These are my top picks for art museums in Florence, Italy. Each one offers something special and totally unique. And as a bonus, they are all walking distance apart, as well as walking distance from the main train station.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence. It is also among the oldest and most celebrated art museums in all of Europe, accommodating a vast collection of paintings and sculptures from the heart of the Renaissance. Notably famous pieces include Leonardo da Vinci’s The Annunciation, Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, and Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
The museum itself is much bigger than it appears on the outside- or at least what I expected. There is a main hall or corridor filled with marble sculptures and intricate ceiling frescoes. This path leads you through the different rooms, most of which house paintings categorized by artist or era. The variety of work is overwhelming, and I was astounded by the condition of each piece. Considering age and restoration, their pigments appear just as vibrant as the day they were painted- gilded hues and rich royal blues. The Uffizi was a must for me personally because I wanted to see one of my favorite paintings of all time- The Birth of Venus. When I found myself face to face with this piece, it was as if the world blurred around me and I stood perfectly content in my own silence. I’ve never seriously used the word “magical” to describe my own emotions, but here we go. That was magical.
Travel Tip: If you are planning a visit to the Uffizi, you MUST book your tickets in advance. Tickets are sold based on available time slots. In other words, there will be a time on your ticket that tells you when you can enter the museum. Once a time slot is sold out, that’s it. And the lines at the box office are so long, you could honestly wait hours only to be told they are sold out for the day. But if you book in advance, you not only choose your desired date and time of visit, but you also avoid the lines at the ticket office. Don’t waste your vacation time and buy your tickets online ahead of time!
The Gallery of the Academy is a relatively small art museum, but don’t let that fool you. It houses several works by Michelangelo, a collection of Florentine paintings, and the original plaster for Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women. Its most famous addition however, is Michelangelo’s David, a true sculptural masterpiece of the Renaissance.
David was originally located outside the Piazza della Signoria (directly beside the Uffizi), where it stood for over 300 years until it was moved to the Galleria in 1873. And like the Uffizi, you are not permitted to take photos of any kind inside the museum. However, there is a replicate of the statue positioned in the piazza for visitors to enjoy and photograph.
Today, David stands prominent in his own gallery space, beneath a domed roof with thoughtful white light. Seeing him in person, two things blew me away: the sheer size of the statue and its immaculate attention to detail. Nearly 17 feet tall, David towers over any visitor, an incredible feat considering he was carved from a single block of marble. And with the exception of his toes (worn from his time in the piazza), David is in pristine condition. The most impressive element, for me at least, was his anatomical detail. Imagine the joints in his fingers, every muscle, every vein, coming to life before your very eyes.
Travel Tip: Like I said before, it’s a small museum. It should take you about 20 minutes to walk through the entire thing. But same thing goes for tickets; buy them ahead of time if you even hope to get inside.
Although the Basilica of the Holy Cross is technically a church, it is home to some hugely significant historical and artistic treasures of Italy. Situated on the Piazza di Santa Croce, it is the largest Franciscan church in the world, made up of 16 chapels adorned with elaborate frescoes and vibrant stained glass windows.
It is also the burial site of many invaluable and esteemed Italians including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, and Rossini. Their marble tombs line the walls inside this massive church. Because of this, Santa Croce is also known as the Tempio dell’Itale Glorie, or the Temple of the Italian Glories.
There is also a collection of artwork from famous artists, such as Donatello and Giotto, located inside. It really is a beautiful church with plenty to explore. The cost of entry is low, 6 euros, and the best part is you can take photos!