If you’re going to drop in on galleries or museums in Florence, then here are three that you simply cannot miss.
Housed within a nondescript building, the outside walls adorned with graffiti, is doubtless one of the most significant art collections in the world – the Academia Gallery on Via Ricasoli 58-60. The gallery itself is just down the road from my hostel and over the last couple of days, I’ve walked past it several times, never realising until the moment I entered this morning that it actually contained one of the most important pieces in the entire history of art. For right in the gallery’s very centre is none other than Michaelangelo’s David.
To observe closely this colossal masterpiece is reason alone to spend the €10 entry fee. Visitors stand or sit motionless around the statue and gaze upon it as if it were a sort of mystical apparition. Others circle about keenly attentive to the details – the veins, the barely visible sling or the proportion between each of this David’s body part. Standing at about a 30 degree angle to the statue and 5 metres away, an American visitor observes, “Look how the head looks much larger from here.”
But also in the gallery are various specimens of religious art ranging from the 13th century right up to the nineteenth. Note that the Giovanni da Milano exhibition, which shows some exquisite paintings from the Gothic era, has been extended until 8 December this year.
Frankly, there is something in this gallery even for atheists and it’s a must-visit.
Tip: Go early, just close to opening. You’ll get in quickly and the gallery rooms are uncrowded, so you’ll have plenty of room to move about.
Now I have heard of the Uffizi prior to my visit and it was the top of my list. Here you’ll see works by Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Botticelli, Titian, Verrocchio and many more. Definitely a must for art lovers or those with only a general interest, like myself.
Tip: Buy a “reservation” ticket. Basically you pay an extra €4 in addition to the usual entry charge of €10 and nominate the time of your visit. That’s what I did and I got in very quickly. There was no queue, whereas just behind me was a line with a 15-20 minute wait (and sometimes longer).
Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore
If you visited the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo), you’ll have realised that many items that once adorned the cathedral both internally and externally, such as statues and reliefs, have either been removed or replaced with fakes. That is basically to protect the originals. Moreover, items from the Baptistery of St John (Battistero di San Giovanni), just across from the Duomo, have also been similarly removed and/or replaced, again for the same reasons. Examples are the supremely beautiful panels of the so-called Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
In order to see the originals you’ll have to visit the nearby Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. The museum is small and so is the collection, but no less worthwhile or magnificent. Works by Donatello can be seen here as well as, of course, the original panels by Ghiberti, which form essentially the piece de resistance of your tour.
Not one to be missed on your visit to Florence. Entry fee is only €6.
Tip: I wouldn’t normally recommend paying for an audioguide (you’d be better off buying a good book on the relevant subject) but for this gallery, it’s a good idea. The guide is well assembled as it clearly directs your visit on a room-by-room basis, giving one very cohesive presentation. The extra €4 is worth it.