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 Museums. One can (and does) spend years getting a solid grasp on all the incredible artists that lived here and their groundbreaking work, so buckle up.
This itinerary is listed as a “weekend or longer,” so what I’ve done is list the art spots that you’ll definitely want to hit if you don’t want people to tear their hair out if you tell them you missed them. If you have the time and foot durability for more, I’ve listed additional museums at the bottom. Make no mistake, these are also wonderful, but not world-class.
Let’s get the Big Three out of the way first. Near the Ponte Vecchio, you can’t miss the Uffizi – just follow the crowds. This is hands-down the greatest collection of Italian and Florentine art in the world. Pieces that would be headliner works in other museums around the world are relegated to the farthest, most inconspicuous corners in this place. Budget about four hours for a proper visit, assuming you’re reserved tickets in advance. If you stand in the general line, this might be the only thing you do all day.
A few minutes walk north on Via dei Leoni is the Museo del Bargello is home to Italy’s largest collection of Tuscan Renaissance sculptures, including early pieces by Michelangelo, Donatello, Vincenzo Gemito and Jacopo Sansovino. The museum is housed in the oldest public building in Florence, dating from 1256.
Heading north, on the opposite side of the historic center, Galleria dell’Accademia is best attacked as a first stop of the day. I mean, like, even before coffee. Get in line first, then send someone to get the coffee. Seriously. The undisputed star here, of course, is Michelangelo’s David. Take photos inside and risk the aggressive shushing of the security guards.
Just around the corner from Accedemia, you’ll find early-Renaissance painter Fra Angelico’s masterpieces housed in Museo di San Marco. Nearly all the work was painted by the friar or done by people under his supervision, including groundbreaking paintings like the Altarpiece of San Marco, the massive Crucifixion (Crocifissione), his Annuciazione as well as works decorating all 20 of the monks’ cells.
Medicean Chapels, adjacent to the Basilica di San Lorenzo, is not only the Medici family mausoleum, containing the remains of nearly 50 members of the the powerful Florentine family, but also incredible artistic works that they commissioned, done in granite, marble, precious metals and semiprecious stones. The highlights are the tombs, designed by Michelangelo.
A 15-minute, zig-zaggy walk east is the excellent Museo Archeologico which not only has an immense stash of Medici-collected items, but there’s also an Egyptian collection, Etruscan art and the museum’s famous bronze Greek statue, the Idolino.
Compared to the previous museums, the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce, adjacent to the Basilica di Santa Croce, is much less chaotic. Santa Croce is filled with 14th and 15th century religious art that has been painstakingly restored after the flood of the Arno River in 1966.
Museums not mentioned here, but still worth noting include the museums inside Palazzo Pitti and the Vasari Corridor (both detailed in the art crawl itinerary), Alinari National Photography Museum, the museum in Chiesa di Orsanmichele, Museo Casa di Dante, Museo Galileo, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica, Palazzo Nonfinito (The Unfinished Palace), and the Museo di Arte e Storia Ebraico inside the Sinagoga.
Best Florence Shopping and Markets…shop till you drop.
Best Gelato in Florence…take this ultimate getateria tour. You deserve it.
Florence Art Museum Crawl…start with the Ufizzi and it only gets better.
Florence South of the Arno River…after the Pitti Palace
Must-See Churches of Florence…history, art, architecture, cathedrals and bunch of saints.