Basilica di Santa Croce#11 in Best Things To Do in Florence
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Santa Croce is similar to the Duomo in style (both churches represent dominant Gothic traits), but most visitors aren't drawn here by Santa Croce's looks: Come here to pay your respects to such notable Italians as artist Michelangelo, scientist Galileo Galilei and political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. Santa Croce is also home to what some say is the most important art collection of any church in Italy, the most notable works being spectacular frescoes done by Giotto. Recent visitors raved about the architecture of the church and suggest giving yourself plenty of time to explore. Others appreciated that it was removed from the main tourist areas.
After you've sufficiently toured the church, head next door to the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce (Museum of Santa Croce), which houses several objects formerly found within the church itself. You can also spend a few hours shopping or sipping cappuccino in the neighboring Piazza Santa Croce, which is home to an impressive collection of leather shops. In fact, the Scuola del Cuoio (leather school) – which was started after World War II in part by the Franciscan friars of Santa Croce – is connected to the church.
It's free to explore the school – and a good place to search for leather souvenirs – but it costs 8 euros (about $9) to enter the church and museum. The church, museum and piazza sit just east of the city center a little more than half a mile from the Duomo. Both buildings are open to from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays and holidays (last admission at 5 p.m.). You are also welcome to participate in religious services. For information on Mass times and more, visit the Santa Croce website.
More Best Things To Do in Florence
#1 Piazza della Signoria
Loggia dei Lanzi, in the Piazza della Signoria, is an open-air (and free) museum that was designed in the 14th century by Orcagna, an influential architect and artist. Below the building's curved arches are dozens of sculptures (notable ones include Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines and Cellini's Perseus), which draw crowds of tourists and locals alike. Behind it sits the Galleria degli Uffizi. The Piazza della Signoria is also filled with its (more than) fair share of sculptures, including a towering replica of Michaelangelo's David.
Take your time wandering around, and if you get tired, grab a seat along the Loggia dei Lanzi, or make your way to a cafe near the Fountain of Neptune. Recent visitors said this is a must-see spot and a great area to people-watch, view magnificent sculptures and rest travel-weary feet (though past travelers recommended avoiding the restaurants in this area, calling them "outrageously overpriced." To avoid the height of the crowds, visit in the evening. Access to the area is free 24/7.
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