A Visit to the Museums of Florence

Italy's Renaissance star of a city, Florence, offers some of the world's best art museums in the world. People from all over the globe make the trip to the city to view some of the most concentrated collections of masterpieces offered anywhere.

Florence's Most Famous Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 19, 2009

Definitely Florence's most famous museum, the Galleria degli Uffizi is also one of the world's most famous museums. These amazing, and extensive galleries of fine art collection are located in an setting just as amazing. The building was originally built as a palace for the city's head magistrates and government officials. Still today this structure impresses visitors of all ages, not to mention the impressiveness of the priceless art that lies within.

Commissed by Cosimo I of Florence's famous Medici family, construction began in 1560 by architect Vasari who also built a corridor walkway above the city streets that passes from this museum over the Ponte Vecchio and all the way to the Pitti Palace. Later, the palace's space was converted into a gallery to house art by Cosimo's son Francis. Now over the centrueis the art collection has continued to grow and currently offers thousands of pieces from paintings, sculptures, and tapestries.

By 1765, the Uffizi was opened as a public museum, and the collection had grown so much that some of the pieces were transferred to other museums in the city. For the past few years, the Uffizi has been working on adding and additional section for expansion. Construction scaffolding has become an almost permanent fixture in the courtyard area for locals during the recent years, although the completion is slated to be soon approaching. The collection includes artwork from the city's history and is famed for the self-portrait collection, as well as fresco pieces, and the star which is the recognizable Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus".

As one of Florence's top tourist attractions, lines can be extremely long (sometimes up to 3 hours). You can make reservations ahead of time by calling the reservation number, and you'll be issued a specific entrance time. Try to make this reservation (as well as your reservation for the Accademia museum) before solidifying the rest of your Florence plans, as you'll be at the mercy of the ticketing agent. If you aren't able to get a reservation ahead of time, just wake up early and be in line when it opens so you can get in quickly and out to enjoy the rest of the day.

• http://www.firenzemusei.it/00_english/uffizi/index.html
• Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6
• Open 8:15am - 6:50pm (tues - Sun)
• Admission 6.50euros (Reservation no. +39 055 294883)
Uffizi Gallery
Piazzale Degli Uffizi, 6
Florence, Italy, 50122
+39 05523885

Home of the David

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 19, 2009

Besides the Uffizi Gallery several blocks away, the Accademia Gallery is one of the top tourists stops in Florence. By far, my favorite museum in the city, this amazing collection is spearheaded by the star of the show - Michelangelo's "David". Recognized worldwide, this towering masterpiece stands alone in a corridor of the museum and gathers people from around the globe to witness it's splendor. Definitely a must-see, the Accademia won't disappoint even the most sceptic of visitors.

Located in an old monastery near the Piazza San Marco, the entrance barely even boasts much of a sign, let alone the grand exterior one would expect for a gallery home to some of the world's most treasured works of art. In a way, this is something to like about the museum, how its functionality to be a safe haven for these pieces outweighs it's need for grandiose appearances, and instead lets the pieces of art speak for themselves.

Part of the experience is being able to enter through such a plain door, past the ticket counter, and then around the corner, to the grand "David" standing before you. There is a hall leading to the showcased domed room where he is displayed, and there are even hi-tech computers to the side where you can interact with a 3D program to see up close images of the sculpture's details. Originally shown in the open-air courtyard of Piazza Signoria (where a copy now stand), the David was moved inside in 1873 in order to better conserve it's form and brillance.

Besides the David, you can also view Michelangelo's "Prisoners", the "Rape of the Sabines" by Giambologna, and other pieces by Botticelli, Lippi, Pontormo, and more. Compared to the Uffizi, the Accademia isn't too large, and is a nice visit without feeling overwhelmed.

As it's one of the top attractions, the lines are notoriously long, although I've had luck getting in without much of a wait towards the end of the day. To help expedite your wait, call ahead to make reservations and obtain an entrance time. Otherwise, just look for the line running down the otherwise plain street of Via Ricasoli, and you'll have found the entrance!

• http://www.firenzemusei.it/00_english/accademia/index.html
• Via Ricasoli, 58-60
• Open 8:15am - 6:50pm (Tues - Sun) 
• Admission fee 6.50euros (Reservation no.+39 055 2388-609)
Galleria dell' Accademia
Via Ricasoll 60

One of the World's Best Sculpture Museums

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 18, 2009

One of the premier sculpture museums in the world, Florence's famous Bargello is a must-see for art-lovers who visit this Renaissance city. Also known as Palazzo del Popolo, or "Palace of the People", the Bargello is located in one of the city's oldest buildings.

Dating back to 1255, this palace was used as a residence for government officials, and then later as a police headquarter where tortures took place and criminals put to death. The courtyard where many of the gruesome acts were carried out, now houses some of the world's treasures and even is host to various exhibitions in this open air section of the museum.

When visitors enter the tan stoned building, which is quite plain and structured from the exterior, one of the first thing many people notice is how many familiar sculptural pieces of work are housed in this museum. The superb permanent collection includes masterpieces from Donatello, Cellini, Michelangelo, and more.

Some of the stars include the original panels from the Baptistry bronze doors by Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, Donatello's bronze David, and Michelangelo's Bacchus. When we visited in 2008, the bronze David was in the middle of a major cleaning, but instead of taking the piece to a resotration center, the museum decided to allow visitors to see it being pain-stakingly restored. So instead of seeing him upright, we saw him lying on his side with tools around him on a table. Actually it was quite an experience to see a masterpiece out of its intended position.

As one of Florence's top museums, the Bargello is a definite stop for visitors of all ages. Only a quick walk from the Duomo, and in the heart of the city center, this regal museum is worth your time!

• http://www.firenzemusei.it/00_english/bargello/index.html
• Via del Proconsolo, 4
• Open daily 8:15am - 2pm
• Admission 4euro
Museo del Bargello
Via del Proconsolo, 4
Florence, Italy, 50122
+39 0552388606

A Museum Many People Miss

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 19, 2009

The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, or the "Museum of the Works of the Duomo" is one of Florence's hidden gems for art (and history) lovers. Located just steps from Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) on the dome side of the church in a Palace from the 1400s, this special museum offers visitors numerous masterpieces to view up close.

The smaller, unassuming exterior doesn't boast much, and many guidebooks rate this museum as not one of the main "must-see" spots for tourists, in my opinion it deserves much more praise. But one good thing about the fact that it's not one of the highly popular sites in the city, it's a great place to go with no waiting, small to no crowds, and the freedom to stay as long as you want in front of some of the world's finest art, and have the space almost to yourself.

Recently remodeled and rearranged in the past few decades, this museum has quite a modern feel to it, from the glass lobby to steel staircases. The lobby is actually a covered courtyard which lets in natural light so visitors can admire the original bronze door panels in the light they were intended.

A few of the popular highlights include Donatello's Mary Magdalene, which is a sculpture of wood, and has an almost creepy, drippy appearance. Under a single spotlight, this work will inthrall viewers. The star of the museum is probably Michelangelo's unfinished Pieta from the mid 1500s which was one of his last pieces he worked on during his life. To see this in a section by itself, being able to walk 360-degrees around the masterpiece and actually see the carving and chisel marks is indescribable.

Besides these pieces, there are two levels of treasures, most of which were at one point included in, or made for, the Duomo church. Even see some of the tools that Brunelleschi used to build the dome itself. Although not one of Florence's most popular museums, it's definitely an excellent one!

• http://www.operaduomo.firenze.it/english/luoghi/museo.asp
• Piazza del Duomo 9
• Open 9am-7:30pm (Mon-Sat), 9am-2pm (Sun)
• Admission 6euro
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Piazza Duomo
Florence, Italy, 50122

A Town-Hall Fortress in Florence

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 19, 2009

Towering over the Piazza Signoria is the stunning Palazzo Vecchio ("Old Palace"). The demanding structure has been part of the Renaissance city since 1299 and the iconic tower has been a piece of the city's skyline for centuries. Visitors can't miss this castle-like building as it sits amongst all of the center's main sites.

Originally built as a home to some of the Florentine government heads, this building is still used as for government, but now as the town hall. Housing plenty of pieces of art, as well as being heavy in historical significance, this palace is still studied by specialists around the world. Just to admire the palazzo from the outside plaza, where several sculptural masterpieces exist, is a worthwhile experience, but to go inside the museum allows an even closer look into Florence's history.

Admire the copy of Michelangelo's David (original in the Accademia Museum) just outside the doors of the palace's courtyard entrance, as well as Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus. If you're not wanting to pay the entrance fee, at least take a step into the first open air courtyard and check out the interesting fountain and detailed wall decorations with beautiful arches around the edges.

Further inside, one can see 2 more courtyards as well as frescos from Vasari and Ghirlandaio. The most famous room being the Salone dei Cinquecento, which is a large hall with historic and massive story-telling frescos. Continue the tour up through the higher floors to several themed rooms and living quarters containing priceless pieces of art like the "Genius of Victory" sculpture by Michelangelo and "Judith and Holofernes" bronze piece by Donatello.

In the past few years archeologists have been researching and studying a part of the Palazzo Vecchio, where they believe a lost fresco of Leonardo da Vinci may be. Using high-tech x-ray type machinery they've been trying to see behind a wall to see if the "Battle of Anghiari" may reside there. Only known by Leonardo sketches, researchers have been trying to find the finished pieces for centuries. So step inside this old palace and enjoy being part of history!

• Piazza della Signoria
• Open 9am - 7pm (Fri - Wed), 9am- 2pm (Thurs)
• Admission 6euros
Palazzo Vecchio
Piazza Della Signoria
Florence, Italy, 50122
+39 0552768325


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