From art to architecture, enjoy the best museums in Florence free of charge

Eight stand-out attractions in the Italian city that can be accessed free, but only one day a month

The famed 700-year-old Basilica of Santa Maria Novella has become a symbol of Florence. Photo: Ronan O'Connell
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The city of Florence is home to some of Italy’s most significant museums.

From modern art galleries to archaeological exhibits and ancient Imperial gardens to key religious sites, the museums can be entered for no charge on the first Sunday of each month.

Here are eight of the city’s best museums that offer this perk.

Galleria dell'Accademia

David is an ordinary name for an extraordinary artwork. This masterpiece by Michelangelo may be the world’s most famous sculpture, and it resides here in the Galleria dell'Accademia. Carved from a chunk of marble in the early 1500s, David was originally positioned at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, the hulking palace that dominates downtown Florence.

Although there are several replicas displayed elsewhere in the city, the original is the star attraction at this museum. Many tourists visit solely because of David, but there are plenty more treasures within. Particularly the large collection of Tuscan paintings from the 13th to 16th century.

The Uffizi

One of the world’s great museums, The Uffizi is colossal, diverse and ever-so photogenic. Were the galleries of this 16th-century building left empty, visitors would still be dazzled by their ostentatious designs, laden with marble, intricate murals and delicate frescoes.

This interior almost distracts from a show-stopping collection of priceless paintings and sculptures. These works span a period of more than 1,000 years. Among the highlights are exquisite pieces by Italian masters Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Leonardo, Giotto and Raffaello. They are complemented by memorable creations from Dutch, German and Flemish painters, plus an assortment of Roman busts and statues.

Tickets to The Uffizi cost up to $27 at other times, so its free entry days are a treat.

National Archaeological Museum

Once again, the setting for this museum, also known as Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze, is an attraction in itself. Overlooking a private garden decorated by many ancient statues, the 17th-century Palazzo della Crocetta has a grand facade embellished by a row of arches and columns.

Behind this beauty lies a trove of artefacts. This museum is renowned for its Roman and Etruscan collections. They span ceramics, coins, jewellery, funerary sculptures and bronze idols. Equally impressive is its array of rare Egyptian pieces, some up to 2,000 years old, including amulets, vases and sarcophagi occupied by mummies.

Bargello National Museum

Just look for the tower. Looming high above central Florence, this stone spire is the crowning feature of a medieval palace now occupied by the Bargello National Museum. From the street, the commanding building looks as though it was built for war. But inside it brims with artistic splendour.

Its most prized collection features sculptures from the Renaissance era. Michelangelo, Donatello, Cellini and Sansovino all have some of their finest creations on display here. Visitors can also admire an assortment of Gothic ceramics, medallions, jewellery and weapons.

Medici Chapels

There can be few grander resting places in existence than the Medici Chapels, where extravagant tombs are clad in marble and precious stones beneath a dome ceiling. They house the remains of members of the Medici dynasty, which ruled Florence almost continuously from 1434 to 1737.

Visitors walk through this crypt to reach similarly splendid Baroque-style chapels of the Princes and the New Sacresty. Dating from the early 1500s and early 1600s, respectively, these hallowed halls are decorated by artworks from the likes of Michelangelo.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

For more than 700 years, this massive church has been a symbol of Florence. Its distinctive marble exterior, covered in geometric designs, gives way to a gargantuan prayer hall. Standing beneath its lofty ceiling and gazing up at colourful murals and mesmerising striped patterns has long been a quintessential Florence experience.

Throughout this sprawling religious complex, built by Benedictine monks, are countless historic artworks. Among them are a haunting crucifix by Giotto and a vibrant fresco by Filippino Lippi. Tickets to the Museum Santa Maria Novella grant entry to the entire site, including its Spanish Chapel, Green Cloister, Cloister of the Dead, Ubriachi Chapel and refectory.

Pitti Palace

As you would expect of a palace that once was home to members of the Medici dynasty, Palazzo Pitti is monumental. So vast that behind the fortified facade of this 15th-century complex lies not one, or even two museums, but five.

When tourists enter at ground level they step into the Museum of Russian Icons and the Treasury of the Grand Dukes. On the first floor, meanwhile, are the artworks of the Palatine Gallery and the lavishness of the Imperial and Royal Apartments, which let visitors peek at the opulence in which the Medicis lived. Above that, on the second floor, are the Museum of Costume and Fashion and the Gallery of Modern Art.

Boboli Gardens

To the south of the Arno river, opposite Florence’s chief tourism district, this tranquil green space has calmed and delighted visitors for more than 250 years. The meticulously landscaped Boboli Gardens were designed in the mid-1500s but weren’t open to the public until more than two centuries later.

They are tucked behind Pitti Palace, with their hillside perch offering visitors glimpses across the city. Scattered amid the magnificent groves, lawns, hedges and flower beds are dozens of ancient sculptures, fountains and grottoes. None leaves a stronger impression than the Statue of Abundance.

Updated: January 05, 2024, 6:02 PM