Florence itself is a beautiful work of art. The architecture, outdoor statues, and street artists make you feel like you’re in a scene of a moving painting. Art lovers will be spoilt for choice in this beautiful city, but if you’ve only got a day, here’s how to make the most of it.
You absolutely must visit a museum or gallery during your short time in Florence, so let it be the master of all museums, The Uffizi Gallery. There you can see dozens of Renaissance masterpieces up close and personal such as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Primavera, Titan’s racy version of Venus of Urbino,and Da Vinci’s Annunciation to name a few. Not only are the pieces way better in person than you imagined, but you can easily get lost (metaphorically and literally) in the dozens of rooms organised by artist, and could easily spend your entire day here. Get there early and book your tickets online ahead of time to skip the ticket line and maximise your time, hopefully saving some time and energy to continue exploring Florence.
Insider’s Tip: There are skip the line options and private tours for the museums offered by tour companies. Check out your options here and here. They also have free entry on the first Sunday of every month for all national museums in Florence.
Another great choice is Palazzo Pitti. Many people skip the palace and head straight for Boboli Gardens, but as an art lover, you’ll want to take it all in and see everything. There are multiple types of museums inside, including a sliver museum, the costume gallery, gallery of modern art, the royal apartments, and the newly added Contain-Bonacossi collection, so choose the one that you’re interested in, or buy your ticket to see them all.
Insider’s Tip: The best time of year to visit Florence, in general, is during fall or winter since it’s off-season for tourists. If you are coming in spring or summer, get there first thing in the morning, or right at lunch time when the morning crowd takes a lunch break. It is said that Palazzo Pitti’s collection rivals Uffizi’s, but we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Don’t forget about the food! Italian cooking is an art form in itself, and there are a few eateries in Florence known for once being hubs for authors, poets and artists. One such place is Caffè Giubbe Rosse, considered to be the birthplace of the Futurist movement. The café, which boasts artwork from Primo Conti and Depero, is still popular today.
If the name doesn’t give it away, this place crafts great artistic (and beautiful) cocktails. Aside from the colourful fruity specialities, they also have a great selection of beer and wine. The place is small, with minimal decor, basic wooden tables and chairs that you would find at an antique market, giving off a Hemingway type of vibe. They liven the place up with hanging art on the walls and even occasionally host mini exhibitions of local artists’ work. The central location is a great place to stop and rest for a drink, and happy hour goes until 9pm with a few salty bar snacks to munch on while you drink.
Insider’s Tip: This place is small and gets crowded fast, so get there a little earlier than prime cocktail hour to find a table. Also, after you order your drinks, expect to wait awhile. Don’t make any immediate plans for afterwards as the wait is notoriously long. Just remember, you can’t rush a masterpiece.
This place feels like you just stepped inside a modern painting. Dine in contemporary artsy style at this colourful restaurant and enjoy great food and an even better setting. Art of all kinds cover the walls and a few rooms are even completely painted vibrant colours. Even the food is beautiful. You’ll feel inspired and creative after being here.
Insider’s Tip: Make a reservation ahead of time since they’re only open for dinner. The menu can get pricey, so be prepared to splurge at this seemingly casual spot.
If you appreciate Renaissance art, but modern and contemporary are more your style, get the best of both worlds at Palazzo Strozzi, a Renaissance palace with displays of modern and contemporary exhibits. There is always a new exhibit to be found at Palazzo Strozzi, so check before your trip what will be featured and buy your tickets ahead of time.
Insider’s Tip: There is usually not a long line since it’s a lesser known museum by tourists, so take advantage and pop in right after lunch. Be warned, however, that if something really special is being featured, there could be a line, so always plan in advance.
For the likes of Picasso, Basquiat, and Warhol, Aria Art Gallery and Galleria Tournibuoni are definitely the places to see. Both galleries have locations in other major cities such as London, Milan, and Paris, so you know you won’t be disappointed.
Insider’s Tip: Check their opening hours and if they are closed as certain parts of the year before you get your heart set on going, just in case. Florence can sometimes have odd days and hours of operation, such as being closed on Mondays (this also goes for museums and government services).
Lesser known and smaller niche exhibits can also be found at Auditorium di Santo Stefano al Ponte where exhibits pass through highlighting a particular artist, time period, or special interest. Check their website for more information.
Piazza della Signoria offers the most free art in one location. Take a walk through the loggia under the arches where you can marvel at some of the city’s famous sculptures. From the fountain of Neptune and a replica of David, to a plethora of other statues in bronze, marble, and limestone, the piazza seems more like an open air gallery than a public square.
Insider’s Tip: While you’re exploring the city, you should also pop into any open church door you see, especially since most of them are free to enter. Due to the religious history of Italy, many hidden gems and architectural marvels can be found inside the various churches, especially in the important city of Florence. But as an art lover, you probably already knew that, so take advantage whenever you can to see what most tourists walk past every day without a second thought.
Take an art tour if you want to get straight to it and choose which option suits your interests best. You can also find plenty of artists set up with easels and paints, with their past work on display for sale along the main tourist streets as they work on their next piece. Local artists’ work makes a great souvenir you can take home and escape into when you’re missing Florence.
Although there is no actual street art tour, Florence actually has a lot of discreet (and not so discreet) street art that can be found around every corner if you keep your eyes peeled. Pro tip: look up. One famous street artist, Clet, sneakily alters street signs in the wee hours of the night and turns them into mini and quirky works of art, without altering the sign’s meaning. Another street artist is known for turning classic Renaissance icons and idols into funky scuba divers, depicting them underwater (known as L’arte sa nuotare, check out his instagram). Another street artist’s work can be easily identified as he uses simple black lines and pops of red to create his signature style His art can be found around almost every corner and has become a staple of Florence. The term street art can also be taken literally – there are artists drawing on the pavement with pastels for the public to watch. You can also find all types of musicians performing around the city as well. Enjoy exploring the city and treasure hunting for street art in the artists’ open air gallery that is Florence.
Insider’s Tip: Clet has an open studio in the San Niccolò neighbourhood that doubles as a store where you can buy some of his designs and see what else he has to offer. And there you have it, a 24-hour guide to get the most out of Florence as an art lover. Art is everywhere in this city and one taste will inspire you to come back for more. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.