Along with San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, the Accademia is one of the city's highlights, a magnificent collection of European art and 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 two 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 decriptions 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 on-and-off again renovations mean some rooms may be off-limits when you visit (call ahead to check on specific paintings). The following artworks should be on display somewhere in the museum, though locations may change. Visits normally begin upstairs on the first 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 dating 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. 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, and several paintings by Tintoretto.
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, including a gorgeous “St. George” by Mantegna, Della Francesca’s “St. Jerome,” a “St. John the Baptist” by Antonio Viviani, plus a series of Bellini Madonnas and his monumental “Martyrdom of St. Mark.” Pride of place goes to Giorgione’s enigmatic and utterly mystifying “Tempest”. Finally, room 24 is adorned with Titian’s “Presentation of the Virgin,” actually created to hang in this space between 1534 and 1538.