Florence’s art for free
The David that stands in the Piazza della Signoria is a free-to-see replica of the original, now housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia. (BBC)
Florence, the capital of Tuscany and the birthplace of Renaissance art, cradles much of the movement’s best and most impressive artwork. Tourists, with good reason, line up to see Michelangelo’s David or wander the hallways of the city’s famed Galleria degli Uffizi, but entry fees add up quickly to the city’s numerous museums.
The true beauty of Florence is that its art is everywhere, whether around a corner in an obscured plaza, through the open doors of a church or right in plain sight. Below are a few artistic treasures that cost nothing to enjoy — other than perhaps the gelato you purchase for your wandering.
Piazza della Signoria
Florence’s iconic central plaza contains some of the city’s finest sculptures. Inside the piazza, the Loggia dei Lanzi shelters a bronze Benvenuto Cellini sculpture of Perseus triumphantly holding Medusa’s head, as well as two marble works from the late 1500s by Giambologna: Hercules Beating the Centaur Nessus and the Rape of the Sabine Women. But do not be duped; the David that stands in this plaza is just a replica of the original, now housed in the (pay-to-enter) Galleria dell’Accademia.
Inside the Santa Trinita church the Cappella Sassetti is a Domenico Ghirlandaio fresco masterpiece. Ghirlandaio painted the work in the early 1480s, and it depicts Florence in its Renaissance grandeur, as well as the life of St Francis. The church’s Bartolini Salimbeni Chapel also contains work by Lorenzo Monaco, who slightly predates the Renaissance as a Gothic painter.
The green and white marble Duomo di Firenze is the symbol of Florence and a must-see feat of engineering. The higher you want to go the more it will cost, but entering the cathedral is free. Two impressive frescoes that can be seen for free are the Equestrian Monument to Sir John Hawkwood, painted by Paolo Uccello in 1436 and a memorial to Niccolò da Tolentino, which Andrea del Castagno composed 20 years later. Nearby is also Domenico di Michelino’s fresco Dante Explaining the Divine Comedy.
Chiostro dello Scalzo
The patron saint of Florence, John the Baptist, is the subject of the small, quiet cloister near the Piazza San Marco. Andrea del Sarto frescoed the walls around 1520 with a little help from fellow Renaissance artist Franciabigio.
San Miniato al Monte
This church is one of the oldest in Florence. While the architectural style is Romanesque and the mosaic inside is from the 12th Century, the hallowed grounds also contain Renaissance artwork, such as the frescoed Life of St Benedict Spinello Aretino. Plus, the church’s slight removal and hilltop location make it an ideal spot to take in the city of Florence.