Florence is a beautiful city. What to see, what to do? The Uffizi Gallery is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Florence. You have to spend some time at the Uffizi Gallery. Here I’m making some recommendations for your agenda should you ever visit beautiful Florence and the Uffizi Gallery to admire Greek Mythology masterpieces. Here are some of the 20 most outstanding artworks you need to see.
How to get to the Uffizi Gallery (2 good options):
1. From Palazzo Vecchio (Hercules) to Uffizi
Find Hercules at Palazzo Vecchio, next to Piazza della Signoria, Florence’s main square. The white marble statue shows Hercules and Cacus. The Uffizi is located just off of Piazza della Signoria, next to Palazzo Vecchio where the marble replica of Michelangelo’s David stands next to Hercules.
Twist your head to the right and you’ll see Perseus holding up Medusa’s head located within the Loggia dei Lanzi, which is very close to Palazzo Vecchio (Hercules).
Then walk between Hercules and Medusa towards the Uffizi Gallery on the right side in the photo below.
Hercules will be on your left and Medusa on your right as you walk into the U-shaped Uffizi Gallery.
Keep on walking for a little bit, then turn around and have a look at Hercules again. You’ve been walking in Piazzale degli Uffizi, which is like a narrow street. The niches on each side of the courtyard are filled by statue portraits of some of the great Florentines.
Find an entrance into the Uffizi Gallery. If you keep on walking towards the archway at the end of the courtyard, you’ll soon be under the Uffizi’s south gallery. The Arno river is on the other side of the archway.
The Uffizi Gallery is actually one long U-shaped building, which can be seen in the map below. It is in Piazzale degli Uffizi, between Piazza Signoria and the River Arno.
The outside southern section of the Uffizi Gallery building faces the Arno river. When looking outside of the building through the open windows on a higher floor, you can see the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge (on the right). This makes for a very popular photo opportunity.
2. Walking across the Ponte Vecchio bridge to Uffizi
If you’re on the other side of the Arno river, the easiest way to get to the Uffizi Gallery is by walking across Florence’s famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. This is the spectacular bridge shown in the above photo. It is a true landmark of the city of Florence.
Walk through the city like street on Ponte Vecchio bridge filled with gold jewellery stores and food outlets on either side.
The Uffizi Gallery is only a short stroll away from Ponte Vecchio.
There you have it. This intro will give first-time visitors a good idea of where you’re headed. Believe it or not, but when I was in Florence I had no idea where I was. When you’re in a tour group it’s very hard to appreciate where you are, since you’re mostly following the tour guide which quickly loses your sense of direction.
The view from Piazza Michelangelo, which offers the best views in Florence.
This fantastic view below is from a lower level. You can just make out the white column in the above photo.
In Florence for a group photo at Piazza Michelangelo during a London to Athens tour. I’m the third guy on the right close to the guy in the blue shirt. At the time I didn’t have any idea where I was.
Advice when visiting the Uffizi Gallery:
- Reserve tickets before you go. Book your ticket online or call the reservation desk. Do whatever it takes. There’s no point in wasting any time standing in a queue. It can take a long time to get inside especially during peak summer season. Book your tickets before you go or go on a guided tour.
- The Uffizi is generally open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:15 am till 6:50 pm. It’s closed on Mondays. You don’t want to rock up on a Monday when it’s closed.
- Make sure you visit the roof top terrace on the Uffizi for some great open air views. There is also a cafe there.
Special Treat – Vasari Corridor (for the lucky few)
- Book a private tour through the Vasari Corridor. Definitely have this highlight pre-arranged (only accessible via guided tour) as it isn’t open to visitors all year round. Make sure it’s an English-speaking guide if you don’t understand Italian. The Vasari Corridor (Italian: Corridoio Vasariano) is a kilometre-long elevated enclosed passageway, which connects Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) and Uffizi with the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace). The Medici had it built so they didn’t have to mingle with the riffraff. It provided a private safe route for the Medici’s to move between the seat of the government (Palazzo Vecchio), the Uffizi and their former home (Pitti Palace) on the other side of the river. Self-portraits of artists and other artworks dating back from the 17th to the 20th century. I wish I knew about it at the time I was in Florence.
History of the Uffizi Gallery
Florence’s most famous gallery had originally been used as administrative buildings, ‘The Offices’. I can see how the word ‘office’ developed from ‘Uffizi’. Uffizi actually means ‘palace of offices’.
The Uffizi is laid out chronologically across 45 rooms, largely over a single floor. It holds the highest concentration of Renaissance art in the world, including works by Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo. The collection was bequeathed to the people of Florence in perpetuity in 1737 by Anna Maria Ludovica, the last of the Medici dynasty. In 1769 the gallery was finally opened to the public.
Here’s what to see in the Uffizi Gallery:
Artist: Michelangelo Merisi dal Caravaggio
According to the myth, Medusa’s face is Caravaggio’s self-portrait when he was younger. Whatever the truth is, this is a particularly striking image on a real round shield. The head of the terrifying Gorgon is freshly severed. Blood can be seen gushing out at the moment of self-realization when she catches sight of herself in Perseus’ mirror shield.
2. Hercules and Nessus
3. Head of Medusa
Artist: Unknown Master, possibly Flemish (active in the 16th century)
4. Laocoön and his Sons
This is a copy of the one located in the Vatican. The Greek Gods are cruel.
5. The Birth of Venus
Watch the video below to gain a better artistic understand of this masterpiece. The Birth of Venus is easily the most famous and beloved painting in the Uffizi Gallery.
Zephyr and Aura blow Venus gently onto the shore with a rain of roses. A girl (maybe one of the mythological figures called “Horae” or “Hours”) waits for the Goddess in readiness to dress her.
6. Perseus rescuing Andromeda
I never would have imagined the beast to have looked like this. It almost looks friendly.
7. Venus de Medici
The Tribune of the Uffizi (an octagonal hall) contained the most prized possessions of ancient Classical Greek & Roman sculptures and High Renaissance paintings from the Medici collection. The room has three different entry viewing points.
Believe it or not, but this Venus statue was at one time the biggest drawcard to the Uffizi.
8. Hercules and the Hydra
- Painting of Hercules and the Hyrda (left side)
- One of the scenes from a sarcophagus depicting the labours of Hercules (right side)
9. Niobe room
Watch this interesting video below and be scared.
The Weeping Rock is located in Mount Sipylus, Manisa, Turkey. It’s known as Niobe’s Rock because it resembles the shape of a weeping woman. The ancient Greeks believed this to be Niobe, who was one of the more tragic figures in Greek myth.
Niobe and Amphion had fourteen children (the Niobids). In a moment of arrogance, Niobe bragged about her seven sons and seven daughters at a ceremony in honour of Leto. She mocked Leto, who only had two children, Apollo, God of prophecy and music, and Artemis, virgin Goddess of the wild. Bad, bad, bad, bad mistake.
“Somewhere in the rocks in Sipylus, among the lonely mountains,
where, men say, goddess nymphs lie down to sleep,
the ones that dance beside the Achelous,
there Niobe, though turned to stone, still broods,
thinking of the pain the gods have given her.”
[Homer, Iliad, 24.614-617; tr. Ian Johnston.]
10. Calumny of Apelles
King Midas with the ears of a donkey.
11. Leda and the Swan
12. Venus of Urbino
- Pallas and the Centaur (right)
- Achilles and the Centaur Chiron [The Education of Achilles] (left)
14. Vulcan’s Forge
Hephaestus (Vulcan) was always working.
Eros holding the thunderbolts of Zeus.
16. Mercury and Herse
The painting is a reminder of the story of Mercury and Herse. The Greek God is identified by his winged feet, helmet and caduceus. He spies three sisters returning from the festival of Minerva and falls in love with Herse, the most beautiful of the three.
Herse’s sister Aglauros becomes envious of Mercury’s infatuation with Herse. She attempts to intervene however it ends with Mercury turning her to stone. In this picture we see Mercury at the time when he first spots Herse.
17. Secret Images
Secret images appear on the back of these two individual portraits. You can actually walk behind the paintings and see the images for yourself. The browny coloured images are better seen in black and white as shown below.
On the back of a portrait of Maddalena (shown on the right) we see the continuation of the flood story, “the Revival of the human race”. After the flood the only survivors Deucalion (the son of Prometheus) and his wife pyrrha, in obedience to the orders of the Oracle, throw stones on the ground which ends up raising a new humanity.
18. Pan and Nymph
19. Amore e Psiche (Cupid and Psyche)
Artist: Giuseppe Maria Crespi
Psyche looks upon Cupid for the first time.
20. La Primavera (The Allegory of Spring)
On the left side of the painting stands Hermes (Mercury). He’s dissipating the clouds of winter with his staff for spring to come.
Next to Mercury stand the Three Graces, who represent the feminine virtues of Chastity, Beauty and Love.
Next to them, is the Goddess Venus, who protects and cares for the institution of marriage. Above her is her son, Cupid. He shoots his arrows of love while blindfolded towards the Three Graces. The Three Graces also represent the three kinds of love including sacred love, biological love and platonic love.
On the far right of the painting we see the bluish Zephyr, the west wind, pursuing the nymph named Chloris. After he reaches her, Chloris transforms into Flora, goddess of spring. She’s also a goddess to the city of Florence, which her name seems to suggest. The transformation is indicated by the flowers coming out of Chloris’s mouth. She’s giving flowers to everyone. Flora scatters the flowers gathered on her dress, symbolizing springtime and fertility. You can see she’s pregnant.
You need to watch/listen to the music video below – La Primavera.
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