We hope that you are enjoying our series of articles and guest articles on Italian tourist attractions, covering the entire country except for its major cities. In a sense we have left the best for last. We will describe what to see in Italy’s great cities neighborhood by neighborhood. You may not realize it, but Florence is divided into 9 districts. And each and every one of these districts boasts its own sightseeing attractions. If you have time, visit them all. In any case, read these articles to help plan your trip to Florence. You may be in for some real surprises.
The Santa Maria Novella district is located in the western part of Florence. But it is really quite central, hosting the railway station of that name. This district owes its name to the Basilica Santa Maria Novella, the most important Gothic church in Tuscany. It was built for the Dominican friars on the site of the 10th-century Dominican oratory of Santa Maria delle Vigne. Make sure to go inside and see the many great artworks including stained glass windows by classic Italian painters. The Cloister, the Chiostro Verde, hosts major beautiful frescoes. Among the many chapels of interest is the Filippo Strozzi Chapel, located on the right side of the main altar. This is where the first tale of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decamerone started when seven ladies decided to leave town for the countryside and flee the Black Plague. At the southern end of the square Piazza Santa Maria Novella is the Loggia di San Paolo, the entrance to the Ospedale San Paolo dei Convalescenti (Saint Paul’s Convalescent Hospital). Given the fact that you are near the Railway Station you should be careful when visiting this area at night.
Florence boasts many beautiful small streets. Don’t miss Via dei Fossi running from Piazza Santa Maria Novella to Piazza Goloni next to the Arno River. You’ll enjoy the shops. Stop by the Church of Ognissanti (All-Saints Church) first erected in the mid-Thirteenth Century and then reconstructed in baroque style some four hundred years later. Only the bell tower remains from the original edifice. One of the frescoes is entitled The Last Supper, painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio, and said to be known to Da Vinci. You might want to compare Dom’s and Lenny’s versions. This was the church of the Vespucci family and one frescoes is said to depict Amerigo Vespucci as a child.
If you like visiting city gates make sure to stop by the Porta al Prato in the northwest corner of the district, dating back to the late Thirteenth Century. It boasts a fresco of the Madonna with the Child and Saints. Not all Italian churches are Roman Catholic. The century-old (what a newcomer) American Church of Saint James is an Episcopal Church, situated in the historic gardens of the Orti Oricellari. I am told that it hosts multiple community activities, including Alcoholics Anonymous. The Teatro Comunale presents the “Maggio Musicale Fiorentino” music festival from March to June and from September to December.And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Tuscany or other Italian wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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