The squares in Florence are the beautiful breathing places of the city. These great squares are flanked by amazing palaces and churches, embellished with statues and fountains, and lively with markets and open air cafes. From the historical heart of Florence’s Piazza Signoria to the students’ favourite Santo Spirito and dazzling Santa Croce, these are the squares in Florence that will capture the heart of even the most well-travelled visitors.
Squares in Florence – The piazze that dazzle and inspire
Piazza Signoria, where history meets beauty
Piazza della Signoria is undoubtedly the most handsome piazza in Florence and one of the highlights of the city. A feast of sculptures and grand Renaissance buildings, outdoor cafes and restaurants.The Medieval Palazzo Vecchio watches over it all, touching the sky with its slender tower. The square has a copy of the statue of David outside the Palazzo. It’s a great place for people watching, and if you’re in the mood for a little art appreciation, take your time to cherish the captivating statues that are packed under the Loggia dei Lanzi. A few steps away is the Uffizi Gallery filled with masterpieces, from whose roof terrace you have a splendid view of the square.
Piazza Duomo, where the Duomo shows off its wonders
Piazza Duomo, and the adjacent Piazza San Giovanni where the Baptistery sits, is not really a square, but more what’s left over by the awesome and dominating Duomo, or Cathedral. Busy at all times of day, this was the religious core of Florence and today is a top tourists magnet. You could easily spend a day in this square exploring the magnificent cathedral complex, that includes the fascinating Museo Opera Duomo and the enticing Baptistery. There are some coffee shops but keep in mind that they are quite busy!
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Piazza Santa Croce
The vast but charming Santa Croce Square is the scene of festivals and events are regularly held, including the colourful (and raucous) Calcio Storico that has been played in this square since the 15th century. When it’s off duty, it’s a delightfully elegant space, flanked by ornate buildings and the luminous facade of Santa Croce Church. This neighbourhood is also one of the top spots in Florence for nightlife. Great by day and by night.
Piazza della Repubblica, shopping and historic cafes
This was the centre of Roman Florence, and a great marketplace during the Medieval period. Today it’s the core of Florence’s shopping mecca. Sadly all the ancient buildings were knocked down in the 19th century as part of an urban planning drive to ‘redevelop’ the city centre when Florence briefly became Capital of Italy (1865-71). The result is a huge rectangular space that is today home to chic hotels, historic cafes like Giubbe Rosse and Paszkowski, with expensive shops, but also souvenir vendors and street musicians. It’s a huge, but elegant space where the Florentines like to hang out. There’s even an old-style merry go round for the kids.
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Piazza S.M. Novella, a lively square near the train station
Santa Maria Novella Square is a lively place with cafés, a pub, a gelateria and plenty of accommodation facilities, as it is right next to the main train station. The seating and green space is little unkempt, but the beautiful church at the one end of the square more than makes up for it. The facade of Santa Maria Novella Church is one of the finest in Florence, a stunning masterpiece of Renaissance architecture with some Gothic touches. The square is a must see, and if you have time, have a look around the inside the church too to see the incredible frescoes.
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SS. Annunziata Square, see Brunelleschi’s Spedale degli Innocenti
In the university area of Florence, close to San Marco enchanting museum, you find S.S. Annunziata Square. A little off the tourist track, it’s a quiet spot where students come and sit on the stairs to relax. There’s not much to do here, so don’t expect open-air tables or shops. It’s the beautiful arched facade of the Spedale degli Innocenti that you’ve come to see, designed by Brunelleschi and decorated with delightful Della Robbia roundels. The glazed terracotta reliefs represent infants that were once brought here when the building was an orphanage. Check out the equestrian statue of Ferdinando I de’ Medici by Giambologna and the eye-catching Sea monster fountain by Pietro Tacca (1627-41).
Santa Trinita Square
A small triangular public square near the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge, surrounded by historic buildings and the Santa Trinita Church. It’s not a ‘sit and relax’ kind of a place, more of a crossing point in a very busy part of Florence. In the middle stands a tall Roman column with a pink stone statue of “Justice” at the top, dating back to 1580. The beautiful Palazzo Spini-Feroni hosts the Museo Ferragamo dedicated to the Italian famous designer. From here you can take Via Tornabuoni, the city’s hot spot for high-level luxury shopping.
Squares in the Oltrarno, Florence
Piazza S. Spirito. A square full of spirit
One of the hot spots of the Oltrarno, the lovely Piazza Santo Spirito is dominated by the pastel colour facade of the church of the same name. Students and artists hang around here. Every day a morning market (8am-2pm) livens up the square and on every second Sunday of the month there’s a fun, antiques and bric-a-brac market. In the evening it’s alive with people enjoying aperitivi at one of the many bars around the piazza. It’s a great place for tourists and locals alike.
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A terrace with a view at Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo in a huge terrace overlooking Florence, from which you get the best view over the city. A favourite with tourists and romantics, you’ll find plenty of souvenir stalls and a couple of bars. But the reason to venture up there is the absolutely breathtaking panorama over the roofs and spires of Florence. You can get there by bus from the city centre (it takes roughly half an hour) or even better you can walk up the hill. The view, particularly at sunset, makes this one of the most romantic squares in Florence.
Piazza del Carmine
PIazza del Carmine is the other main square in Florence on the “other side of the river Arno”. Dominated by the unfinished facade of the Santa Maria del Carmine Church, art enthusiasts venture here to admire the precious frescoes by Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel, one of the artistic masterpieces in Florence. It’s not as good looking as the other squares, but you can still breathe in the ‘old Florence’ atmosphere, as it’s not as manicured as the more touristy spots. The area is crammed with bars and intimate trattorie, making it a great spot to enjoy a night out.
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