The good the bad and the ugly of art galleries in Florence

Accademia Florence with the crowds and the selfie sticks

One of the reasons I had always wanted to go to Florence was for the art. It is the home to some of the most important Renaissance artworks and I had studied some of them in Art History at high school. Unlike a lot of high school memories (people hiding things in my frizzy hair, wearing leggings under mini-shirts and an awkward campaign for school council) I actually liked these ones, so visiting the Uffizi gallery and the Accademia were pretty much the only things on my Florence to do list.

Mum had planned the entire trip because I was so busy at work I couldn’t think past my own nose. She had the foresight to book a ‘speed tour’ that went to both the Uffizi and the Accademia in one morning, because rumour had it that the queues to get into either were hell on earth. My god the rumours were true, for the Accademia it was ticketed but they limited the numbers allowed in AND give priority to tour groups – some people with perfectly valid tickets had to wait in the hot sunshine for two hours before they could glimpse David’s nadgers.

So tour time it was. Yes that sentence sounds like Yoda is ghost writing my blog, shut up I haven’t had any coffee yet and I’m writing this on the Jubilee line CUT ME SOME SLACK. I bet Yoda doesn’t have to put up with this crap from his readers.

We were on a tour. It was not a pleasant experience. The disorganisation of the Uffizi gallery killed me, it was horrible crowding through the gallery rooms with seemingly no restriction on people numbers. It was a noisy, chaotic, ‘run and snap’ experience. As much as I hate tours I am actually very glad we were on one because it at least we got through quickly and managed to see all my art history loves. I think groups were the problem to be honest, that many tour groups in one small gallery meant noise, no people flow and people crowding to take photos in front of art they had never heard of because the tour guide said it was famous. Oh and everyone was wearing fucking hats.

Hats in the Uffizi gallery

But I saw the art I wanted to, I stood in front of Botticelli’s Venus, Piero della Francesca’s Urbino portraits and Giotto’s altar pieces. A shitty stressful experience but some amazing art.
And it was the same story at the Accademia, except with the added bonus of two tour leaders getting into a fight as one accused the other of cutting in line. Again I’m glad I did the tour (I think it is actually the only way to go) because the one thing I really wanted to see was the statue of David, and standing in the sun for two hours would not have been worth it (no matter how tight his glutes were).

Kandinsky to Pollock at the Palazzo Strozzi

It was on this sad note that I was fairly anti art galleries in Florence. This gallery ghost wants to meander and contemplate, not be pushed out of the way by a snapchatting hat on two legs.
Then we saw a poster for an exhibition that I REALLY wanted to see, From Kandinsky to Pollock at the Palazzo Strozzi. Girding our loins we went for it, crowds be damned.

To my absolute surprise it was calm. We purchased the tickets, there were no tour groups and it was ‘art gallery murmur’ quiet. People ghosted around looking at paintings that took their interest and at no point did anyone shout “take a photo of this one it’s famous”. AND I was surrounded by some kick ass modern art, I was in heaven.

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

It was with my faith in the galleries of Florence restored that we went to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Essentially they took all the good bits from the Duomo and put them into a beautifully designed (and air conditioned!) gallery that you don’t have to queue for; of the two I would 100% choose to go for the gallery over the actual Duomo because it was so fucking interesting. Anyway again we wandered round in the calm and learned about the building of the Duomo, the art, the culture and got to visit a roof terrace to see a unique view of the dome.

I wish that all of the galleries in Florence were a good experience, that tour groups were non-existent and that art was appreciated for itself not for how many t-shirts it is on. I know I sound like a snob here, but when you study something for two years from the other side of the world you begin to think about it in hallowed tones. When the crowds are there because it’s something they have to do, not want to do it grinds my gears. Florence does have beautiful galleries, you just have to find them.

8 Comments

  1. August 9, 2016 / 10:43 pm

    Hilarious! The Louvre was like this too! I could only get as close as to glimpse at the corner of the Mona Lisa. Hats in a gallery is outrageous!

  2. Jamie
    August 10, 2016 / 7:16 am

    That is so frustrating! I went in early June and the lines were fine, but I think once it hits tourist season… Europe is just ridiculous come July/August! Amazing photos and great post x

  3. August 10, 2016 / 8:58 am

    I went to Florence last summer and the art was so incredible! I hated how chaotic it was too, but totally worth it! x

    Ariadna || RAWR BOWS

  4. August 10, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    That is how I felt seeing the Mona Lisa, everyone crowding around and taking pictures which are sure to look like crap at home and really are they going to print it out and put it in a frame?!?!

  5. August 11, 2016 / 1:13 pm

    I remember visiting Florence a few years ago in September and absolutely loved it! I can only imagine how busy the galleries must have been in tourist season though…

  6. August 23, 2016 / 11:12 am

    That absolutely *sucks* about your experience at the Uffizi. We went in late November in 2006 (so yeah, ten years ago now …) and had the place almost entirely to ourselves. I think because of that, it’s one of my favorite museums we’ve ever visited. (Unlike, say, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel where I almost vomited from the smell of dirty hair and armpits).