Piazza Santa Croce in Florence gets its name from the basilica of the same name, one of the biggest Franciscan churches in Italy, famous not only for housing frescoes by Giotto, the sculptures of Benedetto da Maiano, Desiderio da Settignano and Canova, but also fr being the burial place of well-known people such as Galilei, Foscolo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli, becoming a symbol of the homeland even before Italy was unified.
To the right of the Basilica, preceded by a 14th century cloister, you can access the Pazzi Chapel, a gem of Brunelleschi’s Renaissance architecture.
The piazza is bordered by important buildings which are characterized by protruding planes supported by supports called sporti on the southern side. One that stands out is the Palazzo Cocchi-Serristori, facing the basilica and the product of various reworks over the years, thought to be the work of Giuliano da Sandallo, the trusted architect of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
On the south side of the piazza stands Palazzo dell’Antella, with a lively façade embellished with several paintings, depicting allegorical figures, cherubs, foliage, flowers and arabesques, which are set around a bust of Cosimo II de’ Medici. Particularly interesting, on the fourth tile from the left, is the copy of the sleeping Amorino by Caravaggio.
In front of the Basilica, on the left, there is a monument dedicated to Dante Alighieri by Enrico Pazzi, sculpted in 1865 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Dante’s birth. The fountain by Giuseppe Manetti was placed in front of palazzo Cocchi-Serristori in the 19th century, a remake from the baroque era.
Given its large size and standard shape, the piazza became the perfect place to hold popular competitions during the Renaissance, such as the Florentine Calcio Storico which is still played here today.