Vasari Corridor, a secret path in Florence
In the heart of Florence, over the Ponte Vecchio, since 1565 a hidden path links two important buildings of the city. I am talking about the Vasari Corridor, one of the most exclusive places of Florence and of all Tuscany.
Closed off to the mass tourism, I have always been attracted and keen to visit it. Finally few days ago, thanks to the tour guides of Artemide, a Florentine cultural association, I realized my little dream of walking along the Vasari Corridor. I was so excited thinking to go back in the history to the time of the Medici Family and cross the Arno River by this unusual passage, hidden from the rest of the tourists.
View of the Vasari Corridor from the Uffizi Gallery
Vasari Corridor, the secret passage in the heart of Florence
The Vasari Corridor is an elevated passageway of about 1 km / 0,62 miles of length, connecting Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti on the opposite bank of the river. The corridor starts from the current Town Hall, passes through the Uffizi Museum and along the Lungarno Archibusieri. From there, it turns left crossing the river over the Ponte Vecchio and goes around the Torre dei Mannelli. Once reached the Oltrarno district, it keeps going inside the church of Santa Felicita and into Palazzo Guicciardini, to ends its run in two different places: into the Boboli Garden and inside Palazzo Pitti.
The Vasari Corridor pass above the portico of Lungarno Archibusieri
My experience along the Vasari Corridor
The tour begins from the second floor of the Uffizi with a short brief about the history of the building. We walked for a while inside the gallery to reach the entrance of corridor where a keeper was waiting for us to open the door. Under the curious gaze of the other visitors, we entered this secret passageway, leaving behind us the noise and chatter of the gallery. Only silence and history surrounded us.
The entrance of the Vasari Corridor
The experienced and smiling Lavinia, the tour guide, drove us along the corridor showing the most important paintings and telling dozens of curious and fascinating stories about this incredible place.
The first room of the Corridor with the painting destroyed by bombing of the Italian Mafia on 1993
The reason why the Vasari Corridor was built
On 1565, the Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, in occasion of the marriage of his son Francesco I with the princess Johanna of Austria, commissioned the build of the corridor to the famous architect Giorgio Vasari. The construction began in March 1565 to end in November, after only eight months (even if the Vasari proudly said they were five), in time for the celebration of the wedding the 16th December of the same year.
The Vasari Corridor was needed to allow to the regnant Medici Family to easily and safely move from their residence in Palazzo Pitti to the government offices in Palazzo Vecchio, without using security guards. They could even attend to the holy Mass of Santa Felicita church without mixing up with the people. In fact the corridor have an access to a private balcony overlooking the inside of the church.
The private balcony into the Santa Felicita church
Other curiosities about the Vasari Corridor
In origin, Ponte Vecchio hosted the meat market, but after the build of the Corridor, it was moved away and replaced by the goldsmith shops we still find nowadays. Can you guess why? Because the Duke did not want the nauseating smell of meat could reach the corridor.
View of Ponte Vecchio from the porthole of the corridor
In front of a painting of Villa Medici in Rome, we heard about the story of Ferdinando I de Medici. He was Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church but had to come back to Rome and Florence to continue the dynasty of the Medici. So, from 1588 he decided to use the Vasari Corridor also as boast of the Family. The Medici loved to impress the illustrious visitors of Florence showing them the corridor and its artworks, as symbol of the grandeur of the new dynasty.
Portraits along the corridor
The Vasari Corridor today houses about 1600 of the world’s greatest collection of self-portraits, collected over centuries. The credit of this heritage goes to the cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici that being a great passionate and collector, in 1664 began to decorate the corridor with drawings, paintings, statues and self-portraits.
Today, the walls of the corridor are covered by hundreds of paintings from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.
The panoramic windows over the Ponte Vecchio
In the second room of the corridor there is a painting of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici. We must say thanks to her if the city of Florence can show to the entire world all its wonderful artworks. On 1737, she signed a “family agreement” with the new Dukes of Tuscany, the dynasty of Lorena, which did not allow them to take any artwork, painting, statue, and library away from Florence. Can you imagine where the David could be exposed now?
Above the Ponte Vecchio, big panoramic windows offer a great view of the city. But in origin they were not there. The light came only through small portholes that still exist. It’s only on 1938 during the Fascism, in occasion of the official visit of Hitler in Florence, that Mussolini ordered the installation of these large windows to give the Fuhrer a wonderful view of Florence. It seems that Hitler liked the view very much that Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in town to survive to the bombs of the Second World War. Being the only connection between the northern and the southern part of Florence, on 1944 the corridor was even used by the Partisans to break the enemy’s line.
View of Florence from the panoramic windows
Over the last century a series of other unfortunate events happened to the Vasari Corridor. On 1966, the disastrous flood seriously damaged it. Then in 1993 the entrance of the Corridor and some paintings suffered heavy damages caused by the bombing of the Italian Mafia in the close Via dei Georgofili.
The visit lasted after only one hour into the Boboli Gardens. We came out from a small door next to the Buontalenti Grotto. It was sad to leave the secret path, I could stay for hours walking backwards and forwards, enjoying the view from the big windows, staring at the artworks imagining how life could have been at the time of the Medici Dynasty.
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