Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 14, 2012

The beautiful San Miniato high above Florence

On a recent trip to Florence I went up to the Piazza Michelangelo high above gorgeous Florence. From here it is possible to enjoy spectacular views over the city.



You can really appreciate the size and grandeur of the Duomo in Florence from a distance.


The Ponte Vecchio looks great from above as well.

If you keep walking a little further uphill from the Piazza you come to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte.


There are a few steps to climb but it is worth the effort.



The beautiful facade has golden mosaics in the Byzantine style set in a stark geometric pattern. Watching over from the top is the bronze eagle of the Calimala Art Guild, wool merchants who were patrons of the church…an early form of advertising.

The oldest record of the church dates back to 783AD in a Charlemagne document. In 1018 the Florentine bishop Ildebrando decided to construct a new basilica over the tumble down ruins. It was built in the Romanesque style, thought to be a more fitting place to preserve the relics of San Miniato which the bishop found under the “holy gate” at the front of the church. Legend tells that the heroic Armenian soldier, San Miniato, was beheaded by Roman soldiers on the banks of the Arno because of his faith in Christ. He picked up his severed head and took himself up the hill to be buried….a likely story. Anyway, the church is very grand and a fitting tribute to the brave soldier.


The interior is spectacular from floor to ceiling.



The beautiful carpet of marble was made in 1207.



The ceiling has painted wooden beams.

There are lovely paintings and frescoes throughout the church.





There is a crypt where the relics of San Miniato are now buried.


The Apse is unusually on an upper level reached via 2 stairways on either side of the church. San Miniato is represented in 13th century mosaics.


The presbytery to the right of the Apse is especially lovely.







The Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal was built between 1461 and 1466 to house the body of a young clergyman. He rests under the gaze of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus sculpted by Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino.



To the side and the back of the church is a beautiful cemetery.


It is pity the residents don’t get to enjoy the view.


Some tombs are very elaborate.







And some are much more simple.


Be sure to walk that little bit further on from Piazza Michelangelo to see this lovely church. At 5.30pm every day there is a celebration of Vespers and Eucharist with Gregorian chant.


  1. One of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited 😉 Great shots!

    • Florence is a beautiful city and the weather was perfect on the day I went up to the church.

  2. I love that church, nicely hidden away from the city. Beautiful photos!

    • The church is incredible. I have been to the church before but last time it was closed. I’m so glad I found it open this time.

  3. i love love LOVE florence!!! I was there in January, my mom and I took that hike up to that Basilica – it was VERY worth it! We were told that if we made it by 5:30pm we could hear the monks practicing their singing and chants. We made it…only couldn’t figure out where they were singing. No matter – the view at dark was PHENOMENAL! probably my favorite. your photos take me back!….

    • I will have to go back in the evening.

  4. I don’t think a lot of tourist know about this beautiful place…when we were there for a visit there were many people. Either that, or we were at the right place at the right time.

    • I meant to say that there were NOT many people there when we visited. Sorry about that.

    • It was practically empty the day I went.Perhaps in summer it is busier.

  5. Gorgeous shots, Debra. That bucket list keeps growing and growing! LOL

    • This church and the piazza should be on the list.

      • I’ll be sure to add them both!

  6. God, I want to visit Florence. Stunning photos, Deb. I love the marble carpet.

    • The church is full of treasures, I loved the marble carpet too, and the ceiling, and the crypt…..

  7. It’s no wonder why I visited Florence three times. My main aim is always this overlooking view of Florence. It’s good when you have already scan the places, then you go up. It is just such a very pleasant sight.

    • The view from the Piazza Michelangelo is spectacular, especially on a fine day.

  8. Your rewards of many visits to Florence.

    • I go at least once a week while I am in Italy. I never get tired of Florence.

  9. Just amazing. You must be mind boggled with all the wonderful exciting things you see. Send some Italy my way please. 🙂

    • I am wishing some your way right now.

  10. Something else for me to do before I leave!!!

    • You must visit this church!

  11. How lovely to get to see Florence so often. The view from San Minato looks spectacular; I smiled when I read that *the residents* cannot enjoy it.

    • The view of Florence from the piazza and the church is spectacular.

  12. Florence is beautiful. Great pics

    • Thank you. I think it would be difficult to get a bad picture of Florence.

  13. Those steps are definitely worth it! The views are breathtaking and your eye for detail is always a joy. I love that side of the Arno!

    • There is a bus that will take you up to the piazza and then it is a short walk to the church.

      • Silly me walked all the way. I can’t help myself!

  14. I loved that church and the little gargoyles outside above the doors. Your photos are great!

    • I love the details in these places. I liked the faces at either side of the tomb. They were doing a fine job of guarding the contents.

  15. Stunning pictures, Debra! I remember catching a glimpse of Florence from the train and feeling very excited to visit this wonderful place. I’m still awestruck at the preservation of such old buildings dating back to the early centuries and still retain their charm. Those buildings have seen the changes of times and the ravages of weather. The artists within leave lasting legacies of their visions and artwork for us morals to enjoy at leisure. Was it Dante who fell in love with the beautiful Beatrice while strolling along the Arno? I love Rosselini’s sculpture of the beatific Virgin broken by age but still just as lovely – I wonder who was the model the brothers were inspired to portray?

    • We are lucky these buildings are still around for us to admire. I think it is amazing that they still look so wonderful.

  16. San Miniato is such a beautiful church. I’m surprised also that a lot of people do not take the short walk from Piazza Michelangelo to visit. One of my favourite restaurants is further up the hill, so a stop at Piazza Michelangelo is always on the itinerary

    • I am surprised that the church is not busier. Perhaps it is just that little bit too far from the main places of interest.

  17. With all of your beautiful photographs, you should publish them in a book,
    I would love to have all of your photos.

    • Thank you for the lovely compliment. It would need to be a big book or there would have to be some serious editing.

      • I would like the big book!

  18. Deb, I truly adore Florence! Thanks for sharing and it looks like you have nice weather!

    • The weather for the last couple of weeks has been perfect. The nights and mornings are still cold, but the days are lovely.

  19. Oh how wonderful would it be to hear the Gregorian chant!

    • That would be lovely.I am rarely in Florence in the evening, but it would be worth staying the night to go there.

    • It is – as a student of music, hearing this ancient Latin plainsong is simply indescribable. Oh to live in florence and be able to hear this often…

      • Our ghivizzano choir sometimes goes in for plainsong and S Miniato is the ideal place to hear and sing it

  20. This photographs bring back some great memories .
    In 1980 while traveling in a small camper van around Europe
    with my beautiful new wife, we stayed at ” Camping Michelangelo “,
    not far from the piazza. Every day on our walk down to the centre
    we stopped at the piazza to admire the views and take photos.
    We have been back to Florence a few times and always make sure
    we walk back up there , it is just a feast for the eyes.
    Looking forward to be there again soon.
    ( I just wish I was 32 years younger.)

    • How lovely that you are still together and still travelling and seeing great things.

  21. It’s really breathtaking the amount of detail and how elaborate the work is here! I can imagine you took a huge amount of photos to capture it all!

    • I always take far too many photos!

  22. Thank you for a beautiful post and pictures. We go to San Miniato quite often, as you never get tired of the lovely views. I did not know about the Vespers and Eucharist with Gregorian Chant, which I admire. I will not miss it next time!

    • It really is the best place to see all of Florence.

  23. What a beautiful church and such lovely photos, another reason to return to Florence.

    • There are so many reasons to be in Florence.

  24. Thank you Deb -this is a wonderful blog on Florence – cannot believe I will be there with you after Easter.

  25. I have to say that I really enjoy reading your blog – there are a number of places that you feature that I have been to, but alas so long ago that I have long forgotten place names and specific details. I still have all the photos, so I am able to correlate them with your posts to bring back some lovely memories! This church was definitely worth the hike to get there!
    Thanks Debra 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind comments. I love this church and I am surprised it was so empty.

  26. […] up to the exquisite San Miniato to see the church and the gorgeous views over Florence. Click here to see more on this amazing […]

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