Ideally you’d have a whole day to appreciate the world’s foremost collection of Renaissance paintings, housed in the 16th-century headquarters of the Medici court. But for those with less time, highlights include the three great Maestà altarpieces in Room 2, Gentile da Fabriano’s glowing Adoration of the Magi (Rooms 5 and 6), Piero della Francesca’s Duke and Duchess of Urbino (Room 7), Fra Filippo Lippi’s ethereal Madonna and Child with Two Angels (Room 8), and the celebrated Botticellis in Rooms 10 to 14. Advance booking is advised.

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Mesmerized by the music of Piotr Tomaszewski

I was walking around taking photos at the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, while waiting for my friend. As the evening draws near, I found myself enjoying the sculptures inside the Loggia dei Lanzi, which I was not able to visit in detail the last time I was in Florence. I could not forget the statue of Perseus, which amazed my nephew during our previous trip. He couldn’t believe his eyes as he realized he was standing there with the statue in front of him, which he would only read about in books :-) Then suddenly, whilst lost in my thoughts, I heard beautiful classical music playing. I looked around and noticed this guy playing live with his guitar at open intersection just to the side of the Loggia dei Lanzi going towards the direction of the walkway outside the famous Uffizi Gallery. His music “mesmerized” me! I sat along with a few other people to enjoy the music and the warm ambiance around. The mood was romantic, it was dreamy, it was inspiring, it was passionate, it was relaxing... it gave me goose bumps! I would have sat there for hours if not for the rain that fell. I quickly went and got one of his CDs titled Los Colores de la Guitarra, which I still play from time to time, reminiscing that unforgettable moment. I later learned that he is a Polish classical guitarist who have won several awards and travels around Europe and US to perform. He currently performs in the streets of Florence, usually near the Uffizi Gallery, where I saw him play.

Hallowed Halls of the Uffizi

My mother is a classical artist and for more than 30 years I’ve been inundated with images of paintings by the greats like Raphael, DaVinci, Botticelli, and Caravaggio. So walking the hallowed halls of one of the greatest collections of art in the world, the Uffizi in Florence, has always been on my bucket list. No trip to Tuscany would have been complete without it. Luckily, it lives up to the hype and then some. Though the Uffizi isn’t as large as the Louvre in Paris or the MET in New York City -- what it lacks in size, it makes up for in quality. The best of Italian art, both on canvas and sculpted in marble, is on display in a space that is historical, classical and also modern thanks to a newer addition. Visit Uffizi with ‘Walks of Italy’ and you can avoid the excruciatingly long queue that can form for entrance. You’ll also get an insider’s understanding of a gallery that’s been around since 1591.

A dip into one of the world's greatest art galleries

A full tour of the magnificent Uffizi Gallery, housed in what were once the administrative offices of the Medici family, is a major undertaking which requires a minimum of half a day and a lot of energy. However, if you pinpoint a few ‘unmissable’ paintings, you can be in and out in an hour or so and still be blown away. My personal ‘don’t-miss’ list includes: The three ‘Maestàs’ by Giotto, Cimabue and Duccio (Room2); Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi and other glowing 14th and 15th century paintings from the Sienese school (Rooms 3,5 & 6); Masolino and Masaccio ( Room 7); the cream of the crop, the iconic Botticellis in Room 10.

A Secret Corridor Is Opened

The masterpieces of Italian art are, of course, known all around the world. If you didn’t realize that already, you will when you visit the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City and are herded through with thousands of others. On the Ultimate Italy trip from Luxury Gold, you will have early hours access, but it’s another exclusive access opportunity that Claire is most excited about. “The Vasari Corridor is closed to the general public, but our guests get to see it,” Claire explains. “It links the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and allowed the Medicis to admire their art and then return to the Palazzo Pitti without descending to the street.” She says it is experiences like this that impress even the most sophisticated travelers. “The corridor contains some 10,000 pieces of art, and the tour of it proves to be a highlight for many of our guests who know all about the history of the Renaissance and find it amazing to walk in the footsteps of Lorenzo d’Medici.”

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