Ahhh, Florence: it’s beautiful, it’s sexy, it’s full of delicious food and even more delicious men…and yes, it was the birthplace of the Renaissance. If you – like me – are a bit of a philistine with no real understanding or knowledge of art, but have ended up in Florence regardless, then fear not. Yes, this may be the hometown of Leonardo Da Vinci, one-time stomping ground of Giotto and old haunt of Botticelli. Yes, even today, it may well seem like everyone in the city is either an artist or an art lover. But fear not! There is hope.
You could…. learn something?
Nah. Just fake it. I won’t tell if you won’t…
Shorthand summary: One of the most famous museums in the world – probably worth a visit
Known for: Being home to more than its fair share of famous Italian Renaissance art
Do: Skip the horrendous queues by booking your tickets ahead of time
Don’t: Strip naked in front of The Birth of Venus while shouting “It’s art, it’s poetry!”
Shorthand summary: Michelangelo woz ‘ere
Known for: Its impressive collection of statues, collection of Florentine gothic paintings and museum of musical instruments
See: Michelangelo’s David (the real one – not the copy in the Piazza della Signoria)
Do: Ask about after hours events – they host quite a few!
Don’t: Comment on David’s small member. It’s not funny and it’s not clever.
Shorthand summary: Old palace, still got style
Known for: The seat of local government since the 1300s and former home of the ruling Medici family, here you can explore seven centuries’ worth of art and antiquities
See: The Michelozzo courtyard, the Hall of the Five Hundred, the Chapel of Eleonora and the enviable Map Room
Do: Keep an eye out for the UFO behind the Virgin Mary
Don’t: Just look straight ahead – the murals on the ceilings are incredible (the secrets are in the details)
Shorthand summary: Former barracks and prison, now sculpture museum
Known for: Sculptures (surprisingly)
See: Donatello’s bronze David, Michelangelo’s Bacchus (one of his rare profane works) and Giambologna’s Florence Triumphant over Pisa (I love it because a woman representing Florence is beating the holy crap out of a dude representing Pisa and she doesn’t even look like she’s breaking a sweat)
Do: Check out the collections of ceramics, textiles, tapestries, armors and coins as well
Don’t: Forget to read up on the building’s disturbing history
Shorthand summary: Stronghold where generations of Florence’s ruling families have amassed their riches
Known for: Its works of art, costume gallery and Boboli Gardens
See: The Palatine Gallery with its sumptuous Renaissance and Baroque paintings, the neo-classical Gallery of Modern Art (“modern” here meaning from the 18th to 20th Century), and the jewels of the Medici Treasury
Do: Give yourself enough time to explore the stunning gardens, which are some of the oldest in Italy and home to grottoes, fountains and a fat bloke riding a turtle
Don’t: Forget about the porcelain museum hidden at the top of the gardens
Tip: If you plan of visiting several museums and/or galleries then consider becoming a ‘Friend of the Uffizi’. This is a non-transferable annual membership which gives you unlimited access and queue-jumping privileges to the Uffizi and all other state museums, gardens and galleries in Florence (i.e. pretty much all of them) for a one-off cost of €40-60. This may work out better value than buying individual tickets even on a short trip, and is well worth it if you’re planning on a longer stay.
Do you have any tips for seeing art in Florence? Share them below!