florence
Florence
Accademia & around
Accademia (Galleria dell'Accademia) - The place to see Michelangelo's original David statue is the Accademia museum.
Also in the museum are five other great sculptures by Michelangelo - St. Matthew and four unfinished Slaves (or Prisoners) figures. And don't miss a lovely Virgin and Child with Young John the Baptist and Two Angels painting by Botticelli.
Tip: Look two more copies of the David statue around Florence: one at the Piazza della Signoria (where the original was first situated), another at Piazzale Michelangelo.
A block away from the Accademia is the Piazza Santissima Annunziata which has a super fountain, two winged monkeys perched on top of two sea creatures spitting water. Also on the piazza is the Spedale degli Innocenti, the first foundling hospital in Europe, decorated with blue and white ceramic rondels of kids in swaddling clothes (Renaissance diapers).
Need a quick picnic lunch, grab a slice of pizza from the shops on Via dei Servi, and sit out on the steps at the piazza.
Leonardo da Vinci Museum (Via dei Servi 66) - Leonardo left tons of drawings of his inventions, and in this museum, kids can see and touch large wooden models of Leonardo's machines. Turn the wheels, watch gears and mechanisms move for the bicycle ornithopter, machine gun, ball bearing, mortar cannon, revolving crane, floats for walking on water, printing machine, and more. This museum brings Leonardo's drawings to life.
Tip: Read our blog post "Leonardo da Vinci's Inventions."
Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) -
The museum has stellar Etruscan, Egyptian, ancient Greek and Roman art, but exhibits are mostly in Italian, with some pieces identified in English.
Our favorite Etruscan pieces are the exceptional chimera (with lion body and head, twirly serpent tail, biting a goat in its back), bronze head of a youth, luminous green statue of Minerva from 3rd century BC, bronze Etruscan fan and other golden tomb goods, tiny bronze statue of Etruscan god of war, and upstairs, a sarcophagus of Etruscan noblewoman.
In the Egyptian galleries, don't miss the rare wooden hunting chariot (more than 2,500 years old), mummies, mysterious tomb portrait of a dark haired lady from Fayum, and statue of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris.
In the Greek galleries - horses: a Greek drinking cup from 5th century BC, and magnificent horse head statue owned by Lorenzo the Magnificent, and also bronze "Indolino" statue (looks like a sulky teen to us).
Museum of Precious Stones (Museo dell'Opificio dell Pietre Dure) - Visit this small museum, a hidden gem, to see the exquisite craft of Florentine mosaics - "painting in stone."
To make the mosaics, colorful hard and semi-precious stones are cut very thin, a stencil is used to cut out a pattern, which is filled in with smaller pieces to make intricate designs of fruits, flowers, birds, sea shells, coats of arms, even landscape paintings, all in stone!
The mosaics ornamented table tops, cabinets, and paintings on the wall. Exhibits are well-labeled in English, be sure to go upstairs to see the stones workshop. Closed on Sunday.
Tip: At the Pitti Palace, look for many beautiful mosaic tabletops and cabinets in the galleries.

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