Study Experiences can arrange a wide variety of educational visits and attractions that can be included in an itinerary to support a History of Art tour. Below are just a sample. Click here to see full details of all the options available in our Florence guide.
Located in the heart of Florence, the Uffizi Gallery hosts unique artworks and masterpieces the majority of which are from the Renaissance period. Included are works of art by great Italian artists such as Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello, just to name a few of the most famous. Never intended to be a museum it is organised as a long labyrinth of rooms with impressive works of art displayed roughly in chronological order along a U-shaped Renaissance building.
This art museum is home to several marble sculptures created by Michelangelo which includes the famous and impressive David. Created between 1501 and 1504 this 14 foot high marble statue depicting the Biblical hero David, represented as a standing male nude, is not only a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture but probably the most famous sculpture in the world. The most famous section of the Galleria is considered the Hall of the Prisoners, displaying Michelangelo’s unfinished “Slaves” but there are also other works on display by Perugino, Giambologna, Botticelli (Madonna and Child and Madonna of the Sea) and Alessandro Allori.This art museum is home to several marble sculptures created by Michelangelo which includes the famous and impressive David. There is also a collection of Renaissance paintings and other works with references to botany, music, art symbols and painting techniques.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore - Il Duomo (Florence’s Cathedral)
Named in honour of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence's cathedral, the 4th largest in the world, stands tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. This vast Gothic structure was built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.
The exterior of the cathedral is quite impressive; its rich polychrome ornamentation, an effect yielded by the combination of colours, materials and sculptural motifs, as well as by the various religious scenes embellishing the façade, the rose window, the spandrels, the lunettes, and the columns. In contrast, the majority of the interior is quite plain although certain valuable masterpieces can be found within the edifice, such as the statues of the apostles, a fresco by Giotto in the south apse and the stained glass windows in the north apse, conceived by Ghiberti and the largest artwork within the cathedral is Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9) - designed by Vasari but painted mostly by his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari.
The dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi is egg-shaped but very distinctive. To see the inside of the dome up close and enjoy the extraordinary view of Florence it offers, is to climb its 463 steps (there is no lift): the route takes you by the interior of the dome where you can admire Giorgio Vasari's frescoes.
Palazzo Vecchio is the main symbol of civil power for the city of Florence. The entire construction also rests on top of the ancient theatre of the Roman colony of Florentia (dating back to the first century A.D.), whose ruins can be seen in the underground level.
The magnificence of this building’s exterior that you see today, medieval in its style, is due in large part to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio. Extensive renovation and interior decoration were made around 1540, when Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and his wife Eleonora of Toledo decided to turn the palace into their residence. The court of the Medici was transferred to Palazzo Vecchio (from Palazzo Medici-Riccardi), which was transformed into a labyrinth of institutional chambers, apartments, terraces and courtyards. All the rooms are magnificently decorated by artists such as Michelangelo, Giorgio Vasari and Donatello.
In particular, the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred) is the largest and most important room in terms of artistic and historical value inside the palace. This impressive hall has a length of 54 meters, a width of 23 and a height of 18 metres. Panelled ceilings and large wall frescoes, golden decorations and imposing sculptures are worth seeing.
Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria represents the historical hub of civil and political life, and hosts the 13th century Loggia dei Lanzi, the Fountain of Neptune and the Palazzo Vecchio, one of the city’s most symbolic monuments.
Described as an open-air museum, several of the sculptures in the Piazza are considered contradictory. The David (the original is in the Galleria dell'Accademia) by Michelangelo was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Republic's defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus (1534) to the right of the David was appropriated by the Medici to show their physical power after their return from exile. The Nettuno (1575) by Ammannati celebrates the Medici's maritime ambitions and Giambologna's equestrian statue of Duke Cosimo I (1595) is an elegant portrait of the man who brought all of Tuscany under Medici military rule.
The graceful Loggia dei Lanzi, which sits to the right of Palazzo Vecchio and functions as an open-air sculpture gallery, was designed by Orcagna in 1376. The statue of Perseo holding Medusa's head, by Benvenuto Cellini (1554), is a stark reminder of what happened to those who crossed the Medici. Together with Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines, these are two of many impressive sculptures found under the curved arches of the Loggia dei Lanzi.
This impressive palace is one of Florence's largest architectural monuments and houses some of the most important museums in Florence including the Palatine Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art. Behind the palace lie the beautiful Boboli Gardens, a fine example of 16th century Italian landscaped gardens.
The Bargello National Museum
Visit Options: Pre-booked entrance tickets or guided tours can be arranged. This museum has a remarkable collection of sculpture and works of art. It occupies an impressive building built for the Capitano del Popolo in the mid-13th century, which later became the seat of the Podestà and Council of Justice. Since 1865 the palazzo has housed the National Museum, bringing together many important Renaissance sculptures, including masterpieces by Donatello, Luca della Robbia, Verrocchio, Michelangelo and Cellini. The museum was subsequently enriched with splendid collections of bronzes, majolica, waxes, enamels, medals, seals, ivories, amber, tapestries, furniture and textiles from the Medici collections and those of private donors.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The tower of Pisa is part of a cathedral complex called Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli. Constructed of white marble it stands at 60 metres and until 1990 was leaning at about a 10 degree angle. Although it was designed to be perfectly vertical, it started to lean during construction. The tower is eight stories in height and you have to climb 297 steps up a spiral staircase to reach the top!
Further Afield: Siena
Siena is one of Italy’s best-preserved medieval cities, the birthplace of St. Catherine and St. Bernadine and is dominated by its unique Duomo (Cathedral) and its striped Bell Tower. A tour includes a visit to the Duomo, including the beautiful Piccolomini Library, designed to house the church’s collection of illuminated manuscripts. This magnificent room features an unrivalled ceiling and large frescoes depicting the important events in the life of Pope Pius II. Continuing with a walk through the narrow and winding streets of Siena to the Piazza del Campo brings you to a vast and lively square in the heart of the city. Twice a year, on July 2nd and August 16th, this Piazza del Campo is layered with straw and soil for the running of the dramatic bareback horse race known as the Palio di Siena. Visit the Basilica of St. Francis, containing the miraculous consecrated hosts that have remained intact since 1730 and then on to view the incorrupt head of St. Catherine at St. Dominic’s Basilica.
Further Afield: Lucca
Lucca, the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, is a lovely entirely-walled city. Its thick swathe of Renaissance walls, enclosing an almost entire medieval street plan, its palaces and houses make Lucca one of the most popular cities to visit in Italy. The most enjoyable way to get your bearings is to follow the path around the top of the walls and then delve into the medieval streets, walking past ancient house façades and making time for some shopping in one of the quaint shops in and around Via Fillungo. The 14th century cathedral Duomo of San Martino houses Nicola Pisano’s Descent from the Cross. Also, don’t miss the multi-patterned columns at “San Michele”, the church of the archangel. Climbing up the Guinigi Tower, where an old oak tree grows on top, is just as fascinating as entering the Piazza Anfiteatro, the ancient amphitheatre, with its marvellous façades and balconies.