Basilica of Santa Croce
Santa Croce means Holy Cross, but this basilica is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories, in reference to the many famous figures that have been laid to rest here. Wander through the 16 chapels to see the tributes that have been paid to the likes of Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini and Machiavelli. There is a lot to cover so you may want to take the free guided tour; check at the volunteers desk to for a schedule. Alternatively, you can rent an audio guide or book in for a thematic tour (extra cost to admission.)
A group of monks founded a small chapel on the site of the Santa Croce following the death of St. Francis. Work on the church as we see it today began in 1294. It has undergone a number of alterations since then, most notably the Neo-Gothic marble façade, which was added between 1857 and 1865.
The high timber roof and tall arches of the nave give the space an austere feeling, in keeping with the teachings of the Franciscan church. You don’t have to go far to encounter some breathtaking sculpture, painting or frescoes. On the south wall is a gilded limestone relief of the Annunciation by Donatello. See his famous wooden crucifix in the Bardi Chapel. Also in the Bardi, and in the Peruzzi Chapel, are ornate frescoes by Giotti.
Stop by the tombs of luminaries, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and Machiavelli. Note on Michelangelo’s tomb the three allegorical figures representing the arts of sculpture, painting and architecture. The tomb was inspiration for many of the other funerary monuments, including that of Galileo, on which the three figures are seen looking towards the heavens.
The Basilica di Santa Croce is located in the Piazza Santa Croce and is a short walk north of the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo). Visit Santa Croce in the first week of June to see the Calcio Storico when teams in medieval costumes play out a 16th-century version of a soccer game.
The church is open daily except national holidays and Holy Days of Obligation. Check the official Santa Croce Firenze website for a schedule. There is a small admission fee.