The awesomest way to get into Florence’s Churches for Free

You only have to pay for a couple of Florence’s lovely Renaissance churches, but unfortunately those are some of the best. San Lorenzo, Santa Croce, and Santa Maria Novella are gorgeous buildings filled with truly priceless artworks that yes, cost a few euro to get into. But if you’re paying close attention, sometimes you can get into these churches for free and get to hear lovely music to boot. The other night we went to a COMPLETELY FREE concert in San Lorenzo. The various music schools (for adults, these weren’t 8-year-olds on recorders) from around Tuscany held a series of concerts in the old Medici church that were free to the public.

Cosimo “il Vecchio,” got to rock out with his tomb out

It started at 9pm, so there were no guards around to tell me not to take pictures (they’re usually not allowed in San Lorenzo), which means I snapped away like a maniac. Unfortunately because of the low-light and my lack of photography prowess, the photos didn’t turn out very well:

kind of a terrible photo, but STILL it’s the INSIDE of San Lorenzo!

But the concert was charming. It started, in typical Italian fashion, at least twenty minutes late (apparently the school director was stuck in traffic) and at the end there were about seventeen different speeches. It was different types of flutes, piano and a soprano and the sound was huge when it filled up the grand space of the church. Before/after and in-between performing the musicians were waiting around in the Old Sacristy– they probably put their instruments down on the Giovanni di Bicci/Piccardia Bueri tomb! It’s so nice to see a Renaissance church in use as opposed to just a tourist destination. I wish I had known about the series of concerts before, I would have gone to every single one.

what’s up San Lorenzo transept in the direction of the New Sacristy??

We were sitting right below one of Donatello’s pulpits (you can see in the photo above that the other one is currently under restoration), which was exciting enough on its own, but it was amazing to hear the sounds of the music reverberating through the chapels and down the nave.

as art historian Ryan Gosling would say: “hey girl, let’s discuss the contradictions inherent in these canon-busting pulpits by one of the most canonical artists ever”

And luckily stuff like this happens in Florence all the time. You can find free music all over the city if you keep an eye out for it. There’s a church in the center that does organ concerts every single night. I’ve seen concerts at Orsanmichele and even the other evening in the Loggia dei Lanzi:

this must have been a junior high or high school orchestra, but the sound echoed through the piazza and was lovely enough to make you forget about the persistent rain.

I imagine its just part of the more familiar relationship to culture and art in everyday life that exists here and I am thrilled to benefit from it. So keep an eye out for fliers and posters when you’re entering/exiting churches or meandering around town: free music is waiting here for you everywhere and there are very few places on this entire earth where it’s nicer to hear music than in a Renaissance church.


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