Over the weekend, I was able to take a day trip away from Rome to visit Florence. Florence is fairly close to Rome, and if you’re up for doing a rapid tour and lots of walking you can see the major sites in one day. Many come to Florence for the famous galleries, specifically the Uffizi gallery which features the art of Da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, and many others, or the Accademia Galleria which contains the original David by Michelangelo as well as many plaster works by Bartoloni. Others come to shop at the many trendy stores, some of which were closed to the public while I was there due to Madonna doing some private shopping of her own, and open air discount leather markets that fill the street with a new leather smell.
I came for the famous crypts of the best and brightest of Italy’s Renaissance. In addition to living in Florence during this period of rebirth, many of its scholars and artists were also buried there. Whether their burials were preserved though is quite another story altogether. Below I’m going to discuss some of the more famous burials you may wish to visit on your trip to Florence.
Florence Cathedral: The cathedral, more commonly referred to as the Duomo, was designed in the 13th century by Cambio, completed structurally in the 15th century by Brunelleschi, and was given its elaborate Gothic Revival facade in the 19th cenutry by De Fabris. It is quite easily the most impressive structure in Florence, and also the most easy to spot from a distance. The crypt below includes burials of the Florentine bishops, the architect Brunelleschi, and both Pope Nicholas II and Pope Stephen IX. It is an interesting contrast of the simple and austere burials found in the crypt beneath such an elaborate and extravagant cathedral. As you head out from the cathedral, make sure to check out the Last Judgement painted on dome which includes some wonderful images of skeletons
Basilica of Santa Croce: This is the mecca for the famous dead in Florence, and should be visited by any true lover of the Italian scholarship and art. The building was constructed in the late 13th century for a Franciscan order who hoped to be closer to the poor, and is more austere and smaller in comparison to the cathedral. It was a popular place for worship and burial because of its wealthy and famous patrons. Now it is the resting place of those considered to be the great minds of Italy, including Leon Battista Alberti the architect, Eugenio Barsanti the co-inventor of the internal combustion engine, Dante Alighieri the author of the Divine Comedy, Galileo Galilei the astronomer, Michelangelo Buonarroti the painter and sculptor, and Gioacchino Rossini the composer of the Barber of Seville. Now, this aren’t all complete burials of these individuals. Dante is actually buried in Ravenna and only a monument is located here. Galileo is missing a finger that was removed at his funeral as a memento, and it can be found at Florence’s Galileo Museum.
Medici Chapel: Located near the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the tombs house the remains of the Medici family, one of the great wealthy and ruling families of Italy, especially during the Renaissance period. The tombs are magnificently painted by artists like Michelangelo and crypts designed by architects like Buontalenti. The sarcophagi are quite exquisite and you should take the time to check out the saintly relics stashed away in glass eggs. There is a range of variation in style and form, but all of their mortuary pieces are quite grand.
St. Ursula Convent: While sadly I was not able to visit this church, I would love for someone to and report on what they find there. Beneath the flooring of their chapel, a burial was found that was potentially identified as Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, or the model for the Mona Lisa. While this is now questioned, the digging has continued since they know her burial is somewhere in the church. I would love to know if anything is actually occurring there now, or if they are showing anything from the burial!
Although it is unrelated to bones, you should end your day in Florence by heading up to the Piazzale Michelangelo where you can take postcard perfect photos of the entire city.