Florence’s Uffizi Gallery hosts one of the finest art collections in the world. Nowhere else can one find as rich a selection of Florentine art from the Renaissance and late Middle Ages. Here’s all you need to know to make the most of your visit.
Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned the Uffizi in 1560, a time of full bloom for Renaissance Florence. As part of the ongoing wave of change and renovation, the new building was aimed at reforming the city’s administration by bringing several offices (‘uffizi’) under the same roof. A wealth of statues, treasures and frescoes soon turned the top floor into an exhibition space, with the first series of portraits brought in from the adjoining town hall (Palazzo Vecchio) as early as 1587. But it wasn’t until the 18th century that the Uffizi opened to the public, and gradually emerged as one of the world’s most iconic museums.
The main gallery, over two floors, displays late-Medieval and Renaissance art. It boasts the world’s largest collections of Botticelli and Raffaello, as well as major works by Giotto, Leonardo and Michelangelo. Some of the many masterpieces to seek out include Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Spring, Raffaello’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, Giotto’s Ognissanti Maestà, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, Leonardo’s Annunciation, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Tiziano’s Venus of Urbino.
Those interested in modern art should allow some time for Palazzo Pitti. Highlights in this sumptuous 15th-century palace include Francesco Hayez, Giovanni Fattori and Camille Pissarro. It is also home to Medici art and treasures, royal apartments, and an intriguing museum of historical fashion.
A raised corridor links the famous palace to the Uffizi. This safe passage was essential for a man of Cosimo Medici’s stature following the unstable political climate which simmered beneath his rise to power. Another passageway, known as ‘Corridoio Vasariano’, runs across the river reaching Palazzo Pitti.
The Uffizi’s architecture, designed by Giorgio Vasari, is both elegant and austere, as demonstrated in the impressive arched entrance looking out on the River Arno. Past the arch, two Doric colonnades frame a long courtyard populated by statues. Prominent Tuscan figures such as Dante Alighieri and Galileo Galilei overlook the passage of visitors along the courtyard, which opens up at the opposite end onto Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio.
Hours and Directions
The Uffizi Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8.15am to 6.50pm, with last entry at 5.30pm. Palazzo Pitti opens to visitors from 1:30pm to 6.50pm, last entry at 5.50pm (also Tuesday to Sunday). The gardens are open from 8.15am, while the closing time varies according to the season. Currently closed, Corridoio Vasariano is set to reopen in 2022.
Located at the heart of Florence, the Uffizi easily slots into any tour of the city. Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio and the Arno riverside are only some of the adjoining attractions. While the gallery alone could take days to explore, a two- or three-hour visit is the best option to avoid being overwhelmed by all it has to offer. To make the most of it, it is advisable to plan what you’d like to see in advance of your Uffizi trip.
Transport: From Santa Maria Novella train station, it takes about 15 minutes to walk both to the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti. The Uffizi’s own bus stop is served by the C1 line, while Palazzo Pitti is reached by the lines C4 (Santo Spirito stop) and 11 (Serragli Santa Monica stop). Travelling by car, parking lots can be found at Piazza Mentana and Garage Palazzo Vecchio car parks, both around 300m from the Uffizi.
Tickets and Tours
Tours: As one of the world’s most impressive museums, the Uffizi Gallery can be a little intimidating. A guided tour might be a good option to discover all the masterpieces and lesser-known gems stored at the museum, and avoid getting lost among the artworks. Getyourguide.com offers two- to four-hour guided tours in several languages, which can be booked here. Another option includes not only a guided tour of the gallery but also nearby attractions, such as the Duomo and its famous dome (booking here).
A hop-on hop-off bus might be a convenient way to explore a new city, especially one so crammed with historical landmarks and Renaissance wonders as Florence. This sightseeing tour is valid for 24 or 48 hours, and includes entry to the Uffizi. On booking, you’ll be able to select whether you wish to visit the gallery on your own or on a guided tour.
As for the other section of the Uffizi complex, a 4-hour guided tour to Palazzo Pitti can be booked here, inclusive of its lush gardens and the prestigious Medici collection. A slightly different take on the palace is offered by this tour, which focuses on the Costume Gallery and the Silver Museum.