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Top 5: Art in Florence

Skip the queues at the Uffizi and Accademia galleries — some of Florence’s masterpieces can be seen in a church chapel or even a zoology museum

Top 5: Art in Florence
Ognissanti Church and Refectory. Image: Getty

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Ognissanti Church and Refectory 
In the refectory of the monastery connected to the church, see a Domenico Ghirlandaio masterpiece: a Last Supper scene when Jesus tells the disciples one of them will betray him. In the church itself, the lapis lazuli pigment of Giotto’s crucifix is a magnificent shade of sky blue.

Il Grande Museo del Duomo
While crowds jostle outside, admire Ghiberti’s fabulous bronze doors for the Baptistery, described by Michelangelo as ‘worthy to be the gates of paradise’. The museum’s Renaissance masterpieces make up the world’s largest assembly of Florentine monumental sculpture.

La Specola 
Also known as the Museum of Zoology and Natural History, walk through corridors of stuffed creatures before reaching rooms of human anatomical waxworks, made in the 17th and 18th centuries. Check out the innards on display in the ‘opened-up’ waxy bodies, used for teaching medicine.

Sassetti Chapel, Santa Trinità
For stunning art without the crowds, head here to view early 15th-century frescoes, again by Ghirlandaio, with scenes from the life of St. Francis. I like the miracle of the raising of the fallen boy. It’s often so quiet you have to put a Euro in the machine to illuminate the chapel. museumflorence.com

Bargello Museum
Make a beeline for the Donatello room: there are two panels entered by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi into the 1401 Baptistery door competition, Donatello’s marble St. George, and in front of it a homoerotic bronze David. Look out for Verrocchio’s David — its model was supposedly the young Leonardo da Vinci.

By Bill Breckon: Lives in Florence and owns the Watermill at Posara in rural Tuscany, a cultural centre for painting holidays, as well as creative writing, Italian language and yoga retreats. 

Published in the November 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)