Florence is famous for its stunning art museums.
So, you’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and rowed across the Atlantic Ocean? Whatever. You have not begun to understand what true stamina is until you’ve done a comprehensive art crawl in Florence. According to UNESCO, 60 percent of the world’s most important works of art are located in Italy and approximately half of those are in Florence. You can spend years getting a solid grasp on all the incredible artists that lived here and their groundbreaking work, so buckle up. And when you’re done with this itinerary, you’re not actually done. Not even close. You still have still have days worth of art to contemplate in the city’s many palazzos and churches.
If you omit reasonable sleep and sit-down meals, you can probably cover Florence’s art highlights in one punishing weekend, but that would be a shame. Sane people might like to budget five to seven days for a thorough tour, with downtime for other activities to let one’s brain rest between periods of art overload.
Between naps and fortifying wine tastings, a proper Florence art crawl should start with the Uffizi, hands-down the greatest collection of Italian and Florentine art in the world. Budget about four hours for a proper visit, assuming you’ve reserved tickets in advance (recommended). If you opt to stand in line, tack on anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the season and what time you arrive.
Clear across the historic center to the north is Galleria dell’Accademia. Arrive early or risk stewing in one of the longest entry lines in Italy. The undisputed star here, of course, is Michelangelo’s David, but there’s also a wealth of paintings and sculptures, including other works Michelangelo, namely the unfinished San Matteo (1503) and the four-piece Prigioni (‘prisoners’; 1530).
If you have any energy left after visiting Accademia, Museo di San Marco is just around the corner, showcasing a collection of Fra Angelico masterpieces. The museum also contains the former cell of Savonarola, Florence’s infamous super-pious monk who masterminded the Bonfire of the Vanities in 1497.
Closer to the Uffizi, about five minutes north on Via dei Leoni, is Museo del Bargello, home to Italy’s largest collection of Tuscan Renaissance sculptures, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello and Vincenzo Gemito. This is also the oldest public building in Florence, dating from 1256.
Literally a few steps away from the Duomo is Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, featuring the treasures once held in the Duomo that were deemed too precious to keep within reach of all the pawing hands of its visitors.
Next to the massive and inimitable Basilica di Santa Croce is Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce, filled with 14th and 15th century religious art. Hit hard by the flood of the Arno River in 1966, the painstaking restoration here set the standard for modern art restoration and preservation.
A few blocks northeast of the historic center is the Museo Archeologico. In addition to the immense stash of Medici-collected items, this excellent museum has an Egyptian collection, Etruscan art and the museum’s famous bronze Greek statue, the Idolino.
Best Florence Shopping and Markets…shop till you drop.
Best Gelato in Florence…take this ultimate getateria tour. You deserve it.
Florence South of the Arno River…after the Pitti Palace
Must-See Churches of Florence…history, art, architecture, cathedrals and bunch of saints.
Must-See Museums of Florence…prepare to be spoiled for the rest of your life.