Since producing the likes of Donatello, Brunelleschi and the oh-so famous Michelangelo, Florence’s art world has moved beyond Gothic spires and muscular marble men. At first glance, the city might seem cemented in its grandiose Renaissance past, but hidden behind palazzi and loggias you’ll find a world of Florence art experiences – spots and spectacles that fuse the city’s golden age to the modern day. Set the tone for 2018 with these top-notch museums and activities.
Tired of old, dusty museums? Then head to the newly opened Innocenti Museum. From a small collection showcasing a few paintings and artifacts, Europe’s first foundling hospital is now a bright and airy art and social history museum. Medieval and Renaissance works meet innovative multimedia stations, features that unveil the lives of children raised in the institution. The museum presents Florence’s (at times) tumultuous past in an interactive way, and besides its art-filled interior, it also offers great activities for children and a breathtaking rooftop terrace.
Though you might expect to find frescoed halls behind the city’s many Renaissance façades, this piazza Santa Maria Novella portico hides a world of contemporary treasures. The Museo Novecento contains a contemporary art collection featuring art from Fontana’s ‘cuts’ to pieces by De Chirico, Casorati, De Pisis, Morandi and more. Three hundred works flanked by multi-media stations adorn the space, forming an audio-visual dialogue between the pieces and their respective historic contexts. And this 20th-century Florence art journey concludes on a cinematic note: a short-film exploring Florence in international cinema.
Who said Florentine art is an eyes-only experience? At Florence’s sleek and modern Teatro del Maggio Musicale, you’ll find the best tunes of theater and symphony performed with a modern twist. Designed by architect Paolo Desideri, the modular building is a sure testament to the theater’s forward-thinking contents. Though you’ll find your classic mix of Mozart and Strauss, the theater also offers eccentric takes on Italy’s most-loved stories. Come see a 1950s staging of La Traviata or a wacky Barber of Seville featuring a cast of surreal characters – a real game changer in the Florence art scene.
A treasure box of contemporary wonders, Palazzo Strozzi is known for its riveting rotating art exhibitions. Come before the end of January to check out The Cinquecento in Florence, a spectacular exhibition showcasing 16th-century Florence in all its glory. After this blast to the past, Palazzo Strozzi will fast-forward through time to the 1960s in Birth of a Nation, Italian Art from the Postwar to 1968 (from March 16 – July 22). And closing out the year (from September 22) you’ll find a show dedicated to Marina Abramović’s lasting legacy, featuring over 100 works ranging from the 1970s to the present day.
Florentine art is much more than a museum metropolis. Stroll down via Maggio to browse countless art galleries, or wind your way into the Oltrarno to visit Florence artisans at work. In this part of town, you’ll get a close look at age-old traditions that are here to stay. From bookbinding to Majolica pottery, these artisan workshops are undoubtedly shaping the urban landscape. And if you’re really looking for something unique, browse around for pottery or fresco-making classes for a truly authentic (and hands-on) art experience.
Opera del Duomo Museum
After three years of renovation and expansion, the Opera del Duomo museum was reopened in 2015, a spacious art universe presenting works from the original Florence Cathedral, from its façade to the decorative tiles of Giotto’s famed bell tower. Here, you’ll find Ghiberti’s original “Gates of Paradise,” Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene and even Michelangelo’s famed Deposition. And besides breezing through Florence art history, the museum also presents a room devoted to Brunelleschi’s Dome with a wooden replica and original construction tools.
Florence art meets fashion at this momentous (re)opening. On January 10, 2018, get ready for the big reveal of one of Florence’s most sensational fashion spots: the Gucci Garden, located inside the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia. The newly designed space will unveil a store featuring must-have items, a restaurant by three-star Michelin chef Massimo Bottura and exhibition rooms curated by critic and curator Maria Luisa Frisa. This new Gucci hub is sure to be a fashion paradise; dive headfirst into the history of the world-famous fashion brand in both shop and art museum form.
Art in the open air
Unbeknownst to most visitors, it only takes a quick second to lower your gaze from sky-high monuments to see the city’s ‘open-air museums.’ In the San Niccolò neighborhood you’ll find an array of funky shops like Clet’s studio, the man behind the curious stickers decking out street signs. Or closer to the river, visit the terzo giardino, a strategically overgrown area boasting striking sculptures and a unique view of Florence from below. More up the hill, Florence’s beautiful Rose Garden offers a special treat: ten bronze sculptures by Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon, an interesting pairing to the idyllic 19th-century garden.