If this shot above were wider, then just a bit to the right you would see Florence’s iconic Duomo, capping the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Pictured here, however, a very similar-in-“miniature” dome graces the Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes), one of two structures comprising the Medici Chapels in the complex of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, final resting place of many members of Florence’s Medici family.
San Lorenzo is said to be one of the oldest churches in Florence, dating back to 393 and a time when it was beyond the walls of the city. Centuries later, in 1419, reconstruction began with a pledge from Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, the family patriarch who founded the Medici bank.
The chapels came along in the 1500s and 1600s, “with the purpose of celebrating the Medici family.”
The basilica is in a bustling district of the city, not far from the Duomo and in the heart of all things Medici. If you find yourself in Florence with a few extra hours, there is plenty to see in this part of town. Within the vast grounds is the basilica itself, the Laurentian Library (designed by Michelangelo), and the Medici Chapels containing the tomb of Lorenzo the Magnificent, among other family members. Since San Lorenzo was the Medici family’s neighborhood parish, just across the way is their former home, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, now a museum open to the public.
Not to be missed is the Mercato Centrale, the Central Market, a lively food hall with every type of local offering, including produce, olives and oils, spices, meats and wines (not to mention the entertaining and spunky merchants!) You can see the indoor market building in the second photo above, it’s the big rectangular building with the green metal roof in the upper right corner.
For a different type of shopping, the open air San Lorenzo market (just outside of Mercato Centrale) is irresistable. It features stalls and stalls of leather goods such as bags, belts, journals and other suitcase-sized Florentine mementos.
The Medici were, essentially, Florence’s first family for roughly 300 years, until Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the last family member, died on February 18, 1743. More about her and her legacy to Florence coming soon!