In Florence, there are two main art galleries: the Accademia and the Uffizi. When planning our holiday, my friends and I were deciding which to visit. Visiting both, we thought, might be too much art for one day. We worried we’d reach our art saturation level — that point where you are so tired and have seen so much that, no matter how beautiful the composition, you just cannot appreciate it fully.
Le Gallerie degli Uffizi seemed the obvious choice, much better than the Galleria dell’Accademia.
The Uffizi is massive and absolutely packed with Renaissance art. There are paintings, sculptures, sketches, and tapestries. Unfinished da Vinci works adorn one room, showing masterpieces in the making. I was most excited to see Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus.’ If you don’t consciously know the painting, you still know it. It’s the uber-famous one with the red-haired woman standing in a shell on the sea. The Uffizi has more creations from Botticelli, as well as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raffaello.
But it does not have Michelangelo’s David. That’s at the Accademia.
My budget is tight enough that I did briefly consider skipping the Accademia. There’s a replica of David just outside the Uffizi and it seemed silly to spend €20 on a ticket to the larger Uffizi, then spend almost as much to look at a small gallery with one famous sculpture. That thought didn’t last long; this is the statue of David, for god’s sake.
We went to both museums and I absolutely reached my art saturation — by the end, I wanted nothing more than gelato and a place to rest my aching feet — but it was worth every cent. There are some things we did right, a couple more I wish we’d known before.
Hearing people turned away because the gallery was at capacity was heartbreaking. If you’re only in Florence a few days, avoid the stress and buy your tickets online; there’s no price difference.
Start at the Accademia.
Everything in Florence is fairly central, but starting at the Accademia sets you up for success later. When you’re ready to move on from the galleries, the other sites are right near the Uffizi.
More importantly though, saving the Uffizi for second lets you manage your time better. For the Accademia, you only need an hour or so. The Uffizi, on the other hand, has far too much to get through in a single day; if you go there last, you can stay until you’ve had your fill, then move on, no need to budget in time for the Accademia.
Between galleries, visit the Piazza della Signoria.
The main square of the city, just outside the Uffizi, was originally David’s home. Since he’s protected indoors now, there’s a replica.
Excluding David, the sculptures are all originals, out in the open to be enjoyed by the masses. They’re beautiful works — some I vaguely recognized from old textbooks — and all worth seeing. Besides, you’ll have to queue for the Uffizi anyway, so might as well walk around the area until the line is short.
Do the prep work.
Seeing the statue of David is going to be breathtaking no matter the circumstances, but I enjoyed it more because I had done a quick Google search. I knew to look at his toes because someone had smashed one with a hammer in the ’90s. His right hand and head are overly large, I learned, because the piece was originally going to be placed high up on a cathedral balcony.
I didn’t want to hear trivia about the piece when it was too late to examine it myself.
Similarly, look up what is in the Uffizi before you go. I didn’t and then I had to spend the first few minutes we were there finding which works I wanted to prioritize. I’d have been furious if I later learned I’d missed an important piece.
I thought I could power through the Uffizi and see everything, then rest. That was stupid. There are benches everywhere; make the most of them. You’ll last longer and enjoy it more if you aren’t exhausted and sore.
Don’t try to see everything.
There is a lot of art that I understand is objectively good, but is not to my personal taste. Yes, even amazing Italian Renaissance art. You don’t have to love and pour over every piece in the gallery. If you aren’t interested in a room, move on. Chances are, you’ll like the next area.
And get a slice of pizza afterwards — with all that walking, you earned it.
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