The areas around stations in Italy are often not the tidiest (or safest) parts of town and whilst you should keep your wits – and your wallet – about you in Florence’s Santa Maria Novella, the newly renovated piazza is a complete contrast to what many people expect. Exit from the station and go south and you enter the piazza along the side of the church. Here you can plant yourself in one of these cafes that have yet to display the ridiculous prices of their counterparts in piazze such as Signoria – where €20 for 2 cappuccini is not unheard of – and do some people watching.
The church can be entered from the north side of the Piazza and frequently there is a tiny queue here when the queue for the Duomo is very long indeed. Since the grass was added in 2010, the piazza is a much nicer place to sit out, especially in the evening. It now feels a more complete part of the city and demonstrates that although Florence was the central light of the Renaissance, the city continues to develop and adapt to the modern visitor.