Museums Tour in Florence: a journey between oddities and curiosities

You’d have liked a few things from the Uffizi and the Pitti — that’s what you’d have liked.
– Henry James

Florence’s museums alone could justify a visit to the city. But a whole month would not be enough, because the 45 rooms alone of the Uffizi Gallery are the story of thousands of lives, those of the artists and subjects reproduced alike, no, one life is not enough, let alone one month, to know, admire and appreciate them all.

The museums of the Tuscan capital correspond to Florence Museums Pole, a public institution that oversees the activities of the city’s state museums and historic villas for a total of over three hundred thousand works of art and artifacts.

The size of the Florentine artistic- museum heritage are as follows: Three-Hundred-Thousand works of art, each deserving years of study and contemplation. The poor tourist can only but choose which infinitesimal part of this artistic treasure to admire and to discover: our job is to give you some ideas and curiosities to approach in a systematic way the most important museums of Florence.

Uffizi Gallery, from Ill-famed Neighborhood to Emblem of Art

One of the most prestigious art and culture places in the world, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, it lies on the ruins of an ancient infamous neighborhood that to define disreputable is a pure understatement. In fact, in 1560, when Cosimo I de’ Medici decided it was time for the Florentine magistrates to have only one site, the area between Piazza della Signoria and Lungarno, where today rise the Uffizi, was called Baldracca, taken from the name of one of the most famous taverns of the city, where prostitution was the most honest business activity.

Therefore, anticipating De Andre’s adagio titled “Via del Campo”, according to which flowers come from manure, Cosimo de’ Medici ordered to raze the infamous and disreputable district and to build, between 1560 and 1580, according to a project by Giorgio Vasari, the beautiful ‘U’ shaped building which became the first Museum of Modern Europe.

It’s impossible to describe what the Uffizi Museum in Florence is in a few lines. But not even entire libraries are enough to tell the beauty, charm, delicacy and strength that emanate from the works on display in the 45 rooms of the museum. The collections of paintings and sculptures here offered to the public represent the best of the artistic XIV century and Renaissance activities of authors that just at the mention one must bow their heads in reverence: Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, Botticelli, Lippi, Rembrandt, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens, Caravaggio, Dürer, Leonardo, Mantegna.

The Uffizi Gallery treasures works of the caliber of Venus by Botticelli, Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi, the Annunciation by Simone Martini, Madonna and Child by Antonello da Messina, the Discus Thrower of Myron, the Madonna of the Long Neck by Parmigianino, the Head of Medusa by Caravaggio. In room 46 are displayed the works of the Spanish Velázquez, while outside the entrance porch, even before arriving in the heart of the Uffizi, you can admire the 28 magnificent statues representing the Great people of Florence’s History.

All this, including thousands of other works presented in the rooms (but also kept in deposits, hidden to the public, although they’re going to fill the halls of the New Uffizi adjacent to the main museum,) was made possible by the not so voluntary sacrifice of hundreds of Scarlet Women who once worked in this area.

Accademia Gallery, the true home of Michelangelo’s David

There are more than one million two hundred thousand visitors each year that flock to the rooms of the Accademia Gallery, which is located at the end of Via Ricasoli: on the opposite side the road leads to Piazza del Duomo. The gallery dates back to 1784, when the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorena decided to create the Academy of Fine Arts using some rooms as a museum with works from which young artists of the school could take inspiration from.

In the course of time, the school moved, leaving the spaces to the museum that today, among the countless masterpieces, presents to the public works of inestimable artistic value such as Michelangelo’s David and the artist’s unfinished works called the Prisonsers, the heavenly work by Giambologna The Rape of the Sabine Women and works by Botticelli of the likes of The Madonna and Child and the Virgin of the Sea.

Also part of the Gallery since 1996 is the adjoining Luigi Cherubini Conservatory of Music with its beautiful Museum of Musical Instruments. There are about fifty pieces on display, instruments of the 18th century belonging to the Medici family collection: violins, violas, cellos made by Antonio Stradivari and Niccolò Amati, Bartolomeo Cristofori’s harpsichord, who was the inventor of the piano. The collection also includes a number of paintings with subjects of musical culture dating back to the period when the city was ruled by Grand Dukes. The public can listen to the music of these ancient instruments with the support of digital tools.

Pitti Palace, among Museums, Events and Haute Couture Collections

The imposing building of the Pitti Palace, which is located in Oltrarno and therefore on the left side of the river that passes through Florence, was the humble abode of the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Medici, Lorraine and Savoy. Today, the Pitti Palace is home to eight museums, hosts important cultural and social events, and in particular the entire important series of presentations of men-women-children fashion collections made under the PittiImmagine trademark.

Pitti Palace owes its fame, besides being one of the most beautiful palaces of Florence, to the presence behind it, and directly connected to the Palace, of the Boboli Gardens, one of the leading examples of Italian-style gardens that have in their architectural setting and landscaping, little competition in the world. There are more than 800 000 visitors each year that tread the luxuriant paths among statues and historic buildings.

As we said, Pitti Palace houses eight museums:

– The Palatine Gallery, with a collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, with works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rubens, Raphael, Pontormo and Veronese.
– The Monumental Apartments, 14 rooms used by the ruling families and decorated by famous artists.
– The Gallery of Modern Art, with a collection of Italian art from the late XVIII to the early XX century, with works by Canova, Hayez, Dupré, Signorini and several Macchiaioli and Futurists.
– The Silver Museum, with a wonderful collection of gold and silver pieces, crystal and objects processed in ivory and precious stones.
– The Costume Gallery, which contains more than 6,000 among ancient clothes and accessories, theater and film costumes, designer models of the likes of Valentino, Armani, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent.
– The Porcelain Museum, where a collection of antiques is presented, gifts to the Grand Dukes of Tuscany by nobles and kings of Europe.
– The Museum of Carriages, much loved especially by children, which displays carriages and means of transport dating back to the XVIII and IXX centuries.
– The Boboli Gardens, which is considered an actual open-air museum.

The Medici Chapels, Michelangelo’s Hideout

The Medici Chapels are the mausoleum of the Medici Family, who ruled Florence for nearly four centuries, giving prestige to the city. The chapels are part of the complex of the Church of San Lorenzo. Must visits include the New Sacristy by Michelangelo, the Chapel of the Princes, the actual mausoleum, burial site of the Grand Dukes of the Medicis and family, Lorraine Crypt, with the remains of the Lorraine family members, and the monument to Cosimo de’ Medici, regarded as the Pater Patrie (the Father of the Country).

In the lower part of the Chapels, in 1975 was discovered a room that Michelangelo used to hide from the Medici returned to power thanks to the imperial troops of Charles V, veterans from the sack of Rome in 1527. The walls are entirely covered with Michelangelo’s drawings and thoughts, because in the two months that he spent hiding here, thanks to his friend Prior of San Lorenzo, he finished the paper on which he regularly took notes.

The Bargello Museum, from Prison to Collection of Sculptures

The Bargello Museum, housed in the Palazzo del Popolo or Palazzo dei Potestà, in via del Proconsolo, holds an important collection of sculptures and other works of applied arts. Among the sculptures are works by Michelangelo, Donatello and Giambologna. Among the valuable collections exposed we must mention the art of wood, leather and bone and beautiful objects in carved ivory from various donations. Of exquisite workmanship are also Islamic objects, metal objects, pottery, jewelry, weapons and carpets.

The museum is housed in a building that over time has also served as a prison. From one of the windows, in particular, were executed by hanging those convicted of more serious crimes. Adjacent to the building is the 60 meters high tower, the Volognana, named after one of the first incarcerated. On the top is the bell called the Montanina, which rang on special occasions, such as the call to arms, in the case of popular uprisings, or even to announce capital executions.

Vasari’s Corridor, a Kilometer of Curiosities

The Vasari Corridor is a spectacular elevated walkway of about one kilometer, which connects Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti on the opposite banks of the Arno. The corridor passes over the Uffizi Gallery, coming out on Lungarno of the Archibusieri, passing over Ponte Vecchio, on the streets and squares of Oltrarno and eventually arrives at Palazzo Pitti. The Vasari Corridor is a museum because along its walls are displayed many works of art, mainly portraits of famous artists such as Chagall and Guttuso. The tour is possible only upon request and with an authorized tourist guide.

The Vasari Corridor dates back to 1565, when Cosimo I de’ Medici, returned to power with the help of Charles V, not yet sure of the loyalty of the citizens left destroyed by the experience of the Florentine Republic, wanted to move around the residences and palaces of power in peace. Vasari, to whom was commissioned the work, was able to make it fully functional in only five months.

Among the curiosities related to the construction of the Corridor, should be noted that the butcher shops were removed from Ponte Vecchio because the smell disturbed the Grand Duke and were replaced by jewelers; the Corridor runs around the Mannelli Tower because the Mannelli Family was against the destruction to pass Vasari’s work; the Corridor also passes through the upper part of the Church of Santa Felicita, on which opens a window from which the Medici could attend mass undisturbed. Finally, but in more recent times, the Corridor was visited by the Führer in the company of Mussolini: the madman with the mustache was so fascinated by the work that he ordered the fortification of it thus preventing also the destroying of Ponte Vecchio, as were all the bridges in Florence. Too bad for him, because the Corridor was used by the partisans to reach the Nazi-Fascist occupation troops behind.

San Marco Museum, Works to be Admired in Heavenly Silence

Some Dominicans still live in the cloister of the San Marco, whose church is on the homonymous square in Florence. The religious complex houses one of the most important museums of Florence, famous for the presence of many frescoes and paintings by Fra Beato Angelico, sublime Renaissance painter.

The museum itself, however, is a work to be admired for its precious architecture, very simple but highly functional, designed by architect Michelozzo, Cosimo de’ Medici’s favorite. The interior and exterior spaces of the museum are a beautiful example of the best Renaissance architectural tradition, which aimed at making rational but also harmonious the environment where the man lived. The natural light that permeates the reading rooms of the library is an example of this combination of functionality and architectural harmony. Beato Angelico also became Prior of the convent, and decorated with truly unique mastery and care both the cloister and the monks’ cells.

The convent has always been at the center of religious activity, especially during the period when it hosted Friar Girolamo Savonarola, great castigator of the licentious customs of the Florentines at the end of 1400, who ended at the stake after the excommunication and heresy trial. Among the many works of art in the museum, to be admired in religious silence is the wonderful fresco of the Last Supper by Ghirlandaio.

The museum heritage in Florence includes dozens of national, local, religious and private buildings. The city owes a lot to the Medici, Lorraine and Savoy families, who over the centuries have collected and gathered thousands of works of art, but most of all have favored the activity of art and architecture, calling to the Grand Duchy the best minds of the different eras. The museums of Florence that we have here briefly talked about collect the best of Classical and Renaissance art: to admire modern art museums you can visit the Marino Marini Museum in Piazza San Pancrazio, or the Center for Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci, in Prato.