The 7 museums you shouldn’t miss on your first trip to Florence

The 7 museums you shouldn’t miss on your first trip to Florence

musei da vedere a firenze vista di firenze
musei da vedere a firenze vista di firenze

Florence’s urban landscape is, in itself, a unique artistic marvel—an unparalleled masterpiece shaped continuously over more than six centuries. This is how the UNESCO World Heritage Centre describes this Tuscan gem, which has been listed as a World Heritage site since 1982. And, undoubtedly, this is the impression Florence leaves on anyone seeing it for the first time.

This impression is not just due to its urban design and architecture, which remain iconic and nearly untouched, reflecting the passage of time from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and beyond. It’s also about what lies within these structures: invaluable collections that have come together to form “the world’s largest concentration of universally acclaimed artworks.”This is why no trip to Florence is complete without exploring its museums and their treasures. In this article, we’ve highlighted the top 7 museums for first-time visitors planning to stay for at least 3 days.

1. Galleria degli Uffizi

Ranked among the world’s most celebrated museums and unquestionably Florence’s crown jewel, the Galleria degli Uffizi showcases 45 rooms spanning its first and second floors, thoughtfully organized by both era and artist. The initial five rooms house late medieval gems, featuring works by Giotto and Simone Martini. Here, visitors can intimately appreciate Primavera and The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, as well as the portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca
The High Renaissance shines through the works of luminaries such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo with his renowned Tondo Doni (Holy Family), and the Madonna del Cardellino by Raffaello Sanzio.
The 16th century comes alive with pieces from Tiziano, Tintoretto, Rosso Fiorentino, and Pontormo, while the subsequent century boasts masterpieces by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Dyck. Additionally, the museum houses the Prints and Drawings Department and the Contini-Bonacossi Collection, spotlighting works from Andrea del Castagno, Goya, and more.

Depending on your interests and time available, the Galleria degli Uffizi offers three paths: a comprehensive tour (lasting over 3 hours), a classic journey (spanning over 2 hours), or a quick overview (between 1 to 2 hours).
Regardless of your chosen path, we strongly recommend diving deep into the heart of the Italian and European Renaissance. The era’s cultural nuances and sensibilities are vividly portrayed not just in the paintings but also in the rich collection of Roman sculptures and even in the museum’s architectural design, in part a legacy by Giorgio Vasari.

Book your Galleria degli Uffizi visit now.

musei da vedere a firenze galleria degli uffizi
The Galleria degli Uffizi

2. The Corridoio Vasariano

Named after the renowned architect, painter, and art historian, Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), the Corridoio Vasariano was envisioned by Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici as a private elevated walkway linking the Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti. This ingenious design allowed the grand dukes to traverse between their residences without setting foot on the bustling streets, ensuring both their privacy and safety.

Having been closed for renovations since 2016, the Corridoio Vasariano is set to reopen with some modifications. As detailed on the Museum’s website, 73 windows, originally commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici and later sealed to protect interior artworks, will be unveiled. These artworks, a remarkable collection of self-portraits that once graced the Corridoio Vasariano, will find a new home in the Galleria degli Uffizi. In their stead, the Corridoio Vasariano will showcase 30 ancient sculptures. Moreover, several of Vasari’s frescoes, previously stored away, will be prominently displayed.

Once rejuvenated and accessible, the Corridoio Vasariano promises to be a highlight for visitors. If it remains closed during your time in Florence, it’s a compelling reason to plan another visit once its doors open to the public.

musei da vedere a firenze uffizi interno
The Galleria degli Uffizi

3. The Galleria dell’Accademia

Just as with the Galleria degli Uffizi, the Galleria dell’Accademia‘s foundation is a legacy of the Medici family’s generosity. Inaugurated in 1784 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, it has housed the iconic David by Michelangelo Buonarroti since 1873. This magnificent biblical figure, immediately recognized as a masterpiece, initially stood at the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria, symbolizing the might and authority of the Republic of Florence. It was later moved inside the museum.

Today, David commands attention from the center of the Tribuna, an area specially designed for it by architect Emilio De Fabris. Visitors are drawn to this centerpiece through artworks like the Ratto delle Sabine by Giambologna at the gallery’s entrance, followed by the Prigioni, San Matteo, and Pietà di Palestrina by Michelangelo.

The gallery unfolds a rich array of paintings from the 13th to the 17th centuries: starting with Giotto and medieval luminaries, transitioning to Lorenzo Monaco‘s late Gothic style, and moving through the works of Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, culminating with Andrea del Sarto and Pontormo.

The Gipsoteca showcases distinguished 19th-century paintings and plaster models by Lorenzo Bartolini, a leading figure in 19th-century Italian sculpture, and his student, Luigi Pampaloni.

But there’s more. The Accademia also features the Department of Musical Instruments, a collection of about fifty instruments once belonging to the Medici and later the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, who took over the city’s reins in 1737.

With its diverse offerings and grand displays, the Galleria dell’Accademia stands out as a must-visit in Florence.

Book your Galleria dell’Accademia visit now.

musei da vedere a firenze david di michelangelo
The Galleria dell’Accademia

4. Palazzo Pitti and the Galleria Palatina

Palazzo Pitti, once home to the Medici, the Habsburg-Lorraine, and almost the Savoy dynasties, still carries the name of its original commissioner, the merchant Luca Pitti. He envisioned a grand palace, likely designed by the renowned architect Filippo Brunelleschi. The actual building work was undertaken by Luca Fancelli, a protegé of Brunelleschi, and over the years, the palace has seen numerous renovations and expansions.

Today, Palazzo Pitti stands not just as a testament to the architecture of Florence but also as a hub for art and culture, housing several distinct collections:

  • The Tesoro dei Granduchi, the Medici’s summer apartment, showcases a dazzling array of ivory, rock crystal, amber artifacts, and even some exquisite modern jewelry
  • The Museo delle Icone Russe, the oldest collection of its kind outside Russia
  • The Cappella Palatina, a decorated space that changed many functions over its history
  • The Galleria Palatina, which boasts paintings by Raffaello Sanzio (La Velata), Tiziano, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, and Rubens
  • The Appartamenti Imperiali e Reali offer a glimpse into the luxurious lives of the dynasties that once called the palace home
  • Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, featuring works from the Neoclassical and Romantic periods, as well as pieces by Giovanni Fattori, a leading figure of the Macchiaioli movement
  • The Museo della Moda e del Costume is a journey through sartorial history, from 18th-century garments to iconic 20th-century film and theater costumes

With so much to see, some sections might occasionally be closed for restoration. It’s a good idea to plan ahead to make the most of your visit.

Book your Palazzo Pitti visit now.

5. The Giardino di Boboli 

Nestled behind the Palazzo Pitti, the Giardino di Boboli is a veritable open-air museum, a harmonious blend of artistry in both sculpture and botany. Commissioned by the Duchess Eleonora di Toledo, the cherished wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici, this garden has seen numerous transformations and extensions. Yet, they’ve retained their original geometric essence, standing as a testament to the grandeur of Italian garden design.

Visitors are led through tree-canopied avenues, flower-filled basins, and playful water features, immersing them in a sensory tapestry of fragrances, hues, and architectural marvels. Among these wonders, the Grotta del Buontalenti stands out with its frescoes and nature-inspired decorations, statues (notably the marble Venere al bagno by Giambologna), and reliefs adorned with shells and calcareous deposits. The Vasca dell’Isola, a vast aquatic expanse, showcases the statue of Oceano, another masterpiece by Giambologna. The Kaffeehaus, once a refuge for the court and a tasting room for chocolate delights, and the Limonaia, housing the family’s extensive citrus collection, further enrich the garden’s allure.

One cannot overlook the Fontana del Bacchino, or Nano Morgante, which portrays the most celebrated and endearing court dwarf of Cosimo I de’ Medici. This sculpture, masterfully chiseled in white marble in 1560 by Valerio Cioli, is the culmination of several artistic tributes to the same figure, capturing the nuances of Mannerist sculpture and exuding a certain whimsical charm. Braccio di Bartolo, affectionately known as Morgante, is depicted in mid-stride atop a turtle, his bare form bearing the weight of years. Perhaps these very features, hinting at abundance, have bestowed upon it its contemporary charm of good fortune.

While the Giardino di Boboli graciously welcome visitors throughout the year, they truly come alive from spring onwards, when nature blossoms and the aromatic symphony of the gardens reaches its crescendo.

Book your Giardino di Boboli visit now.

musei da vedere a firenze giardini di boboli
The Giardino di Boboli

6. The Museo Nazionale del Bargello

Housed within the majestic walls of a building that once served as the residence of the Captain of Justice (known as the “bargello”), then a prison, and now a museum, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello‘s collection is a testament to some of Italy’s most pivotal sculptural masterpieces. As visitors traverse its three expansive floors, they’re treated to a harmonious dialogue of art pieces, each resonating with gestures, allusions, and colors that elevate the viewing experience.

On the ground floor, a grand hall showcases the brilliance of artists like Michelangelo, with his Bacco e l’Apollo, Cellini, Giambologna with his Mercurio volante, and Ammannati. Ascending the stately stone staircase, one arrives at the Loggia and the rooms of the first floor, where a special tribute to Donatello awaits. It’s here that one can admire some of Donatello’s most refined works, such as the marble David, the bronze David, and the San Giorgio. Sharing this space are other masterpieces like the David by Verrocchio, Luca della Robbia‘s glazed terracotta works, notably the Madonna della Mela, and the bronze reliefs by Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, crafted for the Paradiso door of the Florence Baptistery.

The top floor, while continuing the museum’s narrative, introduces visitors to an impressive armory collection, another nod to the Medici legacy.

Book your Museo Nazionale del Bargello visit now.

musei da vedere a firenze museo del bargello
The Museo Nazionale del Bargello

7. The Museo di San Marco

Located within the namesake convent, the Museo di San Marco boasts the most extensive collection of works by Beato Angelico (circa 1395 – 1455). It’s here, as a monk, that he spent much of his life.

Masterpieces such as The Annunciazione, The Deposizione, The Trittico di San Pietro martire, The Pala di Annalena, The Giudizio Universale, The Pala di San Marco, and The Tabernacolo dei Linaioli are just a few of Angelico’s renowned Renaissance creations. Additionally, the museum features frescoes from the monks’ cells on the upper floor.

The collection also presents the Cenacolo by Ghirlandaio and the Madonna col Bambino by Paolo Uccello, alongside the glazed terracottas of the Della Robbia family. The building itself, crafted by Michelozzo at the behest of Cosimo de’ Medici, known as “il Vecchio”, stands out for its harmonious beauty and architectural elegance. Notable sections include the Sala del Refettorio, the Capitolo, the cloister, and the frescoed monk cells.

This hidden treasure is a must-visit for anyone’s first trip to Florence.

Book your Museo di San Marco visit now.

musei da vedere a firenze beato angelico
The Annunciazione by Beato Angelico

Capturing the full richness and diversity of Florence’s museum heritage in just one article is no small feat. There are countless other places dedicated to preserving the city’s storied cultural and artistic history. Personal interests and the time you have available are great guides to further enhance your visit and uncover all the wonders the Tuscan capital holds. 

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