Italy has a broad and diverse architectural style that cannot be classified into a single period or region due to its division of city-states until the mid-1800’s. As a result, Italy has produced a range of designs and is known for its considerable contributions to the architectural world. Italian architects can be credited with domes and arches during Ancient Rome and the homeland of Palladianism, a style that inspired the neoclassical architectural movement and the founding of the Renaissance architectural movement. This range of architecture has produced some of the most beautiful buildings known to man.
The following is a list of the top 10 buildings that best represent Italian architecture.
Antwerp City Hall
Located in Antwerp, Belgium, Antwerp City Hall was constructed between 1561 and 1565, the building incorporates Flemish and Italian influences into its design. During the 16th century, Antwerp was becoming a prosperous trading port. With so many people traveling through the town, municipal authorities wanted to replace the small town hall with a beautiful and more imposing building that was befitting of prosperity. At this time, war prevented additional construction but in 1560, new plans were developed. While the war was going on, Gothic architecture was out of style and replaced by the new Italian Renaissance style.
Basilica of San Lorenzo
While the original structure is the oldest in all of Florence, which is visible in its bare stone façade that has not been touched in centuries, the Basilica of San Lorenzo was a church for the wealthy Medici family during the Renaissance Period. Designed by Fillipo Brunelleschi and updated by Michelangelo Buonarotti, the Basilica features some of the best examples of Italian Renaissance architecture found anywhere in the world. The structure features a specific symmetry and harmony that is reminiscent of Antiquity. With the addition of Michelangelo’s New Sacristy, the church also had a modern and innovative touch that was becoming popular during the 1520’s.
Located on the Grand Canal in Venice, the Ca’ d’Oro has been situated for decades. Constructed between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family, the architectures of the building were Giovanni Bon and son Bartolomeo Bon. The high arches, Roman pillars and balconies outside of every door and quatrefoil window facing the canal is indicative of Italian architecture. The linear style was favored by Venetian architects despite the fact that the building was constructed in the gothic manner. The external walls used to have glit and polychrome decorations but those have since faded with time. Only paintings and the history books can describe its true magnificence.
Convent of San Marcos
Located in Leon, Spain, today the Covent of San Marcos is a luxury hotel that consists of a museum and consecrated church. However, it remains as one of the most important monuments during the Renaissance in Spain. The building dates back to the 12th century during the rule of Alfonso VII of Leon. His sister made a donation to construct a modest building just outside the city walls where the “poor of Christ” would having housing. The structure would act as a hospital-temple for those traveling.
The architectural style represented the influence of South Italian architecture commonly found in paintings and books that traveled the lands. When the Covent of San Marcos was constructed, this new style, known as Plateresque, boasted decorative facades that required the intricate detailing of work from silversmiths.
Maria Laach Abbey
Located on the southwestern shore of Laacher See near Andernach, Germany, this Benedictine abbey was founded around 770 years old as an independent house in 1127. The abbey then became a center of studying with significant additions during the 13th century. As a Romanesque architectural masterpiece, the building boasts defined lines and symmetry, tall and arched windows, sharp roofs and tall towers. The Gothic style was implemented into Italian architecture from France and is best known for pointed arches, flying buttresses and ribbed vaults.
Officially known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Florence Cathedral is the primary church of the city. Constructed in 1296 as a Gothic-style building, it was structurally completed in 1436 with the dome being engineered by Fillippo Brunelleschi. The exterior consists of polychrome marble panels in a variety of green and pink tones bordered by white. The entire complex, known as the Piazza del Duomo, houses Giotto’s Campanile and Baptistery.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower, located in the Italian city of Pisa, and is best-known for its unintended tilt. It is the third-oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square and the tilt began during construction as a result of the foundation being built on inadequate soft ground. Constructed from marble and stone in the Romanesque architectural style, this building the tower boasts many semi-circular arches, a regular symmetrical plan (with the exception of the tilt), sturdy pillars, thick walls and groin vaults.
Literally translated as the “Old Palace,” the Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall for Florence and one of the most impressive in the Tuscany region. Originally constructed in 1299 as a fortress-palace, this structure is monumental and features a tall Gothic-Romanesque bell tower that shows off Florentine’s strength and power. The front of the palace boasts shields and emblems of the most influential worker’s guilds of the day.
Also located in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the oldest bridge in Florence with roots during the Roman times. The architecture consists of tiny, quaint and colorful shops that poke out over the water making it iconic and unique. This bridge is special in that it is the only one that survived the World War II Nazi bombings.
A more modern twist on Italian architecture can be found in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino. Designed by KlingSubbins, The Venetian boasts a 36-story hotel tower that rises 475 feet. The world’s second largest hotel, featuring 4,049 rooms and 3,068 suites, has a Venetian (hence the name) theme that is accompanied by beautiful Italian architecture and crisscrossing canals, similar to what you would find in Venice. Also on the property are a variety of Venetian landmarks including the Piazza San Marco, Lion of Venice Column, Palazzo Ducale, Piazzetta di San Marco, St. Mark’s Campanile and the Rialto Bridge.