One of the most striking and important churches in Florence, Santa Croce Basilica (Basilica di Santa Croce) is a classic example of Tuscan Gothic architecture. It’s also home to myriad works by Giotto, Gaddi, della Robbia, and Donatello, plus the tombs of numerous luminaries including Michelangelo, Galileo, Ghiberti, and Machiavelli.
Work on the Santa Croce Basilica began in 1294, though the facade and bell tower are 19th-century additions. The world’s largest Franciscan church, Santa Croce houses 16 chapels decorated with some of the most important Florentine fresco cycles dating from the 14th century. It’s part of a larger complex including a refectory, two cloisters, and the Museum of the Opera of Santa Croce.
The Santa Croce Basilica is a highlight of any visit to Florence, and many sightseeing walking tours and shore excursions include a stop at the basilica and adjacent complex along with other famous sights like the Uffizi and Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell'Accademia). Due to its artistic and historic importance, the church is among the most visited in the city and there are often long lines to enter; booking a guided tour with skip-the-line entrance in advance is a must in the crowded summer months.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Santa Croce Basilica is a must for all first-time visitors to Florence.
- The basilica requires modest clothing covering shoulders and knees to enter.
- No flash photography is allowed inside the church.
- Piazza Santa Croce, in front of the basilica, is lined with restaurants and cafés—perfect for a snack or drink before or after visiting the church.
- The basilica is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Santa Croce Basilica is located on Piazza Santa Croce in the historic center of Florence, just a short walk from the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria.
When to Get There
Florence is one of the most visited cities in Italy, and its main churches and monuments can be very crowded in summer. To enjoy the city sights in relative peace, schedule a visit for spring or fall. Piazza Santa Croce holds a charming Christmas market each year through the month of December, with stalls selling holiday decorations, artisan crafts, and seasonal foods.
Santa Croce’s Most Famous Tombs
Over the centuries, the Santa Croce Basilica became the prefered burial place for important Florentines and, later, notable Italians. The church is now home to dozens of tombs and funerary monuments honoring some of the most famous Italian artists and luminaries from Leonardo da Vinci to Enrico Fermi.