Santa Maria Novella District

The district of Santa Maria Novella is located in the north-west side of the historic center of Florence, and it is named after the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and its charming square. The Basilica, of Dominican Order, was completed in the year 1360. Inside can be admired frescos of Botticelli, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio, Vasari and many other architectural works of Brunelleschi, Giambologna and Buontalenti. The Romanesque-Gothic facade was built in different phases and finished by Leon Battista Alberti around the year 1470. 

The square of Santa Maria Novella, surrounded by historic buildings, gardens, fountains and obelisks, was enlarged several times. Since medieval times it was used to celebrate festivals and other major city events, one of the most important was the Palio dei Cocchi (discontinued in 1858), a race of horse-drawn wagons that travelled at a gallop three laps of the elliptical square. The square has been recently restored with a cleaner look, art sculptures and design benches make it a nice place to rest after a day of touring around.

The Tourist information Office is located right at the back of the Santa Maria Novella Church. It is located right outside the Railway Station passing through the Gardens and Taxi stand on the right side of the Station itself. 

In via della Scala 16, (turn right in SMN square with the Church at your back) you should pay a visit to the Farmacia of Santa Maria Novella, an ancient Pharmacy still producing soaps and toiletries with traditional herbal recipes, the most famous is their cologne sold in specialty stores all over the world. 

From SMN Square, proceeding south towards the river Arno, on Via de’ Fossi, there are a variety of the most beautiful antique art shops in Florence, here you can find sculptures, rugs, paintings and all kinds of furniture quite typical of Florence.
During Summer time Hotel Minerva opens its roof top terrace with swimming-pool (only Thursdays), for a special aperitivo with music and food. In the Square there are many other Hotels offering a beautiful view of the Church, such as Hotel L'Orologio and JK Place to name a few, here you can have a great aperitivo and quick lunch with a view... 
On the north side of the Railway Station, opposite direction to the Santa Maria Novella Square, is located the Fortezza da Bassohome to major Fairs such as Pitti Immagine Fashion Fair events (Pitti Uomo, Pitti Filati etc), craft and technological festivals. Fortezza da Basso is a renaissance military Fort built in the mid of 1500 during the Medici period. The position of Fortezza da Basso makes it very easy for visitors to attend the Fairs arriving by train,  you can just walk to the Fair (5 Minutes walk) and go back in the same day