Florence Day 4 – Santa Maria Novella & Homeward Bound

It was with a heavy heart that we woke up early on 12 May and got our packing done. We had to be checked out of the apartment by 10am and given as our flight wasn’t until 6.15pm, we had a lot of time so kill. So we decided we would head to Santa Maria Novella for the morning, before catching the train to Pisa airport.

Unfortunately for us, our Firenze Card’s had expired by the time we got to Santa Maria Novella, but given as the entrance fee was only 5 euros we couldn’t really complain – especially not when we walked in and saw the size of the place. Historically, it was the first great basilica to be built in Florence, right above an old dominican Church also named Santa Maria. The ‘Novella’ actually means new.

One of the first things you see upon walking in is Giotto’s beautiful crucifix.


Giotto’s crucifix, Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me.


Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me


Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me


Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me


Jesus in a box, Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me


Beautiful frescoes in Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me.


Gorgeous stained glass windows, Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me

A walk around the complex took us through some utterly stunning cloisters and chapels – even through a chapel of the dead where I found a person with the last name Moris and, for anyone interested in the Assassins Creed series, Auditore da Firenze!


Cloisters, Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me.


Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me.


Information on the Cloister of the Dead. Photo by me


Cloister of the Dead. Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me.


Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me


Cloister of the Dead. Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me


Detail of a grave on the floor of the Chapter House, Santa Maria Novella. Photo by me

The basilica also houses a sweet little museum absolutely stuffed full of artefacts relating to Santa Maria Novella.

Following on from our pleasant few hours wandering around this beautiful Church we headed for some lunch and ended up grabbing a lovely gelato from a gelateria in the piazza. Unfortunately there was a rather pushy man wandering about trying to force his wares upon people – I’ll only say that his sales pitch is terrible and I’d be surprised if he made any money whatsoever!

Then it was time to get on the train and head to the airport before heading home, faced with delays at the airport and the world’s most expensive beer. We had an absolutely amazing time in Florence and it’s somewhere I will most definitely visit again. In fact, I can see us retiring to a lovely little villa in the Tuscan countryside one day.

We can only dream eh?

Florence Day 3 – Uffizi Galleries, Palazzo Medici & Duomo Museum

For our final full day, we wanted to make the absolute most of our remaining time in the beautiful city of Florence. So yet again we were up at the crack of sparrows before heading out to the Uffizi Galleries. We’d seen the size of the queues on our first day so it was our aim to get there for opening – we were in the building for about twenty past eight in the morning. And it was wonderful.


Main corridor of the Uffizi

The galleries lead you around rooms filled with art of some of the best Renaissance painters and beyond. On the second floor you walk through galleries of the early Renaissance, through to Botticelli and Michelangelo – I was honestly in heaven. When you move to the first floor there are works by later Renaissance artists as well as the famous Seventeenth Century artist Caravaggio.

I’ll say it now though – if I ever see another Madonna and Child fresco for as long as I live, I will scream. There were HUNDREDS of them. Literally everywhere. I’ve even started having nightmares about them…okay so that’s an exaggeration, but still.


The first of many. Photo by me.


Photo by me


Photo by me


Photo by me


Photo by me


Photo by me


Photo by me

There were a few rooms that had me squeaking for joy. The moment I saw Federico da Montefeltro’s portrait from afar, I tore off to get a closer look. In the very same room was a portrait of Galeazzo Maria Sforza as well!


Federico da Montefeltro. He had himself painted this way so people wouldn’t see his missing right eye. Portrait by Piero della Francesca. Photo by me.


Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who was assassinated in 1476. Portrait by Piero Benci. Photo by me.

And then there were the Botticelli rooms with two of the artist’s most famous works on display. I can’t even begin to describe to you what it was like standing in front of both the Primavera and the Birth of Venus – the only words that really come to mind are ‘awe inspiring’. And whilst up close you could really see how Simonetta Vespucci popped up in his works over and over again.


Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me


Birth of Venus detail. Photo by me.


Man holding a coin by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me.


Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me.


Primavera detail. Photo by me.


Primavera. Photo by me.


Primavera by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me

Other delights that we saw included statues that looked like they were dancing, a portrait of Martin Luther, Cosimo de’ Medici and Pope Julius II!


Photo by me


Photo by me


Photo by me


Martin Luther. Photo by me


Cosimo de’ Medici by Jacopo Pontormo. Photo by me.


Pope Julius II by Raphael. Photo by me.


Detail of Pope Julius II by Raphael. Photo by me.

After a good three and a half hours or so in the Uffizi, we took a wander back to the apartment for lunch before heading back out to the Palazzo Medici. This Palazzo is somewhere I had wanted to see from the moment I began to read about the Medici family and stepping inside those walls for the first time was amazing. Some of the upper floor was closed off so we didn’t get to see all of it – we did get to have a look around their displays relating to the floods and a few of their other display pieces, as well as the absolutely stunning Chapel of the Magi.

The moment we walked into that little chapel I stopped dead in my tracks. Inside I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful frescoes in the world, painted by Benozzo Gozzoli, frescoes which truly show the wealth of the Medici family. In it you see the Magi travelling towards their final destination of the new-born Jesus. The frescoes are full to bursting with the celebrities of the time, noblemen who ruled their various cities including Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and Galeazzo Maria Sforza. You also have the prominent figures of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici and Cosimo de’ Medici, all of whom are following the three magi. It is said that the face of the Young King, Caspar, is possibly a portrait based upon a young Lorenzo the Magnificent. One of the other Magi is traditionally said to be Joseph of Constantinople.


Palazzo Medici. Photo by me


Palazzo Medici. Photo by me


Palazzo Medici. Photo by me


Procession of the Magi, Palazzo Medici. Photo by me.


Chapel of the Magi, Palazzo Medici. Photo by me.


Detail of the Young King, Procession of the Magi. Photo by me.


Detail of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medi & Cosimo de’ Medici in the Procession of the Magi. Photo by me.


Chandelier in the rooms added by the Riccardi family, Palazzo Medici. Photo by me

Our last stop for the day was the Cathedral museum, located behind Santa Maria del Fiore. Thankfully the tickets we had gotten with our Duomo tour package lasted for 48 hours so we had plenty of time to go and see it – on the way around the Piazza del Duomo we considered going up Giotto’s bell tour…but then we saw the queue so decided to carry on around to the museum. After all those steps the day before, it was definitely for the best!

The museum is located over three floors, with a little terrace at the very top from which you can view the Duomo. And as it says on the tin, it’s a museum of everything to do with the Cathedral – within it you can see original statues from the facade, models of each facade through the ages as well as the sort of building apparatus that would have been used when Brunelleschi built the Duomo. There was also an absolutely stunning silver altar from the Baptistery that shows the life of Saint John the Baptist. I’d definitely recommend swinging into this museum if you visit the Duomo, as there is SO much more to learn about that stunning piece of architecture, some of which can really only be learned within these walls.


Doors of Paradise by Ghiberti. Photo by me


Scary looking Jesus, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.


Michelangelo’s Pieta, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.


Brunelleschi’s death mask, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.


Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.


Detail of the Baptistery altar, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.


Baptistery altar. Photo by me.


View of the Duomo from Brunelleschi’s terrace at the Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.

Dinner that evening was a lovely affair at the Ristorante Accademia, the very first restaurant that we visited when we arrived in Florence. Yet again I was absolutely amazed at their service and their food was just brilliant. Afterwards, full of great wine and amazing food, we went across the piazza to have one last look at San Marco before heading back to the apartment. The next day we would be homeward bound, but not before squeezing in one last place of historical interest – Santa Maria Novella.



See you soon, San Marco. Photo by me.