Via Laura is steeped in the memories of two Renaissance figures: Lorenzo de' Medici, known as The Magnificent, and Sister Domenica del Paradiso. Originally, it was a country road through the gardens, called Via Verzura, and then, through corruption, Via Ventura. Lorenzo de' Medici wished to build a beautiful residence there, and so the road changed its name to Via Laurenziana, which became Via Laura for short.
Sister Domenica del Paradiso, on the other hand, was the daughter of a peasant from Pian di Ripoli, who worked on the land belonging to the convent of Santa Brigida al Paradiso. She entered the convent with the name Domenica del Paradiso, and became famous for her holiness, but her spirituality did not prevent her from giving her nuns a practical activity that was very useful at the time. She introduced and developed the art of gold and silver weaving in that monastery, with great success, also economically.
Although a Dominican, she never had any sympathy for her brother Fra Girolamo Savonarola, whom she never mentioned in her writings. On the other hand, she did have the sympathy of the preacher friar's antagonists, the Medici, who allowed her to buy for only 190 florins a large piece of land on one side of Via Laura (where we are now). Here, in 1511, work began to build a new convent, on which Sister Domenica spent 20,000 gold florins. In short, the Medici favoured the establishment, a few steps from the convent of San Marco, where Fra Girolamo Savonarola resided, of another convent of the same Dominican Order, but faithful to them.
Pope Clement VII, son of Giuliano de' Medici who was killed in the Pazzi Conspiracy, and therefore Lorenzo's nephew, was full of privileges towards Sister Domenica who, from the old convent, was still called the Monastery of Paradise; the new convent, on the other hand, was called the Monastery of the Crocetta because of a red cross that the nuns of Sister Domenica of Paradise wore on their chests. The street was also called Via della Crocetta for some time.
On this same street, in 1502, six devout women led by Canon Marco Strozzi had founded another convent, that of Santa Maria degli Angioli, later called the Angiolini, on the land adjacent to Palazzo della Crocetta, now the Archaeological Museum.
The Monastery of the Crocetta extended its gardens and cloisters along the other side of the ancient Via Verzura, or Ventura, then Laurenziana and Laura, and in one of these gardens Sister Domenica del Paradiso is said to have had a vision of Jesus, later celebrated in a 16th-century tabernacle at the back, in Via Giusti.
The Monastery was enlarged by Princess Maria Maddalena dei Medici, the youngest daughter of Grand Duke Ferdinand I, who lived in the Palazzo della Crocetta, built in 1619. In order to be able to visit the nuns more comfortably on the other side of the road, an overpass was built on Via Laura, which still exists today. The same Princess had the church where the tomb of Sister Domenica del Paradiso, venerated as Blessed, was buried, remodelled and embellished by the architect Luigi Orlandi in 1757.
When the convents were suppressed, the Crocetta Monastery was requisitioned and, after various vicissitudes, the nuns moved with the relics of Sister Domenica del Paradiso to Via Aretina. Unfortunately, the church was partly demolished and incorporated into the modern building that now houses the Cesare Alfieri Institute of the University of Florence, formerly the General Archive of the Court of Auditors during the period of Florence as capital city. It was precisely during the period of Florence as capital city that, in order to meet the sudden need arising from the influx of state employees and officials, the structures of the Convent of the Crocetta, the vegetable gardens and the cloisters were filled to make new accommodation. The Convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli was transformed into a Conservatory by the Lorraine government in 1785.
Coming from Borgo Pinti, the first flyover, the second in chronological order, joined the old Angiolini Convent with the new Conservatory.On the left, on the corner of Via della Pergola, stands the back part of Palazzo della Crocetta with the second flyover, the first in chronological order, built by Princess Maria Maddalena de' Medici.
At number 48 is the modern entrance to the Istituto Cesare Alfieri built on the site of the Church of the Crocetta and the burial place of Sister Domenica del Paradiso. From no.50 to no.60 are the 19th century structures which cover the monastery, the vegetable gardens and the old cloisters of the Crocetta. At No. 64 a nineteenth-century doorway is currently the entrance to the Conservatory of Real Estate Records, but from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century it belonged to the famous acting school founded and directed by the actor and theatre historian Luigi Rasi. Marino Moretti, a pupil of that school who became a poet and storyteller, recalled it in a book entitled 'Via Laura'. His dear friend Aldo Palazzeschi also located Via Laura in one of his "Novelle" dedicated to "Sora Cecchina"; while Vasco Pratolini located the final scene of his first novel "Il quartiere" (The Neighbourhood), with the reconciliation of the two protagonists Valerio and Marisa, on the corner of Borgo Pinti. Perhaps it is not by chance that their son will be called Lorenzo.
In the house marked by number 56, the famous and much-loved Florentine storyteller Bruno Cicognani lived for a long time and died there; he also had occasion to talk about Via Laura in his work "Viaggio nella Vita" (Journey through Life).
On the other side, the long wall with no openings separates the street from the garden of the Archaeological Museum with its Etruscan tombs and Roman columns, where Gabriele d'Annunzio located his "sentimental" initiation (Faville del Maglio).