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Explore one of the great art galleries with Uffizi Touch

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy is one of the great art treasure houses of the world. Construction began in 1560, and now it is home to thousands of paintings and statues from Renaissance artists like da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. The entire collection ranges from the 1100s to the last century.

If you visit the gallery, expect long lines and waits up to five hours. Or, tour the collection on your iOS device with this universal app called Uffizi Touch, which sells for US$4.99.

Uffizi Touch, which looks great in the iPad's large screen, lets you search by artist, period, room or theme. You can zoom in to see the detail of the paintings and, with a WiFi or 3G connection, get access to 100 megapixel images, the largest version available for these works of art. If you look at a particular image for a moment, all the navigation buttons slowly fade away so as not to interfere with your viewing.

Another unique feature is the "Visual Tour." When you select a painting, you can find others that are related. It might be a work of art with similar jewelry, or an iconic subject.

The only downside is a watermark that becomes visible as you zoom in. It's there to prevent to protect the artwork's copyright, and is a requirement of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. The implementation is a bit distracting, because the logos fade and re-appear, and sometimes change sizes. I understand the need to protect these images, but I would have liked to see something less intrusive.

Don't let that small criticism dissuade you from the app. The art is beautifully and tastefully presented, with information about each item. Holding the Uffizi collection in your hand is quite a treat, and someone can spend hours exploring and appreciating the art that is displayed.

The app is a 446 megabyte download, and requires iOS 4.3 or later. It is optimized for the iPhone 5. I've included some screen shots but these compressed images don't do the native images justice.

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