The Uffizi Gallery (Galleria degli Uffizi) is an essential part of any Florence itinerary. From Michelangelo to Da Vinci, some of the greatest works of art on the planet grace its walls.
But which are the best works of art to see in the Uffizi Gallery?
This is where I can help you. As a Renaissance fan girl and serial visitor to Florence, I’ve curated a shortlist of famous paintings in the Uffizi gallery that you must see.
You’ll also find all you need to know about finding your way around the gallery, buying Uffizi tickets and tips to have an unforgettable visit.
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Why You Need This Guide to the Uffizi Gallery
Make no mistake. With over 100 halls spread over two floors, the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence is enormous. Although some of these halls are closed, visiting the Uffizi Gallery can feel overwhelming.
Yes; this is an important gallery – and I’d go as far as to say that it is one of the unmissable Florentine experiences – but walking its halls can be exhausting.
So wouldn’t it be better to visit the Uffizi armed with just a little background information and a shortlist of paintings that will help you appreciate Renaissance art? This is what this Uffizi Gallery guide aims to do.
Navigating the Uffizi Gallery
To make the most of your visit to the Uffizi, it’s helpful to have the lay of the land.
The Uffizi Gallery is housed in a U-shaped 16th Century building, arranged around a central courtyard. Although it covers three floors, the ground floor is taken up with the main entrances, the ticket office and bookshops. There are shops at the entrance and the exit of the museum.
Start your visit by climbing the grand Renaissance staircase to the second floor. This is where the main collection is housed,
Paintings are arranged chronologically, starting with gilded medieval paintings (1200 – 1400) in the gallery’s east wing, through to the Renaissance big hitters in the west wing.
On the first floor, there is a smaller collection of paintings, including those by foreign artists and Caravaggio.
Renaissance Art in Florence
Florence is the cradle of the Italian Renaissance
In the 14th Century, much of Europe was mired in medievalism. However, Florence was booming, thanks to its bankers and trade merchants.
These were wealthy and optimistic times for the city and sowed the seeds of the Renaissance, literally meaning “rebirth.” This movement was characterised by a pursuit of knowledge, stretching across architecture, painting and sculpture.
Drawing heavily on Classical art, artists transitioned from a two-dimensional “flat” style of painting to developing perspective and drawing from live models. This was revolutionary.
It shone brightest between 1500 and 1550 during the High Renaissance, led by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo.
Famous Paintings in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Florence Uffizi Gallery is an all-you-can-eat artistic buffet. As this abundance of choice can be overwhelming, I have narrowed your menu down to 20 must-see artworks.
Many of these artworks are personal favourites; a few would not make it into my “Top 10 Paintings” list. But they are all important works of art, and collectively reflect the evolution of Renaissance art and beyond.
1. Madonna and Child, Giotto (1310)
Giotto (1267 – 1337) was instrumental in freeing Italian painting from the two-dimensional style of the early Middle Ages. His Madonna and Child is a preview of Renaissance art a hundred years before it took off.
This panel was originally on a partition wall of the Church of Ognissanti.
Mary, painted like a Classical statue, cradles the Christ child on a canopied throne. The steps leading up to the throne, and the angels and prophets in front and behind it, lend the scene a three-dimensional quality.
2. Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus, Simone Martini (1333)
Just look at that expression on Mary’s face. She appears less than chuffed by the appearance of the angel Gabriel.
Siena-born Simone Martini (1284 – 1344) was another major figure in the development of Italian art, more specifically the Gothic style of painting.
The Annunciation, a wooden triptych painted in tempura and gold, is an outstanding work of Gothic painting. This masterpiece was commissioned for the altar of St. Ansanus in Siena Cathedral.
This is far from the realism of later Renaissance painting. Instead, it is a typical medieval work, with a gilded background, a two-dimensional feel and fine detail.
3. Saint Anne, Madonna and Child with Five Angels, Masaccio (1424 – 1425)
With his use of linear perspective and attention to realism, Masaccio (1401 – 1428) was the first great painter of the early Italian Renaissance. If at all possible, add his astonishing frescoes at the Brancacci Chapel to your Florence bucket list.
This panel was commissioned for Florence’s Sant’Ambrogio Church by Nofri Del Brutto Buonamici, from a family of weavers.
In this remarkable early study of perspective, a solemn Saint Anne blesses her daughter and her muscular bambino. Four of the angels surrounding the holy trio were later attributed to Masolino (1383 – 1447).
4. Battle of San Romano, Paolo Uccello (1435)
One of the defining characteristics of Renaissance art was the development of linear perspective, the illusion of creating depth on a two-dimensional surface. The Florentine artist Paolo Uccello (1397 – 1475) was one of the pioneers of linear perspective in art, almost to the point of obsession.
This is one of three panels commissioned by Leonardo Bartolini Salimbeni to celebrate the Battle of San Romano in 1432, won by the Florentines against the Sienese. The other two panels hang in the Louvre in Paris and in London’s National Gallery.
This is not a pretty painting – and would not be one of my favourite artworks in the Uffizi – but it is an important one. Uccello experiments with a technique known as foreshortening (making figures appear as if they are receding into the distance) and this is one of the first attempts at linear perspective in art.
That said, his experiment is not totally successful. Some of the proportions look peculiar but, nonetheless, this painting marks a turning point in art history.
5. Glorification of the Virgin with Angels and Saints, Fra Angelico (1434 – 1435)
Welcome to a mystical vision of paradise. Against a golden sky, Christ and the Virgin Mary are surrounded by a choir of saints and angels.
At a first glance, this is just another medieval panel, but it is an early stab at linear perspective. The fan of golden beams of divine light that radiate from the centre of the painting and the raised trumpets of the angels lend the space a three-dimensional quality.
Fra Angelico (1395 – 1455) was a Dominican friar of whom the art historian Vasari described as having “a rare and perfect talent.” He is most famous for the frescoes he painted for his own friary, San Marco in Florence.
6. Madonna and Child with Two Angels, Filippo Lippi (1465)
I love the smile on the face of the angel in the foreground of this painting by Filippo Lippi (1406 – 1469), one of many Florentine artists patronised by the powerful Cosimo de Medici. I also love the painter’s backstory.
Lippi was a former Carmelite monk who was forced to leave the order after a scandalous love affair with a nun. It is said that the Virgin Mary’s serene and beautiful face is that of the nun, Lucrezia Buti, who became Lippi’s wife.
The natural composition of Madonna and Child with Two Angels was widely acclaimed. It was used as a model by many artists, including the young Botticelli, apprenticed to Filippo Lippi.
7. The Duke & Duchess of Urbino, Piero della Francesca (1475)
This diptych of Duke Federico da Montefeltro (1444-82) and his wife, Battista, is one of the most celebrated portraits in art history.
The Duke was one of the champions of the Italian Renaissance and established his court in Urbino. Under his stewardship, the city became a thriving artistic centre, attracting the greatest artists, architects and scholars of the day.
In line with convention, the Duke and Duchess are painted in profile. But, unusually, the man appears on the right. This allowed the artist not to show the disfigured side of Federico’s face (he lost his right eye and the bridge of his nose in a tournament).
Piero della Francesca (1415 – 1492) places his imposing subjects in harmony with nature, an excellent representation of serene humanism.
8. La Primavera, Sandro Boticelli (1478)
La Primavera is not only one of the most famous paintings in the Uffizi gallery, but it is also one of the most famous paintings in art history.
Commissioned by Lorenzo and Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de Medici, the interpretation of the symbolism of this painting has been extensively debated. However, its beauty is beyond doubt.
In a citrus grove, Zephyr chases the nymph Chloris, causing a woman to sprout flowers from her lips as she transforms into Flora. To her left are Venus and a blindfolded Cupid, Mercury, and the Three Graces dancing around a maypole.
Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510) was the first Renaissance artist to paint mythologies with the reverence usually applied to religious subjects. Etheral Madonnas were replaced by naked flesh and a small dose of playfulness.
9. Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli (1485)
Also commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici for the villa of Castello, the Birth of Venus is Botticelli’s second masterpiece in the Uffizi Gallery,
It depicts Venus, the Greek goddess of love, born from sea foam, blown ashore on a scallop shell by Zephyr, the west wind. Flora, the goddess of flowers, prepares to cover her with a richly patterned robe.
Botticelli painted the Birth of Venus on canvas – unusual at the time – using tempura, which gives the painting a fresco-like quality. The artist drew inspiration from ancient statues in Rome for the painting’s figures.
10. Madonna of the Magnificat, Sandro Botticelli (1481)
In this majestic tondo (a circular form of painting) of the Virgin and Child, the Madonna is portrayed writing a prayer in a book with the Christ child on her lap and five angels. It takes its name from the Latin hymn, the Magnificat, and is also known as the Virgin and Child with Five Angels.
The pomegranate in Mary’s left hand symbolises resurrection and life everlasting.
11. The Annunciation of San Martino alla Scala, Sandro Botticelli (1481)
This exquisite fresco was painted for Florence’s Ospedale di San Martino della Scala, which was first a hospital and later a church. It was removed from its original location and restored in 1920.
This annunciation scene play out in an elegant Renaissance palace, giving us a window into the furnishings in fashion at the time. Beyond the palace is a walled garden, symbolising Mary’s purity.
I love this masterpiece for its delicate beauty and melancholic figures.
12. La Calunnia, Sandro Botticelli (1495)
La Calunnia foresaw the end of the Florentine Renaissance.
Denouncing the humanistic values of the Renaissance, a charismatic but fanatical Dominican monk called Girolamo Savonarola turned Florence into a theocracy. He sponsored “bonfires of the vanities” and introduced a democratic government before being hanged and burned for heresy in 1498.
Botticelli himself came under the monk’s spell, to the extent of burning some of his own works of art.
The ragtag bunch of people in this panel painting are personifications of vices or virtues, or the powerful and the powerless. The setting is a classical Renaissance town, and some view it as a defence of Savonarola against his enemies.
13. The Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci (1475)
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was the ultimate Renaissance Man. Revered as much for his towering intellect as his artistic prowess, he devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge
Painted soon after Leonardo became a master in the painters’ guild in Florence, The Annunciation is one of his early masterpieces. His attention to detail and love of nature are striking, from the painting’s exquisite carpet of flowers to the angel’s wings modelled on those of a bird.
14. Doni Tondo (The Holy Family), Michelangelo (1506)
Although he was a Florence native, Michelangelo spent much of his long life (1475 – 1564) working for the popes in Rome. His celebrated career encompassed painting, sculpture, architecture and even poetry.
The Doni Tondo is one of the very few panel paintings by Michelangelo and was commissioned to celebrate the marriage of the Florentine merchant Agnoli Doni to Maddalena Strozzi in 1504. It was later acquired by the Medici.
Looking like three groups of statues, the Holy Family occupies the foreground and two groups of nudes take up the rear. A young John the Baptist is on the right of the painting.
15. Madonna of the Goldfinch, Raphael (1506)
Urbino-born Rafaello Sanzio – Raphael (1483 – 1520) – was not only a painter of prodigious talent, known for his use of colour and harmonic composition. He was also reputed to be gracious and charming as a man. The perfect Renaissance artist.
Raphael’s Madonnas are amongst the most enchanting works of the Renaissance. Madonna of the Goldfinch is perhaps his best, and is one of my favourite paintings in the Uffizi Gallery.
Against the background of a pastoral landscape, a naked Jesus and John the Baptist play with the bird at Mary’s feet. She gazes tenderly at them.
Madonna of the Goldfinch was commissioned for the marriage of the Florentine merchant Lorenzo Nasi, a friend of the painter, to Sandra di Matteo Canigiani.
16. Angel Playing a Lute, Rosso Fiorentino (1521)
I do wonder if Giovanni Battista di Jacopo (1495 – 1540) based this angel on himself.
This Florence-born artist owed his nickname – Rosso Fiorentino – to his flaming red hair. He was responsible for bringing Florentine Mannerism to France, where he commissioned to fresco the palace at Fontainbleau.
I love the tenderness of this famous painting that portrays a cherub plucking the strings of a comparatively massive lute. Angel Playing a Lute is thought to be a lost fragment of a lost altarpiece.
17. Laocoön and his Sons, Baccio Bandinelli (1525)
OK. I’ve cheated a little here. But although this isn’t a painting, it’s too important and too famous to ignore and a must-see artwork at the Uffizi.
Also known as the Laocoön Group, this is one of the most famous ancient sculptures to have been excavated in Rome. This remarkable miniature created by by Baccio Bandinelli (1493 – 1560) for the Uffizi Gallery (the original is the Vatican Museums).
The two meter-high marble sculpture depicts the Trojan priest Laocoön desperately trying to defend his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus, from sea serpents. The suffering is obvious, from the contorted expressions of the to the writhing bodies. But unlike Christian art showing the Passion of Jesus, this is agony without the hope of redemption.
18. Venus of Urbino, Titian (1538)
This sensuous painting is typical of Titian (1485 – 1576), the most celebrated painter of the Venetian school. His huge body of paintings includes erotic mythologies, religious works and some of the greatest portraits in the history of art.
Venus of Urbino depicts a young bride who is about to be dressed to take part in il toccamano, a Venetian ritual during which a young woman would touch the hand of her groom-to-be to express her consent for marriage.
Sprawling naked on a bed with crumpled sheets, gazing at the onlooker, she is coquettish, almost carnal. The sleeping dog at her feet represents fidelity in marriage and two maids busy themselves in the background.
19. Medusa, Caravaggio (1597)
Hall 90 of the Uffizi Gallery brings us to the turn of the 17th Century and beyond the Renaissance.
Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) is best known for two things: his short and eventful personal life and his use of dramatic lighting effects – chiaroscuro – in his works of art.
Medusa is painted on canvas applied to a wooden shield and was commissioned by Cardinal del Monte, an agent for the Medici family in Rome. Caravaggio modelled the face of Medusa face on himself.
The painting represents that moment between life and death. Medusa, a female creature from Greek Mythology, has been decapitated by the mythical hero Perseus. But despite her decapitation, her mane of venomous snakes continues to writhe and she realises that she is hanging between life and death.
Her open mouth emits a silent scream of horror.
20. Bacchus, Caravaggio (1598)
The last in my list of famous paintings in the Uffizi is another artwork by Caravaggio. Baccus, the god of wine – my favourite god – invites you to join him in a glass of red. The boyish and languid figure of the god looks slightly inebriated.
It’s a masterful still life and was painted when Caravaggio was in Rome under the patronage of Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte. It is thought that the model for Bacchus might been Caravaggio’s pupil, Mario Minniti.
Buying Uffizi Gallery Tickets
For very good reasons, the Uffizi Gallery is wildly popular. Reports of epic queues to enter are not exaggerated.
I strongly recommend that you book your ticket for the Uffizi as soon as you confirm your dates in Florence.
The cheapest way of doing this is through the Uffizi’s official website here. You will be presented with two choices: a single ticket or a combination PassePartout ticket.
I bought the PassePartout ticket, which covers admission to the Uffizi as well as Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. It is valid for five consecutive days and is your best bet if you plan to visit all three of these places.
However, the gallery’s booking interface isn’t the slickest that you will come across.
If the official website shows no availability, try buying your ticket here. Although this is likely to be a more expensive option, the booking interface is clearer, and it comes with free cancellation within 24 hours of your visit.
Is the Firenze Card worth it?
Following its suspension in the wake of the Covid pandemic, the Firenze Card is back. In 2022, it costs €85 and is valid for 72 hours from the time of activation.
Like any city card, you will need to do the maths to figure out if it will be worth it for you, based on which Florence attractions you plan to visit.
Although it is valid for the Uffizi Gallery, pre-booking is obligatory and this can only be done by telephoning the Uffizi or in person once you have arrived in Florence. At the time of writing (October 2022), online reservation with the Firenze Card was not possible.
Guided tours of the Uffizi Galleries
If you want to learn more about the paintings in the Uffizi, a guided tour can be a good bet. There’s also an excellent chance of picking up some bonus tips about Florence from a local.
Here are a few options that are worth considering:
Uffizi Gallery Guided Tour | BOOK HERE
Choose between an affordable private tour or a two-hour / four-hour group tour. A skip-the-line ticket is part of the package.
Uffizi Gallery Skip-the-Line Audio Guided Tour with Host | BOOK HERE
If you want the best of all possible worlds, take a look at this affordable tour. It offers a pre-recorded commentary, a live guide and a timed entrance ticket.
Walking tour of Florence with guided visits to the Uffizi and Accademia Gallery | BOOK HERE
Get a lot of bang for your buck in this four-hour walking tour. It includes entry and a guided visit to the Uffizi and the Accademia Gallery in addition to exploring other Florence highlights.
Virtual Uffizi Tours
Did you know that you can enjoy and learn more about the paintings at the Uffizi Gallery from the comfort of your own sofa? Not only does this make the gallery’s artworks accessible to those who are unable to travel to Florence, but it is also a good way to do a little homework before your visit.
Here are a few sources to check out:
Google Arts & Culture – 156 works of art from the Uffizi’s collection accompanied by a brief explanation
Uffizi Hypervisions – this fabulous resource from the gallery offers thematic virtual tours, taking the form of online exhibitions
Uffizi online catalogue – the entire collection, digitalised and catalogued. In Italian only.
Final Tips for Visiting the Uffizi Gallery
You will be sharing the Uffizi Gallery paintings with many other visitors, regardless of the time of year you visit. That said, visitor numbers are regulated and once you are inside, there is no limit on how you spend there.
To avoid the worst of the crowds – and particularly large tour groups – aim to start your visit when the gallery opens at 8.15 am.
Although you can make a quick sweep of the Uffizi in a few hours, I recommend staying for 3 – 4 hours. It’s a large space and is brimming with art treasures.
To get the most out of your visit, come armed with a good guidebook or pick up an audio guide at the entrance. Trust me; it will make all the difference.
Photography is allowed but no flash and no selfie sticks.
Last but not least, don’t rush and don’t feel that you have to “do” every hall in the gallery. Focusing on a handful of famous paintings in the Uffizi will result in a far better experience.
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