The Galleria dell’Accademia offers one of the most important collections of ancient Italian painting, but the long queues of visitors are mostly for Michelangelo.
It is the second museum site in Italy after the Uffizi in terms of receipts, and this statistic can be easily explained: in its crowded spaces (1.7 million visitors in 2018!) the Galleria dell’Accademia displays the largest number in the world of sculptures by one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarroti, among which the very famous, beloved and admired David, which alone is able to mobilise long and patient queues at the entrance, all indifferent to the summer heat and winter cold.
For the birth of the Gallery we must thank Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who in 1784 organised the new Academy of Fine Arts on the premises of a fourteenth-century hospital and former convent, and gradually expanded it thanks to works recovered through the suppression of churches and ecclesiastical sites. But the key event for the history of the museum was undoubtedly the transfer, in 1873, of Michelangelo’s David from Piazza della Signoria (where a copy is now on display), and its subsequent siting in the specially designed Gallery.
Apart from David, today the rooms of the Gallery host various masterpieces by great Italian artists, such as Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto and others; the fascinating model for the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna, whose definitive work can be seen in the Loggia dei Lanzi; the most important collection of gold background paintings; and the Museum of Musical Instruments, where instruments by Stradivari and Bartolomeo Cristofori, inventor of the piano, are on display. In summary: the Gallery is a museum not to be missed, but if you prefer to avoid the crowds, take advantage of the summer evening openings and enjoy the David in total relaxation.