Visit to Santa Maria Novella in Florence: How to get there, prices and advice

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Lluis Enric Mayans

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Santa Maria Novella it is among the most beautiful and important churches in all of Florence. Its construction was commissioned by the Dominican friars in 1278 as a response to the construction, and above all to the size, of the churches of Santo Spirito and Santa Croce, respectively belonging to the Augustinian and Franciscan friars. Here is some information on how to organize a visit to the structure, and on the historical / artistic beauties not to be missed.


  1. Where is it and how to get there
  2. Hours and prices
  3. What to see and how to visit Santa Maria Novella
  4. The museum
  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: it is the best solution to choose, it is located two minutes away from the Santa Maria Novella railway station (train stop recommended). Arriving instead from the Uffizi, the distance is about 1 km, about 13 minutes of walk preferring the Acciaiuoli seafront, during this path you will have the opportunity to admire other historic buildings and places of great interest. The same route is recommended if you start from Ponte Vecchio.

Hours and prices

  • from October to March from 9:00 to 17:30, from April to September from 9:00 to 19:00
  • Best time to avoid queues: opening hours
  • € 7,50 includes admission to the Basilica, the Avelli Cemetery and the Museum of Santa Maria Novella, which in turn consists of the Cloister of the Dead, Green Cloister, Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Cappella degli Ubriachi and Refectory
  • Reductions: € 5,00 Minors from 11 to 18 years old and in possession of an identity document
  • Free: residents of the Municipality of Florence, children up to 11 years of age, disabled and carers, members of religious orders or congregations and diocesan clergy, school leaders or groups (1 every 15 members), Italian tourist guides with ID, ICOM members , ICOMOS and ICCROM, journalists

What to see and how to visit Santa Maria Novella

The construction of Santa Maria Novella was begun in 1268 and completed around 1350: only the facade was missing. To this end, Leon Battista Alberti was summoned, who designed the upper part using white and green marble, which until then had been built in the Gothic style, an example of "Tuscan Romanesque".

In memory of the various characters who wanted the construction of the church, a series of symbols have been affixed: on the pediment of the tympanum there is the inscription that remembers Giovanni Ruccellai and the marble frieze depicting the sail with the shrouds blowing in the wind, symbol of his family; the radiant sun in the tympanum is instead the symbol of the Dominican order. The solar disc at the top of the tympanum, with the face of the Child Jesus in the center, is instead the symbol of the Santa Maria Novella district.

The interior of the church, 99 meters long, is divided into three naves characterized by vaults decorated with two-colored arches, delimited by pillars that are gradually closer and closer in order to give the church a particular sense of perspective. Inside Santa Maria Novella there are a series of masterpieces, Giotto's crucifix, relocated here after a 12-year restoration, and the fresco of the Trinity by Masaccio, famous for the revolutionary use of perspective, should be mentioned.

The Major Chapel

Inside, accessible from the rear of the main altar, is the Crucifix by Giambologna, and several frescoes by Domerico Ghirlandaio, who is believed to have also collaborated with a young Michelangelo, depicting scenes from the Life of the Virgin and St. John, the all set in Renaissance Florence.

The Strozzi Chapel

It is instead located in the left transept. The element that characterizes it is the cycle of frescoes by Filippino Lippi, dating from the fifteenth century, depicting the clashes between Christianity and paganism. The chapel was begun in 1487 but remained incomplete until 1502 due to the exile of the Strozzi by the De Medici.

The Gondi Chapel

Inside the chapel instead, you can admire an extraordinary wooden crucifix by Brunelleschi: the only known sculpture by the Florentine architect.

Cloister of the Dead

The entrance ticket to the church of Santa Maria Novella also allows you to visit the Cloister, the oldest of all those forming part of the convent structure. Its particular name is given by the fact that for centuries it served as a cemetery. Also called "lower cemetery" or "underground", as opposed to the cemetery area on the north side: this denomination also testifies to the position of the cloister below the level of the church.

The museum

The museum is located inside the convent complex, right next to the church: the entrance is included in the cost of the basilica ticket, as they are part of a single monumental complex. The visit begins with the Green Cloister and the frescoes by Paolo Uccello, which depict scenes from the Old Testament: the works are not exactly in excellent condition, but still deserve to be seen.

We then continue passing through the Cappellone degli Spagnoli or Sala Capitolare, used by the court of Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I. The chapel is decorated with frescoes by Andrea Bonaiuto, depicting the passion of Christ, death and his resurrection. To the right of the entrance we have the Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas where God's dogs are sent to look for the sheep that have escaped from the church fold. Curiosity: the dogs depicted are none other than the DomeniCani, a play on words with canes domains.

The chapel of the Ubriachi was originally owned by the family that gave it its name, and was accessed only from the Great Cloister:the current headquarters of the military academy. Dedicated to the Magi, from 1467 to 1785 the chapel was the seat of the Compagnia dei Santi Innocenti, which is why it took the name of the Chapter of Nocentino. Since 1983 it has been used as a museum and houses works of art and sacred furnishings from other spaces of the monumental complex.
The visit ends in the ancient refectory, where precious liturgical objects of the sacristy are kept.

Useful tips for visiting the attraction

  1. Get up early: the ideal would be to reach the entrance by 9 o'clock or earlier, so that you can get in line.
  2. Priority ticket: the ticket purchased online is valid "skip the line" - Buy online (€ 15,50 per person - ticket with audio guide for Santa MariaNovella)
  3. Watch out for restrictions: food or drinks cannot be consumed inside the basilica, suitable clothing must be worn, any large objects (e.g. umbrellas and sticks) must be stored at the entrance, cell phones cannot be used, animals cannot enter, photos and videos with tripod and / or flash are prohibited, it is not possible to enter with bulky luggage or trolley, for safety reasons.
  4. Minimum time: we advise you to consider a minimum of 2 hours for the visit. The ideal would be to be able to dedicate at least 3 hours.

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

Every day thousands of visitors cross the threshold of the basilica, without paying attention to the particular installations on the sides of the door. The objects present there are two astronomical instruments, used by the monk and astronomer Ignazio Danti at the end of the 500th century. The scholar was trying to understand on what basis to reconcile the astronomical equinox with the one set by the Julian calendar and therefore, he decided to eliminate 9 days from the calendar: in this way he jumped from October 4 to 15. Checking the date on which Santa Terese di Alvia, you will notice that the date reported is precisely "the night between October 4 and 15".

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