Florence, like any other Italian city, is full of churches. The oldest and most famous ones are often surrounded by lines of tourists waiting to have a peek at the art displayed and their inner architectural beauty. It is easy sometimes to forget that these incredible buildings were built as places of worship. If you are a Catholic travelling to Tuscany, you might be interested in attending mass in an awe-inspiring church.
In Florence, there are two places that offer a mass in English: the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral and the Santi Apostoli church.
Santa Maria del Fiore
The Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral is known by most as the Florence Cathedral or Duomo. This incredible place of worship was completed in the 15th century and boasts some masterpieces by artists like Donatello, Della Robbia and many others. It has become one of the greatest tourist attractions in Florence with swarms of people queueing to visit the inside of the church or equally famous baptistry. It is a little known fact that at 5 pm on Saturday afternoons or on the eve of Holy Days of Obligation a mass is held in English. This is a great opportunity to visit the Duomo for its intended purpose and enjoy the amazing acoustics of the place.
The Santi Apostoli church is located near the Arno river and is a two-minute walk away from the Ponte Vecchio. This Romanesque church was built in the 11th century and still maintains its original simple brick facade. The inside of the church is much more intimate than the vast open space of the Florence Cathedral and showcases one of Della Robbia’s terracotta masterpieces. If you happen to be in Florence on a Sunday, why not attend Santi Apostoli’s English mass at 10.30 am? Bear in mind that during the months of July and August, when Florence empties out of most of its residents, there is no English mass.
Italian and Latin Mass
If you feel like being a little more adventurous, why not go to a mass in Italian? The service remains the same in both languages, so even though the homily would be different, there should be an overall sense of familiarity. Being open to attend a mass in Italian would not only greatly increase the number of churches you could choose from, but would also be a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Italian people in a completely different context. If you feel like taking a step back in history, why not attend a mass in Latin with Gregorian chants? The Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral has one every Sunday at 10.30 am.
During your Tuscan holiday, it might be difficult to make sure you are in Florence on a Saturday or Sunday to attend mass. If you would still like a chance to engage in private prayer but not queue around the block to do so, look out for a church side entrance tucked away from the crowds. Most places of worship offer a place for fedeli (believers). If you are stopped at the door you can say: Sono qui per pregare (I’m here to pray) and should hopefully be let in.