There are so many reasons why someone should be visiting Italy, and among the many, I highly suggest doing it for Art, simply because the country is the cradle of museums, galleries, and exhibitions. Amid the many cities filled with culture and arts, Florence in the Tuscany Region is simply rich in it.
If Rome is famous for its ancient Roman ruins, Venice for being the city of ancient bridges, Florence is the cradle of the Renaissance, home to one of the most famous museums in the world: The Galleria dell ‘Accademia di Firenze. Also known as the Gallery of the Academy of Florence, every year this Institution is flooded with tourists from all over the world that come here to visit the beloved Michelangelo’s sculpture, David.
Surely this is not the only reason to visit the Gallery, but it’s obviously the main motif. If you are asking yourself what other curiosities are to know before exploring the Gallery, then hold on tight as I am going to hit you with 6 facts that you need to know before booking your tickets.
01. The meaning of the name Accademia
Many of you might not be aware of the fact that what is today considered one of Florence’s most acclaimed museums, was actually home to a hospital, The Hospital of Saint Matthew, and a convent, The Convent of Saint Niccolò. In the year 1748, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, decided to reorganize the structure into the new teaching facility for the nearby Academy of Fine Arts, from there originated the name Accademia. in fact in Italian, the noun “Accademia” means school, an institution dedicated to a specific field of study.
02. From Accademia to Galleria dell ‘Accademia
The facility was dedicated to the role of a teaching facility for the neighbouring Academy of Fine Arts, and later on, started to get enriched with paintings and works of art that were used as didactic models for students.
Throughout the following years, the building was progressively enriched by paintings gathered from both convents and monasteries which were suppressed by Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Lorraine at the end of the XVIII century and later on also by Napoleon in 1810.
03. The star of the Gallery, Michelangelo’s David
Today the museum hosts many famous pieces of Art but surely the one that attracts thousands, and thousands of visitors are certainly Michelangelo’s David. There are many copies of this famous sculpture but the one and only original piece can be found within the walls of this Institution. The story dates back to 1873 when the sculpture was moved from Piazza Della Signoria.
Many years took before the sculpture could see the light and to exhibit it in the most grandiose way, a perfect room needed to be built. The assignment was given to architect Emilio de Fabris, who designed a tribune with a large skylight. The room was completed in 1882, and in 1892 the museum opened to the public. The over 5 meters tall sculpture and its mesmerizing tribune, have been calling for decades both aspiring artists as well as tourists travelling from all over the globe.
04. The Gallery’s must-see attractions
There are so many artworks at the Accademia that need to be seen apart from the famous David. Here are two you might have heard of:
- Rape of the Sabines: Realized by Jean de Boulogne, also known as Giambologna, this sculpture depicts an example of motion and details. Displayed in the Hall of the Colossus, the cast showcase three figures, connected through a serpentine motion, a sort of human vortex where an old man is kneeling trapped by the legs of a young man, who is lifting a woman into the air. The viewer has to move around the sculpture to admire all the details from different points of view. This artwork was carved from a single block of marble
- Hall Of Prisoners: The name refers to the four giant sculptures designed by Michelangelo for Pope Julius II’s tomb. What characterizes them is their unfinished state. Many claims that this unfinished state was Michelangelo’s desire of showcasing the eternal struggle of human beings to free themselves from the bonds and physical weight of the matter.
- Florentine Gothic: This part of the building is dedicated to Florentine Gothic paintings and is made of three rooms. The first one is the room of the 13th and early 14th centuries, where is held the famous Tree of Life realized by Pacino di Buonaguida. The second room is the Giottesque room who hosts the works of the Florentine artists Giotto and his followers. Last but not least is The Orcagna room, which hosts the artworks of the Cione four brothers.
05. Not only Sculptures and Paintings but also Musical Instruments
Paintings and sculptures might be what the Accademia is known for, but an interesting part of the building is actually dedicated to musical instruments. This wing of the structure is filled with a collection of ancient private musical instruments, which were once part of the collection of the Cherubini Conservatory. Some of these fifty instruments were once the property of the Medici family, who loved to surround themselves with music and fine artists. No wonder the Medici are often considered the founders of Florence as we know, the Cradle of Renaissance. Cellos, violins, violas, pianos, and various others are the instruments displayed in this part of the building. While visiting this hall, is possible to listen through the available computers, to the sounds these instruments made.
How to fully enjoy the Accademia Gallery Florence
The museum is open daily (except Monday), from 8.15 am to 6.50 pm. Tickets can be bought online as well as at the ticket office which is open till 6.20 pm. If you are willing to wake up early to avoid the queue, then you should do it, as trust me it will be worth the sacrifice. Getting there at 8.00 in the morning will avoid you from staying in line for more than one hour.
The best way to enjoy the visit is to purchase a guided tour, either private or in a group which will help you avoid queues, but also have a guide who can explain to you precisely every piece of art as well get an answer to any question you might have. Last but not least, before booking your ticket to the museum, it is good to study the map of the building, which can be easily found online. By doing so, you can point out the piece of art that you want to see without forgetting any.
Planning your itinerary in advance will help you schedule your visit to the minute as well as save enough time. You will be skipping all those rooms that you might be less interested in and use your precious time on some arts that you have been waiting to see with your own eyes. I highly suggest visiting each corner of the Museum, but if you have a hectic schedule and therefore a limited time, planning everything in advance might be the best option.