There I’ve said it: it is possible to have too much of a good thing and sometimes in Florence I end up feeling saturated by all the color and beauty of the paintings. So, what to do? I could drink a lot of coffee, eat a lot of cake, but then I end up on a caffeine and sugar rush and still no closer to calming down. So I go to the Bargello Museum and look at sculpture.
Everyone who comes to Florence has their head turned by the magnificent David of Michelangelo – either the copy standing proudly outside the Palazzo Vecchio or the real one in the Accademia Gallery. But David is not the only tall, handsome warrior in town. The Bargello Museum has wonderful sculptures by some of the world’s best-ever artists: Donatello, Cellini, Ghiberti and Brunelleschi (of Duomo fame), and of course Michelangelo himself.
And you’ll quickly discover that Michelangelo’s is not the only David in town – this warrior with his slingshot was a popular subject during the Renaissance, representing the perfect man: the thinking warrior. There are Davids by Donatello and Verrocchio, as well.
Naturally, there are many many busts and likenesses of the Medici family at the Bargello – without their vanity and patronage, many an artist would have gone hungry and many a Florentine gallery would now be empty. The Bargello is also a magnificent building in its own right. A 13th-century Gothic palace, it was built for the government, housing the magistrate, then becoming a prison and site of executions in its courtyard, and then finally, in the 19th century, a museum.
The Bargello is only open in the mornings, closing at 2pm, and totally closed on certain days of the month (which only make sense to the Italians), so check the online calendar before you go.