Firenze (the real name for Florence) is now firmly ensconced on my list of favorite cities to return to (along with London, San Francisco, Boston and Honolulu). The galleries, the public art, the restaurants and the surrounding area make it an experience to savor.
You can walk almost everywhere. But if you don’t have the time or desire to walk, the open air buses of CitySightseeing Firenze are a great value. The cost is about $30 USD (depending upon current rate fluctuations of course), which compares very favorably with the cost of a cab. Each bus provides earphone narration of the route in your choice of seven languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Japanese). Simply buy a ticket and ride around listening to the music and the information, or get off at each stop and catch the next bus. Your ticket is good for 24 hours. (www.firenze.city-sightseeing.it/eng)
As for the museums, during our four day stay we barely scratched the surface so what follows should not be considered a comprehensive list, just one that is reflective of our particular artistic priorities.
The Bargello: A former prison, with a great collection of sculpture. You can take photographs of the pieces in the courtyard, but the best pieces are housed in a "cameras forbidden" gallery. I liked Michelangelo’s bust of Brutus. And a friend of ours insists that Donatello’s David here is superior to Michelangelo’s, although it is currently undergoing some restoration work (which you can watch) so I won’t agree or disagree with her assessment. An added plus, we happened to visit on one of the free admission days, so check into that (www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/musei/bargello/)
Gallerie dell'Accademia: Michelangelo’s David is the star of this gallery, but there are still other reasons to visit. I enjoyed seeing the unfinished pieces that the master was crafting for the tomb of Pope Julius (the guy that brow beat him into painting the Sistine Chapel). You can get a feel for the process of sculpture from gazing at them. Still, go to the Academia to see David. Aside from its singular merits as a work of art, it just might be the most perfect presentation of a sculpture that I’ve ever seen. One piece of advice, make reservations in advance or be prepared to wait in a long, long line. (www.gallerieaccademia.org/) Sadly, photography of any kind is forbidden.
The Uffizi: I don’t know, but the size of this collection may be second only to that of the Vatican Museums. In any case, it’s an awesome array of Renaissance paintings and sculptures. Again, make reservations in advance, the time you save will be substantial. You’re not allowed to take photographs…darn it. (www.virtualuffizi.com/uffizi/)
Basilica di Santa Croce: If there is an Italian equivalent of London’s Westminster Abbey, with tombs and monuments of the most prominent Italians, this is it. Included here are the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Gioacchino Rossini along with memorials to Enrico Fermi and Antonio Meucci (who might have a more legitimate claim as inventor of the telephone than Alexander Graham Bell), and Florence Nightingale. Cameras are welcome. (www.santacroce.firenze.it/english)
And if time and money is an issue, stop by the Piazza della Signoria. There you'll find worthy copies of David, The Rape of the Sabines, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and other pieces.
We ran out of time and weren’t able to visit the Medici Galleries at the Palazzo Pitt, otherwise it might have been included here.