I’ll tell you right off the bat – I don’t really care for Renaissance art. I’m mostly interested in art from the last two centuries or so. The Renaissance is just not my style. I know, I know, I’m a barbarian. But the art just seemed so repetitive and boring – Madonna and child, Madonna and child, Madonna and an even fatter child, portrait of rich person, portrait of rich person, portrait of ugly rich person, fat cherubs, biblical scenes, blah blah blah.
I wasn’t even going to visit the Uffizzi, but people looked at me the way you look at someone who tells you they don’t like crême brûlée. (Like a crazy person.) So I changed my mind.
I met two badass girls in Rome named Leah and Stella. Leah said that she felt the same way about Renaissance art, but that the Uffizzi was still something to see. She gave me a couple really helpful tips which made my four hours at the museum (yes, four hours!) go smoothly.
Get there early was the first one. I wasn’t able to reserve online (but you can reserve for a specific time frame for a 4 euro fee) so I rolled out of bed early and got to the Uffizzi a few minutes after 8 (I know because the bells tolled at 8!) It would have been earlier, but I had to stop for two pastries and a coffee #priorities. There was already quite a line, and people were joining it rapidly. The museum opened at 8:15 and I was in by 8:30, so all in all, not too bad a wait despite the queuing.
I was miffed when I learned that “reduced price for European Union teachers” meant “except university teachers, screw you, hahahaha.” You couldn’t have specified that on the sign? And what are your reasons for this teacher discrimination?
Leah’s second tip was to visit the most famous works first (e.g. the Botticelli room). Good advice! There weren’t many people when I went, but I passed by maybe an hour later and there was a line just to enter the crowded room.
The museum rapidly filled up with visitors and tour groups in many languages. If you reserve your ticket, I’ve heard it’s a good idea to go during lunchtime to avoid the big crowds. Can’t tell you if it’s true, because after four hours of visiting, I headed out to find lunch myself a little after 12 p.m. (At the Uffizzi, you don’t just exit through the giftshop, you exit through about five different giftshops, so that took another fifteen minutes after the art.)
There were a lot of Madonna and childs. And biblical themes and portraits, and some fat cherubs. But I did enjoy the art much more than I thought I would. It was interesting to look at all the small details, the facial expression of each person in crowded scenes, and to compare multiple interpretations of the same scene.
I also like creative allegorical interpretations, such as a painting of fire and air personified as women. I think it helps a lot to have some knowledge of mythology and the bible so that you have some context for the story of the painting.
I did enjoy reading the little explanations with notes about things to notice in the painting, who each person was, and the symbolism. They didn’t go into great detail, and sometimes they focused only on the painting’s history with the Uffizzi and the Medici family (when it was acquired, etc) but they helped me understand and appreciate the works more.
I also noticed something called the Uffizzi touch tour, mouldings of certain famous works in relief for the visually impaired. What a cool idea!
The gallery itself is just incredible – you could spend a day and still not examine all the statues and busts and detailed painted ceilings. If it’s in your budget and your line of interest, it seems like a great idea to have a guide who can tell you more about everything.
(Although someone I met who had taken a guided tour complained that it only lasted an hour and so she felt she missed out on seeing a lot of the museum. So I guess not all tours are created equal.)
For more information on tickets for the Uffizzi, I like this nice guide by Rick Steves. Apparently, his audio tours are also quite good, but I didn’t hear about them until after I had already visited the Uffizzi. Has anyone tried them before?
P.S. More on Florence here.