Florence is an open air museum. Getting lost in its narrow streets, breathing the Renaissance at every corner, looking at the buildings and picturesque views, is a unique and rewarding experience for those who love art and Italian culture. The wonders of this city continue inside the historical buildings recalling the splendor of past eras, some designed by the most famous artists of all time. To get to know the treasures of this wonderful city, you must visit some of the dozens of museums in Florence. Just this fact: in the ranking of the 15 most visited Italian art museums, one third is represented by Florentine museums!
Here are the must-see museums in Florence.
One of the most important museums in Italy and in the world – in 2014 with 1,935,901 people was the Italian most visited museum, every day attracts more than 10 thousand visitors – is on the second floor of the building designed by Giorgio Vasari, originally the headquarter of the Florentine courts and a Medici’s private space, and contains many works of art from the Medici collections. In 1584, Francesco I de ‘Medici built a room to contain most of the works of art his family, and in 1769 it was opened to the public, becoming later the museum. The Uffizi Gallery houses some of the greatest masterpieces of humanity, Caravaggio, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Cimabue, Raffaello, Rubens, Rembrandt, Botticelli, and many others.
The frescoed ceilings of the numerous rooms, accompany visitors to the discovery of the Florentine Renaissance, in chronological order. Among the most famous works, The Birth of Venus and Allegory of Spring by Botticelli, the Doni Tondo by Michelangelo, the Venus of Urbino by Titian, the Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto and many others. 15.30/16 is the ideal time for a visit.
In the splendor of the Uffizi there is a wonderful gem: the Vasari Corridor. A hallway, one kilometer long, that connects Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi to Palazzo Pitti, passing over the picturesque Ponte Vecchio. Giorgio Vasari built it in 1565 in only six months by order of Cosimo I upon the marriage of his son Francesco with Giovanna of Austria.
It is a private corridor that allowed the Medici to reach their house in Palazzo Pitti from Palazzo Vecchio – at that time headquarter of the Government – without having to cross the busy streets of the city: it also allowed people to look to the street without being seen. It can only be visited with guided tours by appointment, and hosts portraits and works of art the seventeenth, eighteenth and twentieth centuries.
The first thing that comes to mind thinking about Florence is the David of Michelangelo Buonarroti. The statue represents beauty, energy, vigor and courage. Initially meant to adorn the buttresses of the Florence Cathedral, it was then placed in Piazza della Signoria, where it could be perilously damaged, so today the original is kept inside Galleria dell’Accademia, and a copy stands in front of Palazzo Vecchio. 410 meters of marble, sculpted between 1501 and 1504, the statue represents the biblical hero ready to face Goliath, and someone calls it the most beautiful male ever represented in a statue. Galleria dell’Accademia has been created by the Grand Duke Peter Leopold in 1784 as a place to study for students of the Academy of Fine Arts. The museum houses Michelangelo’s Prigioni, originally located in the Boboli Gardens, the Rape of the Sabines of Giambologna, the Madonna and Child by Botticelli and many others.
If you haven’t had enough of David, Bargello, a museum inside an historic building, houses two bronze David by Donatello, along with many other works by Michelangelo, like Bacchus.
On the top of Bargello there is Volognana Tower, for centuries the house of a prison, A courtyard on the ground floor creates an open air museum of works of art, while on the first floor you can visit the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, with frescoes by Giotto’s workshop, which offers one of the most similar-looking portraits of Dante Alighieri, and an Islamic collection.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
Reopened in late October 2015 after a long renovation, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo houses the world’s largest collection of medieval sculpture and of Florentine Renaissance works of art. 750 pieces including statues and reliefs in marble, bronze and silver, of Michelangelo, Ghiberti, Pollaiolo, Della Robbia and many others.
Most of the collection comes from the panels that adorned the baptistery of Florence and Giotto’s Campanile, with an important portfolio of Gothic statuary.
Among the greatest examples of architecture in Florence, Pitti Palace was designed by Brunelleschi in 1457 for the Pitti family, and in 1549 it was sold to the Medici, becoming their residence. Today, it houses some of the most important museums of Florence: the Palatine Gallery, a collection of paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Silver Museum, a large collection of objects belonged to the Medici’s family, the Royal Apartments, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery and the Porcelain Museum.
But the most striking part of the building are the gardens, the Boboli Gardens, the largest monumental green area of Florence. With its breathtaking view, Boboli Gardens offer treasures such as Buontalenti’s Cave and the Roman Amphitheatre, nestled among flowers, fountains, statues and wonderful sculptures.
Leonardo da Vinci Museum
For a “break” from the full immersion in Florentine Renaissance, is worth a visit Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. Even if it takes its name from one of the symbols of the Renaissance, actually it is a science museum dedicated to Leonardo’s career as an inventor and designer.
In this museum you can admire his scientific manuscripts, many life-size machines, weapons, war machines and devices designed for civil engineering. The most charming part is all the work done by Leonardo on birds flight, expressed by the dream of creating a flying machine. Many devices are interactive, and can be experienced by visitors.
The Medici Chapels since 1869 represent both a Florentine museum and the burial place of the Medici, and are located within the San Lorenzo Basilica.
They are made of two major parts: the New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, and the Cappella dei Principi, studded with precious marble and stone, built to house the remains of the Medici in the Crypt by Buontalenti. The Lorena crypt houses the remains of the family of Lorena and the funerary monument of Cosimo the old Pater Patrie.