Hello Santa Maria Novella
The early impressions of many first-time visitors to Florence are often formed in and around Santa Maria Novella, as this is where the city's central train station is located. You could be forgiven for forgetting about the neighborhood if you moved swiftly on to take in the Duomo or Michaelangelo's David, but there is more to Santa Maria Novella than baggage-lugging tourists and commuting locals. The highlight is the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, which boasts an intricate facade matched only by the wonderful Gothic and early-Renaissance frescoes contained within. The adjoining Piazza Santa Maria Novella is one of the most pleasant squares in the city, closed off to traffic, hosting a number of fairs and events throughout the year, and with plenty of benches for when you want to want to sit down and watch the world go by.
The neighborhood gets a lot quieter between the piazza and the banks of the Arno river, however, which can provide welcome relief for those looking for some down time away from the city center. That said, you only need to walk east along the Arno for a few minutes before you turn left onto Via de' Tornabuoni, where you'll stroll past palaces and fashion stores on your way up back up to the city center.