If you like discovering all about Florence’s history, its local stories and whispered secrets, then you’ll love these three museums: the glorious Palazzo Vecchio, the touching Innocenti Museum, and the intimate and well-preserved Palazzo Davanzati.
These museums may be less well-known than the Uffizi and the Accademia. but they are still compelling places for anyone interested in Florentine history. And the perfect places to discover the way rulers and commoners used to live in this remarkable city.
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
A fortress-like Medieval exterior, an opulent interior that’s fit-for-a king: this is Palazzo Vecchio, or “Old Palace”, that changed its name a few times throughout history. First as a town hall, as a backdrop for dramatic scenes and political manoeuvring, then as residence of the Medici, who had the interior completely remodelled to suit their tastes and pleasures.
Learn why the Priori used to be locked inside these rooms during their mandate, without being able to leave. Learn how religious leader Savonarola ended up imprisoned in the tower, and where the Medici used to say their prayers before bed.
For the best experience, take the Secret Passages Tour and visit some parts of the palaces that are not usually open for visitors: the Medici’s secret rooms, Francesco de’ Medici studiolo, Medieval stairways and narrow passageways behind hidden doors.
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Innocenti Museum, Florence
The Innocenti Museum in Piazza SS. Annunziata shows you the 7-century long history of the Innocenti, a Florentine public institution born in the 14th century, with the aim of taking care of abandoned children. Financed by the Silk Guild, at the time when prosperous merchants donated their money generously to charity, it officially opened its doors in 1445.
With a modern layout and multimedia storytelling tools, this museum explores the dramatic lives of these children, and shows how the concept of children’s rights and child care has changed through time. Its interesting collection of beautiful works of sacred art include Botticelli and Ghirlandaio.
Palazzo Davanzati Museum
To see how a wealthy Florentine family would have lived in the 1400, there’s no better place than Palazzo Davanzati. You can poke around in the daily life of the servants in the kitchen, see how the Renaissance-style toilets worked and comment on the choice of ‘educational’ frescoes in the bedroom.
Also known as the “Museo dell’Antica Casa Fiorentina”, this museum is also a great choice if you’re travelling with kids. You’ll love the full immersion it offers in ‘daily history‘ and the past way of life. And it’s even better if you take a guided tour, which will fill you in on all the details of the tools on show and illustrate all the secrets and habits of families of the period.
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=> Discover the newly refurbished Cathedral Museum in Florence
More ideas for history buffs in Florence
If you’d like to learn more about the Medici family, you could visit their very first residence, known today as Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Cosimo the Elder and his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent used to live here, entertaining artists, intelligentsia and important heads of states from around Europe.
Later on, in 1550, Gran Duke Cosimo I bought the vast Palazzo Pitti, that today offers an overview on how the tastes of Florentine rulers changed with time. You can awe (or sneer) at the opulence of the Royal Apartments and see the impressive collection at the Museo degli Argenti (Silverware Museum).
Another edifice that truly embodies the spirit of the city is the San Marco Complex, a former monastery frescoed by Fra’ Angelico, where Cosimo the Elder had a private cell and Savonarola was prior at the end of the 15th century.
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