Michelangelo Buonarroti was one of the greatest artists in history. Masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Pietà, or Michelangelo’s David, are part of the immense artistic heritage of Italy.
How to see Michelangelo’s David
David’s perfect body and its serious gaze are famous all over the world. In Florence, the dream of millions of people to admire Michelangelo’s David in person becomes reality.
To know more about the Genius behind this wonder, go deeper into his life, the best way is to take part in a Michelangelo Tour in Florence.
Honestly, I am not a fan of guided tours. But I admit that visiting a city of art like Florence with an expert guide is a completely different and full experience.
After more than thirty years, I had the desire to see Michelangelo’s David again. Instead of going straight to the Galleria dell’Accademia, house of the masterpiece, I booked a guided tour dedicated to the entire life of Michelangelo. I chose the proposal made by Context Tour and Travel.
Michelangelo Tour in Florence: the experience with Context
The tour lasts approx four hours leading us to discover three important places in Michelangelo’s life: Casa Buonarroti, Bargello Museum, and obviously the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Helene was our tour guide. She is a great connoisseur of the beauties of Florence. With enthusiasm and competence, she led our group of five that included me and two nice couples from the US. Michelangelo the Genius and its troubled life deserves to be told and listened to with the greatest care and attention.
The small number of participants is one of the strong points of Context tours. It is easier to find a good feeling between visitors and tour leaders and to enjoy the visit at its best.
The price of the tour includes the guide and the entrance ticket to the Accademia Gallery. Instead, it does not include the entrance tickets to Casa Buonarroti and Bargello Museum.
Considering that they are two unmissable steps of the tour, it would be easier to get an all-inclusive price. However, the tour is excellent and I highly recommend it.
The Casa Buonarroti
The first stop is at the Casa Buonarroti. Michelangelo bought the house in 1508. Despite an unfortunate childhood he always took care of his family, especially of his nephew Leonardo. The son of his younger brother Buonarroto was the only hope of the continuation of the lineage of the Buonarroti. A few years ago, the house was turned into a museum that collects interesting sketches and various sculptures made by the artist.
Michelangelo was born on the 4th March 1475 in the small village of Caprese, in the area of Arezzo in Tuscany. A few days after his birth, he was given to a couple of wet nurses: the daughter and the wife of a stonecutter from Settignano, a village close to Florence. Here, he grew up in a house where marble dust was everywhere. He enjoyed saying that being fed milk and marble since he was a child, gave him immense talent.
The first artworks of the Artist
Visiting Buonarroti’s House you have the chance to see the first two masterpieces made by the young Michelangelo. At that time, in 1491 and 1492, he studied at the Academy of Art of Lorenzo Il Magnifico. He was only sixteen when he made the Madonna of the Stairs and seventeen when he carved the Battle of Centaurs.
The works will leave you speechless. Even more, listening to the stories behind every little detail: the perfect perspective, the sweet waves of Madonna’s vest, the sinuous shape of human bodies in the battle of the centaurs. All those elements made us breathless. Michelangelo shows for the first time his special gift to the world. A talent that, through his masterpieces, will last forever.
Other few things grabbed my attention during the visit. One of the rooms hosts the original wooden model of the façade of San Lorenzo church in Florence. The work, commissioned by Pope Leone X, unfortunately, was never completed.
Admiring some frescoes on the ceilings, we also discovered that Michelangelo used to mark the marble blocks chosen for the sculpt with three interlaced rings. The rings were the symbol of his three fav arts: sculpture, painting, and architecture.
Casa Buonarroti is definitely an off-the-beaten-path place in Florence. To know other unusual things to do in Florence, click here.
More curiosities about Michelangelo
- In the past, artisans used to ask for money from aspiring artists to learn the tricks of the trade. Instead, thanks to his immense skills, Michelangelo was the first young artist that his master, the Ghirlandaio, decided to pay during his early experience in the Bottega.
- Michelangelo was a capricious and overbearing Tuscan, aware of his artistic greatness. Such a rude personality that he used to make fun of the less talented classmates. At least since the day that a muscle adolescent called Torrigiano dei Torregiani lost his patience and punched him breaking his nose.
- Michelangelo went to Rome for the first time because of a scam. Through a Milanese intermediary, he sold to Cardinal Riario one of his sculptures passing off as a classic original at a very high price. The Cardinal discovered the scam. Instead of denouncing him, he met him, and they started a fruitful collaboration.
- As a profoundly religious man, he faced his presumed homosexuality with great difficulty. During the Renaissance, although widely tolerated, the law punished homosexuality with the stake. The guilt for his sexuality tormented Michelangelo for his entire life. He never got married but he had two platonic loves: one with Tommaso Cavaliere, the other with the poetess Vittoria Colonna.
- He died in Rome on the 18th of February 1564 in good shape at the age of 88, but he is buried in Florence in the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Michelangelo Tour in Florence: The Bargello Museum
After a short break to the lovely Pasticceria of Finisterrae in Piazza Santa Croce, we kept walking up to the next step of the Michelangelo Tour in Florence: the Museum of Bargello.
As soon as you enter the courtyard of the museum, you will be amazed by the beauty all around. During 1300 and 1400 this place was the court of law and the prison.
Thanks to excellent conservation and renovation work this creepy Medieval-era building where a court put criminals to death has been turned into a museum. Starting from 1865, it hosts one of the biggest collections of Renaissance statues.
Under the arcades, dozens of coats of arms belonged to old families of the Italian Middle Age cover the wall. These were the families of the Podestà who was a kind of city major and of the Bargello who was the chief of the police.
A large brick staircase in Gothic style brings you to the upper floor where elegant rooms full of Renaissance treasures replaced the cells of the old jail.
The Bargello is a real chest of treasures. During the tour, we had the chance to admire the amazing artworks of other famous artists of the Renaissance as Verrocchio and Donatello which influenced Michelangelo’s creativity.
The Statue of Donatello’s David
The guide showed us a collection of marble half busts of the members of the Medici family before heading to the magnificent Donatello Hall. Here, between the many Renaissance statues, including different versions of David, the bronze statue of the well-known Donatello’s David stands in all its perfection.
The statue has the characters of the biblical hero, as the head of Goliath at his feet and the sword. Those features represent the civic virtues and the triumph of the intellect against strength and irrationality.
The young and proud David is naked, apart from the unusual pointed hat and the winged shoes. They represent God Mercury, the god of commerce who is the main activity of the Medici family that commissioned the statue.
We go back to Buonarroti’s world only in the last room, dedicated to Michelangelo and to the sculpture of 1500. As soon as we get in, I immediately recognized the inebriated face of the Bacchus. We sat on the bench next to the young God to observe him and listen to what Helen had to tell about him.
As its name says, the statue evokes the pagan myth of Bacchus. Cardinal Riario, the person that Michelangelo scammed, commissioned the realization of the work.
The drunken God holds a goblet of wine in his right hand. With the left hand, he holds grapes that a little satyr next to him is trying to taste. The details of the satyr were so realistic that the artwork was widely appreciated by the artists of that time. With the same left hand, he also carries the skin of a tiger (or leopard), Bacchus’s favorite animals, to symbolize the liberation of the soul from the human earthly condition.
Where is Michelangelo’s David? The Galleria dell’ Accademia
The last stage of the tour was the most anticipated. At the end of the main corridor of the Galleria dell’ Accademia I would have seen David again.
There are long lines outside the Academy to get in. Thousands of people, every day, eagerly await the moment when they finally meet the magnum opus. While David awaits the clash with Goliath with a proud gaze and a stone in his hand, bewitched visitors stare at its endless beauty.
Get a skip-the-line ticket to see Michelangelo David
The Context guided tour included the skip-the-line ticket. But we still had to wait approximately thirty minutes before getting it. For our group, it wasn’t a waste of time. Instead, the moment was good to socialize and get to know each other better. The opportunity to know new people is another advantage I love of taking a guided tour.
So, even if you visit the Academy independently, I recommend buying a skip the line ticket to reduce waiting times. You will have more time to spend with Michelangelo’s David.
Fun Facts about Michelangelo David Statue
Michelangelo’s masterpiece is not only one of the most famous sculptures of the world. The David has a deeper meaning for the Florentines.
The Republic of Florence commissioned the creation of Michelangelo’s David statue in 1501. The realization lasted 3 years. The talented sculptor started his job from a damaged block of precious Carrara marble that nobody wanted to use. How curious that such a great figure came out from a second-hand marble block. Thanks, Michelangelo!
Originally, the roofline of the east wings of the Dome of Florence was the location for the statue of Michelangelo’s David. Nevertheless, Florentines immediately realized that David was a chef-d’oeuvre of unique beauty. So, they decided to change the place to the artwork that was installed just outside the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the government of the city.
There was only one person in Florence adverse to show Michelangelo’s David to the people in the Piazza della Signoria. He was another great artist of the Tuscan Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci. Probably you did not know that there was no love lost between Leonardo and Michelangelo!
Over the years the masterpiece has undergone several restorations but its original matrix is still intact. The visual experience is extraordinary. It immediately recalls the role of David as the brave leader and the defender of his people. This is the reason why the handsome hero became the symbol of Firenze. And by the time, an endless icon of beauty and perfection.
Where to eat in Florence after meeting Michelangelo’s David
I am sure that at the end of the tour you will be starving. You can try to get one of the famous super focacce at the Antico Vinaio. You find it in Via dei Neri, a few steps from the Piazza della Signoria. Consider that there is always to wait in line for a long time. Your patience will surely be rewarded.
If you don’t want to waste too much time in queue, I suggest the Schiacciavino, just outside Piazza Santa Croce. When I go to Florence and I crave a Schiacciata with cold cuts, cheese, and a glass of red wine, I go for it.
A good alternative, especially if you want to take a seat, is to cross the river and get to Oltrarno Area. The Piazza Santo Spirito offers many choices between small restaurants. This is definitely one of my fav places, out of the big crowd but still in the heart of the town.
When in Florence, if you plan to see Michelangelo’s David in real, consider the opportunity to take a guided tour dedicated to the entire life of the artist. It is more interesting than a simple visit to the Accademia and you will learn more about Divine One and his immense talent.