With so many unforgettable sights in Florence, it’s tempting to skip San Miniato al Monte, perched high up on a hilltop in the outskirts of the city. However, the church’s stunning 13th-century mosaic and sweeping views over Florence make the effort well worth your while.
Work on the church of San Miniato al Monte, considered among the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany, began in the 11th century where St. Minias is said to have died. Both the facade and the interior are decorated with intricate geometric patterns of green and white marble, and the apse is covered by an opulent 1297 mosaic. (The facade’s marble patterns are very similar to those of the churches of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella in the city’s historic center.) The church’s crypt almost certainly does not contain the bones of San Miniato, as many claim, but it is decorated with frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi.
Since San Miniato al Monte is slightly outside the center of Florence, it’s the perfect destination for a sightseeing tour on wheels, be it by Vespa, electric bike, or vintage Fiat 500. It’s also a pleasant uphill walk from the historic center, so consider joining a walking tour that takes you across the Arno and up to the church.
Things to Know Before You Go
If you are walking up to San Miniato, wear comfortable shoes, and bring a hat and sunscreen in the summer.
The ground floor of the church is accessible to wheelchair users; there is no ramp down to the crypt or up to the presbytery.
There are a number of restaurants and cafés lining Piazzale Michelangelo, perfect for a repast before or after touring the church.
How to Get There
San Miniato al Monte sits along Via delle Porte Sante and above Piazzale Michelangelo, a popular scenic overlook with views of Florence stretching from the Rose Garden over Ponte Vecchio to the historic center. You can reach the church by bus, car, bike, or on foot. Adjacent to the church is a monastery where monks produce artisan honey and liqueurs, which are available for purchase in the shop nearby, and the 15th-century cloister and cemetery where Carlo Collodi—the creator of Pinocchio—is buried.
When to Get There
By far the best time to visit the church is late afternoon, so you can watch the breathtaking sunset over Florence from the square below after your tour.
The Chapel of the Crucifix
Inside San Miniato al Monte, the freestanding Chapel of the Crucifix (Cappella del Crocifisso), designed by Michelozzo in 1448, originally housed the crucifix now in the Church of the Santa Trìnità. The miraculous crucifix is decorated with works by Agnolo Gaddi and Luca della Robbia.