Neighbourhoods, streets and squares

Santo Spirito in Florence

Santo Spirito Piazza and Church

Piazza Santo Spirito
The piazza developed around the second half of the 13th century as an area to gather the crowds of religious who flocked to the area to listen to the orations of the Agostinian friars. The Agostinians built their church and convent on this site in 1252, dedicating the church to Saint Mary of All Saints and to the Holy Spirit, but the church was soon known by everyone only by the last of these dedications, to the Holy Spirit or Santo Spirito.The piazza soon became known by the name of the church, and Piazza Santo Spirito has become one of the best-loved piazze of Florence's Oltrarno area. Restaurants and night spots mix with artisan workshops and artists studios to create one of Florence's most lively neighbourhoods.

This liveliness dates back to the Middle Ages when Santo Spirito was the site of demonstrations, games and festivals. Many of these celebrations had direct ties to the neighbourhood, such as the Festival of Saint Rocco, the patron saint of the Oltrarno. The feast day of San Rocco falls on August 16 and was traditionally celebrated with a neighbourhood dinner in the piazza. Another regular celebration was the feast day of Saint Martino, patron saint of wool cloths. Today these traditions are remembered in the daily market which fills the piazza every morning, apart from holidays, with fruits and veggies, local products and all manner of merchandise for the house. In the summer months the piazza is transformed in to a theatre of sorts, hosting a variety of concerts and shows.
Santo Spirito - Credit: Alessandro Farese

The piazza is surrounded by 15th century houses, among them the Palazzo Guadagni which was built at the beginning of the 1500s. Its characteristic upper loggia established a fashion and served as a model for a number of other aristocratic palazzi around Florence. The ground floor of this building served as Florence's first public library which opened in 1914. The most significant architecture on the piazza, however, is undoubtedly the basilica, built according to the design of Filippo Brunelleschi and completed at the end of the 15th century. The facade, however, was never finished and today it is a simple, plastered surface. The interior of the church is a treasure chest of important art works including a wooden crucifix by Michelangelo and works by Filippino Lippi, Sansovino, Orcagna, Giuliano da San Gallo.

At the centre of the piazza rises a fountain of pietra serena with a large octagonal basin and two smaller concentric basins raised by a central vertical element of marble.

Cover image credit: Trevor Huxham

Florence
An astonishing city of art, fashion and tradition
If you are visiting Tuscany you cannot miss Florence. The Renaissance city is a treasure trove of art with an astonishing contemporary vibe. Beyond the extraordinary artistic heritage, a testimony to its centuries of civilization, the best way to enjoy Florence is to stroll along the riverside avenues at sunset, or to get lost among the city’s myriad alleyways of the bohemian Oltrarno or the ...
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