Walking through the majestic arches of the Uffizi Gallery onto the banks of the Arno river, and then across the Ponte Vecchio and to the Pitti Palace, is an enchanting experience. Countless architectural wonders capture one’s sight, and each reveals fascinating historical facts. Among these, one wondrous marvel lies concealed high above street level, and behind sturdy walls. It’s the mysterious Vasari Corridor, one of the most astonishing and atypical architectural works in the world. But what is the Vasari Corridor exactly?
What is the Vasari Corridor?
The Vasari Corridor is an elevated enclosed walkway that connects the Uffizi Gallery to the Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace, on the other side of the Arno river. To do so, it runs over the building on the banks of the Arno river, over the jewelry shops of Ponte Vecchio, sidesteps the Mannelli tower, and passes through the Church of Saint Felicita. The idea is dizzying, and its accomplishment clearly the work of a genius mind. Truth be told, the man who designed and built it was more than a prodigy. He was an explorer, a painter, and an architect. He worked for two popes, created innumerable masterpieces, and was the world’s first art historian. His name was Giorgio Vasari.
How long is the Vasari Corridor?
“… il gran corridore che, attraversando il fiume, va dal Palazzo Ducale al palazzo e giardino de’ Pitti…”, wrote Vasari in his Autobiography. Which is to say, “the grand corridor that runs from the Ducal Palace to the Pitti Palace and gardens”. What many visitors want to know is how long the Vasari Corridor is. The “grand corridor” is exactly 760 meters long, starting from the second corridor of the Uffizi Gallery, also known as the “Ponente Corridor” and ending right next to Buontalenti’s eerie Grotto in the Boboli Gardens. The history of its creation, and its life thereon, are deeply rooted in the history of the city of Florence. The views from its windows are among the most breathtaking glimpses of eternity in the world.
History of an amazing masterpiece: when and why the Vasari Corridor was built
In 1554 Giorgio Vasari came to Florence at the behest of the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, a despotic authoritarian addicted to beauty. Entrusted with the renewal of Palazzo della Signoria, Vasari was later assigned a majestic new project: the Uffizi, the gallery which would later house one of the world’s most extraordinary art collections. Meantime, the Grand Dukes worked on the future of the dynasty, planning the marriage between Cosimo’s son Francesco and Joan of Austria. Needless to say, the occasion called for significant security measures, and safety had long been on the Grand Duke’s mind. Cosimo longed for a protected route from his home in the Pitti Palace to the government headquarters. Vasari found the solution: a secret aerial passageway reserved for the Grand Ducal family.
Thanks to superbly inventive solutions, like the stone ledges used to go around the Mannelli tower, and efficient planning of the construction site, the corridor was built in just 5 months.
The Vasari Corridor self-portraits
In the 17th century the Medici family chose to enhance the Vasari Corridor further: paintings, precisely self-portraits, were hung along the walls, increasing the passageway’s allure. The masterpieces on display included self-portraits by Andrea del Sarto, Rubens, Rembrandt, Antonio Canova, and many others. Albeit decorated by mesmerizing paintings, the Vasari Corridor was later somewhat “forgotten” by the Medici family, and by many other Florentines as well. In 1737, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the last descendant of the family, bequeathed the whole of the Medici art collection, including the Uffizi Gallery and Vasari Corridor naturally, to the State of Tuscany, as long as no part ever be transferred outside “the Capital of the grand-ducal State”.
Windows that open onto the beauty of Florence
Constructed to meet all the Grand Dukes’ needs, the original corridor built by Vasari included a decorated restroom, stone benches, and a sequence of small windows and tiny round openings protected by bars. These allowed them to both admire and control the city easily. Today, the Vasari Corridor still offers spectacular views, but the three central windows on the Ponte Vecchio are much larger than the original ones…
Fast-forward three centuries
In fact, Mussolini enlarged them when Hitler visited Florence in 1938 to provide his guest with a grander perspective. Soon after, World War II wreaked havoc throughout the world, bringing death and destruction to Florence, as well as to all European cities. Between July 29 and August 3, 1944, the Nazi forces mined all the bridges, in a desperate attempt to stop the Anglo-American Allies from accessing the city center. On the morning of August 4th, Florence awoke to find all the city center bridges, including the marvelous Ponte a Santa Trinita, collapsed. All except Ponte Vecchio, and, with it, the Vasari Corridor, and its paintings. Rumor spread that Hitler, reminiscent of his tour, had personally issued orders not to destroy the Ponte Vecchio. Many years later, the truth came to light: a cripple called Burgasso had fearlessly disconnected the mines that were ready to explode, saving the bridge and the Corridor. A heroic action that proved to be decisive: with the Nazi troops camping in Palazzo Vecchio, and fiercely holding the whole historic center, a couple of Florentine partisans managed to lay a telephone wire through the Vasari Corridor, and connect Piazza della Signoria to Palazzo Pitti, headquarters of the Allied command.
Thus, the uprising of Florence started, ending, dramatically but successfully, on September 1st, 1944.
The Vasari Corridor survived WW II, but was significantly damaged by the Via dei Georgofili bombing, a mafia attack carried out in the night between May 26 and 27, 1993. The bombing caused the death of 5 people, destroyed the Pulci Tower, and severely damaged several paintings both in the Uffizi Gallery and in the Corridor.
In 2016 the Corridor was closed to visitors for security reasons. It is scheduled to reopen in 2024.
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The Vasari Corridor is one of the most fascinating architectural masterpieces in the world and a must-visit Florentine landmark.
Currently closed for renovation, it is due to reopen shortly. Don’t miss out on the opportunity: fill in the form and we’ll keep you updated on dates, ticketing, booking, and admission procedures.
Phone: (+39) 055 281103