You probably won’t visit them all in one stay, but if you’re a museum buff you should definitely consider the 3-day “all inclusive” pass: access to all 72 museums, good for 72 hours, for a small price of… yup, 72 Euro! In any case, here are our picks of the best Florence museums and churches (this list does not include the three churches included in our “Florence in 1 Day” guide: the Duomo, Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce)
For tickets and reservations, see: http://www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi/default.aspx
For news, events, opening hours, any other information on Florence museums and churches, see: http://www.florenceartmuseums.com/
To purchase the 72-hour “Firenze Card” pass, visit: http://www.firenzecard.it/index.php?lang=en
San Miniato al Monte
The view from Piazzale Michelangelo is hard to beat. Hard, but not impossible. Perched directly above the piazzale, about 100 meters further up the hill, the ancient Abbey of San Miniato al Monte may well be the most scenic church in Italy. And while its 12th-century interior – with the famous mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and St. Miniato – is certainly stunning, it is the breathtaking panorama of Florence that should make this spot a must on your list. An added bonus? The small shop up front sells the products of the adjoining Olivetan monastery, including the monks’ famous liqueurs and flavored honeys.
From the outside, you probably wouldn’t think this is a church. And really, you would be correct: Orsanmichele was originally built, in 1337, as the city’s grain market. About a half century later, however, it was converted into the chapel of Florence’s arti, the powerful trade guilds that ruled the city’s economy. Its most recognizable features are precisely the 14 niches distributed across the building’s square perimeter, which host the statues of the various guilds’ patron saints.
Santa Maria del Carmine
With its unfinished and seemingly-crumbling facade, the 13th-century Carmelite church in the San Frediano neighborhood looks rather uninspiring from the outside. Inside, however, it unleashes an amazing concentration of artistic treasures, including the world-famous Brancacci Chapel with its cycle of frescoes by Masaccio.
This stern, imposing basilica dominates the square of Santo Spirito, which sits at the heart of the buzzing Oltrarno neighborhood. With its 97-meter nave, two cloister and 38 chapels, the complex boasts a great wealth of artistic treasures, though its most prominent attractions remains Michelangelo’s crucifix. The slender wooden figure was sculpted when the artist was just 17 years old, as a thanks to the church for allowing him to use the corpses from the convent’s hospital for his anatomical studies.
The Great Synagogue of Florence
Florence’s synagogue was built in the 1870s to give the local Jewish community a place of worship “befitting such a city”. A masterpiece of Italian Moorish architecture, the Great Synagogue is a wholly unique element within the city’s urban landscape, with its unmistakable green copper dome towering over the roofs of the Sant’Ambrogio area. The synagogue can be visited every day except for Saturdays, while a restaurant serving traditional Jewish specialties is located next door.
The Uffizi is one of the most famous and most visited museums in the world. Its huge collection (only a fraction of which is actually on display) includes countless masterpiece from the Renaissance and beyond, by the likes of Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Be advised that a proper visit will take up at least a half-day, if not a full day, and lines to enter can be extremely long. Therefore, we strongly advise to make advance reservations in order to save some time.
If there was ever a museum worth visiting for a single piece of its collection, this is it! Although copies of Michelangelo’s David can be admired elsewhere in Florence (there is a marble replica in Piazza della Signoria, and a smaller bronze one in Piazzale Michelangelo), we recommend taking the time to go see the original, if only for that strange and indescribable feeling that sweeps over you when you’re in the presence of the world’s most famous statue…
Opificio delle Pietre Dure
This is a hidden gem that few people even know about… which means no waiting in line! The museum pays homage to the ancient Florentine tradition of inlay stone craftsmanship, and features a dazzling collection of unique artifacts as well as an exhibit of the various techniques required for this very particular art form.
The Bargello is the oldest surviving public building in Florence, as it was built in 1255 to house the city’s Chief Magistrate. It eventually also served as a prison, and remained the headquarter of Florentine police, in some capacity, until the mid-1800s, when it was transformed into a national museum around the time of the unification of Italy. Its sculpture collection is particularly impressive, and includes universally-renowned masterworks like Michelangelo’s Bacchus and Donatello’s David.
Today, this former royal residence is the largest museum complex in Florence. The Palatine Gallery houses the museum’s most important collection of paintings, with over 500 priceless works by masters of the Renaissance and Baroque period. Other important galleries include the Royal Apartments, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Porcelains, housed in the “casino” in the Boboli Garden. Palazzo Pitti is also used for many interesting temporary exhibits, so check the events calendar to see what’s happening during your stay!
Palazzo Vecchio is as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside. Though it still houses the Mayor’s office and the City Council, much of Palazzo Vecchio is now a museum, and barring special events it is always possible to visit its most impressive spaces, like the awesome Salone dei Cinquecento (where the 500 members of the Florentine “parliament” congregated), the vaulted Studiolo of Francesco I or the spectacular panoramic terrazze on the top floor.
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