Tips for Visiting the Uffizi Museum, Florence, Italy
So you’ve decided to visit Florence and you want to see the Uffizi Museum. Certainly understandable given that the Uffizi is considered one of the premier art museums in the world, and one of the top destinations in Florence. The Uffizi ranks right up there with the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Vatican Museum as a worthy member on the list of the world’s top art museums.
Visiting the Uffizi can be a daunting task especially if you are visiting during the peak tourist season. Long lines and waiting for hours to get in is not my idea of how to best spend my valuable vacation time. But, for the savvy traveler there are some tips that you can utilize to make your visit a pleasant experience. Let’s take a look at some strategies to avoid the lines and spend your time actually looking at the amazing artwork in the Uffizi.
The time of year you are visiting the Uffizi will likely have an impact on how you go about your visit. If you are visiting during the winter months there is certainly much less of a chance that you will encounter long lines and crowds. But most of us go to Italy when the weather is pleasant or when the kids are out of school, and during these months you will run into big crowds here. Even during the shoulder months in early spring or during the fall you will encounter large crowds.
The first thing to consider when thinking about a visit to the Uffizi is to come up with a rough estimate of how much time you will want to spend in the museum. The Uffizi is very large and contains thousands of unique pieces by some of the greatest Italian Renaissance artists including Raffaello, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Giotto. You could spend all day in the Uffizi if you so desire but be prepared for a long and tiring day if you do. If you plan on an entire day just be sure to get there very early. Most visitors plan on spending somewhere between two to four hours in the museum and this will give you time to see many of the highlights and must see rooms.
A Little History
The building that houses the Uffizi was built in 1560 by Cosimo I de’ Medici. It was initially built to house the judiciary and administrative offices of Florence.
Over the years the Medici family gradually added artwork to the building right up until their dynasty ended in the 18th century. At this time, in 1737, the palace and artwork were left to the city of Florence by the last Medici heir, Anna Maria Luisa. In 1769 the gallery was finally opened to the public.
Another thing to seriously consider when planning a visit to the Uffizi is that you will likely need to purchase or reserve your tickets ahead of time if you want to avoid the long lines. Unless you are visiting in the off season you do not want to risk losing valuable time waiting in a line.
Before attempting to purchase your tickets, which must be done online, you need to know that the Uffizi is closed every Monday, New Years Day, Christmas Day and May 1st. The museum opens at 8:15am and closes promptly at 6:50pm. The ticket office closes at 6:05 pm and they start shutting down the museum at 6:35 pm. Children under the age of 6 and EU citizens under age 18 and over age 65 are free. A reduced price of 3.25 euro is available for EU citizens between the ages of 18 and 25. Full price, 6.50 euro, applies for everyone else. If you purchase your tickets on-line ahead of time you will pay a reservation fee of 4 euro or more per ticket.
The best method, and the one that we used when visiting the Uffizi, was to call the Uffizi reservation office directly to reserve a day and time (011-39-055-294-883). We did this a few months prior to our visit. You do not have to prepay using this method and they will not ask you for any credit card information. You will have to pick a day and an entry time slot, which is every 15 minutes between the opening and closing time. If the time slot is available they will give you a six-digit confirmation number, which you will bring with you to the ticket office on the day of your visit. Be sure to arrive at least 10 minutes prior to your entry time.
Botticelli's Birth of Venus
We planned our visit for late in the afternoon as this is the best chance to avoid a crowded museum. Also, if you happen to get lucky and there is no line when you arrive, you can skip your reservation, including the 4 euro reservation fee, and just buy a regularly priced ticket and be on your way. This was not the case when we visited so we proceeded to the reservation office to pickup and pay for our tickets. Everything worked as advertised. We bought our tickets, skipped the line which was long, and walked right in after going through security. Just make sure you bring cash with you when paying for your tickets as this is the only form of payment that they accept.
I guess I just don’t know why anyone would choose to wait for hours in a line to enter? The reservation fee is just 4 euro and it can save you hours. Isn't your time worth just a little more than 4 euro?
Botticelli's La Primavera
One of the key strategies to take away from our experience is to try to plan your visit for the late afternoon to early evening. It seems as though everyone wants to get to the Uffizi early and thus the long lines form quickly and the museum gets very crowded. By late in the day you have a much better chance of encountering smaller crowds.
If you insist on visiting in the morning and can manage to get a reservation for the 8:15am slot this may also work as it usually takes a good 30 minutes for the masses to file in. If you can get yourself into the museum right when they open with your reservation you may have 30 to 60 minutes where the museum has not filled up yet. I have not personally tried this one yet, but it does take those folks waiting in line some time to go through security and get themselves into the museum so it just might work.
* Another tip is to utilize thehotel you are staying in as they can often arrange a reservation to the Uffizi for you.
* After going through security use the restrooms, which are located downstairs on the lower level. Restrooms are few and far between in the museum so best to take care of business before you get going.
* If you can, decide ahead of time what your viewing priorities are so you don’t miss your must see pieces. It’s impossible to see everything in 2 or 3 hours so make a list.
Please be advised when visiting the Uffizi that photographs are not allowed in the museum. You also cannot take any liquids into the museum with you, which is a precautionary security measure. There is a café in the museum and you can purchase food, water and drinks there if you like.
Because the Uffizi houses so many pieces of artwork it's probably a good idea to rent an audio guide, about 6 euro, or hire a tour guide to take you through the museum. A guided tour can run you about 40 to 60 euro, which includes the entry fee so this may be an option for you depending on your budget. Another option is to download the Rick Steves Uffizi guide onto your ipod.
Having a tour guide take you through the museum can certainly save you time in identifying pieces of artwork and finding your way around the maze of rooms in the museum. If you are schooled in art and know your stuff perhaps you can guide yourself through the museum otherwise consider one of these options.
There are many web-sites that are selling Uffizi tickets. Your best bet is here, www.polomuseale.firenze.it, which is the official site for museum tickets. Many of these other sites charge pretty hefty booking and pre-sale fees. The official full price ticket to the Uffizi is 8 euro and the reservation fee is 4 euro so you should not have to pay any more than 12 euro total to get into the museum. Many of these other sites are charging 20 to 25 euro for the same ticket.
Enjoy your visit to the Uffizi. No stay in Florence would be complete without touring this world class museum. Even if you are not a true art lover I think you will be impressed with the collection of masterpieces housed here. Enjoy your visit.
Ciao for now.
Rick Steves visits the Uffizi
The Uffizi is located close to the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge
© 2013 Bill De Giulio