I journeyed to Florence to see my mom, who was attending a painting course. My mom is a very talented artist, who studied abroad in Florence back in the 80s.
As a child, my mom told me countless stories about her study abroad experience. So it was such a treat being able to visit her in her former home. And eat lots of pasta with her, of course.
And eat pasta we did. But in addition to truffle-covered bucatini, I also wanted to enjoy another one of Florence’s treasures – art.
The Uffizi Gallery
My first stop? The Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi Gallery is home to some of the world’s most famous paintings, with works by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Raphael.
Seeing art in real life that I’d only seen in books was incredible – I especially loved seeing Botticelli’s work.
A few fun facts I learned:
Dark blue paint signifies the painting was very expensive to commission, as back then, blue paint came from lapis lazuli.
Leonardo da Vinci’s teacher saw da Vinci’s work for the first time and never painted again – his talent was that extraordinary.
Botticelli had a muse, Simonetta Vespucci, whom he painted in both Primavera and the Birth of Venus (both of which hang in the Uffizi Gallery, and both of which I love).
That afternoon, I joined Walks of Italy for a walking tour. After skipping an hour-long line (so great), we entered the Galleria dell’Accademia.
The Galleria dell’Accademia doesn’t have as much art as to the Uffizi Gallery, but what it does have is spectacular. Namely, the David, Michelangelo’s masterwork.
As soon as you enter the gallery, there he is, standing 17 feet tall.
Our guide explained that the statue of David is unusual because it depicts David before the battle with Goliath. You can see the tension coursing through him; his brow is furrowed, his muscles tense. We also learned that David stood as a political symbol of Florence; the underdog to the ‘giant’ of Rome.
Our guide then allowed us 15 minutes to look at the statue on our own, which I appreciated. Honestly, I’ve never felt so awestruck by a piece of art as I was with David. In that moment I felt I finally ‘got’ the Renaissance, and how it made art more lifelike and human, as pretentious as that may sound.
Next we learned about the fascinating history of the Medici family. The Medici was a banking family that rose to power in the 14th century, and eventually sent sons to become pope and daughters to become Queen of France.
The Medici ruled Florence for more than 300 years, finally dissolving in the 18th century. Brilliantly, the last Medici heir put in her will that everything her heirs inherited had to stay in Florence. Which is why, centuries later, Florence is still so rich in fine art.
We also stopped by the musical instruction gallery, which was full of priceless Stradivari violins and cellos.
After the Uffizi gallery, we walked to the beautiful Duomo, Florence’s massive cathedral.
And finally, we stopped to admire the famous Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge not destroyed by the Allied bombings in WWII.
All in all, my whirlwind two days in Florence were perfect – not only did I get to spend time with my mom, I also came away with a newfound understanding of the Italian Renaissance, and art as a whole.
Though I didn’t inherit my mother’s artistic talent, I did inherit her appreciation for art. And if you’re an art lover, there’s nowhere quite like Florence.
Have you ever visited Florence? Which museum did you like best?
A big thanks to Walks of Italy for admission to the Best of Florence Walking Tour with David & the Duomo in exchange for a review. As always, all opinions are as always my own.
For both the Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia, I recommend buying your tickets online in advance, so you can skip the long lines. The line for the Uffizi Gallery took more than two hours when I visited.
I’d also recommend visiting Florence in the shoulder season. Even when I was there in late September, it was insanely crowded. I’d consider visiting in spring or possibly in October/November.