European Night of Museums 2024: Free Admission & Night Hours on May 17-18 in Florence

A view of the Cathedral Museum (Opera del Duomo museum)

The Cathedral museum (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo), will be opening its doors for free on the evening of May 18. As the third Saturday in May, the 18th is designated as the European Night of Museums, which 17 years standing, is a celebration of culture and art across Europe. Introduced initially in France, this initiative soon gained the support of UNESCO and snowballed in popularity; Italy is no exception.  The Uffizi and Accademia Galleries in addition to the Bargello, the Palazzo Davanzati Museum of the Renaissance Home, the Scalzo Cloister, the San Salvi Refectory, Villa Medicea della Petraia, Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi, are offering extended hours on May 18 from 7 to 10 pm (last entrance: 9:30 pm) with a token admission fee of €1.

Similarly, the museums of the University of Florence will be joining the initiative, opening for free a day earlier on May 17 from 5 until 8 pm, last entry at 7:15 pm. These museums include the locations for Geology and Paleontology, Anthropology and Ethnology and the Botanical Garden.  

In the heart of Florence and its artistic history, the Museum Opera del Duomo is taking part in this event for the first time in the museum’s history. Organised by the ICOM (International Council of Museums), this year’s theme is fittingly ‘education and research’. The museum states that they hope this annual exception in prices and entry hours will serve to increase accessibility and to educate visitors, adding to their historical and cultural understanding of the myriad of significant works housed there. 

Originally founded in 1891 and drastically renovated in 2015, the museum itself exists as an artistic celebration, with the Wall of Artists commemorating the 562 craftsmen who contributed to its splendour over the past 850 years. 

The building, the Opera del Duomo, was founded in 1296 by the Florentine Republic to oversee the building of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Spanning more than six thousand square metres, divided into 28 rooms and three floors, the museum contains original pieces which required remodelling or indoor storage. As one of the most important museums in the world, in terms of the sheer number of works it houses, the quality of said works and for its architectural and technological prowess, the Opera del Duomo is not to miss. Notably, this is the location in which Michelangelo created his David, and is currently home to original pieces by the likes of Donatello, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti amongst other renowned Renaissance artists. 

The Opera del Duomo museum is located at Piazza Duomo 9. Free entry commences at 7 pm with last entry at 11 pm and closure of the museum at 12 midnight. Tickets and reservations are not required to enter during the hours of this event. 

The Geology and Paleontology museum is dedicated to the fossils of large mammals, mollusks and plant, which trace the history of our earth; visitors can expect to see skeletons of animals such as mammoths, large elephants, big cats that used to reside in Tuscany millions of years ago and whales, in the Whale Room.

The Anthropology and Ethnology museum, founded in 1869, serves to display a wide variety of testimonies of human diversity. Its many rooms house important ethnographic collections. The collection of objects, once belonging to the Medici family, includes items such as; clothing, hunting weapons, furniture and musical instruments to name a few. 

Once a garden created, also by the Medicis in 1545, for medicinal plants, the Botanical Garden of the University of Florence, is one of the oldest in the world. Within the expansive Botanical Garden there are many species both tropical and subtropical, featuring an ancient collection of citruses, aquatic plants and edible plants and carnivorous. 

The Geology and Paleontology museum is located at Via Giorgio la Pira 4, the Anthropology and Ethnology museum is located at 12, Via del Proconsolo 12 and the Botanical Garden at Via Pier Antonio Micheli 3. Tickets do not need to be reserved for the evening of May 17. (Lucy Turner)