The Galleria degli Uffizi in Firenze was built in the 16th century for the extremely exciting purpose of hosting… meetings. That’s right, the world’s largest treasure trove of Renaissance art is housed in a glorified office building. And one that’s only partially climate-controlled at that!
Because of its impressive collection and international fame, experiencing the Uffizi Gallery can be an exercise in patience and/or a real pain in the you-know-what, depending on how you look at it. Add children in this mix and you might have a real mess on your hands. But don’t be discouraged – a little advance planning is all it takes to make your visit run smoothly.
Here are my six tips for an enjoyable afternoon at the Uffizi with your kids and some really amazing art:
1. Buy your tickets online in advance. Waiting times for walk-up visitors are generally measured in hours. Don’t waste precious time tapping your toes. Instead, book tickets online (and several weeks in advance, if possible). Many websites sell tickets to the Uffizi, but the only official site can be found here. Children under 18 are FREE.
2. Visit at lunch time or later in the day. The biggest problem inside the Uffizi is the constant swarm of tour groups. You’re less likely to constantly bump elbows in the Botticelli room when the crowds are tasting the tagliatelle at a nearby trattoria midday or sipping wine at sunset.
I’ve seen musings here and there warning that Tuesdays are busier days. We tried Thursday, and the mob seemed more manageable.
3. Purchase a picture book containing (almost) all the works. If you’re not shelling out for a human guide or an audio tour, I highly recommend a coffee table book containing the all the works displayed in the Uffizi. If possible, buy the volume in advance, and leaf through it with your family.
Allow each person to pick their favorites. Discuss common themes in the art. Jot down questions, and look up the answers online if you’re not art history savvy. Make a list of “must-see” works in case you do end up lost in a sea of yellow neon Florence: The Big Bus Tour t-shirts. If you need a little help with your list or coming up with questions, check out this excellent post from ArtTrav.
But, what if you are trying to go paperless and just can’t handle one. more. book. in your house? Alexandra Korey of ArtTrav has expanded on the post I’ve linked to above in her recently published e-book, the Uffizi Art History Guide, and newly released IOS app available here. Inside you’ll find an excellent Renaissance art history primer to help you understand and appreciate what you’re seeing. She covers the most important works in each room, and includes questions for engaging with the pieces.T-Rex and I flipped through our book on the train ride into Firenze, chatting about what we saw. Inside the museum, I was amazed at how many images he remembered (“Mama, this one is in our book!”). We also enjoyed talking about which paintings surprised us by their scale or fine detail.
Where do you find such a book? Well, the real kicker is that the Uffizi Gallery itself sells a wonderfully thick volume… but you have to go through the museum to get to the shop and buy it. Instead, try ordering it off Amazon before you leave home. I was a little late to the ball game on this one, so I bought one on the street in Firenze for 12 euro. Not the best, but it got the job done.
4. Make a beeline for the bathroom before you begin. If the presence of plentiful toilets marks a place as “kid-friendly” in your book, I’m sad to say that the Uffizi will let you down.
Take the kiddos for a potty break immediately after you pass through the metal detectors. Do not proceed upstairs to the gallery until you’ve emptied the tanks! You have forty five rooms to clear before you hit the next set of bathrooms. Yeah, you’re welcome.
5. Plan on a pit stop at the cafe. Gawking at all the art in those forty five rooms is sure to make little tummies rumble. As expected, the cafe is seriously overpriced. You can save a bit of money by ordering at the counter and eating while standing. The same food costs more if you need to plant your bum on a seat. Of course, you can bring your own grub, and the terrace adjacent to the cafe provides a birds eye view of the Palazzo Vecchio.6. Reward good behavior at the gift shop. Fueled and ready for part two, head downstairs for foreign painters and special exhibitions. You may start to wonder, when will it end? Trust me, your kids will echo your thoughts out loud. Now’s a good time to pull out your “must-see” list and check off any remaining works.
If you made it this far without any meltdowns, hand out hugs and euros. The souvenir shop at the Uffizi is presented in pieces, and everyone will find something to suit themselves… even if they’re not all that into art.
Should you visit the Uffizi? YES! Should you take your kids? YES! Well, I think so. Okay, only you can decide that, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I only took T-Rex (he’s 5 1/2) with me. Kids younger than this who are not napping during your visit or angelic girls with golden curls will most likely be bored and restless. Regardless of age, interact with the art. Don’t just have a look and move on.
For best results, follow the six tips above, and enjoy your visit!
What about you? Have you visited the Uffizi? Would you take your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
This post is part of Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy series. Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!Disclaimer: I was graciously provided a review copy of Uffizi Art History Guide – Unanchor Travel Guide by Alexandra Corey several weeks after my visit to the museum. As always, opinions are my own. At this time, I do not use affiliate links.