In 1817 French author Henri-Marie Beyle visited the great renaissance city of Florence. He was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the art he admired in the Florentine galleries he became faint and experienced dizziness and confusion. There is no dispute that the art works contained within these magnificent galleries are astonishingly beautiful. To help steady the nerves of even the most enthusiastic of art aficionados, we've compiled a list of our favourite museums and galleries in Florence.
The Galleria degli Uffizi is undoubtedly Florence's most famous fine art museum. Built between 1560 and 1581 for Cosimo I de' Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Uffizi houses one of the world's most stunning collections of Renaissance art. Pieces include Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, Michelangelo's Doni Tondo, Da Vinci's The Annunciation and Caravaggio's Medusa. Needless to say a trip to the museum can take your breath away, but unfortunately so can the long wait to enter. Avoid the queues by making an advance telephone booking and consider visiting outside of summer when crowds are at their most heaving.
The Accademia Gallery
The city's famous Academy of Fine Arts is another of Florence's most treasured museums, not least because it's home to Michelangelo's masterpiece Renaissance sculpture David. The 5.17-metre marble statue is one of the world's most iconic and attracts thousands of tourists to gaze upon its solemn countenance each year. Photography is not allowed inside the Accademia, so if you're desperate for a snapshot to remember your trip, head outside to the Piazza della Signoria to take a picture of the replica which stands outside the Palazzo Vecchio.
The Ponte Vecchio
A city blessed with such an abundance of museums and world-famous artworks needs practical means of transportation, but even that's something Florence does with a flourish. Little wonder Henri-Marie Beyle felt faint on his first glimpse of the city, for the Ponte Vecchio or 'old bridge' is one of the city's most artistic structures. Bridging the River Arno, the current structure dates to 1345 and is famously lined with shops. This splendid medieval construction is one of a handful of remaining bridges - including the Ponte di Rialto in Venice and the Pulteney Bridge in Bath - spanned by shops along its entire length.
The Palazzo Pitti
On the quiet southern banks of the River Arno lies the Palazzo Pitti, at one stage the former home of the ubiquitous Medici family who ruled the Republic of Florence. These days this vast Renaissance palace is another of Florence's best known fine art museums, housing works from Italian masters such as Botticelli, Raphael, Caravaggio and Giorgione. Though now a public museum, the palace remains one of the city's best examples of a grand Florentine house. The Boboli Gardens behind the palace house a superb collection of sculptures dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
If all the world's a stage, then surely the cityscape of Florence is a spectacularly illustrated canvas. And there is no more spectacular a sight than the towering dome of the Florence Cathedral - known officially as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Duomo, as it's colloquially called, took 140 years to build and was completed in 1436, with its stunning peach-coloured brick dome dominating the Florence skyline. The cathedral itself houses a rich collection of religious art and iconography but it's the contribution it makes to an unforgettable Florence skyline which renders it a stunning work of art in its own right.