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Florence - choosing just a few of the best museums, churches, and historical sights

Florence - choosing just a few of the best museums, churches, and historical sights

Mar 22nd, 2008, 08:20 PM
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Florence - choosing just a few of the best museums, churches, and historical sights

This is the last of my 'favorites' requests for my April trip to Venice, Florence and Rome. We are spending 5 nights in Florence. 2 of our days are committed to day trips into the countryside - one is with a private tour guide, the other is with Accidental Tourist for their tour and cooking class. That leaves us with the late afternoon and evening on our day of arrival (Thursday), and 2 full days (Saturday and Sunday) to see Florence. This whole trip is being planned at a relaxed pace - we are not trying to see everything. I'd appreciate hearing from all of you on your favorite places - museums, churches, other sights. Suggestions about grouping things together by location are appreciated - so is information about when to see certain things (especially important given that our Florence days are over a weekend, and some places will be crowded and others could be closed). Also - if we choose just one major museum, should it be the Uffizi or the Academia, and why? Keep in mind that we are not art history buffs, and that we have easy access to the major museums in NYC.

Thanks, once again, to all who have helped by responding to my previous posts, and to those of you who respond to this one.
butnotrmpt is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2008, 08:52 PM
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Well, I'm no expert, but I will say that seeing David in person was amazing. I also love the Uffizi, but if I had to chose one, it would be David.

I also really loved the Museo dellíOpera del Duomo.

I hope you enjoy your Accidental Tourist day as much as we did. It was a definite highlight of our entire trip.
LCBoniti is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2008, 09:34 PM
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LC - no expert here - but I read Agony and Ecstasy while traveling through out Europe and by the time I was standing in front of David it bordered on a religous experience...
dawnnoelm is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2008, 10:26 PM
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This is how I described it in my trip report:

Again, words fail to describe Michelangeloís David. You know youíll appreciate the artistry, the beauty from a technical standpoint. (After all, Michelangelo was a really good sculptor. ) But the way it moves you cannot be anticipated. You just turn the corner and . . . there he is! He draws your attention and you canít keep your eyes off him. There are other beauties in the corridor leading to him, (the Prisoners, the Pieta), but they fade into the background and you only have eyes for David. His face is beautiful and the expression so like a young man with a task before him that, from an adult perspective is insurmountable, but with the assurance of youth (and the power of God), David knows he can do it! (If you have ever had a teenage son, youíll understand what I mean. They view themselves as almost immortal and feel they can accomplish anything! Davidís face reminded me of my son.) I fell in love.
LCBoniti is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2008, 10:37 PM
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Michelangelo's David in the Accademia is the most superb sight there is in Florence, but it and his nearby Slaves take only about 15 minutes to see, the rest of the museum is not worth the effort. Make reservations. The Bargello would be my next choice, then the Uffizi (also reservations quasmandory, your hotel can make them). Buy leather at the Leather School behind Santa Croce church--moderate (not cheap) prices and excellent quality. There is a trattoria nearby called San Francesco's which is very good. Consider going to mass on Sunday at the Duomo; great churches are best seen doing the job they were built for even if you are not religious.
Buon viaggio,
cmstraf is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2008, 10:59 PM
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Hi butnotrmpt....

from our experiences:

*Galleria dell'Accademia (a must)

*Santa Croce (a must)

* if physically able....climb to the top of the Duomo. Hands down...our best experience in all of Florence (that is not including the food!).

note: the Galleria is quite small and the main attraction is David. You can easily do this museum within an hour.

Uffizi...a must, but this is an extensive collection. We limited our visit to 1 1/2 hours and saw the "musts" with a few others that tickled our fancy.

Definitely make time to see Florence at dusk from either Pizzale Michelangelo or Fiesole. So worth the effort.

Buon Viaggio!
adventureseeker is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2008, 11:51 PM
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It's hard to pick one of the two but between the Uffizi and Academia I would say the Uffizi. It has a much more extensive collection (including Giotto, Masaccio, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and of course Botticelli). I don't know what to say about comparing it to NY--the museums have different art treasures so going to the Metropolitan isn't going to the Uffizi.
The Academia is really mostly to see the David which is a great sculpture but not for me more important than the Uffizi collection.
I actually enjoyed the Bargello more than the Academia--beautiful sculpture collection in a beautiful building--there you can see other famous Davids by Donatello and Verocchio

One of my favorite museums in Florence is San Marco which is full of Fra Angelico frescoes and paintings.

There was a recent thread about favorite churches in Florence you might want to read.

also a Florence Top 10 list
Vttraveler is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 04:00 AM
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Hi B,

You have plenty of time to see everything at a leisurely pace.

The historic district is only about 1 mile square.

Take the no. 7 bus from the SMN train station (Rt hand side as you face the main entrance) up to Fiesole (1E 0:20 hr) to watch the sun set over the city from the terrace of the Bar Blu.

There are also Etruscan ruins in Fiesole.

You can see both the Accademia and the Uffizi in 1/2 day.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 04:05 AM
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I'm with Vttraveler - love San Marco, with the Fra Angelico frescoes!
Mar 23rd, 2008, 04:17 AM
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Two thoughts: start on the Uffizi side of the river, wander across the Ponte Vecchio, past the ice cream shop on the other side on the left and over to your left will be a small macadam path leading up the hill. Walk up there and you will experience a wonderful view of the city as you go higher and higher as well as all the surrounding countryside w/o the hustle and bustle. At the end of this little hike you find yourself at the Piazzale Michaelangelo. Have an ice coffee, visit San Miniato, Florence's most beautiful little church, and take in the city from on high. Jump in a cab, head back down and go to the Academia. Viola! Have a great trip.
gameson is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 05:04 AM
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I sort of lean toward Vttraveller's camp. I loved the Uffizi, mainly because we all watched the Sister Wendy tapes before we left, so it was great to see the progression of art technique. I agree that you could skim through, but then again, you may find yourself entranced by the work of an artist you never knew that well before (we started our affection for that scoundrel, Fra Lippo Lippi, because of the Uffizi) and want to linger for a bit.

However, if you're not that into art

1)l'Accademia for the David is a must--but that's all you "have" to see

2)The Bargello--it's like a "dessert sampler" for art

3)La Cappella dei Magi at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Firenze--there is no art in Florence without the Medicis, so it makes sense to visit this work to "inhale" both the art and their world.

Like Vttraveler, I also fell in love with Fra Angelico at the San Marco.
josephina is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 05:12 AM
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I'm of the same mind as Vttraveler with respect to the Uffizi, for all the reasons she mentions....plus my unexpected "knock-out" moment in Florence happened at the Uffizi.

The Uffizi has its collection arranged chronologically, so you can the see the progress in painting, it's almost like watching the Renaissance unfold before your very eyes. There is room after room of beautiful but flat and stilted madonna and child's (usually Mary is plain-faced, and more than not, baby Jesus is just downright creepy and disturbing). Slowly the images in the paintings become more life-like and human. Then suddenly you come across the Botticelli's and- wow wow wow. Primavera and the Birth of Venus are nothing short of miraculous if you ask me- movement, air, life, the outdoors, godesses and not madonna's, and pure, unadulterated femininity. My mom said it best when she came over to me and whispered "You can tell Botticelli really loved women."

Other things I loved about the Uffizi: the Renaissance portraits (and seeing identical features in the faces of some modern day Florentines); the possibility of an interesting temporary exhibit at the time of your visit(we enjoyed an exhibit of woodcuts by Durer); and the rooftop cafe with it's views over the city (we did one corridor, walked ahead to the cafe and had an early lunch, then doubled back and finished our tour).

If you go to the Uffizi I'd recommend allowing half a day, starting first thing in the morning at 8 or 8:30 am. But since you could go to the Accademia in a fairly short one hour visit, I'm not sure you'd necessarily have to choose between them.

In Florence I also particulary enjoyed the Bargello (in the early morning, for a lovely walk to the fortress and very few tourists in the museum) and the Bapistery, with its fantastic mosaic ceiling.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 06:13 AM
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Eloquently put.

That's exactly how I felt seeing David for the first time.
adventureseeker is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 06:26 AM
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I think you could easily do the Uffizi one morning and see David the other morning.

David....he is a sight to be seen that is for sure.

I would also recommend visiting San Lorenzo church which is surrounded by the market. It is by far my favourite church in Florence - so stark and bare on the outside...and so clean and elegantly done on the inside.

I would also not pass up the chance to climb the Duomo, or the Campinilem - unbelievable views of Florence and the surrounding hills.

Most of all though - just wandering the streets, listening to the locals and dodging the tourists is what Florence is all about. Find a little sidewalk cafe, order a 1/2 liter of your favourite vino...listen to the scooters and watch the hustle and bustle. THAT is Florence..and what makes her irrestible and beautiful.
camelbak is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 08:05 AM
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Wow - some of your answers are almost poetic as you describe your experiences at the museums and churches. I myself am a sculpture lover - spent a half day at the Rodin museum in Paris many years ago (was very unenthusiastic about the Louvre in comparison) - then last year spent time at the Philadelphia Rodin museum. So I am going to try to go to the Bargello (and am making reservations for the Borghese in Rome). After reading so much about David, I definitely will go to the Accademia to see him. Still not sure about the Uffizi, although Apres' description of the progression of the art makes it sound wonderful.

I'd like to do the museums closer to the end of the day, rather than early, since we will be rising early on the other days for our trips into the countryside. I'm hoping that it will be less crowded later in the day - is that just wishful thinking?
Also - I thought I could do the Accademia, then get the bus up to Fiesole for the sunset from near the museum - is that right? Will I be able to get a seat at the Bar Bleu terrace on a Saturday or Sunday evening?

I'm loving reading your responses to my question. Please keep them coming.

butnotrmpt is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 08:06 AM
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I agree that David is a must, but don't agree that there's nothing else worth seeing at the Accademia. If you're interested in music, there's a nice section of instruments that doesn't take long to see.

The other thing that nobody has mentioned that I think is an absolute must is the Baptistry. The dome ceiling of 13th Century mosaics is amazing. This is a good place to get the audio guide.
SusanP is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 08:33 AM
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The city bus to Fiesole is Number 7 It starts at the SMN main railway station and has a stop at Piazza San Marco which is near the Academia. The bus is likely to be crowded. Don't know how crowded the Blu bar will be

If you are taking the trip to Fiesole it is worth getting there in time to see the Roman ruins and other sights
Vttraveler is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 09:00 AM
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Guidebook writer's tips:
check out the small , house museums for a more intimate look at Florence as it used to be.
-Horne museum
-Stibbert museum
-Palazzo Davanzati
For romantic itineraries check www.elegantetruria.com , a finalist for Women on the Web prize, as best tourism site in Italy...and its in English.
vetralla is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 12:42 PM
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You will love the Borghese. It is my favorite in Rome.
LCBoniti is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2008, 01:17 PM
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I prefer the Accademia to Uffizi. I can appreciate art better in smaller doses. I found the Uffizi more confusing too. We did enjoy the cafe though! Another favorite is San Marco for the frescoes and the evocative monastery setting. The Accademia is very close to San Marco. Don't forget to reserve at the Accademia to save time.
palatino82 is offline  

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