The Uffizi - History and Facts | History Hit

The Uffizi

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

The Uffizi is Florence’s world famous art gallery and was originally intended as the offices of Duke Cosimo I dei Medici.

Image Credit: Songquan Deng / Shutterstock

About The Uffizi

The Uffizi, literally translated as “the offices” is Florence’s world famous art gallery and the creation of one of its most iconic figures, Duke Cosimo I dei Medici. Cosimo I was both the Duke of Florence and, from 1569, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was the first ever holder of this latter title.

History of the Uffizi

The Uffizi was originally built from 1560 to 1580 to house the offices – hence the name – of Florence’s administration and judicial sectors. Initially designed and built by Giorgio Vasari, the Uffizi was continued by Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti. This occurred when Vasari, and also Cosimo I, died in 1574.

Cosimo I’s successor was his son, Francesco I, who first decided to use the Uffizi as an art gallery, an endeavour further undertaken by Francesco I’s brother and successor Ferdinando I and continued today. The Uffizi’s collection were bequeathed to the gallery by the Medici family in 1743 on the condition that it never left Florence. The gallery has been open to visitors since the 16th century, but only formally became a museum in 1865.

The collections now held at the Uffizi include artwork from the Gothic and Renaissance eras by some of the world’s most prominent artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Titian, Carravagio and Giotto. There is also one of the world’s leading collections of works by Botticelli, including his most famous piece, The Birth of Venus. 

The Uffizi is part of the Historic Florence UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Uffizi today

The Uffizi is one of Florence’s most visited sites, welcoming over 2 million visitors a year. It’s advisable to book your tickets online well in advance, or face queues of up to 5 hours on a bad day to get in.

With over 13,000 square metres of gallery space, the Uffizi can feel a little overwhelming inside too. It’s worth plotting out what you’re most interested in seeing before you get there as after 3 or 4 hours, chances are you’ll want a sit down and a breather, without any Italian masters in sight. The second floor has the ‘highlights’ on, but there’s infinitely more to explore than just this. There’s a gorgeous (if expensive) café on the roof with excellent views of the city which is well worth visiting.

Getting to the Uffizi

Nestled in the heart of Florence, you’ll walk past the Uffizi (and its queues) even if you’re not meaning to. The Uffizi backs on to the River Arno and the Ponte Vecchio, and lies just south of the Piazza della Signoria. Florence is a city best explored on foot (or by motorbike) so don’t even think about other methods of transport to get here!