Think of Florence and immediately the Renaissance Masters come to mind – Botticelli, Michelangelo, Titian and Caravaggio to name but a very select few. Yet running until the 5th of January 2014 is a small but important exhibition dedicated to the works of the ever-popular Impressionist movement, to be held in the opulent surroundings of the Palazzo Pitti and in particular, the Modern Art Gallery located therein.
A vast palace of immense and awesome architectural proportion, the Palazzo Pitti was built for the Pitti family in the 15th century, originally rivals to the powerful Medici clan, so prominent in Florentine history. Yet in 1549, the Palazzo Pitti passed into the hands of the Medici family where it remained the official residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and the King of Italy, until the early 20th century when it was bequeathed to the state.
Worth a visit on any Florence city break simply for the architectural beauty alone, today the palace houses several of the city’s museums including the Museo degli Argenti (Silver Museum), which displays a wealth of treasures from the Medici dynasty in its beautifully frescoed ground-floor rooms and also comprises the Porcelain Museum within its walls. There’s also 300 years worth of costumes on display in the Galleria del Costume, whilst the first-floor Galleria Palatina plays host to an enviable collection of 16th to 18th-century works including paintings by Titian, Raphael and Lippi all set against a sumptuous palatial backdrop.
Outside, the beautifully landscaped Boboli Gardens extend from the hill behind the Palazzo Pitti all the way to Porta Romana and date back to 1549 when the Medicis took ownership. The largest and most elegant of Italian-style formal gardens and famous for its fountains and grottos, not to mention its collection of sculptures and Roman antiquities, the Viale dei Cipressi is perhaps its finest feature, an impressive cypress-lined avenue leading down to an ornamental pond. Stunning and serene in equal measure, the Boboli Gardens provide the perfect setting for a tranquil respite away from the hustle and bustle of the city crowds although you do have to pay for the privilege (7€, concessions 3.50€, free to under 18s and over 65s) and includes entrance to the Silver Museum, the Porcelain Museum and Costume Gallery).
And finally there’s the Galleria d’Arte Moderna where the exhibition takes place. Renowned for its permanent collection of 19th and 20th-century paintings, particularly by artists from the school of Macchiaioli, hailed as the Italian Impressionists. These are complemented further by 12 Impressionist works on loan from Paris’ Musée d’Orsay including two Monet masterpieces (Les Tuileries and The Seine at Port Villez), two works by Pissarro, Degas, Cézanne and Renoir, in addition to individual paintings by Paul Guigou and Fantin-Latour.
The Galleria d’Arte Moderna is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8.15am to 6.50pm (closed Mondays). Entrance to the exhibition is 13€ (6.50€ for students) and is free for children under 18 years of age or over 65. Normal entrance (without the exhibition) to both the Palatina Gallery and Modern Art Gallery costs 8.50€ (4.25€ concessions, free to under 18s and over 65s).