Florence First-hand

It has been an exciting summer here at Cuberis. We have the pleasure of working on a new website for Villa La Pietra. This historical property in Florence, Italy is home to New York University’s global studies program—and Ray and I were lucky enough to visit.

Our trip gave us a chance to see the property first-hand with its many villas, gardens, olive groves and some of the extensive art collection. Most importantly, we were able to meet and work directly with the folks who make everything happen at the Villa for students, faculty and visiting artists and academics. Villa La Pietra and its collections are actively used for research, study and as a site for inspiration and creation of new artistic works and scholarship.

Our hosts made us feel so welcomed, we were even invited to attend two performances of their summer series The Season. On the very first night we were treated to a concert of Afro-soul music by Thaïs Diarra held under the stars in the Garden. On our last night we enjoyed a performance by Kathleen Turner of the one-woman show Red Hot Patriot, the Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.

With the Villa just one mile from Florence’s city center we hoped to fit a bit of sightseeing into our brief stay. Before the trip we trolled our fair-share of tourism websites. If there was one thing they agreed upon, it was that you had to see Michelangelo’s David and that you really should plan ahead. However, we wanted to keep an open schedule and be flexible to our client’s needs.

So on our first foray into the city our first stop was to investigate tickets for the Accademia Gallery. A practical tip from Rick Steve’s Last Minute Strategies led us to a trusted ticket vendor at the My Accademia Libreria bookstore where were able to schedule a visit for the last day of our trip—perfect.

The state’s official site, www.polomuseale.firenze, is the digital home to many museums of Florence including the Accademia Gallery. Here you can find location details with an interactive city map, hours of operation and ticketing information. The site includes updated news items. Several museum pages featured a floor plan based virtual tour. Each artwork has an inventory page with a tool for detailed viewing.

The www.accademia.org website is robust and offers wonderful historic and artistic details which helped us approach the visit. In addition to an art history lesson on David, the site offers thorough descriptions and beautiful images of many other works in the collection. It also features videos that illuminate the artist’s process, historical perspectives, restoration details and deeper stories of the artwork.


But nothing prepared us for our actual visit—turning the corner, entering the hall bustling with tourists, and seeing David standing high above the mess. The infused, afternoon light fell on the most famous man in Florence and the marble itself seemed to glow. It is impossible not to stand in awe of Michelangelo’s mastery of the human body and his deep understanding of the complexity of the human spirit. Michelangelo captured David’s narrative in a moment and in that, he told the story Florence itself. 

Surrounded by people from all over the world snapping their selfies, the obligatory photo with David was just the beginning. We viewed the exhibitions and watched how visitors enjoyed the museum—hand-in-hand, groups of school kids, students looking closely and clumps of tourists led by intent guides. Highlights for us included the chalk models room which features studies from 19th century sculptors like Lorenzo Bartolini and Luigi Pampaloni. The sheer number of works displayed on shelves stacked to the ceiling reminded us that the Academia was a school long before it was a museum. Of the many beautiful Madonna and Child paintings, it was a thrill to see Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna del Mare.

Antonio Pio Saracino’s “Hero” in the courtyard for the Expo Milano 2015.



On a practical note, it would be helpful for the www.accademia.org site to be responsive, since users will often be visiting on mobile devices. And to the distress of many museum-goers the site did not share timely updates, such as the staff meeting that closed the doors an hour early the day we were there. However, the site is not an in-house venture. It was created by a Florence-based, tourism promotion agency and we do not know if the gallery maintains it. This agency has also created content-rich sites for other key museums of Florence including the Uffuzi Gallery. A well-planned content management system can put news updates and other strategic content into the hands of the administrators who work on-site.


Before your next museum visit in Florence or close to home, take time to research online. It is well worth the effort to smooth out the rough patches of planning, enhance your overall understanding, and help build excitement for your adventure.

We had an inspirational trip! If we can capture a fraction of our enthusiasm for Florence and the Villa La Pietra in the design and development of their site, we’ll be right on track.