In peak season (July) waiting times to enter the Uffizi Gallery can be as long as five hours and, according to many guidebooks, a good six hours spread over a few days is the recommended viewing time. That’s a lot of queuing!
But, if you have limited time, a quick visit is better than no visit at all. Pre-purchasing your ticket in person at one of the other museums or online from the Uffizi website is the way to go. Even though there will still be a queue for pre-purchased tickets it will be markedly shorter than the one for no tickets at all.
Uffizi Gallery and the ‘Mafia’ Bomb
When you reach the security area your bag will be checked thoroughly. Understandably staff are a little militant, in 1993 a car bomb explosion caused irreparable damage to parts of the palace and killed five people. Since then security has been tightened. No one was ever arrested for the bomb incident though fingers have tended to point, as they normally do in Italy, towards the Mafia.
Inside the Uffizi Gallery
The main corridor will be your first introduction to 16th century Italian art. The ceiling is incredibly detailed with captivating scenes of mythical animals and gods at play all weaved with brilliant blue and gold flowers. Strangely enough art historians call these decorations ‘grotesques’.
Oversized picture windows interspersed with Roman sculptures run along the length of the corridor and from this height there are spectacular elevated views of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio bridge shimmering in the golden Florentine heat.
Some History of the Uffizi Gallery
It took just over twenty years to complete the Palazzo degli Uffizi which was commissioned by Cosimo I de’Medici and designed by architect Giorgio Vasari.
Over the years the Medici family had used the Palazzo to display their magnificent collection of paintings and sculptures, including works from Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo. Public viewings were available only by request.
In 1765 the top floor of the horse-shoe shaped building was named Galleria degli Uffizi and officially opened to the public.
The ‘Uffizi’ of the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery wasn’t always an art museum. It actually started out as a suite of offices for Florentine magistrates, ‘uffizi’ means ‘offices’.
Running off the three main corridors are the 45 uffizi where the Medici family displayed their enormous collection of paintings and sculptures over the years. The inter-connecting rooms are arranged in chronological order from the 13th to 18th centuries and contain paintings by such masters as: Raphael, Caravaggio, Giotto, Filippo Lippi, Cimbadue, Paolo Uccello.
Guided Tours of the Uffizi Gallery
This is where an audio-guide comes in handy or a guided tour as they follow a certain pattern to take in the most popular works. Here is a typical short tour of the Uffizi Gallery.
Renaissance Art in the Uffizi Gallery
It can get a little crowded in the Uffizi, some days 12,000 people or more are ushered into the Gallery, especially the eastern part which contains the 14th and 15th century Renaissance paintings.
La Primavera is one of these and certainly a crowd pleaser. It was originally called The Allegory of Spring and was painted in 1478 at the height of Botticelli’s career. At a quarter of a metre high and a third of a metre wide, it focuses all the attention in the room. It has a very ethereal quality with its dancing nymphs and goddesses strewing flowers. For me personally, just seeing the Primavera puts everything into perspective; the queuing, the crowds, the militant staff.
Seeing What you Want in the Uffizi Gallery
Although the art world frowns on a quick visit there’s no reason why you can’t target the works you really want to see in the Uffizi and still get your money’s worth. A little internet research beforehand may also help you save time. The Uffizi website has a good overview of which masterpieces are ‘must-sees’.
(Photo by kevinpoh)