What to see at the Uffizi? A tour guide can help you find the Masterpieces of the Renaissance
If you're planning to visit the most visited museum in all of Italy while in Florence, our first recommendation is to always book a ticket ahead of time to avoid the long line at the entrance. If your time is limited and you want to visit the museum knowing exactly where to go, making the best use of your time while learning something of the works you see, then the very best way to do so is with a guided tour - which will also include your entrance ticket to the Uffizi!
We did the following tour of the Uffizi Gallery ourselves to better understand what the tour offers, identifying what we best liked about it and who it is perfect for. These experiences helps us be able to recommend such services, particularly when there are so many options to choose from.
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The Visit to the Uffizi
Uffizi Guided Tour At-A-Glance
- Duration: about 1.5-2 hours
- Pros: priority access with qualified, licensed local guide, stay inside as long as you want after the tour ends
- When: every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 12:30pm
- Language: English, French
- Wheelchair accessible
A visit to the Uffizi always starts with overcoming the obstacle of getting in the shortest time possible. When you book a guided tour, your guide meets you outside the museum with your tickets in hand. You start your tour right away, while you're waiting in the reserved entrance line to go through security. As we waited to get in, our guide Lia started by telling us the history of the area where the Uffizi palazzo is. The Uffizi, which means the "Offices" in Italian, was built to house the offices of the government of Florence by the Medici family. It was the perfect point to also go into more detail about the Medici in general, considering that the majority of artistic masterpieces in Florence and in the Uffizi itself are due to the direct patronage of the Medici of the arts and artists of past centuries, as well as their collecting.
Right after entering, Lia showed us the portrait of Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, the last surviving member of the Medici responsible for donating all of the family's collections to the city. She made an iron-clad will with a special stipulation: none of the art collections the Medici had amassed over the centuries could leave the city. She defined these as State property to be left to the enjoyment of the public, including foreign visitors to the city. We can thank Anna Maria for all of the precious artworks we can see in Florence today, which surely contribute to it being considered a top travel destination in the world.
Did you know?
The area in which the Uffizi building is located used to be a harbor back in Roman times. And up until the time that the palazzo was built, the area was considered one of the most disreputable neighborhoods in Florence. The many buildings here were taken down and thus the area was "re-qualified" or modernized when Vasari started building the Uffizi building in 1560 on commission of Cosimo I de' Medici.
As we climbed the grand staircase to the top floor, where the museum collections begin, our guide explained both the architecture of what we saw and what we were seeing. For example, the atrium at the top floor has many marble busts and portraits of both the Medici and Lorraine families. Our guide made learning about who they were interesting, especially hearing stories of their lives. It was a chance to not only learn about history but to actually feel these historical figures were people like us. Without the guide, I confess I have walked right by this atrium without more than a glance in the past.
The Main Rooms and the Masterpieces
The Uffizi Gallery is an important museum in the art of the Renaissance, but it includes works from Roman times (the marble statues) to the early Renaissance and all the way through to European painters of the 18th century. With over 50 halls, each with many works of art, which ones are the most important?? Our guide provided an overview of the earlier works, particularly in their importance to the collecting of the Medici - why they collected Roman art, for example - as we made our way into the first halls that contain works by Giotto, Cimabue and Duccio di Buoninsegna and then on to what is considered International Gothic style. I was not an art major in college even if I enjoyed both history and art and I confess I am no expert but learn a lot from these visits. They put both the history into better perspective, since a good guide such as Lia is able to make connections with other things happening in time at the same moment.
Who should do a guided tour?
A guided tour is perfect for everyone but, in particular, for anyone:
- with limited time
- who wants to see the main works of art
- who wants to learn why these masterpieces are considered masterpieces
- enjoy the best the museum offers, skipping the long line at the entrance!
As you cover centuries of art through each room, we were able to see how the art was changing and she explained the why behind the artists, their patrons, the influences of other artists coming before and after. As you arrive at the more "important" halls, such as the ones that house two of Sandro Botticelli's most important works, La Primavera (Spring) and The Birth of Venus, you'll know they are considered as two of the most important masterpieces at the Uffizi. Our guide took us into the main halls and directly to the main works, giving us a chance to admire the works while explaining what makes each unique and special in the history of art. Some of the other masterpieces you'll see include the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, the Tondo Doni by Michelangelo and the Venus of Urbino by Titian.
Enjoy the view of Ponte Vecchio from the corridor by the Arno river and of Palazzo Vecchio from the cafè terrace before heading downstairs to also view works by Caravaggio, Bronzino and Raphael.
Working your way through the Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery is a labyrinth in which one can gladly get lost to enjoy all of the treasures within. The history held within the palazzo and in each painting and statue is just one aspect that makes Florence one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world so the museum is must-see on your itinerary.
After having visited the Uffizi with our guide, I highly recommend everyone visits the Uffizi with a tour guide, it makes such a difference in your experience. Having that art expert along with you makes discovering the Uffizi and its masterpieces an interesting and fun journey, because the artists and their paintings are brought to life. Knowing some of the who, what and why enriches the visit to the museum.
Being the top museum in all of Italy, I can assure you there are more artworks in the museum than you can see, even if you had an entire day to stay inside. Since most of us don't have a day, but maybe not even that much time, the help of a guide in finding the most important works of art makes it possible for us to appreciate them in the limited time we do have.
Unless you’re an art historian or know a good amount of art and its history - but even then - an expert in art accompanying you on the adventure of visiting the Uffizi will be worth it!
Note that the Uffizi Gallery does not offer guided tours directly: it only has an audio device you can rent after you enter the museum and use that to audio guide to steer you during your visit in the many rooms. While it is useful and available in several languages, noting some of the main works in every room, it does not tell you which masterpieces are important for their role in shaping the history of art or of the Renaissance. That is one of best reasons why having an actual qualified guide accompany you through the museum makes a huge difference - in addition to being able to answer your questions, of course :).
Why book with Florence/Italy Tickets?
This tour is organized directly by the tour agency New Globus Viaggi, working in Florence and Tuscany for over 20 years. We tried this specific Uffizi tour because we know them personally and trust the knowledge and expertise of the tour guides they work with, and in fact, were not disappointed. The guides they have are not only licensed, but experts in art history who have made knowing about Florence their main professional focus. We know that the tours and experiences are good value and will become part of the memories of travelers to Florence that choose them, and for that reason we try their tours and then recommend them.
Ready to book? Check your dates below:
If you have any questions about this tour before booking, you can post on our forum and I will try to answer them as best as I can from my own experience doing the tour.
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