Few Steps away from N4U Guest House, our Bed and Breakfast and the train station Santa Maria Novella, a masterpiece of 20th-century rationalist architecture, stands the basilica after which it is named. Santa Maria Novella is the 13th-century church of the Dominican Order, with a fine façade in green and white marble. The Gothic interior is very beautiful, with numerous frescoes and masterpieces of Renaissance art. Attached to it is the museum of the same name.
Through narrow, picturesque alleys you reach Via Tornabuoni, the most fashionable shopping street in Florence, which backs the great Palazzo Strozzi. Commissioned by Benedetto da Maiano to Filippo Strozzi, it is one of the outstanding Renaissance buildings in the city. Its many fine rooms play host to a succession of art exhibitions, while the ample courtyard of the Palace is always open. Going on our way to Piazza della Repubblica we find ourselves in what was the heart of Florence in Roman times, though the present piazza is the result of 19th-century town planning. Returning to Piazza del Duomo and crossing it, straight ahead in Via Martelli you will soon find on your left another great Renaissance building, Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Cosimo “il Vecchio” de’ Medici commissioned it from Michelozzo in the mid-15th century. In fact the Medici left their mark on this whole area of the city. This Palazzo, which is the seat of the Province of Florence, is also a museum with splendidly decorated rooms and the wonderful Chapel frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli. If you have no time for a visit you should at least take a look at the courtyard.
Two places with close ties to this Palace are the nearby Church of San Lorenzo and the Monastery of San Marco. San Lorenzo was the family church of the Medici family. In its present form it was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, and is a superlatively pure example of Renaissance architecture. The façade has remained unfinished, while the interior contains numerous masterpieces of the art of painting. The church is surrounded by other notable places, such as the Biblioteca Mediceo Laurenziana and the Medici Chapels, including the Old Sacristy, another masterpiece by Michelangelo. The whole area is enlivened by day with a colourful market of clothing and accessories, which is very popular with tourists.
Returning to Palazzo Medici and continuing along Via Cavour you reach Piazza San Marco, one side of which is occupied by the church and monastery of San Marco. The monastery (of the Dominicans of Fiesole) was an active intellectual centre in the city, with Cosimo il Vecchio investing generously in its enlargement and embellishment. The Museum housed in the monastery is remarkable for the Renaissance frescoes of Beato Angelico.