Bargello Museum

Bargello courtyard
Bargello courtyard

I visited the Bargello Museum in Florence principally because the Italy guidebook I had with me on my iPad and iPhone, Rick Steves Italy, claimed that it was underrated. Considering that I hadn’t previously heard about the museum or seen any ratings of it, I can’t say whether Rick Steves was right about that. If other people’s ratings were along the lines of, “ten stars out of five; far and away the very best attraction in the world; a visit will be the most thrilling thing anyone could possibly do in his or her lifetime,” then i’d say it was grossly overrated, not underrated. On the other hand, if the ratings were along the lines of, “visit Bargello Museum only if you are an acute masochist of the highest degree; far worse than the vilest description of hell you could possibly imagine; or the worst attraction in the world, by far,” then I would say that it was, indeed, underrated and very, very, very grossly so.

That having been said, if you have time to visit only one museum in Florence, I probably wouldn’t make it the Bargello if I were you (which I’m probably not seeing as though I seldom read my posts after publishing them). I’d recommend the Accademia Gallery instead. (Then again, depending on how busy it is, you might have to wait almost as long to get into the Accademia as you spend touring the Bargello.) However, if you are in Florence on pleasure and you have more than a day or two there—or you’re there on business, but have more than a day or two of free time, I’d definitely suggest that you squeeze in a visit to the Bargello Museum. The price of admission is included n the Firenze Card, so if you buy one your visit to the Bargello is essentially free.

Various sculptures at the Bargello
Various sculptures at the Bargello

After you enter the museum (and, if my memory serves, again on the way out, but I didn’t make a note about that so I may be misremembering), you walk by a beautiful courtyard surrounded by sculptures (my picture of it, which you’ll find on this page, doesn’t begin to do it justice). The courtyard is surrounded by sculptures.

Inside the museum building as well, sculptures are, by far, the dominant pieces, but they are not the only art forms on display there. There are also paintings and large number of various other types of artifacts. Most of those artifacts are religious items, but there are also many pieces of a secular nature.

Florence seems to have a love affair with the Biblical David. You’ll find Michelangelo’s famous, much larger than life, stone statue of David at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. (If there’s an Accademia anywhere else in the world, I’d hazard a guess that you won’t find the original of Michelangelo’s David there. If you do, call the police.) There’s also copy of Michelangelo’s David in Piazza della Signoria. There’s marble statue of David in the Bargello as well. This one is by another famous Italian sculptor, Donatello. It’s smaller—more life-size—than Michelangelo’s version.

Donatello's David
Donatello’s David

One might say that Donatello got the idea for his version of a David sculpture from the more famous Michelangelo, but if one did, one would be mistaken or insane. This is not to negate the possibility that someone reading this, possibly you, is mistaken or insane. You’re free to believe anything you want, even a lie. However, Donatello was an early-Renaissance artist who predated Michelangelo. Donatello created his David in 1408. Michelangelo, on the other hand, was not born until 1475.

Donatello’s David is a more modest fellow than Michelangelo’s version. Donatello draped some robes around his David, whereas Michelangelo’s version is fully anatomically correct and buck naked.

The Bargello Museum also contains a room dedicated to a large collection of Maiolica works, which are tin-glazed pottery mostly from the Italian Renaissance era and region. There are also some pieces that are more modern than the Renaissance, but still from the central and Tuscan regions of Italy, that are on display for comparison purposes.

Bottom line: The Bargello Museum contains some terrific pieces, particularly if you like sculpture. And it’s small enough that even those people, such as myself, who tend to totally zone out after a long museum stay, can tour it without getting a headache. (At least, not a museum burnout headache. It won’t prevent headaches from other causes, but why would you expect it to?) All-in-all, I found it to be well worth a visit.

Been there? Done that? Do tell.