THROUGH THE UFFIZI
by Marla Norman, Publisher
One of Europe’s finest museums, the Galleria degli Uffizi, consists of some 70 rooms filled with priceless treasures by Renaissance masters: Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Fra Filippo Lippi, Caravaggio and Titian to name a few. Easily the top tourist draw in the city, the Uffizi is packed with visitors and long wait lines. How to navigate the vast collection of art with hundreds of other visitors – many with heavy cameras and bags that can become lethal weapons in close quarters – is no easy task. A tour that includes advance tickets for easy entrance and a knowledgeable guide to sort out the best the Uffizi offers while managing crowds is the only solution. But which tour to take?
I chose Walks of Italy. The group has been conducting tours throughout the country since 2001. Co-founders Jason Spiehler and Stephen Oddo are travel addicts. I’ve interviewed both previously and been impressed with their organization and tour philosophy: “We want our guests to feel as if they’re spending time with friends. We believe in walking, not cattle herding, which is why we keep our group sizes to 12 people or fewer. With our tours, there’s never a problem interacting with the guide,” says Spiehler, who is an art historian with a Master’s degree from Yale in Historical Theology.
I’ve also had a chance to experience Spiehler/Oddo tours first hand with Walks of Italy, in Venice and a tour with their New York City-based company, Walks of New York for the Metropolitan Museum of Art – both were outstanding. I was hoping for a similar experience with the tour through the Uffizi. I wasn’t disappointed. It was superb! Our guide was not only knowledgeable about the Uffizi art collection, but well versed in Florentine history. He provided detailed information about the paintings and the various artists, while creating a historical perspective. He was also adept in circumventing the prodigious crowds – no easy feat at the Uffizi.
Here are highlights from an unforgettable day.