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Florence: 3 lesser-known churches with free admission

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Outisde the. Photos by Laura Mongillo.
Outisde the. Photos by Laura Mongillo.

Florence, along with the rest of Italy, is famous for its churches. Upon arriving in Florence, most tourists head to the Duomo for its giant brick dome, the Santa Maria Novella for its artwork, and Santa Croce for its crypt.

While these churches are the most well-known in Florence, they are certainly not the only ones—and in my opinion, not the most interesting ones. While the Duomo has free entrance, the inside is relatively sparse. Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are definitely worth a visit, but both require paid entry.

So, try to take a step away from the guidebook and visit these three interesting and peculiar (and admission-free) churches that you’ll find tucked away where you’d least expect them.

The Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano.

The Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano.

Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano
Piazza Antinori, Via Tornabuoni

While gazing longingly into the windows of the Hermès store, you might not notice this behemoth looming behind you. The Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, also known as San Michele degli Antinori, is a large, dark church of the Baroque style—one of the few Baroque churches in Florence.

Aside from its size and serious exterior, what I find particularly fascinating about this church is its opening hours. You will often find it open late in the evening, around 8 or 9 PM. Feel free to wander in and gaze at the interesting examples of 17th-century artwork so often ignored in the city.

Santa Margherita dei Cerchi
Via Santa Margherita, off of Via del Corso

From the winding, bustling Via del Corso, take a right onto a side street and you’ll find yourself in front of a small brick building that, aside from the signs, would not be easily identified as a church.

This miniscule church (pictured at top), while lacking in decoration, is rich with history. For anyone that’s heard of Dante’s famous love for Beatrice, this is reportedly the small church in which they met. As the story goes, Dante fell madly in love with the beautiful, nine-year-old Beatrice upon seeing her at mass one morning.

Inside the church, you will find a tomb supposedly belonging to Beatrice. Take a look at the basket placed nearby, as it’s filled with letters and notes addressed to Beatrice by visitors and students from around the world in appreciation of the work her beauty inspired.

Inside the Chiesa di Santi Apostoli.

Inside the Chiesa di Santi Apostoli.

Chiesa di Santi Apostoli
Piazza del Limbo

On the picturesque Piazza del Limbo, you’ll find one of Florence’s old bath houses, a fancy oil shop, a luxurious hotel, and also this small, well-maintained medieval church.

If you have one euro, use it to turn on the lights to see better. You will find a small, simple layout with exquisite carved and painted wooden beams, paintings from various time periods, and—my personal favorite—a brightly colored ceramic piece made by the Della Robbia family.

About the author

Laura Mongillo

About the author: Laura Mongillo holds an Undergraduate and Masters degree in Italian Studies from NYU and has been living in Florence, Italy for three years.

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