Along with San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, the Accademia is one of the highlights of Venice, a magnificent collection of European art and especially Venetian painting from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Visitors are currently limited to 300 at one time, so lines can be long in high season—advance reservations are essential (these are timed entry, so you can skip the line). In general, at opening in the morning, and around 2 hours before closing, tend to be the least crowded times.
There’s a lot to take in here, so buy a catalog in the store, as these contain detailed descriptions of the core paintings and plenty of context—the audio guides are a little muddled and not worth 6€. Note also that Da Vinci’s iconic Vitruvian Man (“L’Uomo Vitruviano”), one of the museum’s prize holdings, is an extremely fragile ink drawing and rarely displayed in public; check the website before you visit, as exhibitions featuring the painting are rare but well publicized.
Rooms are laid out in rough chronological order, though renovations and closures mean some rooms may be off-limits when you visit (call ahead to check on specific paintings; the website is updated monthly). Work began on the second-floor galleries in 2018—rooms 6 to 13, plus 15, each are likely to be closed at some point until 2022. The following artworks should be on display somewhere in the museum, though locations will change (check the website for the latest).
Visits normally begin upstairs on the second floor, where room 1 (the grand meeting room of the Scuola Grande di Santa Maria) displays a beautifully presented collection of lavish medieval and early Renaissance art, primarily religious images and altarpieces on wood panels from 1300 to 1450. The giant canvases in room 2 include Carpaccio’s “Presentation of Jesus in the Temple,” and works by Giovanni Bellini (one of Bellini’s images of St. Peter lies in room 3). Rooms 6 to 8 feature Venetian heavyweights Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese and Lorenzo Lotto, while Room 10 is dominated by Paolo Veronese’s mammoth “Feast in the House of Levi”. Vast Tintoretto canvases make up the rest of the room, including his four paintings of the legends of St. Mark. Opposite is Titian’s last painting, a “Pietà” intended for his own tomb. Room 11 contains work by Tiepolo, the master of 18th-century Venetian painting, but also several paintings by Tintoretto, including a “Crucifixion.”
The next rooms contain a relatively mediocre batch of 17th- and 18th-century paintings, though Canaletto’s “Capriccio: A Colonnade” (Room 17), which he presented to the Academy when he was made a member in 1763, certainly merits a closer look for its elegant contrast between diagonal, vertical, and horizontal lines.
Room 19 has traditionally contained the monumental cycle of nine paintings by Carpaccio illustrating the Story of St. Ursula; most of these continue to undergo restoration, with “Arrival in Cologne” the only one likely to be displayed for some time. Room 20 is filled by Gentile Bellini’s cycle of “The Miracles of the Relic of the Cross” , painted around 1500. While renovations are ongoing, room 23 will contain some of the museum’s most famous paintings—check before you visit with the museum information desk (or online) if there’s a particular work you would like to see. Finally, room 24 is adorned with Titian’s “Presentation of the Virgin,” created between 1534 and 1538 specifically to hang in this space.
Downstairs, the renovated ground-floor galleries cover the late 18th to 19th centuries, a far more mediocre collection of baroque and romantic works, though delicate paintings by Tiepolo share space with his large tondo “Feast of the Cross” in gallery 2, along with Veronese’s “Venice Receives Homage from Hercules and Ceres.” Sculpture galleries (featuring the work of Canova) should also be open on this level.