Florence’s Uffizi Gallery leads the way in terms of options for visually-impaired visitors in Tuscan museums, but through Florence and Tuscany, programs are available to help even the non-sighted “see” our region’s beauties through touch.
Uffizi by Touch is the name of the programme that the Uffizi Gallery put in place in 2009. Ever-growing, it now counts twenty artworks that can be experienced by visitors with limited or no sight. Many of these are real ancient sculptures, which blind visitors are permitted to touch when wearing special latex gloves. For the paintings, some of the most famous works, like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Domenico Veneziano’s Saint Lucy Altarpiece, are available in relief panel. In addition, each of these works are supported with panels written in braille and in high-contrast print. A braille map is available showing the exact location of the works. The Uffizi by Touch path is free and no reservations are required.
The Gallery of Modern Art in Palazzo Pitti offers a multi-sensory path "Form and matter through touch", with 10 sculptures intended for tactile reading. A path designed not only for the visually impaired but also for children. The selected works are masterpieces by artists such as Antonio Canova, Giovanni Dupré, Vincenzo Gemito and Adriano Cecioni, made with different materials and evidence of the development of sculpture from the nineteenth century to the early decades of the twentieth century. Special audio guides and fact sheets in braille or large print complete the route.
As for Florence’s other museums, these are the ongoing special projects:
Bargello National Museum offers a tactile path dedicated to 16th-century sculptures.
San Marco Museum includes a bas-relief reproduction of the Annunciazione by Beato Angelico.
Davanzati Palace – furniture and furnishings can be touched by low-vision visitors.
Orsanmichele Church – a guided tour allows some architecture and sculptures to be touched.
Cenacolo of Andrea del Sarto – relief reproductions of six famous paintings, the originals of which are in the Uffizi Gallery.
Villa Corsini (Castello) – a tactile path with 11 original sculptures, part of the Uffizi’s collection.
The city museums of Florence managed by Mus.e offer occasional special events for the hard of sight or hearing.
Other towns in Tuscany have special tactile paths in their museums.
In Pistoia, the Antico Palazzo dei Vescovi houses on the ground floor the brand-new Museo Tattile offering interesting activities suitable for the visually impaired. There is a tactile map of Pistoia and some models of historical buildings such as the Town Hall, the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Basilica della Madonna dell’Umiltà. A series of explanatory panels in braille and samples of the materials used as marble, stone and terracotta, accompanies the models.
In Cortona (Arezzo), the Etruscan Museum MAEC has panels in braille and copies of the exhibited works can be touched by visitors.
In Pisa, a scale model for the tactile exploration of the piazza dei Miracoli square is located in the information area of the Museum of Sinopie.
In Grosseto, inside the Cathedral there is a tactile path for the visually impaired.