The center of Renaissance art remains as lively as it was five centuries ago. Visitors flock to Tuscany to sample traditional Italian flavors and explore the artistry from past to present.
One of the city’s most significant claims to fame is the epic sculpture by famed Renaissance artist Michelangelo: The Statue of David.
What’s the Story Behind the Statue of David?
Michelangelo’s David began with imperfections. The marble block, which would one day reveal the most famous sculpture in history, was rejected by two other sculptors, who cited the marble’s flaws as reasons they could not complete the work.
After Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino abandoned the block, it sat in the courtyard for over two decades before a young aspiring sculptor took up the challenge.
The Opera del Duomo, Cathedral of Florence, originally commissioned Michelangelo’s David. The biblical hero would stand on the church’s roof, acting as both a beacon and a buttress.
However, the finished piece was so spectacular that the Florentine government installed it in the public square instead. They placed the Statue of David outside Palazzo Vecchio, near the town hall.
Where to See the Statue of David
Don’t be fooled by the massive statue in Piazza della Signoria; the original figure calls the Accademia Gallery of Florence home. Accademia Gallery is nestled on the pedestrian street (Via) Ricasoli, in the heart of Florence.
Italian Sculptor Luigi Arrighetti created the replica, which has lived at Piazza della Signoria for a little over a century.
Although the two pieces are nearly identical, nothing compares to seeing the real David in person. The replicas are made with molds, while the original was painstakingly hand chiseled by the illustrious Renaissance artist.
The Statue of David towered over Florence for centuries, becoming a symbol of liberty and achievement for the people of Florence.
In the 19th century, city officials decided to move the iconic piece to protect it from vandalism and weather erosion. Michelangelo’s David settled into its new home at the Accademia Gallery in 1873.
Florentine officials commissioned the cast before moving David indoors. The model allowed numerous artists to make replicas of the iconic sculpture. Two are still in Florence, the replacement in Piazza della Signoria and a bronze replica in Piazzale Michelangelo.
Other copies made their way to art museums and studios around the world. They can be found in London, Moscow, Copenhagen, Philadelphia, and Mexico City, to name a few.
Tips for Visiting the Accademia Gallery of Florence
Anyone who wants to see the original masterpiece must visit the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Awestruck tourists gather in the Tribune, the special room designed for David, to marvel at the majestic work.
Here are the best tips for joining their ranks and viewing the original Statue of David in person.
Get Tickets in Advance
American tourists visiting Europe for the first time may be shocked that they can’t just enter the museum at their leisure.
At many American museums, you show up, buy tickets, and enjoy the exhibits. The Accademia Gallery of Florence isn’t like that. It’s much too small to house the plethora of visitors flocking to its doors at any given time, and city officials want to allow everyone to view Michelangelo’s David at their own pace.
Therefore, they offer timed entry, much like most other European museums.
Visitors should purchase tickets for a specific date and time in advance. They need to arrive within 30 minutes of their ticket time. The Accademia Gallery issues limited tickets for each timeframe, ensuring the gallery doesn’t get too crowded.
If you don’t get advance tickets, you will have to wait in line for hours to gain access, and there’s no guarantee you will be allowed in. You can, however, typically get advanced tickets for the next day if you didn’t buy online tickets before your trip.
Explore the Rest of the Gallery
Although David is the star of the Accademia Gallery, visitors would be remiss to skip the other works on display.
The halls are filled with paintings, sculptures, and even musical instruments, highlighting the array of artistry spawned by the Renaissance.
Don’t miss the early 14th century Tree of Life by Bonaguida, depicting the story of Genesis as it relates to the crucifixion with gold and tempura in the Gothic hall, or Giambologna’s marble statue depicting the worst part of the Roman origin myth in the Hall of Colossus.
Take Your Time with Michelangelo’s David
The Statue of David is far more impressive than you could ever imagine. We’ve all seen the image in print and on television, but nothing prepares you for getting up close and personal with the iconic sculpture.
My first thought upon viewing the masterpiece was, “It’s so much bigger than I imagined!”
I stood with him for about an hour, admiring the intricate details in every cut, from his toes to the curls in his hair. I marveled at the smooth lines suggesting the musculature of his arms and legs and wondered how such a feat was possible before the invention of lasers.
Although I was one of the unprepared masses who didn’t pre-buy my tickets and had to wait in line for hours, gazing upon the masterpiece for the first time made me thankful for the controlled entry.
Although there were many people, it wasn’t so crowded that I couldn’t fully take in the immense scale of the work. I had the time and space to enjoy the statue in all its glory, and you should take the same.
What Else is in the Area?
Although the Statue of David is a centerpiece of Florence Tourism, it’s not the only thing worth seeing in the Tuscan town.
The Uffizi Gallery is the most popular museum in town. It’s home to Botticelli’s epic masterpiece, The Birth of Venus, in addition to various paintings, sculptures, and other objects from ancient times to the 20th century.
Florence also features an abundance of medieval structures with stunning architecture. The cathedrals and chapels showcase rich artistry both inside and out, allowing visitors to enjoy the view whether they take a tour inside or not.
As the largest city in Italy’s northern Tuscany region, Florence delights those traveling for culinary adventures. Enjoy pasta, pizza, coffee, and other regional fare while exploring the city.
Michelangelo’s David Needs to be on Your Bucket List
The Statue of David is one of the world’s most iconic works of art for a reason. The impressive mastery Michelangelo employed while creating David is wondrous to behold.
If visiting Florence to view the masterpiece isn’t on your bucket list yet, it must be. It’s worth the trip.