The alarm was raised on Sunday morning after staff at the Opera di Santa Croce, which is housed in the refectory, noticed a hole on the door of the church during their daily inspection ahead of opening to visitors, the Florence edition of Corriere reported.
The wooden floral decoration dates back to 1822 when it was made for Florence Cathedral, before being donated to the church, where Italian historian and politician Nicolò Machiavelli is also buried, in 1903.
The newspaper reported that the tile, said to be of “considerable value”, was later found on Via San Giuseppe, leaning against the railing of the church’s museum and wrapped in a black cloth.
A man was seen on camera abandoning the package in the early hours of Sunday morning. Police are now working to ascertain his identity.
The church is also the burial ground of the Italian physicist, engineer and philosopher, Galileo Galilei.
Father Antonio di Marcantonio, its rector, has long lamented the drunken behaviour and vandalism in the Santa Croce area at night.
In early April, the city’s council said it would put up to 700 security offices on the streets ahead of the tourist season.
In February, an American student was caught peeing in Piazza Santa Croce, a stone’s throw from the church, while tourists have also been caught vandalizing the city’s famous bridge, Ponte Vecchio.