By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
Get reservations for the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery — Florence's two top sights — 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. You'll present your confirmation number at the museum and pay cash for your ticket. Note that you pay nothing up front when you phone.
Using a credit card, you can reserve your Accademia or Uffizi visit online via the city's official site (€4/ticket reservation fee). To start, click on the gray "B-ticket" strip, and make sure you "Add" your ticket to the cart before you "Buy" it. 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 www.uffizi.com and www.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
When you make your hotel reservation, ask if they can book your museum reservations for you (some hoteliers will do this for free; others charge a €3–5 fee in addition to the reservation fee; they'll probably give you a confirmation number that you'll take to the museum, where you'll pay cash for your ticket).
Take a tour that includes your museum admission. For example, ArtViva Walking Tours 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 (€4 reservation fee, daily 10:00–17:00, along Via de' Calzaiuoli) or at the My Accademia Libreria bookstore across from the Accademia's exit (€4 reservation fee, 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), ask if they have any short-notice reservations available, and pay cash (€4 fee, Tue–Sun 8:15–18:35).