Visiting Florence - The Uffizi Queue

The long, long, long queue for the Uffizi Gallery
The long, long, long queue for the Uffizi Gallery

All the guidebooks will tell you the Uffizi Gallery is a "must see". But if you have only a few days in Florence, do your research before you decide whether the time it takes to get through the gallery's doors is really worth it.

On our last European holiday, we spent hours in the Louvre (in Paris ) and the Prado (in Madrid) and could easily have spent another day in either of them - but we were left wondering why we’d bothered to queue for nearly 3 hours to get into the Uffizi, because it was such a let-down. It's not that we’re philistines, by any means - my husband is a history buff with a special interest in Italian art, and even he was disappointed.

The Uffizi Queue

We were lucky on our visit, that the wait was "only" 3 hours!
We were lucky on our visit, that the wait was "only" 3 hours!

When you arrive outside the Uffizi, you'll see two queues. The shorter one is for people who have booked in advance, who naturally get priority - but that means they may still queue for an hour or so.

The other queue, for those who haven't booked in advance, is long - very, very long! The wait can be as long as 5 or 6 hours, especially at peak times of year. There's an indicator at the front of the queue, displaying an estimate of how long you can expect to wait - and it's usually pretty accurate.

Don't underestimate how tiring it is to stand in a queue, on concrete, for several hours - especially if you're in Florence in the middle of a hot Italian summer.

When you combine the long, tedious wait with the time it takes to tour the gallery, a visit to the Uffizi can wipe out a whole day. If your time in Florence is limited, you’ll have missed the chance to visit a wealth of other art galleries, museums and historical sites instead, many of them containing treasures just as precious as those in the Uffizi. Not to mention the fabulous shopping!

We were in Florence in April - not a busy time of year, because the weather is still cool - and yet we had a wait of 3 hours. By the time we got into the gallery, all we wanted to to do was head for their cafe so we could sit down and recover! Needless to say, when we got there, there wasn't a free table in sight, so we grabbed a drink and continued our tour of the gallery.

Low lighting in the Uffizi Gallery makes it hard to appreciate the artworks
Low lighting in the Uffizi Gallery makes it hard to appreciate the artworks

The Uffizi Gloom

Our tiredness may have affected our enjoyment of the Uffizi, but I don't believe that was the main reason for our disappointment.

There’s no denying the paintings in the Uffizi are masterpieces. The trouble is they’re so poorly presented, you’re not seeing them at their best. I expected to be blown away at the sight of an original Botticelli, but in fact most of the paintings looked muted and flat compared to the reproductions we’re all so familiar with.

Even famous paintings like this did not look their best
Even famous paintings like this did not look their best

I’d hate to think the paintings are deteriorating – I think it was just that the lighting was so dim. In some rooms, it was hard to make anything out in the pervading gloom! I know low lighting helps protect paintings, but surely they didn’t have to go that far - the Louvre and the Prado have plenty of natural light and the artworks positively glow. Those two galleries also have informative plaques beside their artworks, whereas the Uffizi provided almost nothing. Add to that the down-at-heel state of the building, and it wasn’t a place to linger.

I’d have to say that my visit to the Uffizi is easily my least favorite memory from what was otherwise an awesome visit to Florence.

Unless you can book in advance, my advice would be to give it a miss. In the time you spend queuing to see the Uffizi, you could visit at least two other galleries - and there are so many fantastic ones to choose from in Florence, you won't be disappointed!

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Photo credits: Queue indicator by author; queue photo by xiquihosilva, interior by Cebete, Florence vista by Bjorn Giesenbauer.

There's so much else to explore in Florence
There's so much else to explore in Florence

Comments 3 comments

Mike's Corner profile image

Mike's Corner 5 years ago from Maryland

I was in Venice a few years ago but didn't get the chance to see Florence . . . it's always been high on my must-see list, thanks for the hub!


theazorean profile image

theazorean 6 years ago from Florence, Italy

Ciao...I live in Florence and work as an art historian. I have done so many tours in the Uffizi that I have lost count (I am serious). Too bad you did not call ahead to reserve tickets! For a mere 3,00 euros, you could have saved yourself the long wait. The long lines are horrible- I know- but the museum is poorly run. I love Italy and I live the "dolce vita" every day, but I'm afraid they take that same attitude to work. I like your hubs and your writing style. Nice photos, too. Keep up the good work! Visit my hub if you get a chance and let me know what you think. A presto!


Plants and Oils profile image

Plants and Oils 7 years ago from England

I've only been there twice, both years ago when on family holidays to Tuscany. I think we were lucky - only a few minutes' queuing to get in! Very interesting article - stumbled.

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