For the area in and around Florence, we start at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, in the same piazza as the Baptistery, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Brunelleschi’s Dome (worth exploring both inside and out), ruins of the ancient Cathedral of Santa Reparata and the new Opera del Duomo Museum, where Arnolfo di Cambio’s unfinished façade has been reconstructed to scale.
Next is the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata, the main Marian sanctuary in Florence. The church is home to a rich abundance of decorations, recalling the Catholic temples in Rome rather than a classic Tuscan basilica. It was here that the Medici, incredibly devoted to the icon inside the Chapel of the Madonna, commissioned a private passageway and a secret window from where they could venerate the holy image.
The last church in the Florence area is the Basilica of Santa Maria all’Impruneta, whose origins are rooted in the legend of a miraculous discovery. It’s said that when it was decided that a temple should be built in honour of the Virgin Mary, the walls that were constructed during the day were taken down during the night. The stones were then loaded onto a cart, and when the oxen stopped and kneeled down, those driving the cart started to dig, and that’s where they found the image, deciding to build the church right there.