The trail starts at Santissima Annunziata, where in 1233 seven Florentine nobles chose a life of service to God, which led them to found the Order of Servants of Mary. Devoting themselves to the Virgin, they built the largest Marian shrine in Florence.
Beginning as a small oratory outside the city walls, Santa Maria in Cafaggio was to become a popular devotional site, inspiring numerous works of charity around the sanctuary. It was not long before the church was enlarged and embellished with more and more decoration.
From the square, beyond the portico and the votive chapel, you will enter the Basilica. Immediately to the left, you will notice an atmosphere of recollection and prayer surrounding the image of the Annunciation (1252). The Annunciation is enveloped by a sumptuous aedicule dating from the fifteenth century. Notice the candlelight illuminating the votive offerings laid around the venerated image.
It is said that the painter, Bartolommeo, painting the face of the Madonna, fell unconscious; on awakening he found the figure wondrously complete. This extraordinary event and the miracles associated with it make the church one of the most significant points of spiritual attraction in Florence.
In the chapel to the right of the Annunciation (which dates to the seventeenth century) you find the Journey of Saint Joseph. According to popular tradition, the intercession of the saint is invoked by the dying to ensure a good death. The episode of Saint Joseph's agony, while not to be found in the Gospels, remains closely linked to the motherhood of Mary, as it underlines the bond of love that God, pictured here from above, has made with man.
In the votive chapel, where votive offerings of thanks were displayed, you will find the life of San Filippo Benizzi, one of the Founders of the Order of Servants of Mary, immortalized in fresco. On the other side, episodes from the life of Mary are painted, among which a Visitation by Pontormo is a standout.