Novella & Indipendenza Walking Tour, Florence (Self Guided)

Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages". This city has to offer a lot of wonderful places to admire. Take this tour to explore Indipendenza and Santa Maria Novella quarters, visit beautiful Dominican basilica of Santa Maria Novella, as well as Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Accademia di Belle Arti, Cappella dei Principi and many others.
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Novella & Indipendenza Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Novella & Indipendenza Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Florence (See other walking tours in Florence)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Author: greghasleft
Museo di San Marco

1) Museo di San Marco (must see)

San Marco is the name of a religious complex in Florence that comprises a church and a convent. The convent, which is now a museum, has three claims to fame. During the 15th century it was home to two famous Dominicans, the painter Fra Angelico and the preacher Girolamo Savonarola. Also housed at the convent is a famous collection of manuscripts in a library built by Michelozzo.

The present convent occupies the site where a Vallombrosan monastery existed in the 12th century, which later passed to Benedictine monks of the Silvestrine line. In 1435 the Benedictines were replaced by Dominicans from the Convent of San Domenico in Fiesole. Two years later, they appealed to Cosimo de' Medici the Elder, who lived nearby in the family palace, now known as the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, to fund the renovation of the entire complex. The works were entrusted to Michelozzo. Each cell of the monks' cloister and many other walls were decorated by Fra Angelico in collaboration with others, including Benozzo Gozzoli. Cosimo de' Medici had a cell at the convent for his personal retreat.

San Marco is famous as the seat of Girolamo Savonarola's discourses during his short spiritual rule in Florence in the late 15th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Extensive sacred art collection that leaves a lasting impression, particularly if you have an interest in the genre transition at the end of the Gothic and beginning of the Renaissance periods.

The museum is inexpensive to visit (only €4) and is covered by the Firenze Card as well.
Make sure you check out the galleries & the cells on the top floor as these can be easily missed.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:15am-1:15pm; Sat, Sun: 8:15am-4:15pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Accademia di Belle Arti

2) Accademia di Belle Arti (must see)

The Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, located on Via Rasacoli, is an art gallery whose history dates back as far as 1563. Under the advice of Giorgio Vasari, an artist and writer, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de' Medici set up the Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti del Disegno (Arts of Drawing Academy and Company). The institution not only housed renowned artists of Cosimo’s court but also functioned as organisation for the artists of Tuscany. Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) was born as a result of a 1784 decree of the then Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, along with conservatory of music and a school for art restoration.

The Academy and its Gallery are home to some of Michelangelo’s work. A must see art gallery in Italy, Michelangelo’s David is on display here along with his unfinished Prisoners and statue of St. Matthew. The gallery also displays several paintings made by artists between the 13th and 16th centuries. These Renaissance-era paintings are works of famous artists like Uccello, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and others. A room is dedicated to a series of polyptychs which are marvelous. The Gallery also houses plaster sculptures by artists like Bartolini, Pampaloni and Giambologna, to name a few.

Recorded in history as the first academy for drawing in Europe, this Art Academy and Gallery is a must visit for every guest of Florence.

Why You Should Visit:
Michelangelo's David is the undeniable star, but an impressive collection of medieval and renaissance art, too.
The musical section is also tremendous – strings by Casini, Amati and Stradivari, harpsichords and some rarer stuff.
Audio guides are good (for a fee) and have adults or children's version.

A good time to go during high season is on Thursdays when the Accademia is open late (after 7pm) and you don't have long lines.
Consider pre-booking otherwise. You'll have to take your online booking to a doorway just opposite and a little down the street to turn the booking into your tickets (ask the guards to direct you).

Operation Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-7pm
Palazzo Medici Riccardi

3) Palazzo Medici Riccardi (must see)

The Palazzo Medici, also called the Palazzo Medici Riccardi for the later family that acquired and expanded it, is a Renaissance palace located in Florence. The palace was designed by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo for Cosimo de' Medici, of the Medici family, and was built between 1445 and 1460. It was well known for its stone masonry that includes rustication and ashlar. The tripartite elevation was used here as a revelation of the Renaissance spirit of rationality, order, and classicism of human scale. This tripartite division is emphasized horizontal stringcourses that divide the building into stories of decreasing height. This makes the building seem lighter as the eye moves up to the extremely heavy cornice that caps and clearly defines the building's outline.

Why You Should Visit:
Although small, and perhaps simple by Florentine standards, it is perfectly well-formed.
The courtyards and gardens are free, and lovely to wander around, but it's well worth the price to enter the rooms upstairs.
The Magi Chapel is tiny, painted floor to ceiling in friezes, and the gallery has a fabulous domed ceiling painted in Greek mythology.
What makes it all come to life is the point-at system, which is really informative and compelling.
Plus there are no queues to get in, and you can enjoy the rooms comfortably and at ease.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu-Sun: 9am-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

4) Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Laurentian Library) is extraordinary not only for its architectural design but also for its collection of books and manuscripts. Housed in a cloister of the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the architect for this library was Michelangelo and work was finished by Ammannati in 1568. The design of the building was appreciated by contemporaries of Michelangelo and new ideas put into the building were termed revolutionary. Built on existing walls of the Quattrocento, Michelangelo decided to place the columns in the walls. This makes every visitor question the strength of the structure. The reading room, consisting of two columns of seats with an aisle has well placed windows which also make you appreciate the ceiling and the floor of the room. As a library, this structure is home to over 11,000 manuscripts, many of which are on papyrus and sourced from Egypt. In addition, the royal family opened its own private library to the public by lending its books. Some books were even chained to the floor to ensure that the books do not leave the library. The library has collections of famous Florentine authors like Salutati, Niccoli, Ficino etc. and works like Tacitus, Pliny, Quintilian etc. It is believed that the library was commissioned to accentuate the rise of the Medici family as intellectuals in the society. A dual delight, this structure is a must see in Florence.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Cappella dei Principi

5) Cappella dei Principi

The octagonal Cappella dei Principi surmounted by a tall dome, 59 m. high, that is the distinguishing feature of San Lorenzo when seen from a distance, stands centrally sited with respect to the nave, to which it provides the equivalent of an apsidal chapel. Its entrance is from the exterior, in Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini, and through the low vaulted crypt planned by Bernardo Buontalenti before plans for the chapel above were made. It was designed by Matteo Nigetti, following some sketches tendered to an informal competition of 1602 by Don Giovanni de' Medici, the natural son of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, which were altered in the execution by the aged Buontalenti; thus, a true expression of court art, it was the result of collaboration among designers and patrons.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Santa Maria Novella

6) Santa Maria Novella

Built by the Dominican order in the 13th century, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella was constructed on the site Santa Maria delle Vigne oratory. Between 1246 and 1360, the lower part of the Basilica and Bell Tower were completed under the direction of Friar Talenti. Leone Alverti was commissioned in 1456 to complete the upper part of the current façade of the church.

Known for his work on a church in Rimini and a palace in Florence, Alberti gave the church its four white and green pilasters, a frieze with a circular window and a pediment. Alberti’s S-shaped scrolls were his greatest contribution, not only to this structure but also to the architecture of churches in Italy.

Massacio’s The Holy Trinity is a Renaissance masterpiece located in this church. Stained glass windows from the 14th century depicting Coronation of Mary and Madonna and Child beautify this church. The Filippo Strozzi, Gondi, Rucellai and the Spanish Chapel are a few chapels within the Basilica. The Cappella Strozzi is one of the most beautiful parts of the church. It was decorated according to Dante's poem Divina Commedia. A portrait of the poet is housed in the chapel.

The building has a cloister adorned with paintings from the 14th century. Frescoes portraying stories from Genesis ornament the walls of the cloister. Eminent Florentine families contributed towards the art possessions with the Church and the funerary monuments, of which they are now, part of. The Holy Trinity comes to life just outside the Church.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella

7) Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella

What to buy here: Refined Scents, Exquisite Liqueurs, Soap Bars.

In Italy, we’re used to think of a pharmacy as a place where you’re supposed to buy medicines. Well, in Florence there’s a special one, worth being visited especially when you’re not ill. It’s called Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella (or Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella) and it’s the oldest continuously-running pharmacy in Europe. It has always been making great perfumes, delicious and rare home distilled liqueurs, beauty creams, soaps, satchels of potpourri and even a remedy for fainting, all of them coming in Art-Deco, gothic-lettered packaging. Refined scents include one for women called “Angels of Florence” (80 euros the 100 ml bottle). This fragrance was launched in 2006 to honor the 40th anniversary of the Arno river flood that destroyed numerous cultural works in Florence, including close to a million books in the Biblioteca Nazionale. This perfume’s name was kept in English as it is dedicated to the so-called “angels of mud”, that is hundreds of young foreigners who came to Florence to help rescue victims and save the city’s cultural heritage. Should you be looking for exquisite liqueurs, instead, you may want to try “Elisir di rose”, whose roses original flavor makes its taste extremely delicate, and “Alkermes”, a highly alcoholic Florentine liqueur, red in color, which is reputed to have been a secret recipe of the Medici family and which is nowadays specifically used to make “zuppa inglese”, a very typical Italian dessert. Pricing starts at 17,50 euros for the smallest bottle (100 ml). If you’re intended to buy soap bars, you will be spoiled for choice as they come in tenth of possible scents and packaging. Pomegranate or milk single bars (200 gr. each) cost 12 euros. The Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella’s products are amongst the most wanted original presents you may find in Florence. Open daily from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm, the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella is in Via Della Scala, 16.
Chiesa di Ognissanti

8) Chiesa di Ognissanti

The Chiesa di Ognissanti was among the first few Baroque structures to penetrate into the predominant Renaissance style of architecture in Florence. The Ognissanti church was founded by the Order of the Umiliati that was devoted to paying homage to all saints, known or unknown. Although built during the mid-thirteenth century, the church underwent a complete makeover in the seventeenth century when it was taken over by the Franciscan Order. The shift of authority brought in a wave of new design and structure to the church. Between years 1620 and 1630, the Ognissanti Church was completely rebuilt in the Baroque style by architect Bartolommeo Pettirossi, making it one of the first Franciscan Baroque church.

The Chiesa di Ognissanti is an excellent specimen of the upcoming Baroque style in designing buildings in the seventeenth century. The façade of the church was designed by Matteo Nigetti, one of the most cherished Baroque architects. The interiors of the church are equally stunning, with the ornate Baroque detailing, the wooden crucifix by Veit Stross, the hidden symbolism of the church and the elaborate frescoes that don the wall, one of which is Dominico Ghirlandaio’s “Last Supper” a fresco that has garnered a lot of attention and admiration.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Florence, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Creating your own self-guided walk in Florence is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Duomo Walking Tour

Duomo Walking Tour

Duomo quarter is located in the very heart of the Florence Historic Center. This area is deservedly considered the religious and the civic centre of the town. Most of the historic sites Florence is famous for are to be found here. Take this tour to explore all the masterpieces of the Duomo quarter.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
City Orientation Walking Tour

City Orientation Walking Tour

Florence, located in Italy, is believed to be the cultural capital of the world. Sometimes called the Athens of the Middle Ages and the birthplace of the Renaissance movement, Florence attracts millions of tourists every year. Don't miss the chance to visit some of its most alluring attractions.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 km
Novella Walking Tour

Novella Walking Tour

Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages". This city has to offer a lot of wonderful places to admire. Take this tour to walk along the Arno embankment and explore the south-eastern part of the Santa Maria Novella quarter.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
Historic Centre Nightlife

Historic Centre Nightlife

Well known for its beautiful historic architecture and for its huge contribution to the Renaissance movement in Italy, Florence remains a vibrant, thriving center of activity that hosts not only a large tourism trade, but also attracts a lot of international students studying abroad. As such, Florence possesses a hot nightlife scene where guests from around the world can hear some amazing music...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km
Florence Museums

Florence Museums

Over the centuries Florence gained a huge collection of art works. Almost half of them come from the world known artists that lived here and the other half comes from the private collection of the Medici family that have ruled the city for a long time. To show their pride, the city of Florence displayed all these magnificent works of art in numerous museums and palaces. Take this tour to get...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo spent over 20 years of his life in Florence during which he created some of the most beautiful masterpieces this city had ever seen. The most famous of them, the David, is also located in Florence along with a few copies. Take this tour to discover the Florence side of Michelangelo's artistic mastership.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Unique Products to Buy in Florence

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Unique Products to Buy in Florence

Compared to other Italian "grands" like Rome, Venice, or Milan, Florence is relatively less-known to an outsider for any local products, save, perhaps, Florentine mosaics and Fiorentina FC. Fortunately, there are tonnes of locally-originated things that this Italian city is rightfully...
Florence's Tasty Coffee Shop Guide

Florence's Tasty Coffee Shop Guide

The caffe scene throughout Italy is an important factor of everyday life. People will pop in to their favorite bar on their way to work for a quick espresso breakfast with a pastry, they’ll grab a slice of pizza for lunch or drop by for an aperitivo before dining out and take a peaceful digestivo...
Top 14 Pubs in Florence

Top 14 Pubs in Florence

Florence, the city of art and beauty has no problem in mastering the art of the nightlife as well. Local pubs are very popular and appreciated among the Florentines and the tourists. Locals and native English speakers that study or live in the city cannot wait to welcome tourists in their cozy...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Florence for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Florence has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Florence's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Florence City Pass issued by Musement and the Florence City Pass by TicketBar.

A city pass combines all or multiple Florence's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Florence hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: Strozzi Palace Hotel, Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy, Hotel Pierre.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Florence, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Florence typically costs from around US$25 up to US$90 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Florence from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get off at any of the stops along the route.

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour – this usually lasts 3 hours and allows visitors to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have done by walking.

- Pedal your way around Florence on a 2.5-hour bike tour to visit the city's most spectacular sights, stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Enjoy a day of art and sightseeing in Florence at a great discount on the Florence Super Saver tour combining two best-selling guided tours for the price of one! Be guaranteed to skip the lines to the Accademia (hosting David) and Uffizi Galleries.

- Get yourself “under the skin” of Florence and explore the city's ghosts and curiosities at night. On this 2-hour night walk you will see the famous Florentine attractions in a different light and hear historical anecdotes and stories associated with them.

- Make the most of your time in Florence with a 3-hour guided walk to the most prominent sights of this magical city, e.g. Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, Michelangelo's David, also discovering some of its hidden gems!

- Unleash your appetite for Florentine delicacies on this 3-hour food tour replete with tasting stops throughout the city. Follow an expert guide to eat and drink like a local, treat yourself to some of the top gourmet delights this city has to offer, including rich Italian coffee and gelato, explore the San Lorenzo Market, and so much more!

Day Trips

If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Florence, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Pisa and Lucca, Assisi and Cortona, Portovenere and the Cinque Terre, Siena, San Gimignano, or Chianti. For as little as US$50+ to US$100+ per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites including the legendary Leaning Tower of Pisa, Cortona and other towns of Tuscany, set your eyes on the small piece of paradise on Earth manifested in five little villages hanging on cliffs above the sea, learn about the life of St Francis of Assisi, enjoy the sight of a unique landscape and taste the food and wines of Italy. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight at your hotel or a designated place in Florence, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach, minibus, boat or a private vehicle (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.