In Florence, you'll find art in museums, churches, palaces, streets and in its views. The city where the Renaissance flourished was modelled and recreated by the very artists it nurtured and educated. This constant exchange of greatness turned the urban landscape into a work of art. Much of its beauty can be seen for free as you wander the squares and admire the architecture, enter churches graced by the talent of the greatest painters and sculptors, observe the adornments on buildings and opt for free museums. 

    Treasures and collections can be seen in unbelievably elegant settings, and by following an itinerary of free sights you'll discover intriguing surprises and fascinating routes through parks or majestic cemeteries. Here are free (or almost free) sights in Florence.

    1

    Last Suppers of Fuligno, Sant'Apollonia, Ognissanti and Andrea del Sarto

    Check out intricate frescoes in the city-centre abbeys

    Art-lovers who want to discover 4 Ultime Cene (Last Suppers) in 4 Florentine abbeys, grab a map and walk through the centre. This long route shows off splendid Italian Renaissance masterpieces. Start with Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia (Last Supper of Sant'Apollonia) by Andrea del Castagno, near Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery) and Museo di San Marco (San Marco Museum). 

    Heading towards Santa Maria Novella, you'll reach Cenacolo di del Fuligno (Last Supper of Fuligno) by Pietro Perugino, in the refectory. Carry on towards the Arno and you'll reach Domenico Ghirlandoio’s Cenacolo di Ognissantie (Last Supper of Ognissanti). Last stop is San Salvi, for Andrea del Sarto’s Cenacolo (Last Supper). This one’s a bit different – Judas is seated next to Jesus, following da Vinci’s influence.

    Map

    photo by Sailko (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    Villa Favard

    A picnic among musical notes

    Villa Favard has Renaissance origins but was renovated at the end of the 19th century together with the surrounding park. A rendezvous for artists and intellectuals who frequented Baronesse Fiorella Favard’s salon, its cultural ties are still evident, as it's now the seat of the Conservatorio di Musica di Firenze (Music Conservatory of Florence). 

    Located in the eastern suburbs, this harmonious neoclassical palace has 4 internal storeys, although from the outside it appears to have 2. The surrounding park is a public space with picnic tables, a fitness trail, and a playground for children. On hot days when the Villa's windows are open, you can hear the conservatory students practising. It's a relaxing setting that's perfect for outings or picnics under centuries-old trees.

    Location: Via di Rocca Tedalda, 50136 Firenze FI, Italy

    Map

    photo by Sailko (CC BY 3.0) modified

    3

    Siviero House Museum

    See a spy house

    Fancy exploring a spy’s house? Visit Casa Siviero (Rodolfo Siviero House Museum) during your trip to Florence if you fancy exploring a spy's house. Siviero was a remarkable secret agent who was entrusted with retrieving stolen Italian artwork at the end of World War II. He’d proved his capabilities after the armistice by using his intelligence skills to save his country's artistic heritage. 

    This included successfully hiding L'Annunciazione (The Annunciation) by Fra Angelico upon discovering that Göring had ordered it to be brought to Germany. Cultured and sophisticated, he earned his reputation as Italy's James Bond by having both a way with ladies and adventurous methods for recovering vanished treasures. His home, along the river Arno’s left bank, now contains a museum where you can learn about this peculiar character and his amazing exploits.

    Location: Lungarno Serristori, 1/3, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

    Open: Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, Sunday–Monday from 10 am to 1 pm (closed Tuesdays to Fridays)

    Phone: +39 05 5234 5219

    Map

    photo by Sailko (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    4

    Churches of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity

    2 churches that are so near yet so far

    The churches of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity may face each other across the Arno and are connected by Ponte di Santa Trinita (St Trinity Bridge), but these 2 churches represent very distinct periods. Basilica di Santo Spirito (Basilica of the Holy Spirit) is a renaissance gem designed by Brunelleschi. Its treasures include a wooden crucifix by the young Michelangelo, Pala Nerli (Madonna with Child and Saints) by Filippino Lippi and sculptural and architectural features by Andrea Sansovino. 

    Don't miss the Chiostro dei Morti (Cloister of the Dead), so-called for its gravestone-lined walls. Basilica di Santa Trinita (Basilica of the Holy Trinity), despite its 16th-century facade, is Gothic in style. Inside is the counterfacade of the ancient Romanesque church and the Cappella Sassetti (Sassetti Chapel) with frescoes by Ghirlandaio illustrating the life of St Francis.

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    5

    Marino Marini Museum

    A church that became a factory, warehouse and museum

    Museo Marino Marini (Marino Marini Museum) was originally a church. It was called San Pancrazio and was deconsecrated in the Napoleonic era. It then became a tobacco factory,  a military warehouse, and now the museum. Despite being restored to suit modern purposes, its historic features have been enhanced. The 18th-century interior has been recovered, and traces from the industrial 19th century preserved. The exhibition space’s layout and significant displays make for a fascinating visit. 

    Marino Marini, one of the most important 20th-century Italian artists, has given Etruscan and medieval art a modern twist. You can observe sculptures from a 360° angle, turning them to examine every angle in different lights. Do you know how to reach San Pancrazio? It's located between Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) and Ponte Alla Carraia bridge.

    Location: Piazza di S. Pancrazio, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

    Open: Saturday–Monday from 10 am to 7 pm, Tuesday–Friday: by appointment only

    Phone: +39 055 219 432

    Map

    photo by Sailko (CC BY 3.0) modified

    6

    Martelli House Museum

    Art gallery in a noble residence

    The Martelli House Museum is one of Florence's most original exhibits. Located between Santa Maria del Fiore and Basilica di San Lorenzo (Basilica of St Lawrence), you've probably passed it when wandering the historic centre. Casa Martelli (Martelli House Museum) is an intriguing 18th-century building that belonged to a Florence noble. Over the centuries, they embellished the interior with extraordinary works of art. This museum has preserved its original residential characteristics and the antique splendour of its halls and rooms. 

    As well as paintings, you'll admire furniture, tapestries, rugs, artefacts and decor. The circular itinerary leads you through the ground floor rooms, decorated with trompe l’oeil and bucolic scenes. Climbing the elegant staircase will take you to the top floor, whose rooms and parlours house the painting collection.

    Location: Via Ferdinando Zannetti, 8, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +39 055 064 9420

    Map

    photo by sailko (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation

    A centre for worship and New Year's celebrations

    The striking Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata features a long portico in front of the facade and a circular gallery. The modest external features and materials contrast with the dazzling baroque interior, including stucco, marble and gilt chapels and nave. Paintings between the windows illustrate the Miracoli della Madonna (Miracles of the Madonna). 

    The adjacent abbey, gathered around 2 cloisters, is brimming with monuments and artwork. The Annunziata complex was once the heart of Florence’s religious life. It was used to celebrate the Tuscan New Year, according to a calendar (used in Florence until the second half of the 18th century) which starts the year on 25 March, the day of the Annunciation. A commemorative parade is still held in the basilica to mark the occasion.

    Location: Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

    Open: Daily from 7:30 am to 12.30 pm and from 4 pm to 6.30 pm

    Phone: +39 055 266 181

    Map
    8

    English Cemetery

    Where Lord Byron's ghost roams

    Curious types will appreciate the Cimitero degli Inglesi (English Cemetery), and not just for its name and location. Owned by the Swiss Evangelical Church, it's a burial ground for Protestants, with 16 nationalities among its deceased. So why’s it called the English Cemetery? In the 19th century, Florentines associated Protestantism with the Anglo-Saxon world, so the connotation was intuitive. Located in the avenues surrounding the centre, it’s a kind of roundabout within the busy Piazza Donatello. 

    It used to be outside the walls, but when these were demolished to create new urban spaces the graves and gravel paths came to be surrounded by the new road system. Artists and writers are buried here, including Lord Byron, and it's said his ghost still wanders the tombs.

    Location: Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 Firenze FI, Italy

    Open: Monday from 9 am to noon, Tuesday–Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +39 055 582 608

    Map

    photo by Samulili (CC BY 2.5) modified

    9

    Church of Orsanmichele

    When the pilgrims evicted the merchants

    Externally, the 3-story gothic Chiesa di Orsanmichele (Church of Orsanmichele) looks more like a civic palace than a church. Built in the 14th century for the grain market, the ground floor was used for selling grain and straw, the first was offices and the third was a warehouse. Its transition to a church began when miracles were attributed to the Madonna painted on a column in the internal loggia during the 1348 plague. 

    Pilgrims and prayers began to mingle with merchants, until the number of worshippers forced the business to move elsewhere, so the premises could be used for spiritual purposes. The statues that adorned the niches and columns along the outer walls are now housed in the museum on the upper floors.

    Location: Via dell'Arte della Lana, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +39 055 238 8606

    Map
    10

    The Fountain of the Piglet

    A ritual to appease the boar and bring good luck

    If you’re superstitious, stroke the piglet’s nose in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo’s fountain for good luck. The statue’s actually a boar, but for centuries it's been affectionately called Il Porcellino (Piglet). The original, a Roman marble model which Cosino de' Medici used to make a bronze copy, is in the Uffizi. The copy used to live in Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace) but was moved to the square and turned into a drinking fountain for merchants. 

    Other copies are scattered worldwide, but only this one is said to be lucky. To get in destiny’s good books, rub his nose and place a coin in his mouth. If it falls through the drain, the future's bright. But be careful: the gradient means only the heaviest coins will fall through.

    Location: Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

    Map

    photo by RalfSkjerning (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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