Santa Maria Novella

The Piazza Santa Maria Novella is a lively area with open air restaurants and shops and lots of open space to rest your weary feet! It is a short 5 minute walk from the train station.  I was blown away by the beauty of the Gothic Basilica’s decorative marble facade. Did you know that the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella is the most ancient apothecary in the world. (keep reading)


It is hard to describe the immense scale of this church! This church is a hybrid of various styles. You see the Gothic style with the pointed arch niches and decorative marble patterns. The central doorway has Corinthian columns and a triangular pediment. The ‘S’ curve scrolls on either side of the upper story had no precedent in architecture. The facade is inlaid with green and white marble.  The interior has a central nave and two side aisles and looks longer than it is due to the spacing of the columns. The interior style is Florentine Gothic with highlights that include a 14th century stained glass rose window and 15th century frescoes and Brunelleschi’s famous wood crucifix carved around 1410.


The Basilica is home to many art treasures found in the Great Cloister and Refectory like the extraordinary frescoes that date back to the first half of the 15th century. The church was built between 1279 and 1357 by the Dominican monks.



The amazing frescoes that adorn the church walls

Giotto’s Crucifix

Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella

Brunelleschi’s Crucifix

The Cloister of the Dead was as it sounds the principal place for burials for the city’s upper class medieval families between the 13th and 14th centuries. This is quite depressing and gloomy but interesting and worth your time.

Churches burial-1.jpg

The Cloister of the Dead

The Great Cloister has 56 bays and was built between 1340 and 1360.  It is very moving to walk through the churches and thru the streets of Florence and think of all that came before us.  The walls are also covered in frescoes paid for by Florentine families and the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici.

Santa Maria Novella The Great Cloister


Aqua Di Rose (Awesome birthday present!!)

“It was 1221 when Dominican friars came to Florence to found a new convent. Much has happened since then, but Santa Maria Novella is still going strong, making the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella the most ancient apothecary in the world.” 

There are many, many enticing choices to chose from at this famous pharmacy! Are you considering old-fashioned soaps, potpourris, moisturizers, oils, fragrances? you name it!

“The long history of rose

The rose has a long history, dating back to the Sumerians. It is mentioned in the Iliad. In 5th century BC China, rose essence was used exclusively by the emperor and the nobility at court.

It was also used widely in ancient Rome: rose petals were strewn on the roads for holidays, and at banquets garlands of roses were worn and rose water was sprinkled on the guests. There is evidence in the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella archives that the Dominican monks of Santa Maria Novella sold rose water as far back as 1381.

In flower symbolism, the meaning of the rose varies depending on the colour. White roses symbolise innocence, red roses passion, and yellow roses unfaithfulness and jealousy.” (from Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella website)

Acqua di Rose

“A centuries old tradition made from Rosa centifolia (or May rose), with refreshing and toning properties. The first recorded evidence of the production of perfumed waters with medicinal properties dates back to 1381. During the 1381 plague Rose Water, a simple yet very unique product, was used for the sanitisation of rooms and spaces, and as a light medication to be drunk with wine or taken in pills.”


Need some help with your Italian? Some useful words or phases are:

Yes – Si (See); No – No (Noh); Please – Per favore (Pehr-fah-voh-reh); Thank you – Grazie (Grah-tsee-eh; I don’t understand – Non capisco (Non rah-pee-skoh); Good morning – Buon giorno (Bwohn-johr-noh); Good afternoon – Buona sera (Bwoh-nah-seh-rah) – If you find this helpful let me know and I will continue to add Italian words and phrases to the blogs. 

Did you miss the blogs on Hidden Treasures in FlorenceRestaurant Lingo in Italy; Venice? Amalfi Coast? Puglia? Here you go! More from Tuscany:  Florence- The Historic Center;  Florence and The Renaissance

Before leaving Florence be sure to see The David at the Galleria dell’Accademia.  Even the lines are worth the wait.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Consider a day trip up into the hills to visit the ancient city of Fiesole with its Roman ruins and I hope you had a chance to have the dish of Florence: the Bistecca all Fiorentina.  The biggest steak you will ever get!