Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Florence Museum Cards :: Florence Museum Passes

Visitors to Florence might want to consider buying a Florence museum pass if they're planning an intensive immersion in Florentine art during their stay. The idea is partly to save money but, more importantly, to not have to join the sometimes long queues outside popular museums. A pass allows you to bypass these queues. There are now two museum passes available - see below.

 Amici degli Uffizi

As of 15 June 2015, the Amici degli Uffizi card gets you into the Uffizi Galleries only. It is valid until the end of the year in which you buy it. You can pick up your Amici degli Uffizi pass at the welcome desk at the Uffizi - don't forget to bring a passport-sized photo for each person to be included. This is a distinct downgrade from the previous rules which allowed entry into numerous other museums and, in my opinion, makes this card useful only for individuals who plan to visit the Uffizi intensively, perhaps throughout the year.

Individual: valid for one adult cost 60 euro.
Family: two adults and two children up to 18 years of age costs 100 euros.
Young people: up to 26 years of age costs 40 euros.

Firenze Card

The Florentine mayor's office announced a new type of museum card, the Florence Museum Card, known as the Firenze Card, that is now available. National and Florentine municipal museums are all included and the pass costs 72 euros for 3 days (72 hours) (tourist pass).

The Firenze Card is valid for 72 hours from the moment of its first use in a museum or on city public transportation. So, for example, if you use it for the first time at 3pm on a Tuesday, you'll be able to enter the museums until 3pm of the following Friday.

The Florence Museum Card provides entry into at least 33 museums, reservations included. The museums are the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Pitti Palace - Boboli Gardens, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Museo Archeologico, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Stibbert, Horne, Bardini, Cappella Brancacci, Alinari Photo Museum and others. Private and other museums are still in negotiation.

However, although 33 is a lot of museums, not all are included. Note that the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, for example, does NOT participate in this programme.

The Firenze Card allows you to enter the Uffizi even when there are no time slots left on the official booking site. Waiting time at the "reserved" queue of the Uffizi will probably be not more than 10 min and sometimes no waiting at all, compared with an hour or more on the open queue at popular times of day. That means the card is essentially as good as having reserved a particular timespot on-line - better, actually, since you don't have to show up at a particular time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: you must obtain separate tickets (free, of course) to climb the cupola of the Duomo (Cathedral), to enter the Baptistry and to enter the associated Museum. You do this by presenting your Firenze card at the appropriate ticket counters BEFORE lining up to enter any of these three venues. Tickets for the Baptistry and Museum can be obtained inside the museum.

The Firenze card allows you to use public ATAF city buses free. There seems to be some confusion on this issue, even among some drivers, Nevertheless, the Firenze card is good for ATAF city buses during its period of validity. It CANNOT be used on the Hop-on Hop-off (HoHo) tourist buses which are run by a private company.

Note that children who under 18 enter free when accompanied by an adult cardholder ONLY if they are citizens of the EU. IMPORTANT STOP PRESS: ask about this if you are non-EU. There has been a confusing news release stating that all STATE-OWNED museums now have free entry to all under 18's. This will sooner or later become law and it seems to apply now to many STATE-OWNED museums. Bring passports to establish age.

Note also that an ordinary ticket and a Firenze card allow you to enter any given museum once only. With the Amici degli Uffizi card you can enter as often as you wish.

The Firenze Card can be bought online - click the link Firenze Card. Some local sales points do not accept credit cards, but the information opposite SMN railway station, for example, does accept credit cards.

It will be important for you to do your arithmetic. For example, for a family of four, the Amici degli Uffizi pass costs 100 euros and is good until 31 December of the year you buy it. The Museum Card, good for three days, will cost 288 euros for the same family but gets you into a great many more museums and galleries. And of course it can save you hours because you skip the queues at ticket offices.

By the way, the OFFICIAL website for the Bargello, the Uffizi and other museums in Florence is: http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/en/

And the OFFICIAL website for buying tickets is: www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/Uffizi/default.aspx

There are a number of other websites with official-sounding names and domain names that are agencies charging exorbitant prices for tickets, reservations and other services.

Firenze Card can be purchased in the following sales points in Florence:
  • Tourist Info Point, Piazza Stazione 4 - From Monday to Saturday 8.30 am - 7.00 pm; Sunday 9.00 am - 2.00 pm. Closed on 1 January, 1 May, 25 December.
  • Tourist Info Point, Via Cavour 1 red - From Monday to Saturday 8.30 am - 6.30 pm. Closed Sundays and holidays.
  • Museo di Palazzo Vecchio Info Point, Piazza della Signoria - From Monday to Sunday 9.00 am - 11.00 pm - Thursday and midweek holidays 9.00 am - 1.00 pm
  • Palazzo Pitti, Piazza Pitti 1 - From Tuesday to Sunday 8.15 am - 6.20 pm - Closed on Monday; 1 January, 1 May, 25 December.
  • Museo del Bargello, Via del Proconsolo 4 - Every day  8.15 am - 4.20 pm - Closed on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday and 2nd and 4th Monday of each month
  • Uffizi Gallery, Piazzale degli Uffizi - Tel. +39 (0)55 290249 - From Wednesday to Sunday 8.15am - 6.20pm; on Tuesday 8.15 am - 9.30 pm - Closed Monday, 1 January, 1 May, 25 December.

And, finally, many museums offer free entry for everyone on the last Tuesday of the month.



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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Giro d'Italia 2016 - News and Updates for Giro d'Italia 2016

The stages for this year's big cycling race, the Giro d'Italia 2016 are shown on the map below. This bicycle race generates huge excitement in Italy and if you'll be spending your vacation near any of the stages it will be well worth watching.

For those of you who are coming specifically to enjoy Giro d'Italia 2016, I've put some links below for accommodation near Stage 9, Radda in Chianti to Greve in Chianti. That's one of the most scenic stages and also a hilly one which promises plenty of exciting position changes in the pack. It will be important to book your lodgings early.

Giro d'Italia 2016
The stages for Giro d'Italia 2016.
1    Friday, May 6    9.8 km
    Apeldoorn (NL) → Apeldoorn (NL)

2    Saturday, May 7    190 km
    Arnhem (NL) → Nijmegen (NL)

3    Sunday, May 8    189 km
    Nijmegen (NL) → Arnhem (NL)

R    Monday, May 9   
    Rest day

4    Tuesday, May 10    191 km
    Catanzaro → Praia a Mare

5    Wednesday, May 11    233 km
    Praia a Mare → Benevento

6    Thursday, May 12    165 km
    Ponte → Roccaraso

7    Friday, May 13    210 km
    Sulmona → Foligno

8    Saturday, May 14    169 km
    Foligno → Arezzo

9    Sunday, May 15    40.4 km
    Radda in Chianti → Greve in Chianti


R    Monday, May 16   
    Rest day

10    Tuesday, May 17    216 km
    Campi Bisenzio → Sestola

11    Wednesday, May 18    212 km
    Modena → Asolo

12    Thursday, May 19    168 km
    Noale → Bibione

13    Friday, May 20    161 km
    Palmanova → Cividale del Friuli

14    Saturday, May 21    210 km
    Alpago → Corvara

15    Sunday, May 22    10.8 km
    Castelrotto → Alpe di Siusi

R    Monday, May 23   
    Rest day

16    Tuesday, May 24    133 km
    Bressanone Brixen → Andalo

17    Wednesday, May 25    196 km
    Molveno → Cassano d'Adda

18    Thursday, May 26    234 km
    Muggiò → Pinerolo

19    Friday, May 27    161 km
    Pinerolo → Risoul

20    Saturday, May 28    134 km
    Guillestre → Sant'Anna di Vinadio

21    Sunday, May 29    150 km
    Cuneo → Torino

Total Distance    3383

cyclists giro d'italia 2016

Inexpensive accommodation along route 9 of the Giro d'Italia 2016:










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Monday, 14 March 2016

How to visit the Vasari Corridor in Florence

Update 15 March 2016: Tours of the Vasari Corridor.

Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Gallery, plans to introduce a moderately priced Vasari Corridor ticket (separate from admission to the Uffizi Gallery). He emphasizes that this will give visitors an “opportunity, not an obligation” to explore the corridor. Right now we have no date for when this will be implemented but as soon as we know we will post the details here.

One disappointing aspect is that the many excellent self-portraits currently hanging in the Vasari Corridor will be removed because it won't be possible to climate control the corridor suitable for paintings on canvas and wood.


The Vasari Corridor from above
The Vasari Corridor from above

Update 14 May 2014: Tours of the Vasari Corridor.


Tours are now again offered by the company that handles ticketing etc. for many museums in Florence and elsewhere, namely Opera Laboratori Fiorentini Spa. The most recent information that we have from them is that a tour can be arranged for a maximum of ten people for € 363 plus a reservation fee of € 4 per person and an Uffizi entry fee of € 6.50 per person. The contact email is: vasariano@operalaboratori.com .

Update 3 February 2014: Inexpensive tours of the Vasari Corridor during February, March and April 2014.


The Uffizi Gallery is offering a range of guided tours of the Vasari Corridor (included in the price of admission to the museum, plus the reservation fee) from 7 February to 30 April 2014. The tours will be held on Wednesdays (14:30 and 15), Thursday (at 10:30 and 11) and Friday (14.30 and 15) meeting at the entrance to the Vasari corridor (in the Uffizi). For each visit a maximum of 25 persons will be allowed and the expected duration is 75 minutes.

Update 30 September 2013: The Vasari Corridor in Florence is once again accessible to the public.


The Vasari Corridor has re-opened to the public after a period of re-organisation of the pictures. There are now 127 self-portraits by Italian and foreign artists from the Uffizi archives on display there. As I described previously, it was the self-portraits that remained most in my mind among the pictures that I saw when I toured the corridor. Visitors will see more recent works such as the famous "Afternoon in Fiesole" by Baccio Maria Bacci and "The Autocaffè" by Giacomo Balla up to the astonishing and provocative self-portrait of Rauschenberg, a skeletal structure made ​​with X-rays. In addition, there are works by De Chirico, Marino Marini, Vedova, Pistoletto, Paladin, Clemente and Paolini, plus non-Italian artists, among them Böcklin, Denis, Chagall and Siqueiros. This new display is likely to make the art in the Vasari Corridor as interesting as the Corridor itself. Here is the current information on how to visit the Vasari Corridor in Florence.

New reservation arrangements:

Currently, there appear to be no shared tours being managed by the Uffizi itself which means you must either use an agency that assembles groups or get together your own group of 10-15 or more and make your own reservation. Obviously, the latter option is going to be the most economical. (See the note at the top of the post.)

You can then make a request for a visit by email to vasariano@operalaboratori.com. For more information on how to access the Vasari Corridor, you can call the telephone number +39 055 290383, available Monday to Friday 8.30 to 18.30 and on Saturdays from 8.30 to 12.30.


This was my review from 2010.

Yesterday (14 October 2010) I visited the Vasari Corridor for the first time and I would like to pass on some tips about how to visit the Vasari corridor in Florence. The Vasari Corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. It begins on the south side of the Palazzo Vecchio and then joins the Uffizi Gallery where the tour begins. It crosses the Lungarno dei Archibusieri and then, following the north bank of the Arno, it crosses the Ponte Vecchio. The corridor covers up part of the façade of the Church of Santa Felicità. The corridor then snakes its way over rows of houses in the Oltrarno district, becoming narrower, finally to join the Palazzo Pitti. It was designed by Vasari - hence the name - and completed in 1564 in the astonishingly short period of 20 months.


Small groups (max. 25 persons) are conducted through the Vasari Corridor from the Uffizi and reservations several weeks in advance are essential. Make your reservation directly with the Uffizi by phone - this is simpler and MUCH less expensive that booking through the various agencies that make this offer. Phone the booking office at +39 055 2388651. I was surprised to discover that they included 3 hours in the Uffizi itself in the ticket. I picked up my ticket at 8.50 am, wandered the Uffizi and then started the corridor tour at 11.30. It cost 16 euro.

IMPORTANT: please see the new booking arrangements at the top of this post.


The official website for the Uffizi tickets is http://www.firenzemusei.it/ - once again note that many other official-looking web sites offer Uffizi tickets at enormous markups.

Vasari corridor Uffizi Florence
Interior of the Vasari Corridor in Florence
The corridor is lined with paintings, the more interesting ones being an amazing series of self-portaits by famous and not so famous artists, including a surprising number of the Pre-Raphaelites - for example, a very fine self-portrait of William Holman Hunt. The corridor had a doorway and still has a window opening into a balcony high up in the church of Santa Felicita so that the Medici family could attend mass privately, without being seen or subject to attack. No photography of the corridor itself is allowed, but you can take pictures through the windows. The especially large windows overlooking the Ponte Vecchio were specially created for a visit by Mussolini in the late 30's. Part of the corridor snakes around the Torre Mannelli which belonged to the only family that Cosimo I was unable to buy out. Instead of building through the tower, Vasari built around it using a system of supporting brackets. Cosimo was quite sanguine about this - every man is king in his own house, he reportedly observed. The meat market on Ponte Vecchio was moved to avoid its smell permeating the passage, its place being taken by the goldsmith shops that still occupy the bridge.

More about the Vasari Corridor in the 19th and 20th centuries.

More about what to see and do in Florence.

More about Florence Museum Cards and Florence Museum Passes.




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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Best way to buy Euros in Italy

For American and other visitors to Italy, the most convenient and least expensive way to buy euros is to use a debit card at an ATM (called a "Banc-o-Mat" in Italy). This is also where you will obtain the best rate of exchange. You can withdraw a certain maximum of Euros per withdrawal or per day (determine this before you leave, although it depends both on your bank and the ATM) and your bank will charge a per withdrawal ATM fee from as low as $0.75 up to $5.00 or more, depending on your bank. Some debit cards do not charge fees for international transactions, while most Visa cards and Mastercards charge a 3% transaction fee per withdrawal. Ask about these fees before departure so that you know whether to withdraw a maximum amount infrequently or smaller amounts as needed.

Best way to obtain euros in Italy
Capital One is reputed to be the only major company to not add on a foreign transaction fee. Almost all other Visa/Mastercards have a total of 3% foreign transaction fees.

It's always a good idea to obtain, say, € 200 in small notes before you leave, so that you don't have to look for an ATM as soon as you arrive.

Try not to use ATMs in large railway stations and crowded places to avoid the problem of pickpockets.

Traveler's Cheques are no longer in common use in Europe. Hardly any shop or hotel will accept them and most banks refuse to take them because of redemption problems.

DO NOT use currency exchange offices ("Cambio"). Although somewhat regulated, these places charge huge fees. Up to 20% is not unheard of. If you must exchange bank notes, it's by far best to use a bank.

Be sure to let your bank and/or credit card company know that you will be traveling in Europe, (destinations and time periods) so that the anti-fraud protection software does not block your use of the card in Europe.



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