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A Tale of Two Art Museums: A Newbie's Guide to Florence

Kathryn Snyder | Jul 12, 2016

Kathryn Snyder is on the adventure of a lifetime traveling all across Europe. Last week, she stopped in Rome to visit Vatican City and The Colosseum!

This week, she visited Florence and has a few suggestions for newbie's who decide to take the journey like she did.

Kathryn writes:

The first and most important thing I will tell you about visiting Florence in the summer is this: BOOK THINGS IN ADVANCE

I’m serious. When my friend and I showed up to the Accademia (home of Michelangelo’s David and several other works) there was a standby line a couple hours long...and all reservations were full for another week and a half. It was exactly the same at the Uffizi Gallery. Luckily, if you’re in the know (which you now are!) you can circumvent these issues by simply booking tickets online a couple weeks ahead of time! Then all you have to do is show up, get your tickets about 10 minutes before your scheduled time slot, and prego! You’re standing in front of the David, asking yourself if this could possibly be real.

Onto the fun stuff

If you’re visiting Florence, you have to take the time to visit both the Accademia Museum and the Uffizi Gallery. I know I already talked about the Accademia a bit, but seeing the David in person really is unbelievable. I can’t really describe why - words don’t do it justice. The only way I can try to explain it is that it honestly looks like David could start moving at any moment. Even though he’s larger than life, he just seems so human. I found it amazing to think that someone made this! Michelangelo was simply a genius. My second favorite part of the Accademia were Michelangelo’s “Prisoners.” These non-finished statues give you a glimpse into the creative process the artist used. In some of them you can see half a person emerging from a block of marble. These incomplete works seem raw and emotional, especially compared with the masterpiece sitting behind them. 

The Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery was also a highlight of my visit to Florence. Despite the fact that I am not particularly into art, I decided to visit the Uffizi, arguably the best art museum in the world. If there’s a place where one can appreciate art, this is it! From the setting of romantic and historical Florence, to the vast contents of the gallery itself, I truly believe there is something for everyone here. Like I said before, I am not what one would call an “art person,” but I do have an appreciation for history, and Florence is definitely a historically significant place. Much of this history is well captured in the art of the different time periods. The gallery is assembled in pseudo-chronological order through time, starting with some classical works, followed by works in the Middle Ages/Medieval period, and then going onto the Renaissance (my personal favorite!) The Uffizi is huge and has a ridiculous collection of art. To sift through all of this to see the truly important things, I suggest either taking a guided tour or, if you’re on a budget like I am, simply download a free audio guide, and I recommend the Rick Steves Uffizi audio guide. In this, he literally tells you how to get to each work of art, and then explains its importance in the larger context of the setting of the work. In case you still need more convincing to visit this awesome collection, some of the highlights of the Uffizi include: 2 pieces by Mr. Renaissance, aka Leonardo DaVinci, several works by Florence native Michelangelo, and a whole room devoted to Boticelli (the guy who painted the birth of Venus).

Things to climb

Yes, I’m telling you to go climb more tall things. My apologies to your feet in advance! However, the view is not to be missed. In Florence, you have the Duomo and the church’s Campanile (or bell tower) that dominate the skyline. They are both incredible feats of engineering that give you a beautiful view of Florence. Personally, I think you should climb both because on top of the Campanile, you can admire the majesty of the Duomo. And, on the lantern of the Duomo, you are above everything else in Florence, and have a bird’s eye view of the renowned city below you. Then in the evening (when your feet have hopefully recovered a bit), take the hike up to the Piazzale Michelangelo with a bottle of wine (no open container laws here) and a snack for the most spectacular view of the city you could ever want. 

Piazzale Michelangelo

Another one of my favorite things we did in Florence was visiting the Santa Croce church. This old church is beautifully decorated with frescos, stained glass, statues, and, OH YEAH, the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante. It was unreal to stand before the tombs of these geniuses and think that maybe they once looked upon the stunning facade of the basilica with awe too. 

The tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante.

Can't forget about the food!

The food in Florence was fantastic. I’m convinced it’s impossible to get a bad meal here. I ate everything from food truck mystery sandwiches to crowded and upscale pizza joints that required an hour and a half wait. I was fortunate enough to have quite a few recommendations from a former Florentine on where to eat, all of which were excellent! The first thing we were told to try was a food stand in a little piazza just behind the lucky boar (give its nose a rub). My friend and I were told to order a Lampredotto with everything. What we ended up with wasn’t particularly what I expected, especially when I found out what the meat actually was. A British man eating at the same food stand heard our order and, laughing, asked us if we knew what it was. When we replied that we didn’t he asked if we wanted to know ... which was a little scary! But I was feeling adventurous that day and asked him to tell us. It was stomach, the fourth stomach of a cow, to be precise. And, as long as you don’t think about it too much, I promise the sandwich will still taste pretty darn good.

The pizza place I mentioned earlier was called Il Pizziolo. I highly recommend heading here after a long day of sightseeing for some Italian style pizza and surprisingly good and affordable Vino Della Casa (house wine).

All in all, you won’t regret spending time in Florence. As you can tell from my excitement, it was wonderful!

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