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San Lorenzo Quarter, Florence, Italy Travel Guide, touring Piazza San Lorenzo, visiting San Lorenzo Quarter - Indian Chief Travel
ITALY  |  Florence, Italy Travel Guide
Monday, June 17, 2024
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San Lorenzo Quarter

Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy (cc)
Photo: Sailko

San Lorenzo Quarter

Piazza San Lorenzo

[ Related page: Best of Florence ]

There is a fascinating side of history and art to be discovered in the Renaissance-rich quarters of San Lorenzo (traditionally known as the Medici quarter), San Marco and Piazza SS. Annunziata. Traditionally the domain of the Medici, this is the quarter that most bears the imprint of Cosimo Il Vecchio, whose passion for urban architecture saw the construction of many churches, palazzi and libraries by the best artists and architects of the time. These are also the centers of much of Florence’s contemporary life with the bustle of the Mercato Centrale (the central market) and the University keeping the streets moving. Just a little apart from the historical center, the area of Santa Croce to its southeast is the centerpiece of a web of medieval streets leading to another of Florence’s popular museums, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello.

Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Piazza San Lorenzo)

Start your tour outside the unfinished façade of San Lorenzo, easily missed by the lively market stalls that cover the square before it. At one time the city’s cathedral, this is one of the oldest sanctuaries in town and best reflects the pretensions of Cosimo I, who employed the biggest artists of the Renaissance to modify and restructure it in the 15th century. Brunelleschi can be thanked for its elegant geometric architecture. His superb cubic Sagrestia Vecchia (Old Sacristy), decorated by Donatello, flanks the left side and is considered one of his best works. Michelangelo is responsible for the Cappelle Medicee (Medici Chapel), made of marble and studded with semi-precious stones. This Medici family mausoleum adjoins the church. It is also home to some of Michelangelo’s principal sculptures (above) with the frosty figures of Day and Night on the tomb of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and those of Dawn and Dusk on that of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino. It is also the resting place of Lorenzo Il Magnifico and brother Giuliano, who met his end during the ill-fated Pazzi Conspiracy. To the left of the church is the Laurentian Library, also the work of Michelangelo, and home to the Medici’s fine collections of books and manuscripts. It offers lovely views over the adjacent 15th-century cloister designed by Manetti.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi and the Cappella dei Magi

Via dei Gori takes you right from Piazza San Lorenzo to Via Cavour alongside the famous paradigm of Florentine Renaissance palaces, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, whose “rusticated” stonework, was the inspiration for the design of both the Palazzo Pitti and the Palazzo Strozzi (see page 54). Constructed under orders of Cosimo Il Vecchio between 1444 and 1462 by Michelozzo to serve as a family home near to the family church, it passed to the Riccardi family in the 17th century. They renovated and enlarged it to the extent that only the chapel remains intact of the original work, fortunately retaining the Benozzo Gozzoli fresco of the Journey of the Magi (above, 1460). Today the building is the home of Florence’s Prefecture. You can visit the palazzo’s peaceful inner courtyard and its 17th-century first-floor lobby, which has a Fra Filippo Lippi Madonna and Child.

Last updated June 17, 2011
Posted in   Italy  |  Florence
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