Making the Most of Your Time
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Making the Most of Your Time
Even for the most dedicated art enthusiast, trying to take in Florence's abundance of masterpieces can turn into a headache—there's just too much to see. In fact, the surfeit of art and wonders has given rise to a "malady" to which foreign tourists are especially susceptible: "Stendhal's syndrome," named after the 19th-century French novelist, who was the first to describe it in print. The symptoms can be severe: confusion, dizziness, disorientation, depression, and sometimes persecution anxiety and loss of identity. Some victims immediately suspect food poisoning, but the true diagnosis is far more outlandish. They are suffering from "art poisoning," brought on by overexposure to so-called Important Works of High Culture. The victims seem to view Florentine art as an exam (Art History 101, 10 hours per day, self-taught, pass/fail), and they are terrified of flunking.
Obviously, the art of Florence should not be a test. So if you are not an inveterate museumgoer or church collector, take it easy. Remember to pace yourself. Allow time to wander and follow your whims, and ignore any pangs of guilt if you'd rather relax in a café and watch the world go by than trudge on sore feet through another breathtaking palace or church. Remember: Florence isn't a city that can be "done." It's a place you can return to again and again, confident there will always be more treasures to discover.
Now that you have this advice, take heart: with some planning, you can see Florence's most famous sights in a couple of days. Start off at the city's most awe-inspiring work of architecture, the Duomo, climbing to the top of the dome if you have the stamina. On the same piazza, check out Ghiberti's bronze doors at the Battistero. (They're actually high-quality copies; the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo has the originals.) Set aside the afternoon for the Galleria degli Uffizi, making sure to reserve tickets in advance.
On Day 2, visit Michelangelo's David in the Galleria dell'Accademia —reserve tickets here, too. Linger in Piazza della Signoria, Florence's central square, where a copy of David stands in the spot the original occupied for centuries, then head east a couple of blocks to Santa Croce, the city's most artistically rich church. Double back and walk across Florence's landmark bridge, the Ponte Vecchio.
Do all that, and you'll have seen some great art, but you've just scratched the surface. If you have more time, put the Bargello, the Museo di San Marco, and the Cappelle Medicee at the top of your list. When you're ready for an art break, stroll through the Boboli Gardens or explore Florence's lively shopping scene, from the food stalls of the Mercato Centrale to the chic boutiques of the Via Tornabuoni.
Florence's sights keep tricky hours. Some are closed on Wednesday, some on Monday, some on every other Monday, or every other Sunday. Quite a few shut their doors each day (or on most days) by 2 in the afternoon. Things get even more confusing on weekends. Make it a general rule to check the hours closely for any place you're planning to visit; if it's someplace you have your heart set on seeing, it's worthwhile to call to confirm.
Here's a selection of major sights that might not be open when you'd expect. And be aware that, as always, hours can and do change.
The Uffizi and the Accademia are both closed Monday. All but a few of the galleries at Palazzo Pitti are closed Monday as well.
The Duomo closes at 3:30 on Thursday (as opposed to 5:30 on other weekdays, 4:45 on weekends). The dome of the Duomo is closed on Sunday.
The Battistero is open from 11:15 until 7, Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 8:30 to 2. On the first Saturday of the month, it's open from 8:30 to 2.
The Bargello closes at 1:50 pm, and is closed entirely on alternating Sundays and Mondays. However, it's often open much later during high season and when there's a special exhibition on.
The Cappelle Medicee are closed on alternating Sundays and Mondays.
Museo di San Marco closes at 1:50 on weekdays but stays open until 7 on weekends—except for alternating Sundays and Mondays, when it's closed entirely.
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi is closed Wednesday.
At most times of day you'll see a line of people snaking around the Uffizi. They're waiting to buy tickets, and you don't want to be one of them. Instead, call ahead for a reservation (055/294883; reservationists speak English). You'll be given a reservation number and a time of admission—the farther ahead you call, the more time slots you'll have to choose from. Go to the museum's reservation door at the appointed hour, give the clerk your number, pick up your ticket, and go inside. You'll pay €4 for this privilege, but it's money well spent. You can also book tickets online through the website www.polomuseale.firenze.it;the booking process takes some patience, but it works.
Use the same reservation service to book tickets for the Galleria dell'Accademia, where lines rival those of the Uffizi. (Reservations can also be made for the Palazzo Pitti, the Bargello, and several other sights, but they usually aren't needed.) An alternative strategy is to check with your hotel—many will handle reservations.
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