Santa Maria Novella is one of Florence’s most beautiful and—as the city’s first basilica—most important churches. With a striking Gothic-Renaissance facade, interior chapels housing artistic masterpieces, and Dominican cloisters, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is one of the main sights in Tuscany’s capital city.
The basilica’s unique green-and-white geometric marble facade, designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the 15th century, immediately draws the eye. Yet the most important art decorates the church’s central nave and a number of chapels inside, most famously the Filippo Strozzi Chapel, the Spanish Chapel, and the Tornabuoni Chapel. Highlights include Masaccio’s Holy Trinity, a crucifix by Giotto, Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Birth of the Virgin Mary, and works by masters like Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Brunelleschi, Nardo di Cione, and Michelangelo. Adjacent to the church, the Green Cloister was built for the resident Dominican Friars in the 14th century and decorated with frescoes by Paolo Uccello.
With its wealth of architecture and art, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is as much a museum as it is a church, and is best visited with an expert guide to fully appreciate its importance. Walking tours of the historic center can include the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella with other Florentine landmarks like the Duomo and Uffizi Gallery.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Like most Italian churches, the basilica requires modest clothing covering shoulders and knees to enter.
- No flash photography or videos are allowed inside the church.
- Piazza Santa Maria Novella in front of the basilica is lined with restaurants and cafés, perfect for a quick bite before or after visiting the church.
- The basilica is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
The basilica is located on Piazza di Santa Maria Novella in the historic center of Florence, just across the street from the main Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station.
When to Get There
Florence is one of the most visited cities in Italy, and its sights can be very crowded in the summer. To enjoy the basilica and other sights in relative peace, schedule a visit for spring or fall.
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica, part of the Santa Maria Novella complex, was founded by Dominican Friars around 1221 and is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The shop still produces perfumes and natural body products, which you can purchase in the ornate historic sales rooms.