If you’re travelling to Florence anytime soon, you will probably be aware of the Firenze Card. If not, see here. The card costs €50 and gets you into most of Florence’s museums, many of its significant churches and allows you to use buses and trams in Florence. You may be wondering if those benefits are worth €50. In our experience, they are absolutely worth that and then some.
Some guidebooks or travel sites might tell you that if you have a short time in Florence. the only musea you need to see are the Uffizi and Galleria D’Accademia. But if you want to see Renaissance art (and really, why are you coming to Florence if you don’t?), it would be a shame to take a miss on Florence’s other impressive musea, such as the Bargello, with its statuary by Donatello and Michelangelo, among others. But even if you are only interested in the Uffizi and Accademia, here are a few things to note:
First, don’t expect to pay only the “base price” for admission to each museum that’s listed on the official website . There are only so many of those tickets available each day, and often they are bought up in large quantities by vendors who then sell them on at a mark up. You might find that the only way to get in is to book through an agency, which will have their own fees and charges.
Second, on almost any day of the week, in low season or high, there are long queues, often wrapping around the building at both musea. But with our Firenze Cards, we got to join a special queue at each, where we were only made to wait 5-10 minutes. So there’s also a significant time savings from the Firenze Card. Indeed, if you do only have a short time in Florence, the Firenze Card might help you make the most of it by cutting down the time you spend waiting in queues.
Third, while Michelangelo’s David is a masterpiece and is more impressive in person than any pictures you’ve seen, there’s little else to Accademia other than Michelangelo’s unfinished Slaves, so you might be able to appreciate those few works of the master more if you weren’t made to wait as long and if the cost of admission is spread over more attractions.
But more importantly, there is so much more to Florence than just two musea. The Palazzo Pitti is perhaps the most sumptuous of Florence’s many palaces, being the last place that the Medicis (whose influence is inescapable in this city) inhabited. And it’s not just a palace either. It’s more of an art museum (with an impressive collection stretching from Ancient Rome to the Renaissance masters) set inside a palace. The Boboli Gardens behind the palace are beautiful as well, and there are fantastic views over the Tuscan countryside. Earlier palaces inhabited by the Medicis are no less impressive: there’s the Palazzo Vecchio which houses the cavernous cinquecento where Florence’s restored republican government met in the 15th century and the chancellery where Niccolo Machiavelli worked. The Palazzo Medici-Riccardi designed by Michelozzo would be a star attraction in any other city (like many places in Florence), but is still worth a visit as long as you’ve got your card.
And Florence is abundant in impressive churches, some of which are free to enter, but many which are not, including the Medici Chapels, which contain both the gaudy Princes’ Chapel and the more subdued New Sacristy with several fine sculptures from Michelangelo. And while you can enter the Duomo for free, the Baptistery next door requires a ticket (or card!) to get in. Although one of the most famous attractions of the Baptistery is easily viewable from the outside — Ghiberti’s North Doors — the mosaic on the ceiling inside is absolutely stunning; my neck got rather sore from staring up for so long.
And finally, Florence is a beautiful enough city at street level, but is even more splendid when viewed from above. The Firenze Card gets you into several of the most advantageous lookout points: The tower of the Pallazo Vecchio, Campanile di Gioto (the bell tower next to the Doumo) and the Cupola of the Duomo itself. We went up all three, although that isn’t really necessary. I would recommend going up at least two: The Cupola of the Duomo, so you can get a closer look at Brunelleschi’s extraordinary frescoes on the inside of the dome, and then one of the other two so that you can actually get a view of the whole Duomo.
And if, somehow, you’ve had your fill of Florence, the Firenze Card also lets you take the bus up to the old Etruscan town of Fiesole for a short break from all the excitement down below…