Palazzo Strozzi: The Coolest Museum You’ve Never Heard Of

The topic for this month’s ArtSmart Blogging Roundtable is “best museum you’ve never heard of.” Fortunately for me, I came upon a very cool museum in Florence when I was there in November. I also had the chance to listen to a couple of talks about museums at Florens2012 and learned about how museums are (and aren’t!) responding to people’s needs and using technology to improve the museum experience. Palazzo Strozzi in Florence does both, and in a city where things seem to change very slowly, this museum is a leader in museum innovation because of its programs that enhance the museum experience and bring together the community.

palazzo strozzi

Let me first mention that the fact that most people who visit Florence haven’t heard of Palazzo Strozzi is not a reflection of the museum’s quality. Exhibitions of very high quality and importance are housed here, including some of the most-visited exhibitions in all of Italy. Also, the palazzo itself has great historical importance. It is an excellent example of Renaissance architecture and was built for the Strozzi family, a rich banking family that had an on-going rivalry with the Medici, who ruled Florence for much of the Renaissance.

A good museum doesn’t just house great art; it helps educate the community about art and makes people want to visit. While museums with family events and community evenings are common in the U.S., some museums in Europe have not succeeded in making (or not tried to make?) themselves more accessible, more approachable to the general community. However, Palazzo Strozzi has been successful at getting the community connected with art, making it accessible to all, and making it very fun and chic. Here are just a few examples of what they are doing:

The Courtyard is the center of the palazzo with grand doors opening to three of central Florence’s streets. The courtyard remains open year round from morning to late evening as a dynamic place for people to enjoy cultural activities including movie nights and free concerts. There are also interactive touch screens and a permanent exhibit of the history of the palazzo.

italian courtyard

“Let’s Talk about Art” is a series of evening get-togethers where Italian and foreign students can meet, hang out, and chat about art. Participants pay for their entrance to the exhibitions and are given a theme to explore while viewing the art; they then have the chance to practice their Italian and English skills together while discussing their impressions of the exhibition. For an art and language lover like me, this sounds like SO much fun!

florence night

Thursday evenings at Palazzo Strozzi are all about the general public coming and hanging out. When I was there, it was the place to be with people lounging on the outdoor couches, hanging out in the courtyard, getting drinks and delicious plates of antipasti at Café Giacosa, and even tweeting with a twist: typing tweets on a typewriter and then posting them on a physical “tweet board.”

palazzo strozzi

 Attendees can view the downstairs exhibition for free. This idea of promoting the museum as a place for the city to gather and view art for free apparently works because it was packed!

bloggers interview

The local radio station is there on Thursdays playing music and, when we were there, interviewing my blogger colleagues, Simone of Archeologia 2.0 and Valentina of Too Much Tuscany.

What about families? Palazzo Strozzi has plenty to offer them, too. First, families can purchase the “family ticket,” which allows the entire family to visit the exhibitions for 20€. The museum has family activities including workshops, sketching in the galleries, storytelling, and “stroller tours.” Some of us tried out the storytelling telephone–it’s an old-fashioned telephone that you can record a children’s story into–a creative idea, for sure.

Exhibitions are created with families in mind; for example, at the exhibition “The Thirties: The Arts in Italy during Fascism,” there were descriptions of daily life from people who were children during that time. The stories brought to life what it was like to be a child in Italy in the 1930s and added interest and perspective for all visitors, not just children.

Last but not least, “With Many Voices” is a free project for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. The project encourages them to create art using their imagination and inventiveness. It also aims to provide a place for them to socialize and an opportunity for everyone to look at art differently.

What do you think? Do you know of other museums with innovative programs like these? What’s your favorite museum that no one has heard of?

More information: If you are fortunate enough to be in Florence over the next year, you can visit Palazzo Strozzi for the following exhibitions: The Springtime in the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence 1400-1460 (wow!) and Fire and Ice: The Russian Avant-Garde, Siberia, and the East.

For more about Palazzo Strozzi, visit their website.

For more about great museums you’ve never heard of, check out my fellow ArtSmart bloggers’ posts for January:

The Copley Library Galleries from Christina at Daydream Tourist

The Stibbert Museum in Florence, Italy from Jeff at Eurotravelogue

Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto from Lesley at Culture Tripper

University Art Galleries from Kelly at Travellious

Museum of London from Leslie at CG Travels

And for more artsy goodness, check out my previous ArtSmart posts.

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20 Responses to Palazzo Strozzi: The Coolest Museum You’ve Never Heard Of

  1. Laurel- Capturing la Vita 01/08/2013 at 9:15 am #

    Hands down, my fav museum in Florence. The first exhibit I ever saw there was a Bronzino exhibit. It blew my mind. These people know how to show art! I go, even when I’m not that interested in the subject, and I am never disappointed! Can you tell I like it? :) Here is a link to the Bronzino exhibit that was there in 2011… http://www.palazzostrozzi.org/SezioneBronzino.jsp?idSezione=621

    • Jenna 01/08/2013 at 11:55 am #

      I would have loved to see that Bronzino exhibit. The detail in his work is amazing. Thanks for sharing, Laurel.

  2. Jessica 01/08/2013 at 11:49 am #

    Looks like a great museum! I love all the different programs they offer to engage people in art. Makes me wish I lived in Florence.
    Jessica recently posted..Planning a Trip to the US Holocaust Museum for KidsMy Profile

  3. Jeff Titelius 01/08/2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Been to the Palazzo Strozzi many times but never ventured inside…much to my disappointment after reading your article! All of those events sound exciting and now I must return to join the festivities especially the typewritten tweets…what fun!!!
    Jeff Titelius recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable: The Stibbert Museum in Florence, ItalyMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/09/2013 at 8:31 pm #

      I know you will love it when you go back :) Maybe we will even visit it together!

  4. Christina 01/09/2013 at 5:52 pm #

    It’s exciting to see Museums embrace interactive displays and events to engage the public beyond the typical gallery lecture or tour. I especially love the “Let’s Talk about Art” sessions! Language, art appreciation and snacks – sign me up!
    Christina recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable – Copley Library Galleries in BostonMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/09/2013 at 8:34 pm #

      I agree–those Let’s Talk about Art sessions sound so fun!

  5. Lesley Peterson 01/09/2013 at 7:08 pm #

    That really is an amazing line-up of both exhibitions and programs, Jenna. In an era when many museums use timed ticketing to move people through exhibitions as quickly as possible (at the Tower of London they actually use a conveyor belt to whisk museum visitors past the crown jewels), Palazzo Strozzi and Florence sound innovative and welcoming indeed.
    Lesley Peterson recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable: Bata Shoe Museum, TorontoMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/09/2013 at 8:35 pm #

      Thanks for telling me about the conveyor belt. Hmm.
      I was impressed by Palazzo Strozzi and would definitely enjoy having it as a great resource in my community if I lived in Florence.

  6. Katherine 01/13/2013 at 9:17 am #

    I’ve seen a lot of advertisements across Italy for the exhibits here but I’ve never actually made it yet! Next time I will be sure to do so — and make it on a Thursday :)
    Katherine recently posted..evening in piazza colonna, romeMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/16/2013 at 10:51 pm #

      Thursdays there are definitely fun! It’s nice to see the locals out in Florence.

  7. Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke) 01/13/2013 at 8:43 pm #

    That thing with using a typewriter for writing tweets sounds awesome!

    Does the Palazzo Strozzi have a permanent collection? If so, what is its focus? It definitely sounds like a fun museum to visit.
    Harvey (H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke) recently posted..H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, Week 14: a lesser-known Sphinx in EgyptMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/16/2013 at 10:54 pm #

      Good question about the collection and as far as I know, the permanent collection is just the one about the palazzo itself. The rest of the exhibitions are traveling or temporary, but all very good, of course.

  8. Suzy 01/13/2013 at 9:30 pm #

    I am kicking myself for never going inside Palazzo Strozzi when I was studying in Florence. I lived on Via della Vigna Nuova, just down from the palace for 6 months. Sounds like a great interactive museum space.
    Suzy recently posted..Getting More Out of Travel for Less: How I Travel on a Pauper’s BudgetMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/16/2013 at 10:52 pm #

      Yes, definitely a great interactive museum. You will have to go there on your next stay in Florence :)

  9. Aryn 01/22/2013 at 6:51 pm #

    That looks really fun! I love the lesser known museums such as the Museum of Moving Image in New York. That was awesome!
    Aryn recently posted..7 Things I Regret About Studying AbroadMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/23/2013 at 1:48 pm #

      Thanks for the recommendation of the museum in NY. I will try to check it out when I go there next.

  10. Maria 01/27/2013 at 11:20 am #

    Despite a degree in Museum Studies, I wonder why so many museums around the world have engaging programs like Palazzo Strozzi but so often the general public doesn’t hear of them. Pretty much it’s word of mouth or you have to stumble upon them. Kudos to you for finding this and bringing it to the rest of us.
    Maria recently posted..Dinner with BillMy Profile

  11. Alison 06/18/2013 at 11:41 pm #

    I got my degree in art history and had a particular fascination with Renaissance architecture. One of my senior papers was on the Palazzo Strozzi. Unfortunately, when I visited Florence in 1998, it wasn’t open to the public at the time. That didn’t stop me from hanging around outside admiring it, though. :) I really do need to go back, sooner rather than later!
    Alison recently posted..Tea for Two(thousand)My Profile

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