Santa Maria Novella

Bar de L'O


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Chic cafe and bar on the ground floor of the Hotel L'Orologio. Facing Piazza Santa Maria Novella, just around the corner from the train station.

Bar de L'O provides a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere in which to enjoy a cocktail, a coffee or even a light business lunch.


Trattoria Sostanza


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An old favourite near Santa Maria Novella.

Many things have been written about this quirky niche of old Florence, to which people come for the atmosphere and a taste of past times.

The charm of this place is that it genuinely has remained unchanged for many years. The walls are half tiled in plain white and above them there are news cuttings and memorabilia of a famous clientele of years gone by.
The waiters wear an old fashioned uniform of grey jackets tucked into their white aprons and have a no-nonsense approach.


Alice's Mask Studio


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Original handmade papier-mache masks by this father and daughter team.

A true artist's bottega should be just like this one: inspiring, surprising and full of beautiful things made by someone covered in paint and glue. Alice of the name of the workshop is actually the daughter of the maestro of this mask-making atelier, Agostino Dessì, who has been making masks in Florence since 1973 for theatre, opera, films, festivals, and exhibitions.


Procacci


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One of the oldest gastronomic venues in Florence.Revive yourself during a busy morning shopping in the prestigious Via Tornabuoni with a visit to the unaltered nineteenth century Procacci café. Since 1885 Florentines have been gathering here to taste the house speciality, a tiny bread roll spread with the pungent crema di tartufo (truffle paste), and a glass of lightly spiced tomato juice. Stand at the green marble bar or sit at one of the little tables for no extra cost and enjoy the ambiance which attracted the royal seal of approval in 1925. Tradition has it that the tiny truffle sandwich goes with tomato juice but it is also worth trying with a glass of cold prosecco or white wine. If you have a passion for truffles, buy some crema di tartufo or dig deep and buy a whole fresh one (in season) from the little glass case to take home with you.

Cafe Giacosa


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Leopard skin and zebra prints all the way with Roberto Cavalli.Start the day at Caffè Giacosa with a cappuccino and one of the best pastries around, or for an afternoon treat, check out the luxurious house speciality, a "caffè marocchino", a short espresso coffee topped with milk foam and laced with rich, dark melted chocolate. If you are feeling a little decadent after a day of luxury shopping in Via Tornabuoni and you want to hang on to it a little longer, slip in to Giacosa for a cocktail. Stand shoulder to shoulder with the well-heeled and enjoy the comings and goings or pay slightly more for waiter service at a table or on the terrace. The legendary Negroni cocktail, now a favourite Florentine aperitif, was invented at Giacosa a century ago when the Count Negroni regularly propped up the bar and asked the barman to sharpen up his cocktail of Campari and vermouth with a shot of gin. For a more historic ambiance try the Giacosa offshoot just across the road at the Strozzi Palace. Drinks are served to your table in the once private courtyard of the enormously rich Filippo Strozzi .

Saskia


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Unique made-to-measure shoes to match you and your personality.Berlin-born Saskia opened ten years ago her unique atelier-showroom in Florence, where examples of her handiwork hang like works of art from the walls. Her made-to-measure shoes are hand-constructed using English techniques (learned from her cobbler mentor, Germany's best, who worked in London), accented with Italian design. She makes shoes to order in her characteristic style according to your personal touches with an incredible range of material from kangaroo to alligator. All it takes is a visit to her atelier for a mold of your foot and you are on your way to your perfect shoe, skillfully handmade entirely in Saskia's atelier for a truly unique fashion statement. While she mostly makes men's shoes, she can also do women's although a masculine style pervades.

Pharmacy Santa Maria Novella


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One of the world's oldest pharmacies, the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, still produces its historically luxurious creams and perfumes from secret recipes.The Dominican monks of the church of Santa Maria Novella have been concocting their remedies with herbs and oils here since the 13th century and the Officina, founded in 1612, still produces its famous perfumes, soaps, candles, essences, liqueurs and cosmetics using the ancient formulas, held secret for centuries. Traditional herbs and oils (with a particular focus on those grown on local Florentine soil) are still used to create the famous creams and scents. Some of the many luxurious products to look out for: The acqua della Regina, a perfume created for Catherine de Medici; Tuscan potpourri, macerated in Impruneta terracotta jars; almond paste hand cream; hand carved milk-based or olive oil soaps; the seductive collection of after-shave lotions for men and the famous acqua di rose, rose water.

Casa del Vino


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A delightful hidden spot for a snack.A short way from San Marco and the Accademia is this wonderful bottega selling excellent sandwiches and glasses of wine at very reasonable prices. Almost completely hidden behind the San Lorenzo market traders' stalls of Via dell' Ariento, it is an enchanting place with tall dark wood cabinets filled with wines and a marble bar filled with food. There are very few places to sit, so if you get there at a busy time, squeeze in with the regulars and stand at the bar. From the chalk board above the bar, choose one of the house specials such as cherry tomatoes with burrata (a creamy mozzarella) and fresh anchovies. Fresh crostini with chicken liver paté are arranged on the bar with boiled eggs and another traditional Florentine treat of bread rolls with truffles and butter.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella


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Holding some of the world's most important Gothic and early Renaissance masterpieces, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a true treasure trove and a wonderful example of wealthy Renaissance patronage of the arts. The unique facade is one of the only true examples of a Renaissance church facade in Florence. Designed by architect Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) and completed in 1470, the beautiful Romanesque facade was created perhaps taking cues from the medieval design of San Miniato al Monte, which guards over Florence from the top of the southern hill. The entire facade was paid for by the wealthy textile merchant and banker, Giovanni Rucellai (1403-1481), Alberti's best patron, who included a Latin inscription of rather large letters advertising his name and the date across the top of the church with the repeated design of billowing sails of a ship, the Rucellai family coat of arms. A rather bold form of publicity, Rucellai himself wrote in his memoirs in 1473 that he gained great pleasure and satisfaction in patronising art to help decorate the church because it served “the honour of God as well as the honour of the city and the commemoration of myself.” Indeed there was great competition among the wealthiest families to show off their wealth and prestige by creating the most beautifully frescoed chapels, contributing in turn to the rich beauty of the city. The many frescoes of Santa Maria Novella are a wonderful example of this patronage. To the left of the main altar in the Gondi family's chapel is the recently restored Christ on the cross carved in wood by Brunelleschi in the early 1400's. The proportions are mathematically perfect following the rules of Vitruvius's ideal man and befitting the perfection of the subject according to Brunelleschi. Compare the Christ with that of Masaccio's Holy Trinity fresco opposite the visitors entrance, thought to be the earliest example of linear perspective, and almost certainly produced with the help of Brunelleschi. Hanging above the central nave is Giotto's wooden crucifix, painted in the late 1200's. Leaving behind the stylised images of the Byzantine tradition, Giotto painted subjects true to life making him one of the earliest renaissance artists. Next door, (to the left of the facade and through a small arch) the Museum of Santa Maria Novella includes the magnificently frescoed Spanish Chapel, given by Cosimo I to his wife, Eleonora di Toledo and her attendants. Also housed in the former Dominican monastery is the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica, perhaps the oldest pharmacy in the world. The Farmacia has been producing its famous perfumes, soaps, candles, essences, herbal remedies, liqueurs and cosmetics with a secret mix of traditional Florentine herbs and oils for centuries.

Santa Trinita


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The Santa Trinita bridge is somewhat of an icon in Florence, often considered more beautiful than the Ponte Vecchio and definitely the best spot in Florence to enjoy sunset. Designed in the 1560's by Bartolomeo Ammanati with advice from Michelangelo, it was commissioned by Cosimo I de' Medici as part of the route of the Grand Duke's processions to the Pitti Palace, the recently purchased Medici residence. But after its destruction during World War Two, it was actually a famed American art historian living in Florence, Bernard Berenson, who suggested the bridge be reconstructed "as it was, where it was". Florence without the Ponte Santa Trinita was unthinkable! Berenson set up a committee to reconstruct the bridge, securing large donations from people like the eccentric American art collector Peggy Guggenheim (who donated a Jackson Pollock painting) to pay for it, and insisting the bridge be reconstructed using original materials from the quarries of the Boboli Gardens, not concrete, the cheaper versoion that the Italian State wanted to use. When the bridge was finally completed in 1958 it was considered a perfect replica of the original and Berenson was a awarded honorary citizenship. The slightly earlier Bartolini Salimbeni chapel is also worth a look. The frescoes and the altarpiece are by Lorenzo Monaco, (Lorenzo the Monk) from the early 1420's. This chapel is a wonderful example of what is known as International Gothic style. While his contemporaries were painting with perspective in the new style of the Renaissance, Lorenzo Monaco also used a new style, but from northern Europe, with bright colours, plenty of gold, minute details and disproportionate figures. No doubt the commissioning family believed they would have the edge on other Florentine art patrons with this style, favoured by the royal and noble families from the revered north. Moving on to the Santa Trinita church, with its layers of history, art and architecture, we find a series of beautifully frescoed chapels inside. The most famous and most stunning series of frescoes is in the Sassetti chapel, where Domenico Ghirlandaio, master of the young Michelangelo, faithfully included portraits of the Medici and Sassetti family members – friends and business partners. To include the Medici in his family chapel was a way for Signore Sassetti to say thank you to his Medici partners for making him a very wealthy man. Francesco Sassetti, the patron of the chapel, was the Medici family's bank manager. The church sits at the beginning of Via Tornabuoni, named after one of the wealthiest Renaissance families in Florence. An elegant street ever since the 15th century, it is home today to all the big names in high fashion and their boutiques as well as beautiful churches and grand Renaissance palaces.

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