The Uffizi Galleries ★★★

"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli, Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
'The Birth of Venus' (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

The Uffizi courtyard, Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy. (Photo by Frans-Banja Mulder)
"Annunciation" (1333) by Simone Martini, Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
"La Primavera" or "Allegory of Spring" (1482–85) by Sandro Botticelli, Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
"Pietà con i Santi Giovanni Evangelista, Maria Maddalena, Nicodemo e Giuseppe d’Arimatea" (1490) by Pietro Perugino, Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
"Venus of Urbino" (1538) by Titian, Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)

The Uffizi Galleries serve as a kind of real-life textbook on the development of the Renaissance from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

That's a fancy way of saying that this (relatively) tiny museum has some of the greatest paintings by some of the greatest artists of the early and High Renaissance—the short list includes Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio.

And those are just a few of the artists in just seven of the Uffizi's 100 rooms.

It can be downright exhausting.

Although the Uffizi is only a fraction of the size of galleries like the Louvre or Vatican, it still ranks in the world's top echelon of museums. What it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality, with room after room of unequivocal masterpieces. What looks like a small stretch of gallery space can easily gobble up half a day.

In fact, many rooms suffer the fate of containing nothing but masterpieces.

The Uffizi building—itself a 16C masterpiece of Renaissance architecture by Giorgio Vasari—is an elongated U shape, with rooms opening off the U's two long corridors. These corridors are lined by ancient sculptures under ceilings elaborately painted to celebrate the history of Florence and the ruling Medici clan, whose private offices ("uffizi" in old Florentine dialect) these were and whose private art collection this once was.

The final heir of the Medici line, Maria Luisa de' Medici, stipulated in her will two things regarding this fabulous collection of timeless artistic masterpieces. (1) No part of it was ever allowed to be sold off and leave Florence. (2) It all be opened to the public.

God bless you, Maria Luisa.

Note: Though you enter on the ground floor (piano terra), the exhibition starts on the topmost, third floor—which in Italian is (somewhat confusingly) called the secondo piano. Since the expansion, the exhibition then continues down to the second floor (in Italian: primo piano).

★★★
"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi 3rd floor 1st corridor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
★★★
Niobids (Photo by Михаил Бернгардт)
Uffizi 3rd floor 2nd corridor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
★★★
"Venus of Urbino" (1538) by Titian (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi 2nd floor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
 
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  • The Uffizi courtyard, Uffizi Galleries, Italy (Photo by Frans-Banja Mulder)
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Tips

Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Uffizi Galleries for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long does the Uffizi take?

You can easily spend all day here, but a super-fast visit will take about 2–3 hours.

The ticket office closes at 6:05pm.

They start closing the galleries at 6:35pm.

Book ahead, book ahead, book ahead!

By all means book ahead. In summer, the line can last for two hours—no joke. In winter it's more like 30 minutes—but still, do you want to waste even half an hour? There are two solutions:

  • (1) You'll have less of a wait early in the morning and again around 1:30pm when most people are out having lunch.
  • (2) I highly, highly recommend ponying up the extra €4 to book tickets with a timed entry at tel.+39-055-294-883 or Select Italy.
Save the Uffizi for the afternoon

The Uffizi is open relatively late (it closes at 6:50pm—the ticket office and entrance closes at 6:05pm), and most of Florence's other sights are best seen in the morning, so it's wise to save the Uffizi for an afternoon.

It is also open late in summer (maybe): In some recent summers, the Uffizi has instituted a late-opening schedule, staying open until 9pm on Tuesdays. Let's hope they continue the tradition

"Grande Uffizi" = more art (but it may have moved)

Of the more than 3,100 artworks in the museum's archives, only about 1,700 are on exhibit—though now that the "Grande Uffizi" project has (finally!) expanded the galleries to the first (ground) floor, many more are being put on display.

Put it this way: Since the Uffizi Galleries opened, the only regular display space for its art has been up on the third floor (second piano in Italian). Anyone who visited over the past 75 years or so, that's pretty much what they saw.

In just the past few years, however, the permanent exhibit has expanded to cover a good three-quarters of the second floor (primo piano) as well—and though most of the new rooms are frankly a bit tiny (they weren't originally intended as gallery space), the fact remains that thousands upon thousands of square meters of wall space have opened up to display even more of the Uffiizi's embarrassingly rich collection.

That said, the Grande Uffizi project is not quite finished yet.

Works are constantly being rearranged in order to free up some of the older rooms for their first (desperately needed) refurbishment in roughly 60–70 years.

You'll still get to see them. Just don't expect them necessarily to be in the same place it says on your map or in your guidebook.

Also know before you go that the Uffizi sometimes shuts down rooms for crowd-control reasons—especially in summer, when the bulk of the annual 1.5 million visitors stampedes the place.

Hit the gift shop early

For some reason buried deep in the idiocy of Italian bureaucracy, the museum gift shop actually closes before the museum does (around 6:30pm).

If you'll be staying until closing time and still want a commemorative museum book, postcard, poster, or whatever, pop in before your visit to the galleries or during the middle of your time there (or plan to stop by again on some other day just to visit the gift shop).

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).