According to National Geographic Traveler, Galleria degli Uffizi is the 9th best museum in the world. NGT says that the Uffizi “holds the world’s finest collection of Renaissance paintings.” The Uffizi is Lonely Planet‘s #1 HIGHLIGHT in Tuscany. While going through Uffizi during the final week of 2013, I found myself often writing FAMOUS ALERT! about something in every room. This was, understandably, my first visit.
I tend to see famous world landmarks but not write about them. What seasoned traveler needs more information about the Eiffel Tower or the Tower of London? To honor an exception, I decided to write 8 personal, perhaps helpful, reactions to visiting Uffizi.
#1. On the 2nd day after Christmas, Ruth and I expected to be virtually alone in the Uffizi. Wrong. The line to get tickets was jaw-dropping. I can’t imagine what this city and gallery must be like during high-tourist season. I was glad I bought tickets on-line long in advance of travel. I, of course, paid more, but Ruth & I simply had to walk across a street, claim our tickets, and enter.
#2. It’s possible to take a high-speed train to Florence, have quite a bit of time in Uffizi, and return to Rome the same day. It took us exactly 2 hours and 10 minutes to get there. But like the streets and the museum, the train was full. Book in advance. The downside is that you don’t get to see much of 5+++++ Compass Florence if you do this. Another downside is that you have to look at a lot of mindless graffiti with a depressing sameness on your way out of Rome. The view didn’t get sensational until we entered Tuscany.
#3. I knew that Uffizi was a Medici family project, but I knew little beyond that. I figured, for example, that Uffizi was some-well-connected someone’s name. Wrong. Uffizi is Italian for offices. This gallery on the Arno River began as 16th century administrative and guild offices. According to Lonely Planet, the Medici’s private collection still on view was willed to the city in 1743 by Anna Maria Ludovica, the last of the line, with the instruction that it never leave Florence. This doesn’t mean that its treasures can’t travel, only that they can’t be sold to the highest bidder and disappear.
#4. I was told “no photography” in the galleries but was allowed to keep my camera since I could use it in some hallways. I didn’t get this until I realized that the best photos of the famous Ponte Vecchio, the 16th century jewelers’ bridge, could be taken through Uffizi windows.
#5. The Gallery’s rooftop cafe is fine but the staff is crabby. Perhaps the woman who accused me of breaking a window covering didn’t expect to get what she wanted from Babbo Natale on Epiphany.
#6. Despite the mind-blowing Raphaels, Leonardos, and Caravaggios, the work I spent the most time gaping at was Paolo Uccello’s “The Battle of San Romano”. This very realistic depiction of fierce fighting between Florence and Siena circa 1436 clearly showed the impact of war on horses. They were shown bolting, kicking, dead, etc. In an era when most art was about religious subjects, this painting was unique.
#6. I had never before seen a room full of Sandro Botticelli’s stuff. If he were alive today, he’d surely be working for Victoria’s Secret or some glittery magazine or glitzy style-centered cable show.
#7. You can see The Renaissance happening in a single painting, 20-year-old Leonardo da Vinci’s 1472 “Annunciation”.
#8 Maria Teresa de Vallabriga looked very royal on horseback in Goya’s 1783 painting, but she wasn’t of “noble stock”. Charles III married her because he loved her.