By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
If you don’t get a Firenze Card, and don’t plan to book a private guide, it’s smart to make reservations at the often-crowded Accademia and Uffizi Gallery. Some other Florence sights — including the Bargello, Medici Chapels, and Pitti Palace — have reservation systems, but it’s not essential to book ahead for these. The Brancacci Chapel officially requires a reservation, but it’s usually possible to walk right in and get an entry time on weekdays or any day off-season, especially before 15:30.
Get reservations for the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery as soon as you know when you’ll be in town. You can generally get an entry time for the Accademia a few days before your visit, but reserve for the Uffizi well in advance. Without a reservation at the Accademia and Uffizi, you can usually enter without significant lines from November through March after 16:00. But from April through October and on weekends, it can be crowded even late in the day. Any time of year, I’d consider reserving a spot.
There are several ways to make a reservation:
For either sight, reserve by phone before you leave the States (from the US, dial 011-39-055-294-883, or within Italy call 055-294-883; €4/ticket reservation fee; booking office open Mon–Fri 8:30–18:30, Sat 8:30–12:30, closed Sun). The reservation line is often busy. Be persistent. When you get through, an English-speaking operator walks you through the process — a few minutes later you say grazie, having secured an entry time and a confirmation number. Ten minutes before the appointed time, you’ll present your confirmation number at the museum and pay cash for your ticket.
Using a credit card, you can reserve your Accademia or Uffizi visit online via the city’s official site (€4/ticket reservation fee — click on the gray “B-ticket” strip). You’ll receive an immediate confirmation email, which is followed within three days by a voucher. Bring your voucher to the ticket desk to swap for an actual ticket.
Pricey middleman sites — such as uffizi.com and tickitaly.com — are reliable and more user-friendly than the official site, but their booking fees run about €10 per ticket (proceed carefully when ordering from these broker sites — it’s easy to confuse Florence’s Accademia with Venice’s gallery of the same name).
Through Your Hotel
Some hoteliers are willing to book museum reservations for their guests (ask when you reserve your room); some offer this as a service, while others charge a small booking fee.
This three-day sightseeing pass gives you admission to many of Florence’s sights, including the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia. Just as important, it lets you skip the ticket-buying lines without making reservations.
With the card, you simply go to the entrance at a covered sight (look for the Firenze Card logo), show the card, and they let you in (though there still may be short delays at popular sights with bottleneck entryways or capacity limits). At some sights, you must first present your card at the ticket booth or information desk to get a physical ticket before proceeding to the entrance.
The Firenze Card costs €72 and is valid for 72 hours from when you validate it at your first museum (e.g., Tue at 15:00 until Fri at 15:00). Validate your card only when you’re ready to tackle the covered sights on three consecutive days. Make sure the sights you want to visit will be open (many sights are closed Sun or Mon). It covers the regular admission price as well as any special-exhibit surcharges, and is good for one visit per sight. It also gives you free use of Florence city buses.
To figure out if the card is a good deal for you, tally up the entry fees for what you want to see. If you’re particularly ambitious and enter all the most popular sights within three days (the Uffizi, Accademia, Palazzo Vecchio, Bargello, Medici Chapels, Museum of San Marco, Duomo-related sights, and the Pitti Palace sights) the Firenze Card will (just barely) pay for itself. If you see fewer sights, the card will cost you more than individual admissions (but will still save you time). The Firenze Card also covers a long list of minor sights that you might enjoy popping into, but wouldn’t otherwise pay for.
Many outlets around town sell the card (including the tourist information officies at the train station and at Via Cavour 1 red); if you decide to get one, there’s no need to buy it in advance (but do see my guidebook for tips on where lines are shortest).
The Firenze Card is not shareable, and there are no family or senior discounts for Americans or Canadians. Children under 18 are allowed free into any state museum. However, at the Uffizi and Accademia, if they want to skip the lines with their Firenze Card-holding parents, children still must (technically) pay the €4 “reservation fee” (which can be paid on the spot--no need to reserve ahead). However, in practice, enforcement of this policy seems to vary.
Various tour companies sell tours that include a reserved museum admission. For example, ArtViva offers tours of the Uffizi, Accademia, and both museums.
If you arrive without a reservation, call the reservation number (see “By Phone,” above); ask your hotelier for help; or head to a booking window, either at Orsanmichele Church (daily 9:00–16:00, along Via de’ Calzaiuoli) or at the My Accademia Libreria bookstore across from the Accademia’s exit (Tue–Sun 8:15–17:30, closed Mon, Via Ricasoli 105 red). It’s also possible to go to the Uffizi’s official ticket office (use door #2 and skirt to the left of the long ticket-buying line — go ahead, you can really do this), ask if they have any short-notice reservations available, and pay cash. Any of these options will cost you the €4 reservation fee. Because the museums are closed on Mondays, the hardest day to snare a last-minute, same-day reservation is Tuesday — get an early start.
Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany guidebook.