19 October 2011

8 Museums/Landmarks to Visit in Florence

Living in another country, such as Florence, is so odd in that it's easy to become numb to the masterpieces and World Heritage Sites that you walk by every day. This life becomes your "normal"...you start living life from another perspective. I love getting to know a city well enough that I no longer need a map - and I got to know Florence very quickly. I loved exploring new streets and shops, and I always pushed myself to walk a little farther than I had the day before. The last week that I spent here was full of discovering many of the cities museums and popular spots, not just the top 2 or 3. When leaving a country, I'm always painfully aware that I may never come back (although I always tell myself I will), so I saw as much as I could in the time that I was there and left feeling like I had seen much of what Florence had to offer. Now here is my list of favorite museums and landmarks located in Florence, Italy.

1. Galleria dell'Accademia

Perhaps, most famous for displaying Michelangelo's original David statue, the Galleria dell'Accademia has many other outstanding art on display from masters such as Giambologna (and his original Rape of the Sabine Woman), Botticelli and Perugino. David is definitely the star of the show - situated in a place of prominence, at the end of an illuminated hallway. Seeing this original masterpiece is breathtaking, not only because of its history, but also because of its towering height! At 16 ft. tall, this statue commands attention and admiration. When you are finally able to break your eyes away from David, check out what else the museum has to offer.

Go see the real thing in the Galleria dell'Accademia instead of settling for this copy which
stands in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (where the original used to stand)

2. Ferragamo Museum

For anyone interested in shoes, history or art. I had such a blast looking around the Ferragamo museum - there are countless photographs of old movie stars during their shoe fittings, or during premieres (showing off their fabulous footwear!) It's also quite interesting to see the wooden shoe molds created specifically for  certain actresses such as Audrey Kepburn, Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe (I definitely fell in love with a pair of shoes that was created for Marilyn). And of course, there's the endless shoe display. Shoes in every innovative design you could ever dream of! It's heaven! From time to time, the museum changes its theme, but when I was there - the color spectrum was the theme, and there was a giant color wheel with shoes of every color in the appropriate area. Love!

        Outside the Ferragamo museum and store                      The shoes are a little loud...but I still want!

3. Palazzo Vecchio

After weeks and weeks of sitting out at the Piazza della Signoria and seeing the Palazzo Vecchio every day, I finally went inside. I was curious to see the inside of the building I knew so well. Although the Palazzo is a museum, it is actually still used for Florence's city council and was once a center for government in Italy. I really enjoyed exploring inside - it's so over the top and grandiose...the ceilings are unlike anything you've ever seen! They change from room to room - each one intricate in design, bold in color and pattern. If you're looking for artistic stimulation...you'll find it here.

The outside of Palazzo Vecchio

   The first courtyard upon entering the fortress.                   Michelangelo's Genio della Vittoria.

Salone dei Cinquecento - so named as it housed the Grand Council consisting of 500 members.

I loved this ceiling...I mean, there's way too much going on, but it's kind of amazing with the 3D effect,
the gold and blue framing the paintings (and the combination thereof!)

  One of my favorite rooms within Palazzo Vecchio                    And, for fun, the most amazing dog ever.

4. Piazza della Signoria

As I've mentioned before - the Piazza della Signoria was one of my very favorite places to visit n Florence. First of all...it's free. Do you need more convincing? Well, it's a great place to be inspired, surrounded by gorgeous statues and the music of street musicians...I found it a very pleasant to sit out here and experiment with my camera or just watch the world go by.

Piazza della Signoria, located just to the left of the Palazzo Vecchio

5. Piazzale Michelangelo

This piazzale is dedicated to Michelangelo (and as such, there is another copy of the David - green this time!) and offers the best views of the city. From here, you can see just how big the Duomo is. It's quite a trek up to Piazzale Michelangelo (if you have access to a car, you can drive up as well), but it's so worth it. 

Overlooking the north side of Florence

The Ponte Vecchio and beyond

6. The Uffizi Gallery

There can be quite a line to get into the Uffizi, but this is something you just can not miss. Better yet, if you can re-visit the museum a few times throughout your stay, you'll be able to appreciate it more. There is just way too much to see in one day (I mean, it's not the Louvre or anything..but there are hundreds of pieces). I definitely fell victim to art overload halfway through my visit, but kept going regardless. But it's all here...many of the most famous Renaissance art you've seen in your art history books - The Birth of Venus by Botticelli being the most famous. You'll also see famous works from Leonardo da vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Fra Fillippo Lippi, Carvaggio and Rembrandt Van Rijn. Get here early and stay until you've seen so much art that you're practically cross-eyed.

7. Ponte Vecchio

Crossing the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio's multi-colored exterior is is the first thing to catch your eye. It's such a cute little bridge and one that comes with a history as well. It is the oldest bridge in Florence, as it is the only one that wasn't destroyed during World War II. And the shops you see lining the sides? Back in the day, there used to be butcher shops along the Ponte Vecchio. Now, they are mainly jewelers. It was such a simple pleasure walking across this bridge every day in order to get to the school I was attending. It's such a symbol of Florence, it's almost unfathomable now that I used to see this every day!

Florence's famous Ponte Vecchio

Admiring the gold within

8. Palazzo Pitti

And, at last - #8 on my list. Palazzo Pitti - located directly across from my school - was the base for many important figures in history, including the Medici family in the 1400s. Inside, it houses one of Florence's largest art galleries...which, unfortunately I did not see. Yes, having time for only the museum or the adjoining Bobli Gardens, I chose a change of pace to all the art I had seen and went with Palazzo Pitti's Boboli Gardens. You could spend hours walking though all the paths these garden have to offer and find little secluded areas that seems magical. My favorite spot in Boboli Gardens was L'Isolotto with its fountain and sculptures emerging from the pond - it was such a refreshingly green spot to spend an afternoon in Florence.

The outside of Palazzo Pitti

            One of Boboli Gardens' natural archways                               Fountain at L'Isolotto

In Boboli Gardens, looking toward the back of Palazzo Pitti

      Perseus on Horseback, located on L'Isolotto                                            Playing with shadows 

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