January 12, 2015

Great Art Museums of Florence

Our tour of Italy last summer first took us to Rome and Capri. Then we said farewell to the beautiful island of the Sirens and ventured inland and north to the region of Tuscany, a land of sunflowers, hill towns and the birthplace of the Renaissance. We arrived in Florence mid-afternoon and started our visit on a high note, touring two of the world’s greatest art museums: the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery.

Tuscan Field of Sunflowers

Accademia Gallery

We began our Accademia tour with some of the gallery’s paintings and then moved on to a hall lined with unfinished sculptures by the great Renaissance painter and sculptor, Michelangelo Buonarroti. The figures in the grouping named Il Prigione (The Prisoners) have been described as struggling to free themselves from the stone.

The Young Prisoner, Michelangelo

At the far end of the hall is another work by Michelangelo and it’s the Accademia’s true star. David, a 17-foot male nude sculpted from white Carrara marble stands in a domed alcove surrounded by a crowd of admirers.

Accademia Alcove with David

The sculpture capturing the moment before David’s triumph over Goliath was completed in 1504. The head is larger than it should be as the figure’s proportions were designed for placement of the statue on the roofline of the Florence cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore.

David, Michelangelo
Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence

But when the sculpture was completed it was placed at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, now Florence’s Town Hall. In 1873 the priceless work of art was moved indoors to the Accademia Gallery and replaced with a copy.

Copy of David, Palazzo Vecchio

Uffizi Gallery

Once we’d spent some time admiring David, my daughter and I parted ways with our tour group for a five o'clock reservation at one of the places on my bucket list, the Uffizi Gallery.

Uffizi Gallery Reservation Ticket Office

We didn't have enough time to take in all of the artwork so we did a quick walk-through of the collection, seeking out the special pieces on my must-see list. Photography is now allowed at the Uffizi Gallery too.

Uffizi Gallery Courtyard

Uffizi Gallery Corridor

Here are a few of the Uffizi’s masterpieces, beginning with my two favourites by Sandro Botticelli: Nascita di Venere (The Birth of Venus) and La Primavera (Allegory of Spring).

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Allegory of Spring, Sandro Botticelli
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The tones in the Botticelli paintings were darker and more subdued than I’d expected but the colours were much more vivid in Raphael’s Madonna del Cardellino (Madonna of the Goldfinch) and a rare easel painting by Michelangelo, Sacra Famiglia (Holy Family).

Madonna of the Goldfinch, Raphael
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Holy Family, Michelangelo Buonarroti
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Any great Renaissance collection must include a painting by Leonardo da Vinci and the Uffizi has two: the incomplete Adoration of the Magi and The Annunciation.

The Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

In one of the corridors I noticed a sculpture I'd read about, Laocoon and His Sons. This was a 16th century copy of the ancient Greek sculpture now displayed at the Vatican Museums in Rome.

Laocoon and His Sons, Baccio Bandinelli
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Before leaving the Uffizi, we made a quick detour to the gallery’s café to check out the view of Piazza della Signoria but unfortunately the outdoor terrace is enclosed. The space does, however, offer grand views of the tower of the neighbouring Palazzo Vecchio.

Uffizi Gallery Café

Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio

Go to the Polo Museale Fiorentino web site for up-to-date information on hours, ticket prices and special exhibitions at the Accademia and the Uffizi. Both museums are closed on Monday. To avoid long ticket lines (especially in the summer months) it's a good idea to make a reservation or purchase a pass like the Firenze Card.

Reservations for both museums can be made on the Firenze Musei web site (€8 admission plus €4 reservation fee).

Firenze Card
The Firenze Card can be purchased online at the Firenze Card website, €72 for a 72-hour pass that covers one free admission to 67 museums in Florence, including the Accademia, Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio. The pass also allows you to skip the ticket lines.

Next:  The Top 5 Squares in Florence

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