Bargello National Museum


Opening hours: 8:15am-1:30pm daily except closed for the second and fourth Monday of each month and the first, third and fifth Sunday of each month. During temporary exhibitions (usually May-September) the museum is open 8:15am-4:30pm.

Closing days: New Year's Day, May 1 and Christmas Day.

Admission: € 4.00 - Higher price when temporary exhibitions are held.
Concessions available.


The Bargello is a wonderful medieval museum for a peek into the beginnings of Renaissance sculpture. This is where you can experience the early masterpieces that were being created by young Renaissance artists like Donatello, Ghiberti and Michelangelo.

Constructed in the 13th century, the Bargello was initially used as the seat of the Podestà, the highest magistrate of the Florence city council, making it Florence's oldest public building. Eventually, the Palazzo Vecchio took over as the main government seat and the Bargello was made the city prison. Witness to countless sieges, tortures and executions during this part of its dark history, 300 years later it made its transformation from fortress, barracks and prison finally to museum, where it now houses some of the most important early Renaissance sculptures.

On the ground floor you will find the gallery that holds some of Michelangelo's most famous early works, such as the elegant Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, and his Pitti Tondo, a wonderful example of relief sculpture. Michelangelo's later unfinished bust of Brutus (1539), and of the David-Apollo (1530-32) are also held here.

Upstairs you will find some of Donatello's most famous original works such as the Marzocco lion, symbol of Florence that was replaced by a copy in its original spot in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, Saint George, and David.

Commissioned by Cosimo the Elder probably around 1430-1440, Donatello's bronze sculpture of David was at one point the centrepiece of the arcaded courtyard in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Notable for being the first free standing nude since antiquity, Donatello's alluring David stands out in contrast to other sculptures of the same subject for its nakedness. This nudity, along with the choice of bronze material and the elegant contrapposto pose, emphasises the ideal and perfect human anatomy that was so important to the Renaissance revival of the ancient classics and the humanist ideals of his patron, Cosimo. During the Renaissance period, girls became wives in their early teens, while men did not marry until mid-twenties or much later meaning that the adolescent male was caught between childhood and adulthood for much longer, an idyllic period that captures the epitome of beauty and is represented in many Renaissance artworks with depictions of youthful males with an effeminate quality.

Along with these early Renaissance pieces are two sublime and often overlooked works of art: the tiles depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, two of the most influential men of the Renaissance. They were only young lads in their early twenties when they submitted these pieces to the prestigious competition to determine the designer of the new set of bronze doors for Florence's baptistery. When the judges announced Ghiberti as the winner, he went on to design the very doors now known as the “The Gates of Paradise” that face the facade of the Duomo. Brunelleschi was so upset, they say, that he never sculpted again and decided to dedicate his time to architecture instead. He later went on, of course, to build the unique cupola of Florence's Duomo. In a sense these two competition panels, created in 1401, are the beginning of the most important and influential period of the Renaissance for art and architecture.