The Bargello Museum In Florence Is An Escape From Crowds

The Bargello Museum in Florence provides a needed escape from the huge crowds at the better known Uffizi Gallery and its beautiful art shouldn’t be missed.

The Bargello Museum In Florence - Donatello's David

Donatello’s David

The Bargello Museum In Florence Defined

The Bargello Museum lives in a palazzo that was founded in 1255 as the headquarters of the Captain of the People, which was created in order to safeguard the rights of the population and ensure its economic prosperity. The building was the scene of many political events and it was subjected to extensive damage, including fires, floods and sieges. Because of this, the Palazzo was restored and restructured on numerous occasions.

Traveling From Rome To Florence

One of the benefits of living in Italy, and there are many, is how easy it is to travel to some amazing nearby cities without the financial or time commitments we needed to make when we lived in the US. Traveling from Rome to Florence is an easy weekend getaway with the FrecciaRossa only taking around 90 minutes.

We arrived at Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence and although there were cabs and trams available, we chose to walk to our hotel and experience the amazing reveal that one experiences when they first approach the Duomo. This isn’t our first trip to Florence, but it never ceases to amaze me when that dome reveals itself.

The Bargello Museum In Florence - Mercury


Five years after its founding it became the headquarters of the Podestà, who were the administrators of justice in Florence. Later, in 1574 the building changed once again. Not so much physically, but in the usage. Since the head of the police force and keeper of public order, also called Bargello, was transferred to the Palazzo, it became necessary to update the architecture in order to create the greatest number of cells possible inside the vast building.

This remained unchanged for more than 200 years when, in 1786, the death penalty was abolished and all the torture instruments were burned in the courtyard. When the prison was moved out of the Palazzo into a nearby convent, a full-scale restoration of the Palazzo began.

With a royal decree in 1865, shortly after the unification of Italy, The Bargello National Museum became the first Italian National Museum dedicated to the arts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

The Bargello Museum In Florence And Renaissance Art

Starting from that same year as the royal decree, some of the most important sculptures of the Renaissance were moved into the palazzo, including masterpieces by Donatello, Michelangelo and Cellini, which were mostly from the Medici collection. After the initial collection was built, it was expanded with beautiful examples of small bronzes, enamels, medals, ivories, tapestries and textiles, also from the Medici collections, and from convents and from private individuals.

The Bargello Museum In Florence - Oceano


The Museum winds its way over the three floors of the building: 

  • On the ground floor you can admire the fascinating overall view of the courtyard and Michelangelo’s Room.
  • On the first floor (one above the ground floor) is the imposing Donatello room with his most famous works. There are also collections of Islamic art and the Chapel (with the oldest effigy of Dante Alighieri).
  • On the top floor there is one of the main collections of masterpieces by Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia and the Armory Hall where the surviving weapons from the armory are exhibited.

The Bargello Museum In Florence Sculptures

For me, sculptures are one of my favorite forms of art, so this museum really hits the sweet spot for me. From top to bottom, the amazing masterpieces that are viewable from all sides, without the crowds, or cost, of the better known Uffizi Gallery. That isn’t to say you should avoid the Uffizi, but I had a much more positive experience at the Bargello and you might as well. While there are three floors full of art, I wanted to highlight some of my favorites below that will give you a sense of what you will find at the museum.

The Bargello Museum In Florence - Juno and Two Peacocks

Juno and Two Peacocks

Juno And Two Peacocks

The statue of Juno, by Bartolomeo Ammannati, is accompanied by two peacocks, which allude to the goddess and to the duchess Eleonora whose emblem was a peacock. This sculpture group formed part of the fountain for the Sala Grande where it was placed high atop one of the rainbows at the top of the composition.

The River Gods

This sculpture group is one of the few remaining works of Camilliani, a pupil of Bandinelli. The two classicizing figures were likely commissioned by Don Pedro and Don Luigi of Toledo as part of a monumental fountain for the garden of their Florentine villa.

The Donatello Room

Donatello, also known as Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, was a Florentine sculptor born in 1386 and died in Florence in 1466. The Donatello Room of the Bargello museum is where you can see some of Donatello’s most well known works, including two depictions of David, an earlier marble statue and the better known bronze David, the first statue of a male nude created during Renaissance times.

In his room, you will also find Donatello’s lion, Marzocco, one of the symbols of Florence made in 1420. This sculpture shows the lion’s paw leaning on yet another emblem of Florence, the coat-of-arms with a lily flower and was originally placed outside Palazzo Vecchio. Another well known statue by Donatello is the sculpture of St. George, the patron saint of armorers.

Donatello’s David

This statue really captured my attention because of how different it is from Michelangelo’s David, but also when I learned that a replica of this statue is what the Italians use for their acting award, similar to the Oscar statue awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the US. This is the first full-round nude statue made since antiquity and is Donatello’s most famous work. It was commissioned by Cosimo the Elder around 1440 and from 1457 it stood in the courtyard of Palazzo Medici. In 1494, it was requisitioned by the Signoria and placed in the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio as a civic hero symbol of the Florentine Republic.

The Bargello Museum In Florence - Profile of David

David’s Profile

Donatello created this unusual image of the young Biblical shepherd who is a young man just reaching adolescence (ephebic) whose nudity alludes to the humility and courage which defeat arrogance and brute force.

The Bargello Museum In Florence Hours And Tickets

  • The Bargello National Museum official website.
  • Opening Hours:
    • 08:15 am – 1:50 pm, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday of the month.
    • 08:15 am – 5:50 pm Saturday
    • Last admission 50 minutes before closing time
  • Closed: Every Tuesday and the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.
  • There are guided tours:
    • Stories from the Museum: The Bargello Museum wants to tell itself
      • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 10:00 and 12:00
      • Saturday at 3.00pm and 5.00pm
  • Ticket Prices:
    • Full Price ticket: €9.00
    • Reduced ticket: € 2.00
      • For young people between 18 and 25
  • Tickets Online:
    • The B-ticket website is the only official channel authorized by the Ministry of Culture to facilitate the online purchase of tickets.
  • It is also possible to book by calling: Firenze Musei – Tel. +39 055 294883
The Bargello Museum in Florence, Italy

The Bargello In Florence, Italy

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