The Hidden World of the Vasari Corridor
Posted: Jun 02, 2017
Have you ever thought that your commute to work is a little dull, or that it would be good on a rainy day to be able to go from your home to your destination without getting wet? Well, you could always do what Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici did in the 16th Century and build yourself a covered walkway from your home right into your office!
The Vasari Corridor, named after the artist/architect Vasari who created it in just five months, runs for one kilometre from Cosimo’s home at the Palazzo Pitti to the government offices of the Uffizi and on to the seat of Florentine power at the Palazzo Vecchio.
Quite literally the most exclusive Florence walking tour ever, those at the top of Florence society during its Renaissance age could walk the length of the city without ever encountering the ‘common’ folk below. In fact, it was so important to Cosimo to be protected from the baser elements of city life that the butcher shops along the Ponte Vecchio were forced to move as the corridor ran above it and Vasari didn’t want the duke’s experience to be ruined by the smell of raw meat.
As you stroll around on a Florence walking tour you’ll be unlikely to notice the secret corridor which winds its way through the city above you. But along most of the major routes to the sights, just out of sight, the Vasari Corridor is likely to be there.
Starting on the south side of the Palazzo Vecchio it joins the Uffizi Gallery coming out on the south side. It then crosses the Lungarno dei Archibusieri and runs above the north bank of the Arno.
It crosses the Arno above the shops of the Ponte Vecchio then passes through the church of Santa Felicità. Here one of the walls of the corridor opens to reveal the inside of the chapel below so that the Medicis could attend services without having to mix with the people of the city. From here the corridor winds its way through the historic Oltrano district until it reaches Palazzo Pitti.
A Kilometre-Long Art Gallery
Although your averageFlorence walking touris unlikely to get permission to venture the full length of the famous corridor as much of it is closed to the public, those who do walk the kilometre length are entertained along the way by some of the city’s most priceless artworks.
More than one thousand paintings line the corridor’s walls, the most impressive section of which is located around the Uffizi gallery where one of the world’s most important collections of self-portraits by artists including Filippo Lippi, Rembrandt, Velazquez and Delacroix hang.
The art collection here was started by the Medici family and many of the paintings were commissioned by them from the famous names in Renaissance art. Today renowned artworks are still donated to the collection, so many in fact that the corridor ran out of space to hang them and an old section of the corridor was renovated to display the more contemporary art.
The corridor is currently closed to the public for an indefinite time for a future project, so is not included on the current ArtViva Florence walking tour. But our guides will certainly help you discover the history of this fascinating corridor in greater depth.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group day tours and experiences, whether a Florence walking tour, an unforgettable Tuscan cookery class, or an afternoon grape stomping.
Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.