It may well feature on the must-see list of countless tourists heading to Europe, but you really can’t claim to have seen the best of Florence unless you have secured your Uffizi tickets and visited the world renowned museum. This fascinating gallery has been home to some of the world’s most treasured masterpieces, since as far back as 1581.
Commissioned by Cosimo de’Medici, who wanted a lavish building next to the Palazzo Vecchio to host the magistrates, a theatre and judiciary, the building was originally corridors of offices (hence the name: uffizi means ‘offices’ in Italian).Designed by Vasari, its unique layout along a labyrinth of corridors allows you to explore gradually and never feel overwhelmed by the number of pieces on display. As you enter, the gallery reveals its stunning frescoed ceilings and the amazing artworks that are exhibited in chronological order through the U-shaped Renaissance building.
There’s a lot to see, but here are just some of those masterpieces that you really mustn’t miss.
‘Primavera (Spring)’ and ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Botticelli
Perhaps the most famous of the exhibits in the museum, this piece is worth every penny of the cost of the Uffizi tickets. Despite its fame, the greatness of this original piece perhaps remains its most awesome attraction. It is a picture that you may be familiar with as it has been reproduced many times, but there is nothing quite so mesmerising as seeing it for yourself in person. These paintings take some time to absorb, but we guarantee that the exquisite detail you’ll see in the folds of the fabrics and the floating flowers will stay with you always.
‘Annunciation’ by Leonardo da Vinci
Buying your Uffizi tickets opens the door for you to visit one of the very few museums that own a da Vinci. This painting is one of only 16 that exist from arguably the most famous artist of all time. One of Leonardo’s early works, the Annunciation contains the seeds of the artist’s later preoccupation with optics and perspective.
‘Madonna of the Goldfinch’ by Raphael
Perhaps one of the most lovely paintings ever created, The Madonna of the Goldfinch, warrants your time when you visit the Uffizi Gallery. The Virgin Mary embodies calm and saintly motherhood as she watches tenderly over the Christ Child and his cousin John the Baptist. This was one of the paintings that Raphael was commissioned to produce during his Florentine period (1504-1508), and it was painted to celebrate the joining of two wealthy mercantile families with the wedding of Lorenzo Nasi with Sandra di Matteo Canigiani.
‘Madonna with the Long Neck’ by Parmigianino
This painting is considered to be quite radical and certainly innovative. It was a daring notion of the artist to play with perspective and placement, and a new style that conveyed a similar message to that which was the norm at the time. He includes a strangely proportioned child and a mother with an elongated neck, and yet the details seem to bring the work a sense of grace and quietness. The final piece was a huge success and was testament to Parmigianino’s progressive thinking and his courage to be different.
‘Laocoön and his Sons’ by Baccio Bandinelli
This incredible sculpture is a fine example of how the medium was achieved in the Italian Renaissance period. The piece of work was based on a ruined original sculpture dating back to the Hellenistic period and unearthed in 1506. The new version is a modern take on the original, which depicted Pliny the Elder, and it was commissioned as a gift from Pope Leo X to King Francis I.
Here’s a thought: This particular masterpiece is really interesting as it demonstrates the Renaissance story in a condensed form: a commission from a powerful leader, based on an antique piece of art, which is modernised by a master craftsman for its contemporary audience.
‘Medusa’ by Caravaggio
A well known piece and one that many people make a beeline for once they arrive, Caravaggio’s Medusa is an awesome depiction of this fascinating mythological figure. Mounted on a shield, the exciting techniques and radical examples of form on this canvas earned the artist the reputation as one of the great radicals of the Renaissance period. He carefully displays Medusa alongside the shield with the mirrored surface that finally is her downfall; it is a wondrous example of art and nature coming together.
‘Doni Tondo’ by Michelangelo
As the only surviving panel painting by Michelangelo, witnessing this one is a truly unique experience. Doni Tondo is also known as The Holy Family, and was the predecessor of the work that was completed in the Sistine Chapel. It is thought that Michelangelo started on the famous chapel after he had finished this piece, which boldly shows beautiful depictions of the human male form surrounding the holy family.
‘Venus of Urbino’ by Titian
Renowned as one of Titian’s most famous nudes, this breathtaking painting lays bare the beauty of eroticism. At the time many were shocked at what they saw, and indeed some people today still believe it was a stain on the artist’s career. But this masterpiece with its shameless artistic statement left legacy after legacy; you only have to look at pieces by subsequent artists such as Manet and even Tracey Emin to see that its influence in the artistic world continues. Whether you see this painting as obscene or masterful, you can’t deny that, despite its controversy, it is extremely moving.
There really are so many wonderful pieces to include in a post like this one, but let’s leave the rest for you to discover on your own. We hope that the few we have mentioned above have intrigued you and inspired you to begin planning your next trip to the Renaissance capital of Florence.
To make the best of the time you have at the Uffizi, or indeed at any of the other magnificent museums and galleries in the city, why not contact us to book a guided tour?
Our local guides are simply bursting with knowledge about these fascinating masterpieces (and many more) and love to share their pearls of wisdom with our clients. Book with us and we’ll organise your Uffizi tickets and get you into the museum while avoiding the queues! Discovering the treasure trove of delights in a small group with an expert guide is definitely the way to see this, one of the world’s most prestigious collections of artistic works.
We Are Walkabout Florence
Here at Walkabout Florence, we offer a range of wonderful day trips in and around the city. Our guided tours of the museums are especially worth booking if you want to avoid the queues and get the most out of your time inside. We pre-book Duomo, Accademia and Uffizi tickets so you don’t have to worry about it. Whether you want to discover the city’s art and culture, taste the famous wines of Chianti or discover the magic of the Cinque Terre, we want to help you get the best from your visit. Our expert guides are all local and full of knowledge that will help make your experience even more memorable. Contact us to find out more and let us help you decide on which tour is best for you, whether it be in the city itself or in the stunning area that surrounds it.