While you might think that the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Tate Gallery in London have the lock on the greatest works of art ever produced, there is one city that is a veritable treasure trove of legendary art. Florence, Italy, the capital of the Tuscany region, is home to dozens of incredible masterpieces. In fact, the abundance of great art, primarily Renaissance pieces, is one of the chief reasons that thousands of visitors flock to this charming and historic city every year.
If you are short on time, though, or you simply want to focus your attention on the best of the best, follow this list of the 10 pieces of art that you absolutely cannot miss during your holiday in Florence.
Arguably one of the most recognised pieces of sculpture in the world — and widely considered Michaelangelo’s finest work — the original statue “David” stands in the Galleria dell’Academia. Replicas of the nude, which represents the ideal male form in classical art, stand in front of the Palazzo Vecchio as well as Piazzale Michaelangelo.
Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”
Housed at the Uffizi Gallery, this depiction of the birth of the goddess of love — featuring a nude female with flowing hair rising out of a seashell — is considered Sandro Botticelli’s masterpiece.
Brunelleschi’s “Il Duomo”
Art in Florence isn’t limited to paintings and sculpture. Many of the city’s buildings are works of art in their own right, not the least of which is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or il Duomo. Designed by the famed architect Brunelleschi, this distinctive domed building is one of the centrepieces of the Florentine landscape.
The Uffizi is one of the oldest art museums in the world, but it is a work of art in and of itself. The galleries and hallways of the building contain frescoes and sculpture by some of the greatest masters of all time. During high season, you may have to wait to get into the museum, but it’s worth waiting for. Many of the luxury hotels in Florence include tickets to the Uffizi as part of a package rate, which will significantly reduce the time you must wait.
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation”
Considered to be da Vinci’s earliest complete painting, “Anunciation” is nearly 600 years old. A large painting at about 85 inches wide, it’s an unusual depiction of the Virgin Mary, showing her receiving news from Archangel Gabriel that she will birth Jesus Christ.
The Baptistery of San Giovanni
One of the major architectural achievements of Florence, the Baptistery is where you’ll find Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise.” Ghiberti’s work has been called one of the greatest achievements of Western sculpture.
Monastery of San Marco
A monk in the Dominican brotherhood, Fra Angelico painted the frescoes in the monastery of San Marco where he lived. These paintings were noted for their simplicity and their unusual depiction of holy figures, and today stand as some of the best examples of Italian Renaissance art.
Caravaggio’s “Sacrifice of Isaac”
The Uffizi houses several of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings, including “Bacchus,” “Medusa,” and “Sacrifice of Isaac.” The Italian master has his own room at the Uffizi, tracing his work and colourful life.
The Works of Filippo Lippi
While perhaps not as well known as some of the other Italian painters, the works of Lippi appear throughout Florence, in the Uffizi, in several smaller galleries and the Academy of Florence. Botticelli is known to have studied under Lippi.
The Works of Donatello
Throughout Florence you’ll find sculptures by Donatello, including on the Campanile bell tower and in several churches. Donatello also recreated Michaelangelo’s “David” in bronze; the statue now stands in the Bargello.
These are just a few of the must-see pieces of art and architecture in Florence. In truth, though, the city is teeming with priceless works — and artists who wish to capture some of the magic that made the city the “cradle of the Renaissance.” Devote some time during your holiday to experience this art, and see some of the most renowned pieces for yourself.
About the Author: While earning her degree in art history, Kate Barnes travelled to Florence to visit the Uffizi and other sites. Now a gallery owner, she continues to feed her passion for Italian art and culture with annual trips to Italy.