ELAINE RUFFOLO

art historian

elaine@elaineruffolo.com

Elaine's insider knowledge, exclusive contacts, and appreciation of Florence allow her to curate one-of-kind experiences for you or your small group.

 

Thematic Tours of Florence

The art and architecture of Florence comes alive when shared in its historical context. Whether you choose to focus on a particular artist or period such as Early Renaissance or Black Death, contact Elaine to design your personalized itinerary.

A Walk Through History

To many visitors, Florence can cause somewhat of a sensory overload. With museums, galleries, historical landmarks, famed churches and palaces at virtually every corner, this urban mosaic is often overwhelming upon first visit. This walk provides a fascinating overview of the city and puts its neighborhoods in historical context.  Walk in the footsteps of great artists and historical figures that made Florence the glorious city of the Renaissance. Begin in Piazza della Reppublica and discover Florence’s beginnings as part of the Roman Empire. Walk through the medieval streets and unveil the many towers that once made up the center of the city. There is no better place to understand the rise of the city-state of Florence than emerging from these dark, towered streets into the light, open Piazza Signoria, the seat of the government and the center of Florentine politics since the 14th century. Finish in the religious heart of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore — the Duomo — the most recognizable symbol of the city.

In the Footsteps of Michelangelo

Trace the life of one of the world’s greatest artists, Michelangelo Buonarroti, creator of David, painter of the Sistine Chapel and architect of the dome of St. Peter’s. Learn about his passion-filled relationships with the warring popes, the powerful Medici and the other great artists of the Renaissance. The tour will begin at the Casa Buonarroti to see early works and drawings by Michelangelo. Next walk to the Bargello, the National Museum of Sculpture which houses no less than 4 works by the master. Finish with a visit to the church of San Lorenzo where Michelangelo designed the Laurentian Library and the Medici Tombs, including the famed statues of Dawn and Dusk and Night and Day. This tour is an absolute must for fans of Michelangelo.

Franciscans to the Black Death: Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella

The Franciscans established a firm base in Florence, with the building of the magnificent Gothic basilica of Santa Croce in 1294. Private chapels had been reserved in advance by wealthy families and the basilica contains the tombs of famous Florentines, including Michelangelo and Galileo. The spacious, airy interior is enhanced by the radiant frescoes of Giotto and his gifted pupil, Taddeo Gaddi. 

The Gothic church of Santa Maria Novella, built by the Dominicans between 1279 and 1357, contains some of the most important works of art in Florence including Masaccio’s Trinity, Ghirlandaio’s Tornabuoni Chapel, and the Spanish Chapel, considered one of the best examples of post-Black Death style in Florence. Inside the church itself, you can follow the development of Italian painting through works by Orcagna, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio, and Filippino Lippi.  

Medici Money

As one of the most powerful families in Florence, the Medici were responsible for commissioning some of the greatest works of the Renaissance. Under astute Medici leadership, Florence enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. The result was an outpouring of art and architecture. Begin with a visit to the church of San Lorenzo, which is like paying a visit to the history of Michelangelo and the Medici family and their fortune. One of Florence’s most precious treasures, generations of Medici put some of the greatest artists to work here; men like Brunelleschi, Donatello and Michelangelo. 

See the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, home of the Medici family for 100 years. The palace became the model for noble Florentine houses in the 15th century. It was here that Lorenzo the Magnificent began his Neoplatonic Society, here that Michelangelo spent the early days of his youth and here that Benozzo Gozzoli’s painted his famous procession of the Magi, celebrating both the birth of Christ and the greatness of the Medici. Entering the chapel is like walking into the middle of a magnificently illustrated child’s storybook, which makes it one of the most enjoyable rooms in the entire city. 

Cosimo di Medici commissioned Michelozzo to rebuild the convent of San Marco and guaranteed all expenses, no matter how high. It is now a memorial to Fra Angelico, the Dominican monk, who, when he was alive, was as famous for his piety as for his painting.

Masterpieces of the Uffizi 

One of the world’s most important museums, the Uffizi Gallery was also one of the first in Europe to emerge in accordance with the modern idea of a museum. Two centuries before it was officially opened in 1765, the Gallery was in fact open to visitors on request. In 1591, writer Francesco Bocchi described it as “amongst the most supremely beautiful sights in the world filled with ancient statues, with noble paintings and extremely precious objects.” Masterpieces by great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael can be found on display in the gallery. The Uffizi occupies the top floor of a u-shaped building on the front side of the Arno and was designed by Vasari in 1559 to hold the administrative offices of Medici Grand Duke Cosimo I. Here the later Medici installed their art collections. 

Architecture Through the Ages

This will be a fascinating look at the various styles of architecture used in buildings, churches and palaces throughout Florence. Throughout the excursion, gain insight into the various architects and get a glimpse of what life was like for the people who lived and worked in these buildings. Travel back to the Middle Ages at Santi Apostoli Church. A shrine built for the Holy Apostles, it is thought to date back to the 10th century and built into the remains of Roman baths. Next it is on to Palazzo Davanzati for an interesting look into life in the 14th century. Move on to Florence’s political center, Piazza Signoria, the original site of Michelangelo’s David. See Palazzo Strozzi and Palazzo Ruccellai, palaces built for wealthy Florentine merchants. End with a visit to the remarkably beautiful Medici Palace, designed by Michelozzo as a place of business and the home of the great banking family.

Donatello to Michelangelo: Bargello and Orsanmichele

During the Renaissance the Bargello was used as a prison and the exterior served as a “most-wanted” billboard: effigies of notorious criminals and Medici enemies were painted on its walls. Today it houses the Museo Nazionale, home to what is probably the finest collection of Renaissance sculpture in Italy. You will have an exceptional opportunity to tour the Bargello with an expert guide and view works by Donatello, Michelangelo and Benvenuto Cellini.  For Renaissance art lovers, the Bargello is to sculpture what the Uffizi is to painting.

Continue the theme of Renaissance sculpture with a visit to Orsanmichele, once the granary for the city of Florence. View from the top floor of the building, the famous Early Renaissance works by such artists as Verrocchio, Ghiberti, and Donatello. 

Program note: two flights of stairs at Orsanmichele  on a Monday and no elevator access. 

Magnificenza: Medici Dukes (Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio)

Explore the magnificence and grandeur of the Medici during the height of their power with a visit to the Palazzo Pitti and the Silver Museum. Originally built for the banker Luca Pitti, this huge building was meant to outdo all other palaces in Florence, and it succeeded. In 1550, it became the main residence of the Medici and today, the richly decorated rooms exhibit treasures from the Medici collections. View famous works by Raphael, Titian and other great High Renaissance painters. Enjoy a visit to the Medici summer apartments, today known as the Silver Museum.  Gaze at the extensive collection of cameos, ivories, gemstones, rock crystal and other fine art objects - all to glorify the Medici name.  

Backstreets of Florence: the Oltrarno

Wander through a little-known neighborhood just south of the Arno River and discover the true character of Florence in the Oltrarno. Though it preserves some signs of its ancient history, today this Florentine neighborhood is full of antique shops, artisan studios as well as important monuments. Weave in and out of shops meeting artisans and observing their skill in producing crafts that make Florence famous such as hand-marbled papermakers, bookbinders, silversmiths, shoemakers and contemporary leather designers. A real treat awaits you at Santa Maria del Carmine in the Brancacci Chapel. The magnificent frescoes, The Life of St. Peter, painted by Masaccio for this chapel became the foundation for most of Renaissance art, as we know it today. Visit Brunelleschi’s masterpiece, Santo Spirito, which may be the most important Renaissance building in Florence.  Inside you will see works by Filippo Lippi, Michelangelo and of course Brunelleschi’s sublime architecture.  Finish at the 4th century church of Santa Felìcita at the Barbadori Chapel to view Pontormo’s Deposition, considered one of the greatest works of the late Renaissance.

Cathedral Complex of Florence

Head to the Piazza del Duomo, the religious center of Florence, for a look into the city’s ecclesiastical history. In 1296 Arnolfo di Cambio was commissioned to build “the loftiest, most sumptuous edifice human invention could devise.” 

Uncover the fascinating history of the Piazza del Duomo.  Visit the Medieval Baptistery and climb up to the balconies (extra cost) opened specially for you. Learn about the heated contest for the Baptistery doors, the controversy raised by Brunelleschi’s plan for the cathedral and the role these two structures played in the history of the city. 

You will also pay a visit to the newly opened Museum of the Cathedral which is cutting edge museum design and an absolute thrill to visit. Expect to see Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, Donatello’s Mary Magdalene and Michelangelo’s poignant Pieta.

Customized Tours of Florence

Customize the perfect experience for you and your small group. Regardless of how long you are staying and what your preferences are, a customized itinerary designed just for you will make sure your visit to Florence exceeds your expectations. Consult with Elaine to personalize a signature tour. 

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