europe · Travel

A Brummie Home and Abroad’s Guide to 48(ish) hours in Florence

Technically, we’re not museum people.  Or art people.  Sculptures are a big lump of clay which may or may not resemble a person.  (In my humble opinion)  Paintings are something which could be  thrown together by any five-year-old with access to a box of paints and a wild imagination. (Again, in my humble opinion).  And don’t get me started on the obsession with religious iconography.  But when in Florence, it is the law that you must visit at least one museum/gallery – preferably two – and pretend to be an art aficionado.  Or just snigger at the naked men.

This therefore is a Brummie Home and Abroad’s guide to 48 hours (ish) in Florence, ticking off the cultural must-sees whilst retaining your sanity.

The Uffizi 

Ok, let’s get the big guns out of the way.  If you’re going to visit a gallery in Florence that’s NOT all about a tall, sculpted, naked guy with big, veiny hands, then the Uffizi is it.  Located right by the Ponte Vecchio, and the main square Piazza Della Signoria, you’ll probably stumble upon this vast U-shaped building without realising.  Purchasing tickets online beforehand is a clever idea which saves you valuable wine-drinking sight-seeing time.  We printed off our voucher e-mail and exchanged this for an actual real-life ticket which gave us entry at our allotted timeslot. We selected one of the later timeslots, meaning that the crowds had thinned out and we could linger where and when we wanted (or snigger at important works without offending those who take their art a lot more seriously than we do).

So what to see?  Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, modestly covering her bits with her hands.  Caravaggio’s “Bacchus” – the god of drunkenness with a very large glass of wine (as expected) and an interesting hat (slightly unexpected).  Giotto’s “Ognissanti Madonna” – Mary with a very adult-looking child on her lap.  The delightfully chubby “Venus of Urbino” by Titian.  See, I did learn something…..

Uffizi Gallery, Florence
The Birth of Venus, Botticelli

Visiting hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.15 to 18.50.  Closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, 1 May, Christmas.

Tickets: Full price: € 8.00 / Reduced: € 4.00.  It is an additional € 4.00 to reserve tickets online.  Special exhibitions may cost extra.  Purchase online from http://www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi/info_venue.aspx

Accademia 

There’s little doubt who the star of Galleria dell’Accademia is.  This is definitely mostly about the tall, sculpted, naked guy with big, veiny hands.  Michelangelo’s “David” stands proud in all his glory under a circular skylight, the finale of a procession of unfinished “Slave” sculptures forming a guard of honour.

But there’s a whole bunch of other stuff to see too; the very first thing you’ll see is Giambologna’s “Rape of the Sabines” – a writhing tangle of bodies sculpted out of a single block of marble.  If you didn’t get your fill of Botticelli at the Uffizi, you can see “Madonna of the Sea” here – with baby Jesus clutching some sort of exotic fruit.

Again, you can purchase your tickets online beforehand from http://www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi/venueAccademia.aspx – we did this but still had to queue.  We had a 15 minute arrival timeslot and despite arriving early we only just got through the doors before 4:45.

 

David
A fine specimen of a man…

 

Visiting hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.15 to 18.50.  Closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, 1 May, Christmas.

Tickets: Full price: € 8.00 / Reduced: € 4.00.  It is an additional € 4.00 to reserve tickets online.  Special exhibitions may cost extra

Non-museum stuff

The Duomo 

IMG_1416

Do not adjust your glasses, this cathedral really is white, green and pink marble.  It took 140 years to construct – mainly because the city wanted their cathedral to compete with and outshine the basilicas of neighbouring cities.  They certainly did this.

Visiting hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (13:30-16:45 on Sundays).

It’s free to enter the cathedral itself – hence the long queues.  There is an admission charge for the cupola and for the crypt.

Climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower  

Campanile di Giotto (bell tower of The Duomo).
We climbed that!

To get amazing views of Florence and the Tuscan countryside you can climb either the cupola of the Duomo (463 steps), or the campanile, aka Giotto’s Bell Tower (414 steps).  Or if you’re crazy, you can climb both.  We decided on the bell tower, not because it has 49 less steps, but because from the campanile, you can see the cathedral and cupola in all its glory.  And because it has 49 less steps.

It’s not too bad a climb, with plenty of spots for photo-taking/catching your breath, but we went first thing in the morning and I can imagine it’s much more challenging when you have to factor in hordes of people coming up and down the narrow winding staircases.

Visiting hours: 8.15 to 18.50.  Closed on the first Tuesday of every month

Tickets: Full price: € 15.00 for 48 hour access to the campanile, the duoma, the cupola, baptistery and the museum (single access to each monument only).

Ponte Vecchio 

Sunset light on the Ponte Vecchio bridge
Sunset light on the Ponte Vecchio bridge

It’s the most famous bridge in Florence, but its best viewed from one of the other bridges rather than fighting the hordes of tourists and selfie stick sellers on the bridge itself.  It spans the narrowest part of the River Arno, and provides a crossing place, market place and meeting place all in one.  For the wealthy Medici, a hidden corridor runs above the little goldsmiths and jewellers shops which overhang the narrow bridge, which meant they didn’t have to mingle with the great unwashed when they moved between their palaces on each side of the river.

Piazzale Michelangelo 

Views over Florence from Pizzale Michelangelo2
Views over Florence from Pizzale Michelangelo

 

There’s a little bit of walking and hill-climbing involved to get to this terrace above the city, but it is worth it for a quite stunning view of the city in all its glory.  It’s a popular sunset spot and the crowds gather here for an almost spiritual experience.  You can see the river, its bridges, church and cathedral spires and domes – and even a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David if you really do want to avoid the galleries but still see the man himself.

Florence could quite easily be done in  a day if you’re not inclined to spend hours walking around a gallery, but as a city it’s also a good base for exploring the surrounding area, including the rolling Tuscan countryside, Pisa and its famous leaning tower, and even the Ligurgian coast.  Or just soak up the good wine, good food and good culture.  Even if its not your kind of thing.

What others highlights of Florence have you enjoyed?  Let me know in the comments section!

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