My Favorite Museums in Florence

Coming off my article of favorite churches, I thought it would be fun to condense my favorite museums in Florence into one article! There are a countless number of musei in Florence, which is only fitting considering it is the home to one of the most important and famous artistic movements in history! I have a huge pro tip at the end of the article that might save you some money and a huge amount of time too 😉 Okay so let’s get going, obviously I have to start this list with my favorite museo:

  1. Gallerie degli Uffizi: Housed in what used to be the uffizi (offices) of Florentine magistrates centuries ago, the extension to the Palazzo Vecchio began in 1560 under architect Giorgio Vasari with patronage from Cosimo I de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and was completed in 1581. The building is now home to one of the most important collections of art in the world. If you’ve heard of a certain painting or its famous artist, it will probably be here. From The Birth of Venus and Primavera by Botticelli, Leonardo’s Annunciation, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, Caravaggio’s Bacchus, and Raphael’s Self Portrait, the Uffizi is one of the most extensive museums for Italian old masters (and one of my favorites in the world). Check out my article on the Uffizi for a little preview!
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At the Gallerie degli Uffizi
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Leonardo da Vinci, Annunciation, oil and tempera on panel, 1472–1475
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Michelangelo Buonarroti, Doni Tondo, oil and tempera on panel, 1507

Galleria dell’Accademia: The Accademia was founded by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1784, along with the Academy of Fine Arts which is still a working art school. The gallery was built as a place of gathering for the works of art that were used for the training of young artists, where they could find works of art (originals and reproduced) on which they could base their knowledge, study and imitation for their artistic training. The Accademia today is best known for being the home of Michelangelo’s David, but the collection goes much deeper than just that! It is home to an incredible collection of art from 1300-1600 only by Florentine artists. It is smaller and more specialized than the Uffizi, but just as important in its collection. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, a reservation must be made in advance. Tickets start to sell out days, and sometimes weeks in advance depending on the season, and if you dont have a timed reservation, you will be stuck on the queue for hours. You can make your reservation from this website, and try to book out as far as you can.

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Palazzo Pitti: Called the Pitti Palace in English, it is the former palace of the Medici Dukes and Grand Dukes from the 16th century located on the oltrarno side of the city. Don’t be fooled by the simple facade, because it is an explosion of opulence on the inside!! The center of the palazzo dates from 1458 as the residence of Luca Pitti, a successful Florentine banker, and his family. The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549, and was expanded to become the official seat of the Duchy. Over many generations the collection amassed paintings, furniture, jewelry, porcelain, pietra dura, and other luxurious possessions. The palace and its collection were donated to the Italian people by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1919, and (fun fact) the Palazzo Pitti is the largest museum complex in Florence!

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The facade of the Palazzo Pitti

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*Bonus: While you’re there, visit the Giardino di Boboli that is behind the palace for amazing views and a green escape from the bustle of city life! The garden is one of the first and most important examples of the “Italian Garden”, which served as inspiration for the properties of many European courts. Il Giardino is also partially an open-air museum, with sculpture of from antiquity, to Renaissance, to contemporary that can be found throughout the property. It also has large fountains and caves, most notably a grotto (near the exit) built by artist, architect, and sculptor Bernardo Buontalenti between 1536 and 1608. Side note: you will need two tickets to enter the gardens and the palace, but are bought from the same ticket office.

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The back of the palazzo from the top of the hill

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i Viale dei Cipressi (Cypress Avenue) in il Giardino di Boboli

Museo del’Opera del Duomo: Though it’s considered one of the main museums in the city, the Museo del’Opera del Duomo is far less frequented then the Uffizi or the Accademia, which makes for a wonderful and peaceful visitor experience. The museum holds the original sculptures that were made for the exterior of the cathedral complex by famous Florentine sculptors, as well as important artifacts and reliquaries that belong to the cathedral. One of the most important works here are the original bronze doors to the baptistry by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti. One of the craziest and most astounding things I have ever seen is here, and is the altar from the baptistry called “Saint John’s Treasure“. It was made in the 14th century with four hundred kilos of silver and took more than one hundred years to be finished (let that sink in!!!). Infrequently do I have moments of art-historic awe, but this was a moment of stun and unfathomable beauty and complexity for me! Another gem is a sculpture Michelangelo made towards the end of his life. It is called The Deposition but is also known as the Bandini Pietà, or the Florentine Pietà, which depicts the dead body of Christ being taken down from the cross by Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary.

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“Saint John’s Treasure”
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Detail of “Saint John’s Treasure”
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Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Deposition, marble, 1547–1555

*Bonus: with a ticket to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo you can buy “add ons” to go inside of the cathedral complex. The additions include entry to il Battistero di San Giovanni, entry to the excavations below the cathedral, entry to climb the campanile, and entry to climb the dome (with a timed reservation. I would recommend reserving a time when they open to alleviate some of the claustrophobia that might develop from the single teeny staircase that leads up on the second half of the trip upwards).

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Interior of il Battistero di San Giovanni
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View from the Campanile

Museo Nazionale del Bargello: The Bargello is another “main but less visited museum” of Florence, and home to another unbelievable collection! Construction began in 1255, making it one of the oldest-surviving buildings in Florence. Through its history, it has been a former palace, government building, barracks and prison, now an art museum. The Bargello opened as a national museum in 1865, displaying the largest Italian collection of gothic and renaissance sculptures from the 14th to 17th centuries. See the second-most-famous David in the world by Donatello (famous as the first unsupported standing bronze sculpture cast during the Renaissance and the first freestanding male nude sculpture since antiquity), the panels of the Sacrifice of Isaac by Brunelleschi and Ghiberti (I talk more about them here), sculptures by Michelangelo, terra cotta by Luca della Robbia, and many, many objects of curiosity.

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Michelangelo Buonarroti, Brutus, marble, 1539–1540
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Side by side comparisons of the original panel submissions from 1401 – Left: The Sacrifice of Isaac by Lorenzo Ghiberti; Right: The Sacrifice of Isaac by Filippo Brunelleschi; Museo Nazionale del Bargello
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Detailed view of The Sacrifice of Isaac by Filippo Brunelleschi; Museo Nazionale del Bargello
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Detailed view of the The Sacrifice of Isaac by Lorenzo Ghiberti, which won the competition; Museo Nazionale del Bargello
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Donatello, David, bronze sculpture, c. 1440

OKAY, now here is my pro tip: you can join the Uffizi as an Amici degli Uffizi, which includes “free” admission and skip-the-queue incentives for as many times as you would like to go to the offered museums. The might be a better option for those that will stay longer, or want to go to every single museum listed, because its not the cheapest fee, but certainly would cut back a lot of waiting times, especially for the Uffizi during high season. Click this link to learn more!

And there you have it, i miei musei preferiti a Firenze! There is only one more Florence post left, and its sure to be the most epic of them all … 😉

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