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Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, Florence: how to get there and what to see


The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte overlooks the city of Florence from the top of the hill on which it is located and constitutes a splendid example of Florentine Romanesque. It is part of the cemetery of the Holy Doors.

The Basilica is an authentic masterpiece, both inside and out, and it holds immense treasures such as the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal. Adjacent there is also the Abbey where the monks live, who also manage the monastic pharmacy, which completes a really interesting and rich visit.

Have we intrigued you? Let's find out together then how to best organize a visit to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, how to get there and what to see.



Index

  1. Where is it and how to get there
  2. Hours and prices
  3. Tours, guided tours and tickets online
  4. What to see and how to visit Basilica of San Miniato al Monte
  5. Useful tips for visiting the attraction
  6. Historical notes, curiosities and practical info: what to know in brief
  7. User questions and comments

Where is it and how to get there

  • On foot: in via delle Porte Sante, 34; from the center of Florence, the Basilica is about 1,5 km on foot across the Ponte Vecchio and the Lungarno, with a rather steep climb in the final stretch - Get directions
  • By bus: from the center you can take bus 12 from the Prato Barbetti stop, 650 meters from the station, towards Piazzale Michelangelo, journey time of 23 minutes, get off at the San Miniato Al Monte stop; ticket cost € 1,50 each way
  • By car: from the Firenze Impruneta exit continue along the highway towards Siena, immediately taking the exit for Florence and then proceeding along via delle Porte Sante; you can park on this street, just before the last stretch, at € 1,50 per hour, on Sundays it is free

Hours and prices

  • from Monday to Saturday from 9:30 to 13:00 and from 15:00 to 19:00, on Sundays from 8:15 to 19:00; on holidays there may be variations to the opening hours
  • Best time to avoid queues: at the opening in the morning
  • free

Tours, guided tours and tickets online

What to see and how to visit Basilica of San Miniato al Monte

The visit to the Basilica includes various very interesting parts, which we will go on to discover together starting from the superb facade, then continuing inside, where there is the crypt, the Sacristy and the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal. Then the visit to the cloister of the Abbey ends.



Building

The facade can already be seen going up, a authentic masterpiece of the Florentine Romanesque which takes up the marble inlays of ancient Roman buildings, that is the art of inlaying pieces of marble to decorate floors or facades of palaces and churches.

The lower part of the facade has five round arches, green serpentine columns with Corinthian marble capitals. There the upper part is the heart of the geometry of the Basilica, already presaging the presence of the three internal naves. The pediments are decorated with a chromatic play between the green Prato serpentine and the white marble.

Very interesting is the connection with the earliest pagan temples of Roman art, in particular due to the presence of arches that support the pronaos, thus recalling the temple of Jupiter in Terracina. On the side there is a bell tower that differs significantly from the appearance of the Basilica: squat in shape and made of brick, it seems unfinished. Protected from enemy fire by none other than Michelangelo during the siege of 1530, the bell tower has experienced various events over the centuries, remaining set back from the Church, both for its location and for its care.

Internal

The interior of the Basilica, as we can see it today, is changed little compared to the very first construction. The presbytery and the choir are in a raised position above the crypt, accessed by two side stairways that start from the two external aisles. From the central nave there is a stairway that descends towards the crypt, as well as in the side aisles.

Very interesting the inlaid floor from 1207, considered one of the most beautiful in the city together with that of the Baptistery, in particular the part of the zodiac.

The altar is actually Michelozzo's Chapel of the Crucifix, whose barrel vault was decorated in ancient times by Luca della Robbia with his iconic terracotta. The altarpiece was apparently painted by Agnolo Gaddi. The raised part houses a Romanesque pulpit dating back to 1207, with a splendid mosaic in the basin of the apse, probably attributable to the same, unknown artist who also decorated the facade with his mosaics.



Crypt

And the oldest part of the church, as often happens inside these buildings. It dates back to the th century and is located under the main altar, which is thought to contain the bones of San Miniato.
The crypt is accessed through three stairways corresponding to the three naves of the Basilica.

On the ceiling of the crypt there are cross vaults that rest on 38 columns dividing the room, which has a variable height from 4 to 4,5 meters, into three central and four side naves. On the side vaults there are frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi; the columns and the precious capitals that make up the crypt and the naves were made with different materials, certainly taken up and reinforced in different eras: Florentine terracotta, pietra serena, fluted marble, smooth marble. The light penetrates inside the crypt through five small windows placed on the sides.

Sacristy

The Sacristy is very interesting because it is decorated with splendid frescoes that narrate the life of San Benedetto di Spinello Aretino, dating back to the 1387.

Si you enter this room from the left aisle. Inside there is a room that houses a washbasin, a small intimate and suggestive place added around 1470, very characteristic. Then there are interesting wooden furniture, whose restoration dates back to the early twentieth century, made by Moniciatto.

Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal

It is the only funerary chapel in the San Miniato complex, designed and built between 1450 and 1470 in memory of Cardinal Giacomo di Lusitania, an ecclesiastical ambassador passing through the Tuscan city, where he died.

The chapel was designed by Antonio Rossellino who, together with his brother Bernardo, also decorated the tomb with splendid sculptures. Note the ceiling made by Luca della Robbia in polychrome glazed terracotta.



The Cloister of the Abbey

Do not miss a visit to the splendid cloister of the Abbey, adjacent to the Church, where Benedictine monks have lived and worked since 1924. It is thought that the cloister was part of the complex from the very first buildings, but it was rebuilt in 1426 with frescoes by Paolo Uccello.

Unfortunately, the Uccello scenes were whitewashed with lime and it is known that they were no longer visible as early as the th century. Luckily they were rediscovered in 1930 by Matteo Marangoni and then restored by Rosi in 1970 who on that occasion discovered further interesting parts. It is also known that in 1547 the painter Bernardo Buontalenti replaced one of the Bird scenes with his very rare Crucifix, still visible today.

Useful tips for visiting the attraction

  1. Get up early: the ideal would be to reach the entrance by 09:30, before the arrival of most of the tourists
  2. Watch out for restrictions: it is not allowed to bring water or food, make sure you don't have any with you; also, particularly in summer, observe respectful clothing with covered shoulders and legs
  3. Minimum time: we advise you to consider a minimum of 2 hours for the visit; the ideal would be to be able to dedicate 3 hours of time

Historical notes, curiosities and practical info: what to know in brief

Inside the Basilica is preserved a solstitial sundial, one of the oldest in Europe. Its function was discovered only in 2011: on the day of the summer solstice, at noon, the light illuminates the sign of cancer depicted in the marble zodiac of the floor

Another curiosity: San Miniato was the first martyr of Florence. He was probably a Greek merchant or an Armenian noble who arrived in the city in 250, where he began the life of a hermit and lived on the site of the Basilica until his beheading due to persecution by Christians.

Small tip for the visit: adjacent to the church there is the monastic pharmacy, where herbal preparations are sold but also many other products such as chocolate sweets, biscuits, pies, liqueurs, beeswax candles, all rigorously prepared by the Benedictine monks who live inside the Abbey. The Pharmacy is open from 10:00 until 12:15 and then from 16:00 until 18:00

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