Note: This story was originally posted in January 2015. Florence never goes out of style, and the best part is that museums, churches and other sites are continually being updated. So for first time visitors, or for others (like us) who are diving into Florence after a few years' absence, here's a round-up of museums in Florence–all world calibre, rich with history, and filled with gorgeous treasures. These days, it's advisable–and easy–to book tickets in advance for some museums to avoid long lines.
On my fifth visit to Florence, Italy, everything old seemed new again. I loved Florence on my first visit in the 70s, and I still love it now. But my travel advice for the day is: don’t ever say “Been there, done that.” Maybe we’ve been there before, but Florence isn’t standing still. Museums and churches are constantly being adapted to restore and preserve art and to handle more visitors. ‘New' is a relative term. We include the old classic museums, some newly updated, and some just new to us. For current pricing and to book tickets, check out Tickets Florence.
The Uffizi, of course – 12.50€ per person. Arguably the world's best art museum (C'mon, it has Botticelli's Venus on the Half-Shell!), the Uffizi Gallery seems to be under near-constant renovation. The current project is big. The Uffizi now consists of two full floors of fun, with a cafeteria rest stop opening onto a rooftop patio, expanded bookstores (accessible without a museum ticket, but after security), and the renovated tribunal room of Cosimo Medici I.
Museo Orsanmichele – Free, but open Mondays only. It’s a treat to visit this massive old marketplace building for views and a handful of sculptures, including many designed for this building's exterior. The subject matter, though mostly religious, was at least created for the wealthy commercial guilds.
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Palazzo Vecchio – Access and tours of the Palazzo Vecchio are always changing. In 2000, our family tour included a pass through the rafters of the great Hall of 500. New tours are broken into special interests. We chose a worthwhile, detailed tour of the palace from Context Travel. Other tours by special arrangement might include secret passageways or the famous Duchess walkway connecting the Palazzo with the Pitti Palace across the Arno River.
Bargello National Museum – 4€. One of my favorite spots in Florence, because of the many sculptures moved here to protect them from the elements. The museum has expanded considerably, and now includes beautiful ivories, porcelain, enamels, and textiles from private Medici collections. Check out the miniature mosaic with tiles the size of pinheads.
Galleria dell’Accademia – 8€. Besides David (and don't forget Michelangelo's Prisoners and St. Matthew are here, too) the museum now has a permanent room crammed with sculpture by Lorenzo Bartolini and Luigi Pampaloni (or did I just forget?). The best addition is the collection of old musical instruments.
The Medici Chapel and the Medici Library (Laurenziana) – 7€ combined. Be sure your visit includes both parts of the Chapel so you can view the architecture of the big Chapel of the Princes, and the Michaelango sculptures in the New Sacristy. If you're lucky, your visit to the outstanding library space (the inlaid floor mirrors the ornate ceiling) will include a temporary exhibit. We got to see an exhibit of ancient illustrated texts devoted to animals.
Museo Galileo – 9€. This is entirely new, opened in 2010. Perhaps a guided tour would have been more fun. As it was, we enjoyed a couple sections on Galileo’s particular physics experiments, and seeing some of the scientific instruments. Ask for your discount to La Specola Natural History Museum, included with the rather pricey Galileo ticket.
For more highlights of our Florence discoveries, read about our church visits and neighborhood walks.