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If you come to Florence, even if only for a day, you must not miss this extraordinary museum.

Tondo Pitti previewThere are so many reasons to visit it: its collection of Renaissance sculptures, unique in the world, and much more (Michelangelo, Donatello, Cellini, Giambologna, Bernini) but also the minor arts … preserved inside one of the most ancient palazzos in Florence, with its vast wealth of history, just a short walk from Piazza Signoria.

Going along Via del Proconsolo, near Piazza San Firenze, it is impossible not to come upon this palazzo with its crenulations and high tower, facing the Badia Fiorentina. Its long history began in 1255, as Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, but it has been many other things over the course of the centuries: Chief Magistrate’s Headquarters (Palazzo del Podestà), Palazzo del Bargello (the police headquarters at the time), and a prison. In 1865, following a meticulous restoration –that also brought the rooms back to their former grandeur with the demolition of the walls of the cells - this building finally became the headquarters of the National Bargello Museum.

Millions of tourists come to Florence each year for the David by Michelangelo, but they do not know that this museum boasts, in the first room on the ground floor, a collection of works by the great artist (the Bacchus, the Tondo Pitti, the Brutus, the Apollino) that is the envy of the Accademia Gallery.

Another point of pride in the museum’s immense salon on the first floor, are the extraordinary sculptures by Donatello (from St. George to the two Davids, bronze and marble, the Marzocco and the Atys), true cornerstones of art history.
But alongside these protective deities of Italian sculpture you can also admire works by other artists, and other eras: Verrocchio (the David, the Lady with Primroses), the glazed ceramics of Della Robbia (starting with the family's ancestor, Luca), Desiderio da Settignano, Mino da Fiesole, Brunelleschi, (whose panel for the Baptistery of the famous competition of 1401 is next to that of Ghiberti). The 16th century includes Giambologna (the famous Mercury, the sculptures for the Cave of the Animals at the Villa Medici in Castello, numerous sketches), Cellini (the original base for the statue of Perseus, with related sketches) ... and finally Bernini (the bust of Costanza Bonarelli).

But the Bargello is not only about sculpture. In the vast series of rooms on the upper floors you can admire a truly staggering collection of minor arts: weapons, cameos, ivories, tapestries, and porcelain of every era and origin, many of which are from the donation of the Lyonese antiquarian Luigi Carrand. In one of these rooms, those condemned to death would wait before being executed: it is the Cappella del Podestà (or Cappella della Maddalena), frescoed by Giotto and his workshop, where, in the scene of Final Judgement, in particular Paradise, we find the oldest portrait of Dante.

The enchanting 13th-14th century courtyard, which houses a series of interesting sculptures, also has a wealth of history: here, sentencing was carried out... and again here, in 1786, all the instruments of torture were burnt on a bonfire, coinciding with the abolition of the death penalty at the wishes of Leopold I Hapsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
If you have not yet been there, you absolutely must go. If you have already been, return ... perhaps taking advantage of one of the many exhibitions continuously organized there.

We await you at the Bargello!




Published: 5/12/2017

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