CATHEDRAL, BAPTISTERY, MUSEO DELL'OPERA DEL DUOMO. Santa Maria del Fiore, the Gothic cathedral erected over the ancient basilica of Santa Reparata, was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio who began construction in 1296. Brunelleschi completed it in 1436 with the elegant dome, the inside of which was entirely frescoed by Vasari and Zuccari. The final phase in the construction of the cathedral, that is the completion of the façade, dates from the mid-19th century. To the right of the cathedral rises the Bell Tower, or Campanile, designed by Giotto in 1334. The square tower is covered with red, green and white marble inlays, decorated with panels and carvings and gracefully adorned with double and triple-windows.
Opposite the Cathedral stands the green and white marble Baptistery of San Giovanni (1128), a masterpiece of Florentine Romanesque architecture. The interior of the dome is decorated with mosaics. The splendid bronze doors (including the Door of Paradise) were made by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti. The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo houses artworks from Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery and the Campanile, including sculptures that had been made for the cathedral façade. The most important works in the museum are by Michelangelo ("Pietà"), Donatello ("Mary Magdalen", "Cantoria"), Arnolfo di Cambio ("Boniface VIII") and Luca della Robbia ("Cantoria").
CHURCH OF ORSANMICHELE. Originally this building, a loggia designed by Arnolfo di Cambio (1209), was a granary and market. Only later did it become a house of worship. The loggia arcades were closed off by Simone Talenti and the exterior embellished with Florentine Gothic sculptures and ediculas.
PALAZZO MEDICI RICCARDI. This is the most typical example of privately commissioned Renaissance architecture. Cosimo the Elder commissioned Michelozzo to design a palace in 1444. Inside there is an elegant courtyard, a small Italian garden and the famous chapel with Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco the "Procession of the Magi" (1459).
BASILICA OF SAN LORENZO AND THE MEDICI CHAPELS. The original church that stood on this site was consecrated by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan in 393. Cosimo the Elder had it enlarged and remodeled by Brunelleschi. Inside there are works by Rosso Fiorentino, Desiderio da Settignano, Donatello and Bronzino. The church is flanked by the splendid, square-shaped Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi and the New Sacristy, by Michelangelo (1524), that houses the Medici family tombs. Along with the Baroque Chapel of the Princes, the New Sacristy comprises the museum of the Medici Chapels. To the left of the church is the Laurentian Library, also designed by Michelangelo, by order of the Medici family who wanted a place to conserve their fine collections of books, papyri and manuscripts. Not far from the San Lorenzo complex is the Mercato Centrale, or central market, a fine example of late 19th century steel and glass architecture.
MUSEO FIRENZE COM'ERA AND MUSEO DI PREISTORIA. The two museums Museo e Istituto Fiorentino di Preistoria and the Museo Storico Topografico "Firenze com'era" are situated in the former convent of the Oblate Nuns, whose buildings were once part of the Arcispedale di Santa Maria Nuova, the city's oldest (and still functioning) hospital that was founded by Folco Portinari in 1286.
GALLERY OF THE ACCADEMIA. This is one of the best known museums in Florence because it houses famous sculptures by Michelangelo, including the "David". There are also many paintings collected by the Grand Duke Peter Leopold to help the young artists enrolled in the Accademia d'Arte, which is still next door to the gallery.
OPIFICIO DELLE PIETRE DURE. The Opificio was founded by Ferdinando de' Medici in 1588. It is an important centre for the restoration of inlays and mosaics, and it has a fine display of inlays, studies and drawings.
CONVENTO DI SAN MARCO. Michelozzo rebuilt and expanded this convent for Cosimo the Elder and it still contains the splendid frescoes that Beato Angelico painted to decorate the monks' cells. Inside there is also a beautiful library that Michelozzo designed in 1448 and which is the first public library of the Renaissance. It contains many fine illuminated manuscripts. The church of San Marco that stands alongside the convent was redesigned by Michelozzo.
UNIVERSITY MUSEUMS AND BOTANICAL GARDENS. The entrances to several of the University's scientific museums are on Via La Pira. They are dedicated to Geology and Paleontology, Mineralogy and Lithology and there is also a Botanical Gardens, or "Giardino dei Semplici", founded by the Medici and then enriched under the Lorraine rule. The Botanical Museum, on the other hand, dates from the 19th century.
CLOISTER DELLO SCALZO AND CENACLE OF SANT'APOLLONIA. The Cloister "Dello Scalzo" is located in Via Cavour. It contains monochrome frescoes by Andrea del Sarto portraying "Scenes from the Life of St. John the Baptist" and two "Allegories of Virtue". The entrance to the cenacle of Sant'Apollonia is on Via XXVII Aprile and on the back wall there is a "Last Supper" by Andrea del Castagno.
BASILICA OF THE SS. ANNUNZIATA. Founded in 1250 and then expanded over the centuries, this is one of the most important churches in Florence. The Cloister of the Voti and the Cloister of the Morti contain frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, Rosso Fiorentino, Franciabigio and Pontormo. Inside the temple of the Annunziata, designed by Michelozzo, there is an image of the Virgin Mary that is considered miraculous.
SPEDALE DEGLI INNOCENTI. This building was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, with a fine loggia decorated with glazed terracotta roundels by Andrea della Robbia. Originally a foundling hospital, it hosts activities for children even today, along with the Galleria dello Spedale that contains many fine paintings such as the "Adoration of the Magi" by Ghirlandaio.
ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM. This collection, begun by the Medici and continued by the Lorraine, contains many important items related to Etruscan art and civilization such as the "Chimera of Arezzo", the "Orator" and the "Minerva of Arezzo", as well as several tombs that are in the garden. The Greek and Egyptian sections are also quite noteworthy, in fact, this is one of the major archeological museums in Italy.
Source: APT Firenze