Basilica of Santa Croce


Opening hours: 9:30am-5:30pm, Monday-Saturday; 2pm-5:30pm on Sundays and religious holidays, except closed January 1, Easter Day, June 13, October 4 and Christmas Day.

Closed when historic football matches take place in the piazza.

Admission: € 8.00 (includes Museum of Santa Croce).
Concessions available.


Piazza Santa Croce is one of Florence's largest and most loved squares, often the host of various events, such as sports, concerts and food festivals. Even today, Piazza Santa Croce is still known for one of Florence's most famous and unique events, the calcio storico, or literally, historic football, held in June. The square is filled with sand, bleachers are built and for three weekends in June the city celebrates its Renaissance heritage through this crazy sport with twenty seven players on each side. A bit more brutal than rugby, think of this as a mixture between bare-knuckle boxing, a costume party and football.

The Franciscan Basilica of Santa Croce is one of Florence's largest and most beautiful churches. Building began in 1294 and was paid for by some of the city's wealthiest families. The church was finally consecrated in 1442, however the facade remained a rough stone exterior for another 400 years until 1858 when its current neo-Gothic facade by Jewish architect Niccolò Matas was finally created using the traditional and local green, pink and white marble.

Santa Croce is apparently where the French author Stendhal in 1817 first experienced and penned the illness now known as the “Stendhal syndrome” that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting and even hallucinations when exposed to too much beautiful art. It is fitting, as Santa Croce's beautiful interior is filled with some of the city's greatest treasures. It is also where some of Florence's most illustrious citizens are buried: Michelangelo who died in 1564, Galileo in 1642, Renaissance man Giorgio Vasari in 1574, Renaissance sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti 1455, political philosopher Niccolò Macchiavelli 1527 and Barber of Seville composer Rossini 1868. There is also a monument to the poet Dante Alighieri who died in 1321 but is actually buried in Ravenna.

Aside from visiting the famous tombs, there are many important artworks to marvel over as well, including Agnolo Bronzino's mannerist masterpiece, the Pietà, and Donatello's delicate relief sculpture depicting the Annunciation in pietra serena. The highlight of the interior, though, is Giotto's emotive fresco cycle of the life of Saint Francis on the main transept.

In the cloister you can find the Pazzi family chapel, the greatest rivals of the Medici family. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the chapel is considered one of the greatest examples of Renaissance architecture. Look out for the Pazzi coat of arms depicting two dolphins – you won't see it much in the rest of the city, as the Medici tore them down. The beautiful ceramic rondels decorating the chapel are by Luca della Robbia in his family's characteristic glazed terracotta.

The Museum of the works of Santa Croce is housed in what used to be the old refectory of the monks. Here you can witness the devastation of the infamous flood of Florence in 1966 through black and white photographs. Santa Croce was arguably the area most damaged by the flood, which was blanketed under 20 feet (6 meters) of mud, water, oil and pollution. In fact, you can still see the stain left behind by the flood on the walls of the church interior. The incredible seven hundred year old medieval crucifix by Cimabue, Giotto's master, was one of the worst damaged.