Hi, my name is Melissa and I’m completely hopeless at art. To give you an idea, I convinced my high school principal that Yearbook was a reasonable substitute for Art class. So you can safely assume I know nothing about it.
I recently spent some time in Florence, Italy, and felt woefully unprepared to take on all of the art history this city has to offer. If you’re anything like me and somehow slipped through school without taking a single art class, I prepared a cheat sheet of the main artistic attractions in Florence. Happy travels, and until you make it as an art expert, go ahead and fake it with this guide! Without further ado – your guide to art in Florence, Italy!
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Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and is a stronghold of many artistic masterpieces. For centuries, Florence (Firenze) has drawn crowds of tourists eager to feast on the wealth of artistic treasures, from Michelangelo to Botticelli to Raphael. Read on for my top highlights, and what qualify as “must-sees” while you’re in town.
Summary: The Uffizi Gallery is the largest, most prominent Florentine art museum with artistic masterpieces spread throughout 45 halls and over two floors of the palace (aka a boatload of art).
What to See:
- Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus
- Filippo Lippi’s Madonna and Child with Two Angels
- Titian’s Venus of Urbino
- Caravaggio’s Bacchus
Tip: If you’re planning a visit during high season, book a tour ahead of time. Waits can range upwards of five hours in the heat of summer. It gets incredibly hot there, trust me, you do not want to experience this. Just spend a few Euros and save yourself the misery.
Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens
Summary: From Florence’s city center, stroll over the Ponte Vecchio and you will find yourself at the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace). The Palace houses a collection of sculptures, paintings, silver, porcelain, and costumes from the Renaissance period.
What to See:
- Boboli Gardens – The Gardens showcase the classical Italian style with manicured lawns, statues, and towering hedges. Take a walk up to the top to view a sweeping panorama of Florence and the Tuscan countryside (photo ops!)
- The Costume Museum – The gallery displays clothing styles from as far back as 1600. It’s pretty cool to see how styles evolved over the years and the lengths people went to to be fashionable (and also something a non-artsy person can appreciate, yay!)
- Silver Museum (Medici Treasury) – Home to treasures ranging from a golden ‘blouse’ to a Cartier diamond and amethyst tiara to 15th century mother-of-pearl pieces, the gallery boasts some of the most unique precious objects from the ages past (aka glittery, expensive stuff that I’m all about).
Tip: There are numerous museums within the Pitti Palace. Do some research ahead of time on which museums you’d like to visit and choose your ticket wisely. Reserve your ticket to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens ahead of time with timed entrance tickets.
Summary: Accademia is the second most visited museum in Florence, Italy after the Uffizi. It’s relatively small, and the primary reason tourists flock here is to see Michelangelo’s Statue of David. (I said primary to be nice—David was honestly the only reason to go inside.)
What to See:
- Michelangelo’s statue of David – This 17ft tall marble sculpture of the biblical hero is displayed prominently in the Accademia. You can view it from 360 degrees.
Tip: If you’re planning to visit in the summer, buy a skip the line pass. I promise you, it will be 100% worth it to walk by everyone else enduring the sweltering heat.
Summary: The Palazzo Vecchio is the original Florentine town hall, and features timeless frescoes and gilded ceilings. Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria, the former home of the powerful Medicis allows you to experience centuries of precious art.
What to See:
- Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the 500) – The largest room in the palace features golden decoration, large wall frescoes, and striking statues. It was originally built to house the Grand Council for the Republic, which had 500 members. It was later converted into a boardroom for the Medicis.
- Cortile di Michelozzo (Inner Courtyard) – Designed by Michelozzo, the first courtyard shows off its decorative fountain, Austrian frescoes, and Florentine crests.
- The Apartments of Eleonora de Toledo – These private rooms offer a glimpse into how the ruling class lived in centuries past.
Tip: The Palazzo Vecchio is home to dozens of hidden chambers and secret passages. Unique sites include hidden stairways that offered secret escape routes in the Middle Ages and private rooms of Medici princes. If you want to take a secret tour, make sure to book in advance!
Florence, Italy Logistics:
Where to stay in Florence, Italy: Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is one of the top picks in Florence; located in the city center, you get all the perks of location plus the swankiness of a two story spa and Michelin-star restaurant. For a slightly cheaper option, check out Hotel Pendini, which is a quaint, family-run hotel in easy walking distance of all the main sights. For the hostel lovers of the world – you’re going to want to check out Academy Hostel, which is clean, friendly, and most importantly, literally two steps from the Duomo.
Cheap flights to Florence, Italy: I’d recommend looking up eDreams.net. They scan tons of different travel discount sites and feature special flight deals.
For further Italy inspiration, make sure to check out the following posts!
- Burano, Italy: Discover the most colorful fishing village on a day trip from Venice!
- Italian Bucket List: Stumped on what to do in Italy? Check out this bucket list for travel inspo.
- Instagram guide to Florence: Plan your route through Florence to snap the best photos.
- 10 day Italy itinerary: This itinerary will bring you through major cities, Cliffside towns, and of course, Italian wine country.
- Top 14 things to do in Venice, Italy: Gondolas, pasta, and canals, oh my! Explore your epic Venice, Italy bucket list!
- Cinque Terre, Italy: Oh Cinque Terre, you still have my heart with your ancient colorful villages. Learn everything you need to know for a day trip to Cinque Terre!
- 10 Reasons you’ll fall in love with Italy: As if you needed any additional convincing, here are the top 10 reasons I fell in love with Italy.
- Cheat Sheet to art in Florence, Italy: For all you art newbies out there like me, check out this cheat sheet on Florentine art 101.
Have you checked out the art in Florence, Italy? What are some of your favorite art tips? Let me know in the comments below!