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Discover Tuscany’s Hidden Renaissance Gems

If you want to experience Tuscany as a local (and jump the queues), avoid the galleries and museums, and visit the churches instead! Become an art aficionado by adding these beautiful sights to your next Italian holiday, and see the works of Giorgio Vasari, Michelozzo, Piero della Francesca and many more.

Here are seven must-see Tuscan religious buildings and where to find them:

Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

Santa Maria del Fiore

The cathedral of Florence is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Santa Maria del Fiore is the third largest church in the world – behind St. Peter’s of Rome, and St. Paul’s of London – dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore, the Virgin of the Flower, a reference to the lily, the symbol of the city

The building’s Gothic façade features pink, green, and white marble patterns designed to complement the cathedral’s 14th-century bell tower of Giotto. Inside you will find stunning mosaic pavements, frescoes, and great artworks such as the Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari.

Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Santa Maria Novella

Florence’s first basilica, Santa Maria Novella is one the most important Gothic churches in Tuscany. Built in the 14th-century, the Dominican church’s eye-catching green (serpentino) and white marble façade was designed by famed architect Leon Battista Alberti, also known for designing the Rucellai Palace’s façade.

The church, adjoining cloister, and chapter house boasts a wealth of extraordinary works of art, including a fresco of Ghirlandaio, Giotto’s crucifix, and Masaccio’s Trinita.

Santa Croce, Florence

Santa Croce

This striking Gothic building, also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories, is home to the many tombs of great artists such as Machiavelli, Galileo, and Michelangelo.

After the great Arno flood of 1966, Santa Croce was seriously damaged. Though much of the church has been restored, many of the works will never be the same. The church may be closed to visitors at present, but it’s still worth visiting to see the stunning architecture and neo-Gothic glory.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

San Miniato al Monte

One of the most beautiful and spiritual places in Florence, San Miniato is home to the Olivetan monks, known for their honey and herbal teas.

Inside, you’ll find the crypt decorated with frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi, and spectacular Cappella del Crocifisso by Michelozzo. Surrounding the church is a monumental cemetery, home to renowned men and women, including Carlo Collodi, author of Pinocchio.

Church of San Francesco, Arezzo

Church of San Michele in Foro

Arguably one Lucca’s most remarkable churches, the building dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, is a marble might. Be sure to bring along a pair of binoculars to truly appreciate the intricate details of the architecture!

The Church of San Michele’s most notable work of art is the Pala Magrini by Filippino Lippi, with the portraits of the Four Saints: Roch, Sebastian, Jerome, and Helen, completed during Lippi’s apprenticeship in Botticelli’s workshop.

Church of San Francesco, Arezzo

Church of San Francesco

Home of one the best frescoes in Tuscany, The Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca, the Church of San Francesco is a must-see. A gifted and original artist of the Early Renaissance, Piero’s work needs to be seen in real life to be truly valued.

Cathedral of San Stefano, Prato

Cathedral of Santo Stefano

Located in Piazza Duomo, this unique green and white structure was sculpted by Renaissance masters, Michelozzo and Donatello.

Inside, you can find a multiplicity of Renaissance paintings, frescoes, and statues, including works by Filippo Lippi, Agnolo Gaddi, Giovanni Pisano. All of which can be enjoyed away from the crowds of the museums and galleries.

Which of these beautiful masterpieces will you be adding to your bucket list in 2018? We’d love to hear!

Image credit: Massimilianogalardi,  and Jean-Christophe BENOIST.