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The Insider’s Guide to… the Uffizi

  • Why should the Uffizi be top of my list of museums to visit in Florence?

    It has one of the best collections of Renaissance art in the world, including paintings by Michelangelo, da Vinci and Botticelli, which were collected by the hugely wealthy Medici family.

    The octagonal Tribuna room is a beauty in itself. Photo: B O’Kane/Alamy

    When’s the best time of year to visit?

    Autumn and winter. Winter (especially before Christmas) can be magically quiet, unlike summer, when queues are very long and the corridors full of noisy schoolkids on their first European holiday.

    Medusa’s bloodcurdling scream as depicted by Caravaggio
    Medusa’s bloodcurdling scream as depicted by Caravaggio. Photo: Azoor Photo/Alamy

    What are the Uffizi must-see attractions?

    You’ll recognise Botticelli’s pagan masterpieces Primavera and Birth of Venus but he also did lots of Christian tableaux. Find 12 of them in Rooms 10-14 on the top floor. Piero della Francesca’s double portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino (Room 8) is so delicate and Filippo Lippi’s Madonna with two cheeky angels (also Room 8) will raise a smile. In Room 35, Michelangelo’s Holy Family, recently restored, is dazzling in its use of colour. There are also Flemish paintings by Durer, Cranach and Holbein collected by the Medici family in Room 45. Most people start on Floor 2 and work down. On Floor 1, don’t miss Caravaggio’s famous face of the decapitated Medusa painted on a real shield (Room 90), Rembrandt’s self-portrait and Canaletto’s Venice (the latter two get moved about different rooms).
     exquisite ceiling paintings
    Be sure to look up at the exquisite ceiling paintings. Photo: Shutterstock

    What are the secret gems to see here?

    Always look up at the ceilings. They contain a lot of artwork, known as soffitti (ceiling paintings), that many people miss. Look out on the second floor for soffitti of European royalty, including our very own Henry VIII, Anna Bolena, and Maria Stuarda. There’s also a hilarious 16th-century statue of a Nereid riding on a seahorse, done by someone who clearly couldn’t get their mind around how one could create something that is half-horse half-fish. On the ground floor, Aula Magliabechiana, a room set aside for temporary exhibitions, stages some unusual insights into the work of great artists. Admission is included in your ticket, so do pop in on your way out.

    Do I need a guide?

    The value of a guide is that they can advise on which rooms to bypass so you get to the best stuff before everyone else. To save money, buy the very heavy catalogue in advance online and work out what you want to see – then plan your outing using the room map at the back.

    Is there a cafe?

    Yes, after Room 45 on the second floor. It’s worth visiting because it’s been built over the roof of the Loggia dei Lanzi, so you’ll get great views of the Palazzo della Signoria.

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