was baptized here. Come look up at the shimmering mosaic ceiling, down at the intricate inlaid floors, and around at three sets of stunning bronze doors.

San Lorenzo One of Florence’s largest basilicas, this particular church had the great fortune of being in the neighborhood of the famous Florentine family, the Medici. The complex is broken into three separate entrances: the main church, the new sacristy, and the library. The latter two are by none other than Michelangelo and represent some of his best-known forays into the art of architecture.

Santa Maria Novella SMN is home to the Dominican order in Florence and comes complete with a massive piazza, which would have been essential for housing the crowds on important feast days in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The interior is gothic in style and the exterior is the only one in Florence to have had its façade finished in Renaissance. Both the church and the adjoining cloister are full of works spanning the centuries.

Santa Croce Santa Croce is the main Franciscan complex in Florence and is now famously the resting place of an impressive list of important Florentines, including Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. The works in this building are some of the most significant in Florence and range from frescos by Giotto to the famed Pazzi Chapel by Brunelleschi.

Santa Felicita There has been a church on this site since perhaps as early as the 4th century. The church today dates primarily from the 18th century with the exception of several key features, including an exceptional chapel decorated in the first quarter of the 16th century by one of the best-known artists of that period, Pontormo. Tucked away in a quaint piazza, these works constitute one of the most important examples the movement known as Mannerism.

San Marco Once an important Dominican church and convent just down the street from the Medici, this Dominican complex is now partly a museum. Dedicated to the famous artist who covered its walls in frescos, Fra Angelico, it is also one of the best-preserved (and incredibly unique) examples of convent design in the Renaissance. Along with eh friars cells and a stunning cenacolo (or refectory), San Marco is home to one of the earliest renaissance libraries.

San Miniato al Monte Looming above Piazza Michelangelo, this Romanesque church is a prime example of early Christian art and iconography. The décor of mosaics, stonework, and alabaster windows are in a similar style to the Baptistery, but its raised choir and crypt are unique and worth the visit.

Uffizi Gallery Florence’s largest and unarguably most famous museum is literally bursting at the seams with some of the most famous works of art in the world. From Giotto to Michelangelo and everything in between – even the building itself is a work of art. Luckily with your museum card you can enjoy this museum as often as you like, and also skip the line.

Accademia Home to the David as well as some other important unfinished sculptures; we spend an evening dedicated to Michelangelo. Come ready to ponder what makes this one of the most popular stops in Florence, but thankfully, without that crowd.

Opera del Duomo The Opera, or “works,” houses the collections from the Duomo, including the original façade sculptures, Baptistery decoration and a variety of original elements that have been removed from these structures for their protection. The latest addition to this museum's collection are the breathtaking Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti that have just finished 27 years in restoration.

Bargello A former prison and government building turned sculpture museum, this space is a Select Study Abroad favorite and houses Renaissance masterpieces by none other than Michelangelo, Donatello, and Cellini.

Galileo Museum (Museo Galileo) This museum, dedicated to Renaissance science, is the only place you will ever find Galileo’s original scientific instruments (not to mention his thumb!) and an assortment of other scientific devices that are as beautiful as they were useful.

Ferragamo Museum The museum dedicated to the history of Italian shoemaking and the man behind the fabulous high heels of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

Boboli Gardens These gardens, enjoyed by the Medici dukes starting in the sixteenth century, are full of sculptures, vistas, and incredible feats in early water irrigation.

Pitti Palace Once home to the Medici Grand Dukes, this palace now includes several art galleries, a costume gallery, a carriage museum, and the royal apartments. With your Museum cards you have access to all and, since it is impossible to do in one day, feel free to visit as often as you like.

Palazzo Vecchio The central palace and government building that is getting lots of attention for a supposedly lost Leonardo painting behind one of its walls. In addition, it was the first home to the famous Duke Cosimo and his wife Eleonora. Climb the tower and pass its famous cells where the original Medici, Cosimo the elder, was once kept prisoner. At the top, feast your eyes on one of the most spectacular views of Florence and the Duomo.

Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy Founded in 1221 by Dominican friars, this is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. Looking onto the cloisters of Santa Maria Novella, learn about how Renaissance herbal elixirs were the earliest form of modern day medicine.


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