Sunday, the lazy day. A day to sleep in, catch up on laundry and binge watch stupid YouTube videos. Essentially, it’s a day to revive from the Saturday adventure and prepare for the work week ahead. That’s fine for any Sunday except the first Sunday of every month in Italy.
Starting in 2015, every first Sunday of the month all State-run museums in Italy are free! That means you can see Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia for free. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi? Also free. As are about 20 other museums with treasures ranging from a war chariot from the Eighteenth Dynasty to medieval armor.
Here is a list of all the museums throughout Italy that open their doors freely once a month.
Perfect for travelers like me who like museums but don’t want to read every piece of art’s info plaque, the Sunday at the Museum initiative allows people to visit museums without paying the exorbitant fee. This releases the traveler from any guilty feelings of paying a large entrance fee to see just one or two priceless artifacts. Also, it opens the door for people who aren’t zealous art lovers to get a bit of culture.
While the word free makes your heart skip a beat, I also know it makes your heart drop when you think of the crowds of people who will be flocking to the museums. My advice is arrive early, bring a book or magazine and come to terms with the fact that waiting is the price you must pay for free.
Normal Ticket Cost: 23 euros
My Cost: FREE
I arrived around 9:30 am and had to wait for about 30 minutes to enter.
This was my first stop, mainly because I’d been too busy to buy tickets in advance, which is booked weeks in advance, and too cheap to drop 23 euros, the price of five pizza’s, on a ticket to see one man, David.
And a more beautiful sculptured man I have not seen. The detail Michelangelo put into the every hair, muscle and vein stands out prominently from the glistening marble.
While the ease of the David’s stance makes him seem almost life-like in a god-like way. David’s only blemish, at least that I could see, was the damaged toes on his left foot. An injury sustained when a man attacked his foot with a hammer in 1991.
Having seen David, I toured the rest of the museum semi-quickly. I enjoyed the plaster cast halls, Gipsoteca Bartolini. The selection of molds, with nails speckling their white forms, filled the room with the finest 19th century plaster casts by Lorenzo Bartolini.
And if you like gold-backed altarpieces and Florentine gothic artwork, the rest of the museum is dedicated to you. I don’t much care for that so I glided through it non-committedly. But all that gold sure looked pretty.
The Uffizi Gallery
Normal Ticket Cost: 18.50 euros
My Cost: FREE
I arrived around 11:30 am and had to wait for about 20 minutes to enter.
The Uffizi Gallery was next on my list because my little tourist guide called it the one of the top most visited museums in Italy. So how could I pass seeing it for free?!
Known for its large collection of works by Italian artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raffaello and Leonardo Da Vinci the Uffizi can easily take two full days to read every information plaque. I entered the Uffizi with a list of must see artwork and the rest of the pieces of art I interestingly glanced over in my search for my must.
Madonna and Child by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Located in Hall 3.
Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca. Located in Hall 7.
The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Located in Hall 10-14.
Primavera by Botticelli. Located in Hall 10-14.
The Holy Family by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Located in Hall 35.
The Portrait of Dwarf Morgante by Bronzino. Located on the second floor.
Self-portrait by Raffaello Sanzio. Located in Hall 26.
Judith slaying Holofernes.Located in Hall 90.
Shield with the Head of Medusa. Located in Hall 90.
Normal Ticket Cost: Gallery of Modern Art & Palatine Gallery 8.50 euros
The Silver Museum, The Costume Gallery, Porcelain Museum, Bardini Gardens and the Boboli Gardens 7 euros
My Cost: FREE
There was no wait to enter.
Just a few blocks away and across the Ponte Vecchio, which is so full of jewelry Audrey Hepburn would want to wear to breakfast, there sits the Palazzo Pitti. At 32,000 square meters, the former home of grand-dukes of Tuscany is the largest museum complex in Florence and houses several different galleries and museums.
First I toured two different exhibitions. One was napkin folding, which was pretty intense. You’ve not seen a dragon until you’ve seen a giant one made of folded napkins. The other was well-known and unpublished masterpieces from the artist Nino Tirinnanzi.
I then found my way to the Palatine Gallery. It was sensory overkill. I felt overwhelmed wandering through the rooms because there was so much happening on the walls. While the rooms housing the pictures looked to have resembled the original rooms, one could never tell because the walls were covered floor to ceiling in art work.
Leaving the Renaissance and Baroque periods behind, I wandered my way into the Gallery of Modern Art. I found the paintings from the neo-classical and romantic periods, plus the existence of clear wall space, relaxing and I began to breathe again.
All breath leaves me when I make way out to the Boboli Gardens mainly from the heat and the sight of the huge hill ahead of me.
More a hedge maze built on a huge hill, I found the gardens to be lacking in color.Traipsing halfway up the hill I make a half-hearted attempt to circle the gardens.But give up due to heat, lack of sunscreen and the fact that there was no color, just a sea of green hedges. Though the view of the city was pretty.
Back inside I take a quick view of the Costume Gallery. I find the unique items that constitute fashion giggle worthy. Sunglasses that look like hands, shoes that look like chandeliers and several dresses that I can’t see being worn anywhere else than Weird Al Yankovic’s music video “Tacky” were less than awe-inspiring. But I know nothing of fashion so maybe it’s amazingly trendy.
My last stop was the Silver Museum. It was like stepping back in time into an antique jewelry store. This museum houses all the important Medici treasures. (The Medici family is a big thing in Florence.) The riches range from gaudy jewelry to miniature portraits.
Normal Ticket Cost: 16.50 euros
My Cost: FREE
There was no wait to enter.
I decided to end my day visiting the same man I had started my day with, David; but, the one created by Donatello, not Michelangelo.
Known for its large collection of sculptures, the ancient building that houses them holds just as much history. An old town hall and then a former prison, the medieval building now houses original works like Donatello’s David and Michelangelo’s Brutus and so many more. Sculptures are just the tip of the iceberg; the museum also has a large collection of armors, tapestries, textiles and ceramics.
I worked a full 9-5 day museuming. I decided to call it a day, not because I’d run out of museums but because the artwork was beginning to all look the same. So I ended a hard day’s work with gelato, a work of art in its own way.
Total Saved: 73.50 euros
Total Spent: Gelato-2.50 euros