Vecchio Palace is my '2nd place' attraction in Florence (it was 1st until 4 days into my visit when I visited the Palatina Gallery in the Pitti Palace).
You can't really miss seeing the palace, since it is right next door to the 'Uffizi' gallery which will undoubtedly be visited. In the same vein as the Palatina Gallery, which is a real gem 'hidden' inside the decidedly ugly frontage to the massive Pitti Palace, the beauties inside Vecchio Palace are not especially obvious as the exterior of the building is again not that attractive, at least it does have some interest value with a tall square turret and castling/arches, but the architecture doesn't set the world alight.
Everything changes once you go inside....
I am compiling an extensive Trip Advisor 'Trip List' for my recent 6 full-day visit to see the sights of Florence. Please fell free to access it via my TA Profile - I hope it is of interest and use to you and I hope all of my individual reviews/photos/videos get posted properly as I know from past experience that the Trip Advisor submission process sometimes, incorrectly, 'blocks' them despite me being a so-called 'Senior Contributor'.....
Just before covering my personal views of the gallery, please note that as official information sources can change and the Internet links at the top of each attraction webpage on Trip Advisor can be wrong (or even absent !) I deal with visitor information/ticketing etc in the dedicated section for the attraction in my TA Trip List. This is because I have sole-control over that, can add Internet links and can edit/update it with ease to reflect changes (reviews cannot be amended after they're posted). It might also contain photos/video links if they fail to get posted with this review or on this webpage....
I was not only bewitched by the magnificent room decorations and delightful collections of artefacts on show in Vecchio Palace, but also the quality of the visual-aids present in some of the rooms which added immensely to the viewing and educational experience. Do note that, unusually, flash-free photography is allowed.
You can see a certain amount of the interior for free, as the ground floor area is open to all - it also houses the ticket office. The paid-for entrance is up a wide staircase and leads you into the vast 'Hall of the Five Hundred'. What you see here is most impressive, with a collection of truly massive paintings adorning the walls, a large collection of life-size statues AND (most notably) a wonderfully decorated ceiling comprising a square 'patchwork' of large, framed, paintings; it looks like a painting-crammed wall of an art gallery !
Whilst still being investigated, the esteemed history existing in this room may include a hidden Leonardo....
As you make you way to the exit door leading to the remainder of the rooms, which are smaller but just as beautifully decorated, don't miss the 'sneak peek' you can get into the stunningly sumptuous 'Private Study of Francesco I' situated in the far corner (bookable tours are available but understandably popular, so unlike me book/enquire early to avoid disappointment !).
From then on the palace tour consists of a series of ever-smaller rooms, starting with still quite large rooms with extremely ornately decorated high-ceilings; I would say that most of the beauty in the remaining rooms is upwards, with a smaller proportion of attractive wall decorations and artefacts on show.
If it were practically possible, the best way to view Vecchio Palace would actually be laid on your back being pushed around on a flat trolley since so much of the beauty is on the ceilings !
Like the Palatina Gallery, visitor information is copious and extremely well-presented (even the 'top' attractions don't get this kind of treatment - Uffizi hang your head in shame...). You not only have lecterns with annotated room plans but, most notably, the other star of the palace gets an interactive video display.
This is on the 2nd floor and is 'Eleonora's Chapel', a small but quite beautifully adorned room. You can't go into it, but instead just outside is large LCD interactive touchscreen unit which allows you to pan around, in all directions, footage taken inside the chapel PLUS you can change the display 'spectrum' - quite excellent.
I've added some photos to my review and also some HD video to this webpage (I hope they get posted by TA...) showing some of the decorations (I often video ceilings as it's usually the only way to get complete coverage !) and example snippets from that interactive video display.
Like the Palatina Gallery, after my visit I thought it worthwhile getting the pricey, but extensive Official Guide @ EU12 - these were the only 2 attractions I did this for. It is a tall/thin paperback which has a large number of full-colour photos and double-page spreads for the most impressive presentations.
*** Do note that it isn't sold in the Vecchio Palace (as there is no shop), instead go to the very well-stocked Uffizi shop which sells it for them. I didn't have to queue to get to the shop, instead I just asked at the main entrance and I was let me through to it as it is away from the gallery entrance. I also saw it in a few shops, but it wasn't necessarily the English edition....
I've added a photo showing what the book looks like, but if it isn't posted by TA I will add a link to it accessed via my TA Trip List....
We all have different tastes, but I do urge you to visit this Palace and not get overly distracted by the so-called 'top' attractions of the Uffizi/Accademia (the latter being arguably a 'one-hit wonder' by virtue of it containing the 'Statue of David').
The exterior appearance doesn't exactly provoke you to go inside, but once you do you will not be disappointed. The ceiling decorative work is especially beautiful and a number of the rooms are very big - the main hall is vast and quite magnificent. This is all topped-off with superior presentational and informative aids to enhance your visit.
Like the Palatina Gallery in the Pitti Palace, Vecchio Palace is a 'must see'.
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