In addition to being gathering spots for locals and tourists, many of the public squares or piazzas of Florence are outdoor galleries. Following is a list of some of the most significant squares in Florence and what you will find in them.
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Florence's most historically significant square, the Piazza della Signoria has long been a gathering place for Florentines and visitors. In the shadow of the Palazzo Vecchio, the wide square has been a site for political rallies, festivals, and for the infamous "Bonfire of the Vanities" during the 15th century. Several beautiful statues from the Renaissance era decorate the Piazza della Signoria and it is next to one of Florence's most important attractions, the Uffizi Gallery.
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Piazza del Duomo
This is a rather small square in terms of walking space in that it is largely occupied by the cathedral complex that includes the Duomo, Baptistery, and Campanile. Adjacent to Piazza del Duomo, and often considered part of the square, is Piazza San Giovanni. The Baptistery, one of the oldest buildings in Florence, technically sits in Piazza San Giovanni. Thus, this district of Florence is also known as the San Giovanni quarter.
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The Piazza della Repubblica is a vast space surrounded by bustling (and expensive) cafés and chic hotels. The square sits in the historical center of the city, a few blocks from the Duomo and at the intersection of two ancient Roman roads, the Cardo and the Decumanus. Unfortunately, neither the ancient nor medieval remains in this piazza as it was restructured in the 19th century during the short period when Florence became the capital of a unified Italy. A redeeming quality: there is a lovely carousel in the square that kids will enjoy.
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Piazza Santa Croce
East of Piazza della Signoria and not far from the banks of the Arno, Piazza Santa Croce is one of the largest squares in Florence. It regularly hosts festivals, concerts, and rallies, including the terrific Calcio Storico match which has locals playing soccer (football) in traditional dress. Surrounded by medieval buildings with the massive Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce at one end, the piazza been a focal point of civic life since the 13th century.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Piazza Santissima Annunziata
A rather small square tucked into the northeastern quadrant of the city near San Marco and the Accademia, Piazza Santissima Annunziata is named after the 13th century church of the same name. The piazza is particularly beautiful because both the Santissima Annunziata church and the Ospedale degli Innocenti, a 15th century hospital/orphanage designed by Brunelleschi, are defined by harmonious arcades. The latter, which today contains a small picture gallery on its upper floor, is also decorated with round terracotta reliefs designed by Andrea della Robbia. In the center of the square is an equestrian statue of Grand Duke Ferdinand I by Giambologna and two fountains by Pietro Tacca.
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Piazza Santo Spirito
Piazza Santo Spirito is named after the Santo Spirito church, but it should derive its name from the spirited cafés and markets that call this square home. Located on the Oltrarno (across the Arno) side of Florence, Piazza Santo Spirito is favored by Florentines because of its daily food market, which is open from 8 am to 2 pm, and its relatively non-touristy bars, restaurants, and cafés. On Sundays, Piazza Santo Spirito hosts a second-hand market with antiques and other bric-a-brac and in the summers, you can occasionally find live music in the square.
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High above the city is Piazzale Michelangelo, a required stop for coach tours of Florence. The square contains a fantastic panoramic view of the city and a copy of Michelangelo's David statue. Other than that, the square is littered with souvenir vendors and overflowing with cars and buses.