DESCRIPTION – Florence: Santa Maria Novella & San Lorenzo
In this architecture tour we’ll walk through Santa Maria Novella in Florence, one of the historic districts of the city, and San Lorenzo. We’ll start at the train station Firenze S.M.N. – Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Inaugurated in 1935 and designed by Giovanni Michelucci, a key figure in modern architecture in Florence, it was built in record time without interrupting the railway traffic. It is considered a masterpiece of Italian Rationalist architecture.
Right outside the station we encounter the magnificient Santa Maria Novella, of the most important historical monuments in Florence. It was built on a small Dominican church in 1279 and the works were not completed until the middle of the fourteenth century, except for the facade which is later. The master builders were the friars Sisto of Florence, Ristoro de Campi and Jacopo Pasavanti. Pope Eugene IV consecrated the church in 1420. The basilica combines its Gothic style with the Renaissance style that reigns in its impressive facade.
Continuining our route we’ll see Palazzina Reale di Santa Maria Novella. The Presidential Palace was originally intended as a temporary residence for the King and his court during their travels. The building was designed by Giovanni Michelucci and decorated by Italo Gamberini and Pier Niccolò Berardi who used precious materials with abundant details. The decoration of the palace is almost entirely in marble: ‘fior di pesco carnico’ marble.
Palazzo degli Affari was designed by architect Guido Spadolini and opened in 1974. It is a modern multi-purpose and flexible structure spread over 5 floors, with a total capacity of 1,800 people within its 4,000 square meters where events of all kinds are accommodated. Crossing Giardino di Valfonda we’ll see Fortezza da Basso, a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture built between 1534 and 1536 by Pier Francesco da Viterbo and Antonio da Sangallo the younger, commissioned by Duke Alessandro De’Medici.
With a short walk we’ll arrive at Chiesa della Natività di Cristo, the first Russian religious building on Italian soil and was built thanks to the parish priest Vladimir Levickij and Emperor Nicholas II himself between 1899 and 1903. The church soars above the surrounding buildings thanks to its five onion-shaped domes covered with turquoise, green and white scales, a veritable arabesque of colors, a tribute to the Moscow cathedral of St. Basil.
We’ll walk down to San Lorenzo and passing by the Università degli Studi di Firenze we’ll arrive at Palazzo delle Poste Nuove. Designed by the architect Giovanni Michelucci and built in 1966 on behalf of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the building consists of two bodies arranged around an inner courtyard and both having reinforced concrete load-bearing structure and “face-on” stone and concrete finishes.
We’ll end this tour at Le Murate, a former prison that was recovered according to a recent urban redevelopment plan based on a project by architect Renzo Piano. The result has been a housing complex, two new squares (piazza Madonna della Neve and piazza delle Murate), a covered gallery housing art galleries, a bookshop, a restaurant-pizzeria, a Literary Café and the Box Office (a ticket office that handles ticket sales for concerts, shows, exhibitions and much more).