A Guide to the Best Museums in Florence
Florence is an utterly breathtaking city in the idyllic Italian region of Tuscany. But this famous location is not just a pretty face; it’s also highly renowned for being home to a plethora of sensational museums.
Whether you are a stickler for art, culture, history, or have a passion for all three, you will certainly find a museum to suit your interests in Florence. Not only is this one of the most romantic places to visit in Italy, but it’s also a standout destination to learn more about the country’s past.
With such an outstanding array of museums to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. So, we have created a guide to the best museums in Florence to help you decide which ones to visit on your trip to Italy’s Renaissance capital.
1. La Galleria Degli Uffizi (The Uffizi Gallery)
Not only is Uffizi Gallery one of the best art museums in Florence, but it is also one of the most famous in the world – and for good reason! It houses artwork from some of the most iconic names in the art sphere including Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Giotto, and Caravaggio.
Absolutely huge, you should aim to set aside an entire day to explore all of the marvelous attractions in this museum. This way you can rest assured that you won’t run out of time and miss out on seeing any noteworthy pieces.
Whilst most of the art in the gallery traces back to the Italian Renaissance, it also features pieces from several other periods that offer interesting points of comparison.
The museum has been welcoming visitors since the 16th century and was the first of its kind back in its day. Many of the works in La Galleria Degli Uffizi were donated after the death of the house of Medici, a highly wealthy and influential dynasty in Italian history.
There are so many mind-blowing pieces in the gallery, but if we were to outline a few highlights, we would have to say Rembrandt’s ‘Self-Portrait As a Young Man’, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Annunciation, Adoration of the Magi’ and Michelangelo’s ‘The Holy Family (Doni Tondo)’.
2. Galleria dell’Accademia
Of all the best museums in Florence, Italy, Galleria dell’Accademia is one of the most popular amongst tourists. This buzzing spot is famed for being home to several of Michelangelo’s most iconic paintings like ‘David’, an outstanding sculpture that has come to be a renowned symbol for Florence itself.
Whilst you appreciate this magnificent piece of art in all its glory, be sure to pay special attention to how the size of David’s head, hands and feet compare to each other. You will quickly see that something doesn’t quite add up! Michelangelo was passionate about playing with proportions and enjoyed distorting features to emphasize specific qualities such as strength, passion and vulnerability.
However, this isn’t to say that David isn’t an aesthetically pleasing figure. In fact, he is said to be the embodiment of male beauty itself!
Beyond Michelango’s works, Galleria dell’Accademia also boasts a fantastic collection of fabulous paintings including work from artists such as Andrea del Sarto, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Sandro Botticelli.
3. Museum of Palazzo Vecchio
Displaying fascinating pieces of history and art, the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio has come to be recognized as one of the best museums in Florence. Yet, this sparkling reputation is not the museum’s only claim to fame; the building was once used as the headquarters of the local government during Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci’s lifetime.
Even today, Palazzo Vecchio houses the Mayor’s office and the City Council seat. Prepare to be left dazzled by the works of Donatello, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Maiano as you walk through halls, courtyards and rooms that are full of remarkable art collections and artifacts.
One of the top things to see in the museum has to be the Salone dei Cinquecento – one of the grandest rooms in all of Italy. Its walls feature frescoes that depict battles and scenes from the life of Cosimo I de’ Medici. And if this doesn’t sound mesmerizing enough, you will also find Michelangelo’s famous masterpiece, The Genius of Victory, in the very same chamber.
4. Museo Opera Del Duomo
Next is one of the most unique museums on this list, Museo Opera Del Duomo. This place has a very specific niche, as it is dedicated to commemorating the planning and construction of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the best churches in Florence.
Fascinating politics and history surround this museum, making it one of the best museums to visit in Florence. However, the architecture of Museo Opera Del Duomo should be enough to draw you in.
To paint a quick picture, upon entering the museum you are immediately greeted by the Hall of Paradise which contains an exceptional reconstruction of a Duomo facade – even containing exact replicas of sculptures that once sat in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The museum is actually full of artworks that were originally held in the cathedral, and the building is said to house some of the most important sculptures in the world.
There are three floors, 28 rooms, and 6,000 sq. meters of space in the showrooms, so there is plenty to explore during your visit. Some of the top exhibitions in the museum include Galleria delle sculture, Sala Della Maddalena and Tribuna di Michelangelo.
5. Casa di Dante Museum
Casa di Dante Museum shares the life and works of the iconic Italian poet Dante. While it is recognised as one of the best museums to see in Florence, this attraction’s top-notch reputation is not solely owed to its incredible depiction of Dante’s story. The museum is also an authentic relic of 1300s architecture.
It took a lot of time to work out whether the building was once Dante’s home, but as research began to indicate that this was the case, locals and officials quickly turned the house into a museum in order to protect the building and commemorate this iconic literary figure. The house has now been refurbished and features three floors, each of which depicts a different phase of Dante’s life.
Offering fresh insights and interesting perspectives, the museum shares the story of the poet’s life while also painting a picture of the historical and political context in which he lived. The museum conveys this information in such an immersive and engaging way that a visit to the Casa di Dante Museum is set to enthrall those that are unfamiliar with his work as well as his biggest fans.
6. Museo Nazionale del Bargello (The National Museum of the Bargello)
Another of the best art museums in Florence, Italy, Museo Nazionale del Bargello showcases remarkable pieces of artwork that are set to catch your attention from the get-go. Make sure you leave plenty of time to explore this establishment properly, as there are simply so many mesmerizing masterpieces to survey that time will certainly be of the essence during your visit.
The museum boasts the largest collection of Gothic and Renaissance Sculptures in the whole of Italy. Here, you will be able to feast your eyes upon groundbreaking pieces of art including Michelangelo’s very first major sculpture, ‘Bacchus’, Donatello’s outstanding statue, ‘Bronze David’ and elaborate pieces from Ghiberti and the Della Robbia family.
The beauty of the Museo Nazionale del Bargello is not just limited to the masterpieces that it displays, as the building itself is a work of art and has a fascinating story to tell. It’s located within the Palazzo del Bargello – a dramatic fortress that dates back to 1255. The building was initially used as a prison before functioning as the seat of government and, finally, becoming a museum in 1865 (by royal decree no less).
7. The Galileo Museum
Located in the Palazzo Castellani, The Galileo Museum is a stunningly beautiful building that dates back to the 11th century. The museum itself houses one of the largest collections of scientific instruments in the world and makes a remarkable place to visit for adults and children alike, as everyone can learn a thing or two at this spot.
Inside, you will find Medici collections that trace back to around the 15th to the 18th centuries. What’s more, you will also be able to investigate the museum’s permanent collection of Galileo’s artifacts.
This collection showcases two of his telescopes, the objective lens he used when discovering the Galilean moons of Jupiter, thermometers, and celestial globes, including Santucci’s Armillary Sphere.
There’s also the Lorraine Collection, which displays artifacts that played significant roles in huge discoveries in the fields of chemistry, electricity, and electromagnetism. Visitors will also have access to research, documents, journal entries, publications and an entire library.
This is definitely one of the best museums in Florence, as it offers a spectacular array of important pieces from Galileo’s personal and professional life that teach you all about him and the science of the time.
8. Gucci Garden
Another of the best museums in Florence is the Gucci Garden. Unlike the majority of other attractions on this list, this establishment has a very contemporary and modern style and is one of the lesser-known museums of Florence.
Established in 2011 by Allessandro Michele, the museum offers guests an exclusive insight into the wondrously lavish world of Gucci. While the building is a touch on the small side, it has plenty of excellently organized exhibition rooms for you to explore during your visit, each of which was curated by the famed critic, Maria Luisa Frisa.
Sprawling over three chronologically-structured floors, you will be able to glimpse into the extraordinary development of Gucci fashion right from its inception in 1921. Browse through timeless collections of clothes and accessories that bent style norms and pushed the boundaries with extravagant prints, colors and fits to create fashion as we know it today.
9. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum
As such a prominent figure in Italy’s art scene, it likely comes as no surprise that there is an entire museum dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci in Florence, aptly named The Leonardo DA Vinco Museum. Inside its walls see artifacts and machines from his life first-hand along with his iconic artwork. You will even be able to check out Da Vinci’s hand-drawn machine codes.
Many of the machines on display in the museum were built by its devoted staff who carefully crafted the pieces out of wood to look just like they would have in Da Vinci’s day.
The museum is divided into five spectacular sections: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Mechanisms. Each department is so unique and special that you are sure to be kept entertained during the entirety of your visit.
The Mechanisms room shows off the principles of motion, flywheel, ball bearer, and worm screw. In contrast, the Earth section displays printing machines, rolling mills, and oil press while in the Water room, visitors can see the hydraulic saw and the Archimedean screw.
The Air room features the hygrometer, parachute, ornithopters, and the anemometer. And, finally, you will be able to see the armored tank, mortar fire, and machine gun in the Fire section.
10. Stibbert Museum
Home to over 36,000 artifacts, the Stibbert Museum is famed for its collection of armor. It was founded by Frederick Stibbert, who stopped working and focused his energy on collecting artifacts, antiques, and objects after inheriting his grandfather’s entire estate.
These items eventually populated the Stibbert Museum and after his death, the pieces were donated to the city of Florence and his former home was opened to the public.
There are 57 rooms in the museum, each showcasing his collections from all around the world. Be sure to check out the tapestries, paintings, porcelains, Etruscan artifacts, Tuscan crucifixes, and an outfit that was worn by Napoleon the First of France.
Arguably the most impressive item in the exhibit is the armor. It features 16,000 pieces of arms from Japan, Asia, Islam, and Europe, each of which dates back to around the 15th to the 19th centuries.
11. The Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
Visiting the Pitti Palace is a spectacular way to spend a day in Florence, as it truly offers something to suit anyone and everyone. Whether you’re into history, art, architecture or botany, something is sure to pique your interest in this museum.
The Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens were established from the estate of the Medici family, which we have previously noted as an iconic family dynasty that played an extremely significant role in Italian history. Prepare to be amazed by the establishment’s magnificent art department, which boasts pieces from the Medici’s private art collections and an Aladdin’s cave of rare silver and gemstones.
Now recognised as one of the best museums to visit in Florence, the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens stands as a glorious display of opulence and offer a fantastic display of fine art. What’s more, it is likely to be slightly quieter than the other museums on the list as it is located on the southern side of the River, away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. So, The Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens make a wonderful place to visit if you fancy taking in a bit of culture in peace and quiet.
Famous for being home to some of the finest museums in the world, it would be a crime to not take some time to explore these fascinating cultural highlights during your visit to Florence. Whether your interests lie in history, science, art or literature, there is certainly a museum for everyone in this magical city.
If you’re planning a vacation to Florence and want more advice on where to go and what to do, get in touch with Italy4Real and speak to one of our team about our bespoke range of tours.