The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is a journey through time from the Gothic to the Baroque and all of the masterpieces are here. You’ll learn to appreciate the work of the Florentine masters housed in one of the most famous art collections in the world. This is your chance to get up close and personal with Giotto, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, Caravaggio and countless others when you visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. A visit to Florence would not be complete without seeing the collections of the Medici in the Uffizi Gallery!
A little history about the museum is in order before we begin the tour. Established by the Medici in 1581, the Uffizi Gallery was commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici in 1560, the patriarch of the family, and designed by Georgio Vasari, a renowned artist at the time and one of Cosimo’s favorites. Actually, this edifice was originally intended to serve as offices or uffizis for the high-ranking magistrates of Florence. However, over time, the Medici family amassed a large collection artwork; either purchased or commissioned, and stored them here and it wasn’t until after the Medici fell out of power; when Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress, established the museum through a family pact that stated all of her possessions were never to leave Florence. The Uffizi Gallery opened up to the public in 1765. The rest, as they say, is history.
After climbing three staircases and being somewhat winded, you are greeted by the “family”, busts of the prominent Medici’s. From this moment, it becomes clear just how influential this family was throughout their “reign” of Florence and the Renaissance! The museum tour then leads you through the maze of rooms on a one-way path through major milestones and transitions of one artistic style to the next.
The tour begins through the 13th century or Gothic period when two-dimensional paintings, usually accented in goldleaf, were the prolific art form of the day. It is fascinating to see how the artists tried to apply perspective to their paintings, an idea that wouldn’t see the light of day for nearly 300 years later when Brunelleschi introduced the concept in the 15th century and Masaccio’s “Holy Trinity” demonstrated it. If you’ve never seen the “Holy Trinity,” it’s a magnificent fresco of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, inside the Santa Maria Novella.
From there, the journey continues with Botticelli’s “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus.” Strikingly beautiful and vibrant in color, the “Birth of Venus” tells the story of Venus who arrives on the first day of creation, floating in a shell with the winds, Zephyr and Aura blowing her ashore. To her right, is one of the Three Graces, who is ready to offer her capes to provide cover in her modest state.
Be sure to examine the shift in artistic style in Michelangelo’s “Doni Tondo”, a painting of the Holy Family completed in the early 16th century during the transition from the Renaissance to “Mannerism”, circa 1520.
Giotto, Lippi, Carravagio, Raphael’s “Self Portrait,” Leonardo’s unfinished “Adoration of the Magi,” Titian’s “Venus d’Urbino,” Piero Della Francesca’s “Duke of Urbino,” Parmigianino’s “Madonna of the Long Neck,” and countless others await discovery and admiration. You’ll also find Italian sculptures and the prized “Tribuna,” a magnificent octagonal room with striking red walls that houses the Medici’s most treasured and valuable pieces. As you weave in and out of all of the connecting rooms, be sure to notice the ceilings in the outer hallways. Known in the artistic world as “grotesques”, not because of the subject matter but of the origin of the art form itself, a style of painting whose origins were first discovered on the ceilings of grottos, hence “grotesques.”
This is only a sample of what you’ll encounter on your visit to the Uffizi Museum. Make sure you include a stop at the Uffizi in your traveling itinerary.
A few tips before you go:
Guided tours are a great way to get the most of your visit to the Uffizi Museum. These tours not only grant you “front of the line” access but allow for interaction between the guide and the visitor making it a more meaningful visit in the end. Check out Avventure Bellissimi for one of their most popular tours which includes a guided city walk in the morning to learn about architecture, historical sites, the Medici, Dante and the role that Florence played in one of the most influential and reawakening periods in history – the Renaissance! Following the morning walk, there is a guided tour of the Accademia Museum to see Michelangelo’s David. In the afternoon, it’s on to the Uffizi Museum. Total length of the tour is about five hours.
If you forego the guided tour, audio guides are available to rent for a nominal fee. However, admission is not included and I strongly recommend that you book your reservations online or call the museum directly to avoid two to three hours of standing in queue. Check out the website mentioned above. If you are staying in Florence, some hotels are amenable to booking your museum reservations for you. Simply ask and save the online booking fee.
Finally, leave your camera in your hotel room. No pictures are allowed at the Uffizi or Accademia Museum.
More articles about Florence that may interest you:
Discover the art and architecture of Florence, Italy – the city that gave birth to the Renaissance!
Santa Maria del Fiore – the Florence Duomo
Santa Reparata – Discover this 4th century basilica that lies beneath the Florence Duomo
Wondering where to stay in Florence? Why the Hotel Monna Lisa of course.