Uffizi Gallery & Castel Sant'Angelo Tour: A Beginner’s Guide

uffizi gallery
DoTravel.com

Just off of the Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the greatest art museums in the whole world.  Enclosed behind the walls of this magnificent looking structure, you will find the largest collection of Renaissance art, all gifted to the city of Florence by the well established Florentine banking family the Medicis, in 1743.   

 

Inside the Museum

 

Uffizi means offices in Italian, but there is nothing administrative about this gallery.  Quite the contrary.  Here, on two floors, spread across 101 rooms, stunning works of art are on display.  And, although the Renaissance artwork at the Uffizi is without a doubt the reason most visit the museum, the place houses many other stunning works too. 

 

Structuring the museum, paintings and rooms are chronologically ordered.  They begin with Greek sculptures and work all the way through to 18th-century Venetian paintings.  As you stroll the halls, you will discover the works of some of the finest artists of all time including Simone Martini, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, Bandinelli and many, many more.

 

How to get to the Uffizi Gallery

 

For those who have traveled to Florence for a day trip and who have arrived at the city’s Santa Maria Novella train station, you can hop directly on the C1 bus.  Hop off at the stop Galleria Degli Uffizi, and the museum is a short 2-minute walk away. 

 

If you’re not in a rush and fancy a stroll through the beautiful city, perhaps even the chance to stop off at a Florentine cafe for a pastry and espresso, you can also walk.  The journey time is no longer than 15 minutes. 

 

To do this, exit Santa Maria Novella Station onto Piazza della Stazione.  Then, turn right and head south-west down towards the River Arno.  Continue down the Via Cerretani until you reach Piazza del Duomo.  From here, take the Via Calzaiuoli onto the Piazza della Signoria, and you’re pretty much there. 

 

Tickets

 

Tickets for the Uffizi gallery can be bought from the on-site box office.  This is located at the main entrance.  But, it is important to bear in mind that the Uffizi is one of the most visited museums in all of Florence and so it is very often very busy. 

 

For those who plan to buy tickets on the day, then be sure to get to the gallery in the morning, the earlier the better.  This way, you can beat the rush.  Again, those who turn up once the tourist crowds are in full swing can expect wait times of up to two hours.

 

In order to avoid the hassle, look to book your tickets online.  Be aware that some agency will still require you to head to the ticket office beforehand to pick up the physical tickets, which means standing in line.  So, shop around and look for those that offer to send agents in advance to do this for you.  They exist and will save you heaps of time.  Depending on your ticket and tour options, prices will vary, but they are all generally reasonable.

 

Castel Sant'Angelo

You can find in Rome’s Parco Adriano Hadrian’s Mausoleum, more often referred to as the Castel Sant’Angelo.  Once the tallest building in Rome, this towering cylindrical structure was commissioned by Hadrian to serve both him and his family as their final resting place once they died.  However, over the course of time, the Castel Sant’Angelo was repurposed by the Popes and used as a prison and a fortress. 

 

Sitting on the banks of the River Tiber and built between 123 and 139 AD, it is clear that Hadrian based the design of his Mausoleum on that of Emperor Augustus’.  When it was originally finished, the top of the structure housed a garden upon which was placed a gold statue of Hadrian in a Quadriga, a four horse-drawn chariot. 

 

After Hadrian death, his ashes were placed in the tomb.  Later those of his wife Sabina and their adopted son Lucius Aelius were placed alongside his.  Over the following decades, other emperors also had their remains interred here too.   

 

However, by the end of the 5th century, in the throes of the middle ages, Rome experienced more attacks, and so the structure was converted into a fortress for protection. 

 

When the Castel Sant’Angelo became the property of the Popes, it was altered greatly, and many architectural features were added.  Interestingly, Pope Nicholas III built a secret passageway that connected the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican to the fortress.  This passageway was called the Passetto di Borgo.  This was most famously used by Pope Clement VII who had to flee via the passageway and seek refuge in the fortress during the 1527 sack of Rome. 

 

There is a dark and sinister side the Castel Sant’Angelo too.  The fortress was used as a prison.  Gruesome executions that involved guillotining and being burnt at the stake occurred in the fortress’s small courtyard. 

 

However, now, the structure houses the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.  And, inside are a number of fantastic displays and exhibitions that include military memorabilia, medieval firearms, paintings, and sculptures.  The weapons on display are those that were used to protect the fortress. 

 

On the upper floors of the fortress, you will find walls and ceilings adorned with spectacular frescoes.  The Sala Paolina, a hugely impressive room, has frescoes that depict episodes from Alexander the Great’s life. 

 

If you continue up, you will find yourself on the terrace.  The terrace is perhaps most famous for featuring in Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca.  In the opera, the heroine of the story throws herself from the terrace ramparts to her death below.  From this vantage point, you can enjoy some great panoramic views.

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