The Uffizi Gallery (in Italian, Galleria degli Uffizi) is an old palace (called Palazzo degli Uffizi), which was converted into an art museum in the city of Florence, Italy. And it was one of the first museums in Modern History, as the gallery first opened to the public in 1765!
Even so, it only officially assumed “museum” status about a century later. But nowadays, the Uffizi Gallery is not only one of the most popular attractions in Florence but also one of the most visited art museums in the world, with more than 4 million visitors per year!
So, do you want to know more about the Uffizi Gallery: Best Tips For Visiting In 2023? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the Uffizi Gallery
- What to See at the Uffizi Gallery
- “La Nascita di Venere”, by Sandro Botticelli (Second Floor, Room 10-14)
- “La Primavera”, by Sandro Botticelli (Second Floor, Room 10-14)
- “Doni Tondo”, by Michelangelo (2nd Floor, Room 35)
- “Ermafrodito” (2nd Floor, Room 38)
- “Madonna del Cardellino”, by Raffaello Sanzio (1st Floor, Room 66)
- “Testa di Medusa”, by Caravaggio (1st Floor, Room 90)
- Practical Guide to the Uffizi Gallery
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- More Posts about Museum Guides
- More Posts about World Heritage
- What Photography Gear Do I Use?
Brief History of the Uffizi Gallery
In 1560, Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned an office building from Giorgio Vasari, to reunite the city’s magistrates, until then scattered throughout Florence. However, his “real” intention was to control them directly from the old Palazzo della Signoria (now Palazzo Vecchio), situated right next door.
The architect Vasari, who became famous for creating frescoes for the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore, designed a three-story “U” shaped building with a Piazzale in the center. The ground floor includes a loggia supported by columns, which was decorated with statues between 1842 and 1856. The 28 celebrated Tuscan personalities are, for example, Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, Giovanni Boccaccio, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo Galilei.
The second floor (or, in this case, the first) is distinguished by its number of windows, with views of the river Arno or the Piazzale degli Uffizi. Finally, the top floor was for the Duke, who ordered Vasari a secret passage five years later. This is how the Corridoio Vasariano appears, with almost a kilometer and that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, the new residence of the Medici family.
Did you know that the Uffizi Gallery (in the Historic Center of Florence) was part of Italy’s third set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 5th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Paris (France), between December 13th and 17th, 1982.
Nowadays, Italy is the country in the world with the most UNESCO sites: it has fifty-eight heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization!
In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit five of them:
- Cinque Terre (1997)
- Historic Centre of Florence (1982)
- Historic Centre of Rome and the Properties of the Holy See (1980) – Castel Sant’Angelo, Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
- The Porticoes of Bologna (2021)
- Venice and its Lagoon (1987)
What to See at the Uffizi Gallery
The most important artistic period in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery is, without a doubt, the Italian Renaissance. Among the several artists on display, Andrea Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raffaello, Ticiano Vecellio, Parmigianino, Caravaggio, Giovanni Battista Pittoni and Canaletto stand out.
Even if the Paintings collection is the major attraction for tourists, be sure to visit different works, belonging to the other departments of the museum:
- Prints and Drawings
- Books and Archives
“La Nascita di Venere”, by Sandro Botticelli (Second Floor, Room 10-14)
The “Birth of Venus” is, probably, the most famous painting in the Uffizi Gallery. As far as is known, the work was suggested by humanist Angelo Poliziano, after a commission by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, cousin of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent.
The painting was created around 1482-1485 and depicts the goddess of love and beauty on her arrival on Earth, on the island of Cyprus. Venus was created from the sea foam and the wind, with the help of Zephyr (the god of the west wind) and possibly Aura (the goddess of the cold breeze).
The young goddess is standing on a giant scallop shell, in its purest and most perfect form. Still, on the scene, it’s possible to see one of the Horae (the guardian goddesses of the natural order of the world), who is about to place a flower-covered cape over her shoulders.
Room 10-14 is named “Sala di Botticelli” and has the size of four rooms of the Uffizi Gallery (hence the numbering)! This space features the main works of the painter, commissioned by the Medici family and which portray not only the rediscovery of the classic traditions typical of the Renaissance but also the highly sophisticated culture of the patrons of the artist.
“La Primavera”, by Sandro Botticelli (Second Floor, Room 10-14)
“Spring” (also known as “The Allegory of Spring”) is a painting prior to “The Birth of Venus” – since it was conceived between 1477-1778 – but loses first place on the celebrity podium to its contemporary. Supposedly, it was bound for Villa di Castello, the residence of Lorenzo and Giovanni di Pierfranceso de’ Medici, despite being found in another property of the family.
With a theme (equally) suggested by Poliziano, it portrays nine figures from classical mythology in an orange grove: Zephyr embraces the nymph of nature Chloris, transforming her into the goddess of spring Flora. Venus is in the center, under Cupid, who flies over the scene blindfolded. On the left, you can also see the Three Graces dancing in a circle and the messenger-god Mercury by their side.
Above all, the painting is a tribute to love, harmony, and nature. Apart from the characters, the light is projected through the flowers and fruits in the landscape, although the intense dark color of the vegetation, a consequence of the aging of the original pigments, grabs the attention of the visitors.
If, on the one hand, “The Birth of Venus” was painted on a canvas (support widely used in the 15th century for decorative works destined for noble residences), on the other hand, Sandro Botticelli chose to paint “Spring” on a wooden panel.
“Doni Tondo”, by Michelangelo (2nd Floor, Room 35)
“Doni Tondo” is a crucial work in the birth of the artistic movement that Vasari called “modern mannerism”. Created between 1505-1506 for the Florentine merchant Agnolo Doni, it depicts the Holy Family.
In fact, Agnolo Doni‘s marriage to Maddalena Strozzi in 1504 boosted a very important period in Florentine art, as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raffaello started to work together in this city.
Still, this panel is the only finished painting by Michelangelo that has survived to this day. The circular shape, that is, the “tondo”, was very much appreciated at the beginning of the Renaissance for religious decorations in the houses.
As for the frame, despite having been designed by Michelangelo, it was sculpted by Francesco del Tasso, one of the greatest exponents of wood carving in Florence. It includes not only the head of Jesus Christ but also those of the four prophets.
Room 35 is called “Sala di Michelangelo e i Fiorentini” and houses paintings produced in Florence in the early 16th century. Doni Tondo hangs in the center of the wall facing the entrance to the room, symbolizing the importance of Florentine art in the innovation of this Art History period.
Other works exhibited in this space belong to Francesco Granacci, a friend of Michelangelo, as well as to the masters responsible for the two main schools of Florentine art: Fra Bartolomeo and Mariotto Albertinelli, from the Scuola di San Marco and Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio, from the Scuola dell’Annunziata.
“Ermafrodito” (2nd Floor, Room 38)
The statue of the sleeping god Hermaphroditus belonged to the personal collection of Francesco I de’ Medici, a great patron, and art collector, until the middle of the 19th century when it was transferred to the museum. It’s a Roman sculpture from the 2nd century AC, from an original model of the Hellenistic period – but of an anonymous author.
In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus (or Hermaphroditos) was the son of the gods Hermes and Aphrodite. According to the work Metamorphoses by the poet Ovid, the young god gained his “hermaphrodite” form shortly after being kissed by the nymph Salmacis, who asked the gods for them to never be separated.
There are several marble statues of the Greek god that have survived to this day, yet the most famous is the Sleeping Hermaphroditus, on display at the Louvre Museum in France.
This statue is so famous in Florence, that all the rooms in which it was on display, since being part of the collections of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1669, have been designated with the same name. The Uffizi Gallery is no exception, and the sculpture is the main attraction of room 38, of the same name.
“Madonna del Cardellino”, by Raffaello Sanzio (1st Floor, Room 66)
Despite being known as “Madonna del Cardellino” (“Madonna of the Goldfinch”), the original name of this painting is “Madonna col Bambino and San Giovannino”. Painted by Raffaello between 1505-1506, it was commissioned for the wedding of Lorenzo Nasi and Sandra di Matteo Canigiani, in February 1506.
Nevertheless, the work was found in pieces in the ruins of the Nasi‘s palazzo, which had been destroyed by a landslide in 1547. Fortunately, the painting was restored, thanks to the work of Michele di Ridolfo di Ghirlandaio, an old friend of Raffaello.
In the 17th century, Cardinal Giovan Carlo de ‘Medici acquired it for his collection and started exhibiting it at the Tribuna degli Uffizi in 1704, before gaining a place in the Sala di Raffaello (room 66).
During the years he lived in Florence (1504-1508), Raffaello not only had the opportunity to study with the great Florentine masters but also to work for important merchant families. In this sense, he ended up exploring this theme of the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus and Saint John the Baptist, as his other paintings of the time are an example: “Madonna del Prato” (Museum of Art History, in Vienna) and “La Belle Jardinière” (Louvre Museum, in Paris).
“Testa di Medusa”, by Caravaggio (1st Floor, Room 90)
This shield was offered by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte to the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1598. Caravaggio painted it possibly the year before, representing the severed head of Medusa, by the hero Perseus.
According to the myth, Medusa had snakes in place of her hair and her gaze transformed into stone the ones that dared to look directly at her. Perseus defeated her with the help of Athens, Hades, and Hermes. This is because the goddess offered him a shield that reflected the monster, Hades a helmet that made him invisible, and Hermes a pair of winged sandals.
Interestingly, the story of Medusa and Perseus is also reported in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses. Legend has it that the “Testa di Medusa” is actually a self-portrait of Caravaggio, thus implying his immunity to the monster’s gaze.
Practical Guide to the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8:15 am to 6:30 pm, and only closes on the holidays of December 25th and January 1st. Divided into about fifty rooms and corridors, it presents schools and art styles in chronological order, with the collection beginning on the upper floor.
The works exhibited in the museum are from the 12th to the 18th centuries, and its collection of the Italian Renaissance is one of the most valuable in the world! For that reason, I want to leave you with three recommendations based on my personal experience, which will help you make the most of this magnificent monument.
1. One Ticket Gives You Access to Three Museums!
Did you know that the ticket to the Uffizi Gallery entitles you to enter two other museums? It’s true, with a single ticket, you also have access to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze and the Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure!
The entrance fee is €12, but there’s a reduced rate of €2 for all young people under 26 years old, who are citizens of the European Union. Moreover, admission is free for all minors under 18, people with disabilities, and students, among others. In these cases, simply present an identification document at the entrance, after passing the security checkpoint.
2. Book Several Florence Museums in one Ticket Office
If you’re looking for a place where you can comfortably book tickets to all the museums you intend to visit in Florence, then you must visit the online ticket office of the Florentine State Museums. Therefore, on a single website you can buy tickets for a total of twelve monuments, which are:
- Cappelle Medicee
- Casa Martelli
- Galleria dell’Accademia
- Galleria degli Uffizi
- Giardino di Boboli
- Museo del Bargello
- Museo Archeologico di Firenze
- Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure
- Museo di San Marco
- Palazzo Davanzati
- Palazzo Pitti
These tickets usually have a specific entry time, but beware! There is a booking fee of €4 for the Uffizi Gallery and €3 for the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, for example. Always check the final price of the reservation before finalizing the purchase. In reality, it’s a small price to pay to avoid long lines, especially during the high season, when the waiting times can exceed five hours!
3. Enjoy a Day Trip on a Monday
Monday is one of the “worst” days to visit Florence, as the two main museums – the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery – are closed. You can choose to visit the city’s religious monuments, such as the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower) or the Baptistery of Saint John, but I have a better suggestion!
When I visited Florence, I took advantage of Monday to go on a day trip. My favorite destination was the stunning Cinque Terre, but there are alternatives for all tastes, such as Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Arezzo, or San Gimignano. There is a lot to discover in the Tuscany region, so it will be difficult to choose!
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