The Uffizi Galleri – Florence
FOR THE FIRST-TIMER – There’s no way you’ll get through the whole gallery in one day. But stick to the second floor and you can watch the Renaissance unfold in a couple of hours— it’s crowded, but the collection is unbeatable. Look for paintings of the Madonna and Child by Giotto, Botticelli’s Venus, and Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, the artist’s only painting in Florence. End in the new first-floor Titian hall with Venus of Urbino, perhaps his greatest—and most controversial—piece.
RETURN TRIP TO-DOS – Check out this summer’s show of rarely seen 15th-century painted wooden sculptures (until August 28). And always worth a look is the Cabinet of Miniatures, an elaborately decorated room lined with some 400 tiny portraits.
MOST OVERLOOKED – The Vasari Corridor, the Medicis’ passageway that houses amazing self-portraits by the masters, is not open to the public unless you book a private tour at uffizi.org.
The Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam
FOR THE FIRST-TIMER – Spend an hour or two with the Dutch masters (Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals) in the department of 17th-century Golden Age art. Then see the model ships and weaponry—incredible craftsmanship, and a nice change after all the paintings. End in the library: three floors, spiral staircase, might make book lovers cry.
RETURN TRIP TO-DOS – See the Asian Pavilion for works amassed by 17th-century Dutch traders—for centuries the only Europeans doing business with isolationist Japan. The collection is one of the best assemblages of Asian artwork in the West.
MOST OVERLOOKED – Tucked away in the medieval art halls are a series of tiny 16th-century prayer nuts, rosary beads prized by wealthy congregants. Their size makes them easy to miss, but the intricately carved patterns and microscopic biblical scenes warrant a closer look.
Bosch-mania! – Commemorating 500 years since the death of Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, exhibitions across Europe showcase his nightmarish paintings, many displayed together for the first time. Starting this month, see more than 60 works in Madrid at the Prado’s ‘Bosch: The Centenary Exhibition.’ This fall, a more intimate show opens at Berlin’s Gemaldegalerie, then in December the Doge’s Palace in Venice puts on ‘Bosch and the Mediterranean’—a gran finale to a thrilling quincentennial.