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By Laura Mongillo in Florence—
With so many must-see museums, churches and palaces, Florence is a treasure trove for art and history lovers. It’s almost impossible to visit them all in a lifetime, much less a weekend trip! How do you choose which museums are worth your time–and budget?
There are a few ways to skip the lines and minimize your admission fees. Here’s a quick overview:
Advance booking for the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia
For those who are only able to spend a few days (or less!) in Florence, you’ll certainly want to hit the city’s two most popular museums: the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David.
Lines at both museums are infamously long and unpredictable. However, you can save time by pre-booking your visits to both museums online through the Uffizi’s website. Booking ahead will cost an extra €4, but you’ll choose a time (offered in 15 minute intervals) and skip the line. (Tickets must be booked at least one day in advance.)
While this can save you a lot of time waiting in line, those extra €4 charges can add up (especially as the ticket prices tend to get inflated by additional “temporary exhibition” charges). Thus, you’ll have to decide if the extra price is worth it.
The Uffizi and Accademia are the only museums in Florence with horrible lines, so there’s no need to shell out the cash for reservations at any of the city’s other museums.
The new Florence museum card
Unfortunately, there are limited options for those wishing to visit many museums, or for those staying in town longer who’d like to visit the same museum multiple times (the several museums and gardens in the Palazzo Pitti, for example, could easily take a few days to visit).
The Florence tourism office has recently made a big fuss about the upcoming launch of the “Firenze Card”, its new 72-hour museum pass. It will grant access to 33 museums for €50, will let you skip the lines and will offer free public transport during its validity.
I think the card will be a step in the right direction and could definitely save money during a whirlwind visit. However, I find the €50 price tag a bit steep. Add it up: A trip to both the Uffizi and the Accademia will run a little under €30 (including reservations). Throw in a trip to Palazzo Pitti (Boboli gardens included) for €11.50 (combined ticket, valid three days), and the card still hasn’t paid for itself. Notable, the card doesn’t cover any churches (which often charge entrance fees).
The only way to figure out if the card is worth it is to plan which museums you’ll be visiting and add it all up. Who knows–it could work out for you.
Amici degli Uffizi card
The real saving grace however is the Amici degli Uffizi card, a friend to students, residents and tourists alike. When you become a “friend” (amici) of the Uffizi museums for a year, you receive a flimsy little card that grants free access to almost all the museums in Florence (including the Uffizi, Accademia, Pitti and many more). And yes, it also grants you the coveted “skipping-the-line” privileges.
“Amici” membership costs €60 for adults, €40 for youth (under 26) and €100 for families. I’ve found the pass to be very affordable and a real saver of time, money and worries. It’s easy to use; you just show your card and an ID to enter the museums. You can purchase membership online or in person at the office located within the Uffizi.
Is it worth it for your trip? That obviously depends upon your schedule and your cultural ambitions. Again, add it up. It could really pay off to become a “friend.”
Cheapest “Museum Visit”: Google Art Project
Finally, if you can’t afford the admission to the Uffizi’s or even the plane ticket to Italy, check out the Google Art Project which has a realistic (and crowd-free!) virtual tour of most rooms at the Uffizi.