Tag Archives: Museum

Save Time, Skip the Line, See the Duomo … and More!

I have a friend who recently visited Florence for a week with a to-do list that didn’t allow for standing in line for hours – too much to see, too little time. Unfortunately, Florence is the city of lines and, although with some planning a resident or visitor can reserve spots (for a price) in a shorter line at some of the museums, there was no way to avoid the queue at the Duomo. My friend solved her problem by signing up for a 15 euro tour of the cathedral that she didn’t want to take, but this saved her from standing with hundreds of people, waiting to get in the front door.

408 in line for the Duomo at 10am on August 24
408 in line for the Duomo at 10am on August 24

I have another friend who is one of those “it’s Tuesday so it must be Florence” type of traveler. He has to see the Uffizi, the David, the Duomo and the Baptistery between 9am and 7pm – no time for lines.

ARTFAST Priority Line Sign
ARTFAST Priority Line Sign

To the rescue comes the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and a Milan-based company called Key Fast. In partnership, they are trying to give visitors (tourists and citizens, alike) the option to skip the lines at the Duomo (visited by over 25,000 people per day), Brunelleschi’s Dome (approx. 2,000 climbers/day), Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery, the Duomo Crypt and the Museo Opera del Duomo. The cost? A mere 7 euro for a Priority Pass that is good for unlimited expedited entries for an entire year. (To be clear: this card does not get you free entry, just fast entry (see below).)

For the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, this is forward thinking, unexpected of the 715 year-old lay organization that is charged with the conservation of the cathedral. For Key Fast, operating as ARTFAST, it was “simply” seeing a need and providing a solution.

One wishes that listless Ministero per I Beni e le Attivitá Culturali and bureaucratic Polo Fiorentino Museale, which are charged with solving the dual disasters of the never-ending lines at the Uffizi and the Accademia, take note of the ingenuity of the spry Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore.

ARTFAST is a gem of an idea of the folks behind the year-old SKIFAST smart card. (SKIFAST allows skiers to get on the slopes faster by skipping the lines at the lift ticket windows.) ARTFAST, using the various sites in Piazza del Duomo as a trial operation, eventually hopes to aid visitors in Rome, Milan and Venice, to move more quickly into venues to marvel at the art and history, rather than roast slowly in the August sun. And, hopefully, ongoing negotiations will result in the service being offered at other museums in Florence (there may be hope for the Uffizi and Accademia, yet).

ARTPASS representative answers questions about the service
ARTPASS representative answers questions about the service

Visitors (and residents) can choose to buy the card and then go directly to the Priority Pass entrance (it may be a different door, it maybe a different speedy lane to the original entrance). Once inside, if there is an entrance fee (as with Brunelleschi’s Dome or the Baptistery) the Priority Pass holder will go immediately to the kiosk to purchase an entry ticket. If there is no entry fee, as with the main sanctuary of the Duomo, those with the Priority Pass will merely show their card to the attendant and enter (later, this activity will be mechanized with a swipe of the smart card).

ARTFAST hopes that soon the visit to the ticket kiosk will be unnecessary because of plans to install (at the cost to the Key Fast company of over 100,000 euro) a wi-fi smart card system that will allow ARTFAST cardholders to pay the fee by swiping the same card that allows them expedited entry.

All aspects of the service are not in place yet (wi-fi repeaters and smartcard readers need to be installed in very wi-fi-unfriendly ancient stone structures (something the prescient Brunelleschi never envisioned), therefore ARTFAST is testing parts of the system by using a simple plastic pass that is being sold by company representatives outside the door to the ticket office at the bottom of the stairway to Brunelleschi’s Dome. They can take all credit cards (except Amex), as well as debit cards. In the first ten days of the trial period, ARTFAST has been surprised and gratified by the popularity of the service. The initial supply of cards has run low some days.

Priority Pass to skip the line at 5 locations in Piazza del Duomo
Priority Pass to skip the line at 5 locations in Piazza del Duomo

As an American, I could tell them that my compatriots, on a hot (hitting over 100 F this week) museum-filled day in Florence, would be happy to pay 7 euro to be spared 30 to 45 minutes in line. (Today, I counted 408 people in the queue outside the Duomo just before the door opened at 10am.) This is especially true since the card works in five locations and can be used over and over (by the same person) for a full year. Reportedly, tourists from Spain, however, are outnumbering Americans in purchasing the pass.

Italian newspapers, trying to work up a bit of controversy, argue the card discriminates against the poor who can’t afford to expedite entry into the cost-free Duomo. This is an accusation without basis. The ARTFAST service actually shortens the line for those who don’t take part by getting Priority Pass holders out of the queue. When, in the near future, tour operators and their huge groups use it, the pass will make the Duomo line a thing of the past.

Reportedly, the priests are concerned that the marketing the ARTFAST pass makes it look like the Duomo is not open for free visits (please note that fees are charged at Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella and San Lorenzo…). Hopefully, they will soon realize this is merely a time-saving service that allows hundreds of people to be amazed and awed at the wonders of the third largest cathedral in the world, rather than be forced by time constraints (and perhaps, lack of patience) to forsake a visit the Duomo because of the incredible line.

Who says Florence is empty in August?
Who says Florence is empty in August?

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Florence Museum Card Face-Off

Attention:  Effective as of June 15, 2015, the Regional Secretary of the former Superintendency of the State Museums of Florence stipulated that Amici degli Uffizi members, holding valid membership and ID cards, are eligible for the free entrance and the priority pass to the Uffizi Gallery only. This severely limits the benefits of the card.

Trailing most other museum-intensive cities, Florence finally has two competing museum cards. And before too many more months pass, I promised myself that I would perform an analysis of the relative worth of the Firenze Card and the Amici degli Uffizi Card, which if you click on the foregoing links you will have a chance to read, in detail, about both cards.

Full Disclosure:  I am not good at math. (My sister got those genes from our father. I got our mother’s.)

Michelangelo's David at the Accademia Gallery
Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery

Our Mission

(I am assuming you are in this with me.) To determine which museum card, if any, should be bought by: 1) a lone traveler with a larger than normal interest in Renaissance art and history; 2) a couple (related by family (i.e. sisters), married, or domestic partners) with an interest in only seeing the David and the Birth of Venus; 3) a couple who are interested in seeing at least four museums; 4) a family of four (parents, two children) with only an interest in seeing the David; 4) a family of four interested in seeing the David and the Birth of Venus; and 5) a family of four interested in seeing more than those two museums, and also gardens, churches or Medici villas.

And to make us feel like we are lost in an especially complicated SAT math question, let’s add the variables of: a) a three day stay in Florence, or b) a more than three day stay in Florence.

Okay, we have only a limited time (or attention span) to solve this problem. (Spoiler Alert: get the Amici degli Uffizi Card)

Assumptions

Assumption (not proven): both cards are equally easy to purchase and to use at all qualifying museums.

Assumption (proven): both cards are accepted at the Accademia (the “David “(I know that you knew he was located there)) and the Uffizi (housing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and thousands of other great paintings).

Assumption (proven): if you do not want to wait hours in line, you must have reservations (4 euro extra per ticket for a reserved entry time) to the Uffizi and the Accademia. All of the other museums you can walk into within minutes.

Assumption (not proven): visitors to Florence hardly ever take the bus. (See Firenze Card bonus.)

Assumption (good for today):  1 euro = $1.42

Facts

Firenze Card

Firenze Card- 3 Day Museum Pass
Firenze Card- 3 Day Museum Pass

Cost: 50 euro ($72) per person

Free access to 30 major museums, villas and historical gardens in Florence

Admission to museums is granted by showing the card at the entrance, with no reservation requirements

Free travel on public transports: ATAF&Linea buses and trams

Free access to museums and public transport for EU citizens under the age of 18 who are accompanying you (Note to U.S. families: this does not include you.)

Time Limit: 72 hours (3 days)

Amici degli Uffizi Card

Cost: Individual – 60 euro ($86); family of maximum two adults and two children (under 18 years) – 100 euro ($142); or “young people” (up to 26 years) – 40 euro ($57)

Amici degli Uffizi
Amici degli Uffizi

Free access to 22 major museums, villas and historical gardens in Florence

Admission to museums is granted by showing the card at the entrance, with no reservation requirements

Reduced price tickets for concerts of the Teatro Comunale

Reduced price (15%) tickets for concerts of the Orchestra della Toscana at Teatro Verdi

Discount (20%)on price ticket for premières and Saturday performances at Teatro della Pergola

Time Limit: calendar year January 1 to December 31 (i.e. 3 days, if you buy it on December 29)

Ready for our problem sets?

Birth of Venus found in the Uffizi Gallery
Birth of Venus found in the Uffizi Gallery

Individual

One person who is in Florence for 3 days and wants to see two museums per day, including the Accademia and the Uffizi (for example, also the Bargello, San Marco, Boboli Gardens and Palatine Gallery (Pitti Palace)

Museum Ticket Prices

Uffizi – 15 euro ($22) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)
Accademia – 14 euro ($20) (ditto)
Bargello – 4 euro ($6)
San Marco – 4 euro ($6)
Boboli Gardens – 6 euro ($9)
Palatine Gallery (incl. Modern Art Museum) – 8.50 euro ($12)

Cost for an Individual

Firenze Card:  50 euro ($72)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  60 euro ($86)
No card:  51.50 euro ($74)

Winner: Firenze Card (unless this person is either a) under 27 years of age; or b) a music lover (see Amici degli Uffizi discounts))

But if this person is in Florence for more than three days and/or wants to see more museums, villas, or gardens than those listed above, the Amici degli Uffizi Card is a better choice,

Couple or Two Related People (see Amici degli Uffizi “Family” definition above)

a) A couple who are in Florence for 3 days and only want to see the Birth of Venus and the David

Museum Ticket Prices

Uffizi – 30 euro ($43) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)
Accademia – 28 euro ($40) (ditto)

 

Firenze Card
Firenze Card

Cost for a Couple or Two Related People

Firenze Card:  100 euro ($142)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  100 euro ($142) (Family Membership)
No card:  58 euro ($83)

Winner: No card (remember to make reservations well in advance (call +39 055 292883)

b) A couple who are in Florence for 3 days and want to see four or more museums.

Winner: Tie between Firenze Card and Amici degli Uffizi Card (do the math yourself)

c) A couple staying in Florence for more than 3 days or want to see more than 2 museums, but not all in a three-day period.

Winner: Amici degli Uffizi Card

 

Family – 2 parents and 2 kids (not EU citizens)

a) Family is in Florence for 3 days and only wants to see David

Museum Ticket Prices

Accademia – 56 euro ($80) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)

Cost for a Family

Firenze Card:  200 euro ($287)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  100 euro ($142)
No card:  56 euro ($80)

Winner: No Card

b) Family is in Florence for 3 days and only wants to see David and the Birth of Venus

Museum Ticket Prices

Uffizi – 60 euro ($86) (remember this includes the 4 euro surcharge for reservations)
Accademia – 56 euro ($80) (ditto)

Cost for a Family

Firenze Card:  200 euro ($287)
Amici degli Uffizi Card:  100 euro ($142)
No card:  116 euro ($166)

Winner: Amici degli Uffizi Card

c) Family is in Florence for more than three days and seeing everything

If you’ve made it this far, you know that the Amici degli Uffizi Card wins for families staying in Florence for longer than 3 days and if they want to see more than just the Uffizi and Accademia museums.

Summary

If you are under 27 and interested enough to read through this post you are clearly interested in more than the David and the Birth of Venus, so you should buy an Amici degli Uffizi Card for a “young person”, and you should read this post.

Amici degli Uffizi Cards
Amici degli Uffizi Cards

If you are a couple, or two people related in any way, or at least have the same address, and you want to see more of Florence, either gardens, villas or museums, as well as the incredibly expensive Uffizi and Accademia, you want to purchase the Amici degli Uffizi Card. Read on here.

If you are a family and you want your kids to see more than just the David, you should get an Amici degli Uffizi Card for a family (even if you have more than two kids (compare price for extra one or two “young people” Amici degli Uffizi Cards vs. Firenze Cards)). So read this post.

If you are an individual (over 27 years old) who is going to be in Florence for more than three days and want to see more than two museums or may be returning to Florence within a year or you live in Florence full time – you want to be the proud owner of an Amici degli Uffizi Card. Again, see this post.

BUT, if you (or you and a couple of unrelated friends) are just the type who races through one of the most fascinating cities in the world while checking off the David and the Birth of Venus on your list of 1,000 Things I Have to See Before I Die, then pay cash (but for heaven’s sake make a reservation) at the Uffizi and the Accademia or purchase the Firenze Card. You’ll thank yourself as you cross the Ponte Vecchio, while marking it, too, off your list.

 

Museum Passes in Florence: Part Two – Firenze Card, finalmente!

June 14, 2011 — Tuscan Traveler has compared the two museum passes available in Florence. Check this link.

The new mayor announced last year a “big deal” he had hammered out with Rome’s state museum authority – Florence, like every other major city in the world, was going to offer a museum pass. After the big press conference, nothing happened. Then, in the middle of January, Mayor Renzi said, “It’s on its way.” Nothing happened.

Yesterday, March 25, the 72 hour Firenze Card arrived at selected points (mostly museum ticket offices and official Tourist Information offices) and you, too, can benefit – mostly by skipping the queue/line – for the hefty price of 50 euro. Now will begin the debate over which is the best museum card in Florence – the Amici degli Uffizi Card or the Firenze Card. (Watch Tuscan Traveler for Museum Passes in Florence: Part Three – What’s the Best Deal?)

presentazione_ficardThe following comes directly off the very fine web site developed to support the card  where you can also buy the Firenze Card online (the emphasis is mine):

Firenze Card grants access to the major museums, villas and historical gardens in Florence.

Firenze Card is a 72 hours (sic) card that gives you admission to 33 of the most important museums in Florence. You will have access not only to permanent collections, but also to exhibitions and all other activities held in that museum without further costs. You have just to show your card at the entrance to the museum’s personnel, who will record your entry and let you in. The card can be used just once in each museum, and it will provide free access also to a EU citizen under-eighteens (sic) accompanying you To use your card for public transport, just swipe it against the validation machines located on every bus or tram.

Firenze Card is activated on the first visit to a museum or first use of public transport. Since then you have 72 hours to visit the city and its historical and artistic heritage. The card’s validity is therefore independent from the purchasing time. Remember to write your name and surname on the back of your card before using it. Some museums can offer free access on special occasions. Please, consult the “News” page (online) to check updated timetables and find out access benefits and all the other information about museums.

ficard_acquistaFirenze Card is valid for 3 consecutive days from its first use. The card will expire at the end of the validity period and also your free access to museums and public transport with it. The card is strictly personal and not transferable, and it has to be showed with a proof of identity on request by the museum’s personnel.

In addition to free admission, Firenze Card allows you to avoid long queues at the ticket offices of main museums. Just look for the signs “Firenze Card” in your chosen museums and show your card to the personnel, who will record your entry and let you in.

It is promoted by the Municipality of Florence, the Ministry for the Arts and Cultural Activities, the Regional Direction of Cultural Heritage, the Special Superintendence for Historical, Artistic and Ethnic-anthropological Heritage and for the Museum Circuit of the city of Florence, the Province of Florence and the Chamber of Commerce of Florence, in collaboration with ATAF.

With the Firenze Card you get a lanyard with a handy pocket for the card and the accompanying booklet that describes all of the museums that qualify for “free” entry.

The following are the museums, gardens, villas and churches included in the Firenze Card Program:

Museo di Palazzo Vecchio – piazza della Signoria Firenze

Museo Stefano Bardini – via dei Renai 37 Firenze

Palazzo Medici Riccardi – via Cavour 3 Firenze

Museo di Santa Maria Novella – piazza Santa Maria Novella Firenze

Cappella Brancacci – piazza del Carmine 14 Firenze

Fondazione Salvatore Romano – piazza Santo Spirito 29 Firenze

Cappelle Medicee – piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini 6 Firenze

Galleria degli Uffizi – Piazzale degli Uffizi 6 Firenze

Galleria dell’Accademia – Via Ricasoli 58/60 Firenze

Galleria Palatina e Appartamenti Monumentali – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

110204_FirenzeCard_EmbeddedGalleria d’arte moderna – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo Giardino di Boboli – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo degli Argenti – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo delle Porcellane – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Galleria del Costume – Piazza Pitti 1 Firenze

Museo Archeologico Nazionale – Piazza Santissima Annunziata 9b Firenze

Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure – Via degli Alfani 78 Firenze

Museo di Palazzo Davanzati – Via Porta Rossa 13 Firenze

Museo di San Marco – Piazza San Marco 3 Firenze

Museo Nazionale del Bargello – Via del Proconsolo 4 Firenze

Cenacolo Andrea del Sarto – Via di San Salvi 16 Firenze

Cenacolo del Ghirlandaio – Borgo Ognissanti 42 Firenze

Cenacolo del Fuligno – via Faenza 42 Firenze

Cenacolo di Sant’Apollonia – Via XXVII Aprile 1 Firenze

Chiostro dello Scalzo – Via Cavour 69 Firenze

Complesso Monumentale Orsanmichele – via Arte della Lana 1 Firenze

Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi e Museo storico della caccia e del territorio – Via dei Ponti Medicei 7 Cerreto Guidi

Villa Medicea della Petraia – Via della Petraia 40 Firenze

Giardino della Villa Medicea di Castello – Via di Castello 47 Firenze

Museo di Casa Martelli – Via Zannetti 8 Firenze

Collezione Contini Bonacossi – Via Lambertesca 6 Firenze

Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano – Piazza de Medici 14 Poggio a Caiano

Villa Corsini a Castello – Via della Petraia 38 Firenze

Firenze Card Web Site

Dove Vai? – Sketches by Leonardo and Michelangelo at the Uffizi

The Uffizi’s new exhibition, Figures, Memory, Space. Drawings from Fra Angelico to Leonardo, displays over 100 works by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Mantegna, Michelangelo and Titian. It shows how drawings were used to prepare for major paintings and frescoes and, later in the 15th century, how they became works of art in their own right, particularly with the arrival of print-making from northern Europe.

Labyrinth design heightens the experience
Labyrinth design heightens the experience

The Florence show, divided between two Uffizi locations, combines works from the British Museum’s collection and from that of the Uffizi. Last year it opened to rave reviews in London.

Fifty prints are on view in a free exhibit in the Reali Poste exhibition space off of the Uffizi courtyard. A simple labiranth was created so that each of the sketches can be viewed in its own space and also offers a sense of privacy to the viewer.

Sketches from the 15th century - practice makes perfect
Sketches from the 15th century - practice makes perfect

Alexandra M. Korey best describes the emotional experience of seeing the original sketches of Leonardo da Vinci for the first time and enumerates three reasons you must visit the Reali Poste exhibit. Read her post on arttrav.com.

Not Leonardo, but his teacher Verrocchio, sketched in 1475
Not Leonardo, but his teacher Verrocchio, sketched in 1475

In addition to the detailed and exquisite pictures of figures, limbs and drapery, there are fast, rough sketches by the likes of da Vinci who used pen and ink drawings as a way of brainstorming and arriving at ideas for major works, some of which you will remember from past visits to the Uffizi. “One can sense the excitement as their quills raced over the paper to keep pace with the flow of ideas,” said British Museum director Neil MacGregor about the London exhibition.

Leonardo Di Vinci's sketches of a baby and a cat
Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of a baby and a cat

Brian Sewell, British art critic and media personality, who analyzed the drawings and sketches that made up the British Museum exhibit in the ThisIsLondon blog of the London Evening Standard, wrote, “It is drawing that gives first substance to the idea in the mind’s eye.” A Leonardo da Vinci series of quick rough sketches caught his fancy – two of these, Baby with Cat and Woman, Baby and Cat, can be seen at the Reali Poste exhibit:

Consider Leonardo’s studies of The Virgin and Child with a Cat. A cat? Where did that come from? A cat had no emblematic place in the traditional iconography of such a votive subject — a lamb perhaps, a bullfinch too, even two cherries on a bifurcated stalk to symbolise Christ’s testicles and his wholeness as a mortal man — but not a cat. Leonardo must have seen a cat squirming in the arms of a child, in turn in the arms of a kneeling girl, and recognised in the complication of the momentary torsions of three very different bodies a subject as difficult to pin down as the swirling waters of a whitewater river. The pen cannot move as rapidly as the model, nor record as swiftly as the eye and memory, and everywhere there are overdrawings and corrections. We cannot determine which of the five studies was first to develop on the sheet — they were probably all preceded by eight studies on another double-sided sheet — for it is only with the introduction of the Virgin that we sense the composition of a painting forming in Leonardo’s mind, a composition that in still other sheets developed into an arch-topped panel that in closely confining the energy of the group enhances it. The painting, alas, was never executed, and the drawings now act as records of what might have been. In the beginning was the line and in this case that must be enough.

Michelangelo 1495 pen and ink drawing - The Philosopher
Michelangelo 1495 ink drawing - The Philosopher

Most of the works on display were never intended for public exhibition although today they would be considered masterpieces. A drawing by Raphael for a work commissioned by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, sold in December 2009 for $47.9 million at Christie’s, a world record for any work on paper.

The excellent signage of Figures, Memory, Space. Drawings from Fra Angelico to Leonardo, both Italian and English, describes how the invention of paper, a cheaper alternative to vellum, was key to drawing’s development and distribution. The ever-expanding trade with the Far East is said to have changed the tools and colors of inks, the black, gray, red and white lead, silverpoint, metalpoint, the stylus, chalks, charcoal, and watercolors.

The Reali Poste opens into the courtyard of the Uffizi
The Reali Poste opens into the courtyard of the Uffizi

Once you have enjoyed the free view of 50 incredible designs dating from the 14th to 16th centuries, you can pay 15 euro for a reserved ticket to the Uffizi. Half-way up the arduous stairs to the main gallery, you can pause for breath and view more than 50 more in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe on the Uffizi’s first floor, including prints that the Londoners did not get too see because they are deemed too precious to leave the gallery.

Museum Passes in Florence: Part One – Amici degli Uffizi

September 2015 — Effective as of June 15, 2015, the Regional Secretary of the former Superintendency of the State Museums of Florence stipulated that Amici degli Uffizi members, holding valid membership and ID cards, are eligible for the free entrance and the priority pass to the Uffizi Gallery only. This severely limits the benefits of the card

June 14, 2011 — Tuscan Traveler has compared the two museum passes available in Florence. Check this link.

As the prices of reserved tickets to the Uffizi or the Accademia hit 14 euro ($19) or above (depending on if an extra exhibit is included, such as last year’s Caravaggio or Mapplethorpe shows), there is much talk in Florence about a multi-day museum pass. And, in fact, the mayor has announced that soon a three-day 50 euro pass ($67) will be available.

But Florence already has a great museum pass – the Amici degli Uffizi membership card.

Membership cards to the Amici degli Uffizi - Friends of the Uffizi
Membership cards of the Amici degli Uffizi – Friends of the Uffizi

Established in Florence in 1993 by a group of concerned citizens, following a terrorist bombing that damaged the Uffizi Gallery and some of its precious artworks, Amici degli Uffizi (Friends of the Uffizi) embarked on the task of restoring and maintaining the artistic heritage of the Uffizi Gallery.

Since 1993, the Amici degli Uffizi has supported the Uffizi Gallery in Florence by facilitating acquisitions, supporting restorations and organizing special temporary exhibitions. The Friends of the Uffizi Gallery (the American sister organization), in conjunction with the Amici degli Uffizi, raises funds to support all of these activities through an international group of members and patrons.

Over twenty important restoration projects, designated priorities by the Uffizi Gallery, have been completed over the last several years and include important paintings, altarpieces, sculptures and tapestries. The organization also underwrites special free exhibits for the public such as the recent one of Self-Portraits of Women Artists.

Original symbol of the Amici degli Uffizi
Original symbol of the Amici degli Uffizi

But best of all, for residents and visitors of Florence, Amici degli Uffizi offers its members a year-long museum card for 60 euro ($80) for individuals, 100 euro ($134) for families (2 to 4 members included in the one price), and 40 euro ($54) for students. Memberships can be purchased online or at the the Amici degli Uffizi Welcome Desk located between Entry Door Nos. 1 and 2 at the Uffizi Gallery.

The best part of having the Amici degli Uffizi card, besides free entry to more than twenty museums, (at the end of this post is a list of all of the museums included in this card) is the ability to skip the line.  At the Uffizi and the Accademia visitors wait for hours unless they have the foresight and the extra 4 euro to make a reservation. With the Amici degli Uffizi card you go to the ticket office, show your card and a photo i.d., and you are given a ticket for immediate entry into the museum.

Not to belabor the point, but the Uffizi is a huge museum, mind-numbing in its number of paintings. With the Amici degli Uffizi card you can go in to sit for an hour or so in the Botticelli Room and come back the next day (or after a nice lunch) to enter again with a new free ticket to peruse the Titians and pop by the monolithic Byzantine enthroned madonnas.

In 2010, the Amici degli Uffizi and the Polo Museale Fiorentino, launched a permanent welcome service for the association’s members. “We wanted to create a welcome point for local citizens and visitors equal to those that have been available in the world’s other great museums for some time,” said Maria Vittoria Rimbotti, President of the Association. “This is the first time that an Italian state museum is offering such a service.”

The Welcome Desk is located between entrances #1 and #2 of the Uffizi museum. Its hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Tel. +39 055 213560 and +39 055 284034)

Today's Friends of the Uffizi
Today’s Friends of the Uffizi

Although the Welcome Desk will be a reference point mainly for Florentines, it is an easy place to purchase your Amici degli Uffizi museum card. Greeted by polite and helpful (attributes frequently hard to find elsewhere in Florence) staff members (who also speak English) you will be able to register and become a member or renew your membership within minutes. (Remember to bring your passport.)

At the Welcome Desk, members will also be able to access useful information about the museum and the city, information about cultural programs sponsored by the province of Florence and the Tuscan regional government, and via the online connection with the APT (Agenzia Per il Turismo), visitors can obtain real-time information about current cultural programs.

The Amici degli Uffizi membership card provides free entrance to the following museums:

Galleria degli Uffizi,
Galleria dell’Accademia,
Palazzo Pitti:  Galleria Palatina,
Galleria dell’Arte Moderna,
Galleria del Costume,
Museo degli Argenti,
Museo delle Porcellane,
Giardino di Boboli,
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Museo delle Cappelle Medicee, Museo di Palazzo Davanzati,
Museo di San Marco,
Giardino della Villa Medicea di Castello,
Villa Medicea della Petraia,
Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano,
Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi e Museo storico della Caccia e del Territorio,
Cenacolo di Ognissanti,
Cenacolo di Andrea del Sarto,
Cenacolo di Fuligno,
Cenacolo di Sant’Apollonia, and
Chiostro dello Scalzo.

The Amici degli Uffizi membership card also provides:

– Reduced price tickets for concerts of the Teatro Comunale (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino)
– Reduced price (15%) tickets for concerts of the Orchestra della Toscana at Teatro Verdi
– 20% discount on price ticket for premières and Saturday performances at Teatro della Pergola

Dove Vai? – Art and Pathology Meet in New Exhibit

For those visiting or living in Florence, only a short time is left to experience one of the most unique and wonderful exhibits for those interested in either the art of wax modeling or the science of medical-surgical pathology practiced in the 1800s.

The free exhibit, called Oltre il Corpo, L’uomo (Besides the Body, the Man), will end February 12, 2011.

Oltre il Corpo, L'Uomo - Besides the Body, the Man
Oltre il Corpo, L'Uomo - Besides the Body, the Man

Fans of the anatomical wax collection of the La Specola Museum, who want to take the experience up a notch must go immediately to the newly constructed entrance (one of the few successful modern pieces of architecture in Florence) of the Careggi Hospital and then, find the permanent Center of Knowledge and Art (Osservatorio dei Saperi e delle Arte) exhibit space (to the left of the main entrance hall).

Illustration published in 1843 of a surgical blepharoplasty
Illustration published in 1843 of a surgical blepharoplasty

Whereas the anatomical wax models at Museo La Specola show the body in its perfect and healthy state, the creations at the Pathology Museum, from which curator Elisabetta Susani selected prime examples for Oltre il Corpo, L’uomo, are sometimes shocking representations of diseases that were treated in the 1800s. One of the most interesting is a the wax model side by side with the skeleton of a child with an incurable case of hydrocephalus.

1842 wax model of woman with ectropion of the eyelids
1842 wax model of a woman with ectropion of the eyelids

Look more closely and you find that the disease and the treatment are surprisingly modern. An example of this is a patient with ectropion (congenital or cancerous turning out of both upper and lower eyelids) who was treated with a surgical technique similar to one found today. The exhibit shows both the wax model of the diseased state and the surgical intervention, as well as the published illustration of the procedure.

If you are 3,000 miles away from Florence, you can see a video tour of the exhibit.

The Pathology Museum of Florence

The Pathology Museum was created in 1824 at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, built in 1288 by the father of Dante’s muse Beatrice. It wasn’t until 1742 when there was a move to create a medical academy to formalize the sharing of information among doctors and scientists.

It took another eighty years to establish the Florentine Medical-Physical Society. One of the first acts of the Society was to set up a Pathological Museum. It was not a museum for the public, but rather a repository for information about the pathology and medical-surgical treatment of diseases.

Regulations for conducting autopsies in the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova were established. Each autopsy was to be presided over by the director of the Pathological Museum. The deceased patient’s clinical history was put on file. The diagnosis made by the patient’s doctor was to be compared with the results of the autopsy. The organs, removed by surgical procedures were consigned to the Museum. In cases where patients were cured, their doctors were required to send the Museum a report on their post-operative care.

Skeleton of child with hydrocephalus
Skeleton of child with hydrocephalus

Due to the difficulty of ensuring correct conservation of the pathological materials, it was decided to have some duplicates fabricated in wax. The Museum’s model-makers studied the techniques practiced in the other wax-modeling laboratory in Florence, La Specola.

Surprisingly realistic models were fabricated, providing a fascinating glimpse of the major pathologies in the 19th century. The collection of anatomical wax figures includes numerous wax reproductions, mainly the work of Giuseppe Ricci, Luigi Calamai and Egisto Tortori.

1865 wax model of woman with tubercular scrofula
1865 wax model of woman with tubercular scrofula

A remarkable example of symbiosis between science and art, the wax models were important, above all, for their value in teaching, allowing professors to illustrate the most important diseases to future physicians without having to depend the dissection of cadavers or the preservation of diseased organs.

The Museum attracted illustrious researchers in European medicine and resulted in the creation of one of the first Departments of Pathology in Europe, sited at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova.

The Institute of Pathological Anatomy and the Museum were moved to Careggi Hospital in 1959. At present, the Department of Human Pathology and Oncology, instituted in 2000, manages the Museum’s collections.

Osservatorio dei Saperi e delle Arti (OSA)

Address: Largo Brambilla 3, New Entrance of  Careggi Hospital

Take the #14 ATAF city bus to the stop half a block within sight of the Careggi Hospital entrance.

Open: Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm, Saturday 10am – 1pm (Free)

Ends: February 12, 2011

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Emily Dickinson Celebrated in Florence

Emily Dickinson’s 180th birthday was celebrated in Florence by a fine series of lectures, musical events, and, of course, poetry readings – Emily Dickinson: “Ho sentito la vita con entrambe le mani” (Emily Dickinson: “I felt my life with both of my hands”).

Emily Dickinson - "I felt my life with both of my hands"
Emily Dickinson - "I felt my life with both of my hands"

The program – the brainchild of Domenico De Martino of Accademia della Crusca and poet Elisa Biagini– used, among other venues, the Casa Guidi, home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her husband Robert Browning, and their son Pen.

The connection between Barrett Browning, a homebound consumptive, and Dickinson, a sickly agoraphobic, proves that even in the mid-1800s, the world of ideas and poetry was a small place.

Corner of the study in Barrett Browning's apartment - Casa Guidi
Corner of the study in Barrett Browning's apartment - Casa Guidi

Dickinson did not publish much before her death in 1886, so it is unclear if Barrett Browning ever knew of her existence. Dickinson, however, had three portraits (postcard drawing, photograph or daguerreotype) of Barrett Browning – one of which was framed and hung on the wall of her bedroom-sanctuary.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her son Pen
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her son Pen

Dickinson also reportedly wore her hair looped over her ears and knotted in back “because it was the way Elizabeth Barrett Browning did” (quote attributed to Dickinson’s sister Lavinia). There are few pictures of Dickenson. In the one or two widely known, she was certainly less flamboyant in her coiffure than Barrett Browning.

Dining Room in Casa Guidi
Dining Room in Casa Guidi

Dickinson also borrowed from Barrett Browning in the poems Tie the Strings to my Life, My Lord and The Soul selects her own Society. In the year following Barrett Browning’s death (1861), Dickinson wrote a poem about her:

I think I was enchanted

When first a sombre Girl —

I read that Foreign Lady —

The Dark — felt beautiful —

And whether it was noon at night —

Or only Heaven — at Noon —

For very Lunacy of Light

I had not power to tell –

Poem 593 (1862)

Etching of Barrett Browning's tomb from 1861 Harper's Magazine
Etching of Barrett Browning's tomb from 1861 Harper's Magazine

A picture of Barrett Browning’s tomb in the English Cemetery of Florence – perhaps a postcard or cut from Harper’s Magazine -was among Dickinson’s possessions.

I try to imagine afternoon tea shared these Victorian women of prodigious talent– Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning – a true meeting of the minds.

Dove Vai? – Uffizi Exhibit of Self-Portraits of “Invisible Women”

At the Uffizi Gallery’s free exhibition space, Sala delle Reali Poste, an exciting exhibit has just opened. Called Autoritratte: ‘Artiste di capriccioso e destrissimo ingegno’’  (Women Artists Self-Portraits: “Women artists of wit and great ingenuity”), offers a rare opportunity to view eighty of the museum’s historic collection of self-portraits that range from the 16th century to the late 1800s. The quotation in the title is from Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, in which he mentions only one woman, the 16th century sculptor Properzia de’Rossi, whom he praises for her inventiveness and technical skill in being able to carve the entire passion of Christ on a peach stone.

1790 "mirror" self-portrait by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-LeBrun
1790 "mirror" self-portrait by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-LeBrun

Many of the portraits on display at the Sala delle Reali Poste are from the Uffizi’s storerooms and have never been hung in the museum.

Starting with the “self in the mirror” style of portrait that women painted to dispel the notion that their paintings were “from the brush of a man and of high merit, rather than from that of a woman” (Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni), the exhibit moves in chronological order to encompass self-portraits executed in a variety of media.

British artist Lynne Curran's tapestry portrait in a box (2010)
British artist Lynne Curran's tapestry portrait in a box (2010)

Curator of the exhibition, Giovanna Giusti, director of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art at the Uffizi, has been preparing the show for the last three years. An interview with her in The Florentine sheds light on her choices and motivations.

Late 19th century Florentine ceramic of painter Angelica Kauffman
Late 19th century Florentine ceramic of British painter Angelica Kauffman

Jane Fortune, author of Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence, tells us, “The Vasari Corridor … has a collection that includes 1,630 self portraits, yet only 400 are exhibited. The collection was started in the seventeenth century by Cardinal Leopoldo, and only 10 of the displayed works were created after 1900. Self portraiture, one of the most easily accessible themes for female painters, was a well-respected genre in Florence and many women have been honored by the coveted invitation to paint their own image for the Medici collection. However, only 6.5 percent of the works on display are by women, a statistic that translates into 27 exhibited works by 21 women.”

1968 serigraph by Nikki de Saint Phalle - Why Don't You Love Me?
1968 serigraph by Nikki de Saint Phalle - Why Don't You Love Me?

Giovanna Giusti made a special request of modern female artists to donate self-portraits to the exhibition, resulting in twenty self-portraits by women to be included forever in the Uffizi’s (Vasari Corridor) collection; including those by Vanessa Beecroft, Lynne Curran, Elisa Montessori, Patti Smith, and Tinca Stegovec. We can only hope that some of these will be hung in the Vasari Corridor after this exhibit

Elisa Montessori (Genova) with her self-portrait photo collage (1977)
Elisa Montessori (Genova) with her self-portrait photo collage (1977)

At the opening, both Italian artist, Elisa Montessori and Tinca Stegovec, a Slovenian graphic artist, were present and mingled with the over-flow crowd.

Curator Giovanna Giusti with Tinca Stegovec by two of the artist's works
Curator Giovanna Giusti with Tinca Stegovec by two of the artist's self-portraits

Autoritratte: Artiste ‘di capriccioso e destrissimo ingegno’

Reali Poste, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

December 15, 2010 to January 30, 2011

Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm; closed December 25 and January 1.

Free entrance.

Workshops for children on Mondays.

Self-portrait of Vanessa Beecroft and her adopted babies (2006)
Self-portrait of Vanessa Beecroft and her adopted babies (2006)

Dove Vai? – Travel To Italian World War II Sites with Anne Saunders

One of the joys of living in Italy is not only the chance to visit places where Renaissance artists, poets, dukes and popes wandered the same hallways and alleys, but to visit locations where no less dramatic, but much more recent history took place.

To Americans under 60 years of age World War II in Europe is often a vague set of facts found in a history book – a short chapter or two. Italy, like Normandy, provides a full semester’s course on the sociological background, politics, alliances, military strategies, and both tragic and victorious outcomes, especially from 1942 to 1945 – the Italian Campaign.

American Sicily-Rome WW II Cemetery at Anzio/Nettuno
American Sicily-Rome WW II Cemetery at Anzio/Nettuno

TuscanTraveler.com has a special interest in the American Cemeteries, located at Anzio/Nettuno and Florence. So it is a pleasure to find that Anne Saunders, an American researcher, has compiled a guide to almost every location in Italy where one can undertake a full study of the history of World War II and the Italian Campaign.

Front Cover
Front Cover

A Travel Guide to World War II Sites in Italy describes and provides directions to over one hundred World War II museums, monuments, cemeteries and battlefields. The tours, with complete directions, travel times, maps and other helpful hints, focus on a particular city or region, following the Allied and German armies as they battled from southern to northern Italy.

American soldiers in battle Lucca (November 1944)
American soldiers in battle outside of Lucca (November 1944)

It might be more accurate to call this book “A Short History and Travel Guide of the Italian Campaign” because in this small volume (100 pages) Anne provides concise descriptions of the years leading up to Italy’s alliance with Germany, the Allied landing in Africa and Sicily, and the subsequent important battles and strategic decisions that led to the German surrender. Sections recounting the history lead into to description of the pertinent museums, cemeteries (American, Commonwealth, German, Polish, French and others), memorials and monuments.

Gothic Line near Lucca
Gothic Line near Lucca

I learned that the Gothic Line was built by forced labor and that I want to go immediately to see the dramatic mountainside German Military Cemetery at Traversa where more than 30,000 German soldiers are buried. My only quibble with Anne’s book is that she fails to describe the beautiful flower gardens in which the Commonwealth soldiers are buried – not on the outside of the plots, but actually around each tombstone, as if they lie in an English country garden forever.

Commonwealth Beach Head Cemetery in Anzio
Commonwealth Beach Head Cemetery in Anzio

Anne, a true researcher, provides an exhaustive bibliography and even a list of films about the Italian Campaign.  She also provides hotel and transportation suggestions. Archival WWII photos illustrate the guidebook. For more information regarding the Italian campaign, read about WWII Italy and/or visit Anne’s complete and informative online page of news and links.

Anne Saunders has a BA from Wellesley College, MA from Columbia University, and PhD from the University of South Carolina. She taught for over twenty years at the College of Charleston, where she is now a research associate. A lifelong fan of Italy, she spent four summers there doing research for the guidebook. I would like to know more about how she got the inspiration to undertake the years of travel and study that resulted in this informative and very helpful guide.

Connect to Anne’s Amazon Author Page. To view the book’s table of contents and selected pages, click on its Amazon web page. Visit where to buy for a list of stores and web vendors in the USA, Canada, the UK, Italy, and elsewhere.

Dove Vai? – The Bardini Museum

Just over a year ago, the Bardini Museum in Florence opened to the public again after long and accurate restoration work aimed at re-establishing the configuration that its founder, the antiquarian Stefano Bardini, had originally given the exhibition. Bardini trained as a painter and became famous as a restorer and art dealer. He created a collection of artwork with a deep passion for the Renaissance and skill at unearthing medieval Florence. All can now enjoy this distinctive museum, which was actually the antiques showroom where Bardini sold thousands of pieces that now grace the galleries of museums as well as private collections throughout the world.

Bits and pieces of ancient Florence for sale by Bardini
Bits and pieces of ancient Florence for sale by Bardini

Bardini’s blue walls have been restored from the ochre preferred by some early 20th century conservator. On account of its uniqueness, many, including Jacquemart-Andrè in Paris and Isabella Stewart Gardner at Fenway Court in Boston, imitated the blue color employed by Bardini. In fact, Mrs. Gardner worked hard to get the exact color of blue to show off her marble sculptures in the same way Bardini knew it would highlight the creamy white of those pieces he had for sale. See her correspondence with Renaissance art expert, Bernard Berenson, on the subject.

In 1881, Bardini acquired the deconsecrated church and convent of San Gregorio facing piazza dei Mozzi in the Oltrarnoand. He set about transforming it into his opulent residence, restoration studio and showroom. Bardini donated the palazzo to the Municipal Administration of Florence in 1922 as a museum.

One of the oldest ceramic figures in Bardini's collection
One of the oldest ceramic figures in Bardini's collection

The building is remarkable for its use of doors, windows and moldings of old fragments originally belonging to ruined churches and villas. The ceilings are magnificent examples of Venetian glass and Tuscan woodwork ranging from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

The collection comprises sculptures, paintings, furniture pieces, ceramic pieces, tapestries, as well as fragments of the old center of Florence, salvaged before its destruction in the 1860s to make way for the new national government buildings. These items are displayed on the ground and the first floors according to a layout that fully reflects the character of a typically private collection. In addition to Roman sarcophagi, capitals, Roman and Gothic relief work, there are also other remarkable examples like the work of the Della Robbia brothers (15th and 16th century), works attributed to Donatello and to Nino or Giovanni Pisano, in addition to the famous “Charity” by Tino di Camaino (1280 app.-1337).

St. George slays the dragon
Pollaiolo's St. Michael Archangel slays the dragon

The most outstanding painting of the collection is perhaps St. Michael Archangel by Antonio Del Pollaiolo (1431-1498), although there are many other precious works among the collections of weapons, 15th century polychrome stuccoes and wooden sculpture. The original of the famed bronze of the wild boar, Il Porcellino, (Pietro Tacca, 1612) a copy of which draws crowds in the Mercato Nuovo, sits bored in a small alcove of its own.

Il Porcellino - the original bronze inspired by an ancient Roman marble
Il Porcellino - the original bronze inspired by an ancient Roman marble

The museum is rarely visited by tour groups, making it the perfect place to visit on a hot summer day in Florence. It is only open three days a week – Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11am to 5pm.

Address: Via dei Renai, 37

Phone: 055.234.2427

Ticket Price: 5 euro