Palazzo Vecchio, Galleria degli Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, and Palazzo Pitti are some of the most well known landmarks in Florence, but did you know there are secret passages that connect them? Designed by Giorgio Vasari under the patronage of Cosimo I in honor of his son Francesco’s wedding to Giovanna of Austria, and completed in just 5 months in 1564, the corridors were used by the Medici family to get from the Uffizi offices to the Pitti Palace without mixing with the Florentine populace and having to see and smell the meat markets that originally occupied the Ponte Vecchio below.
Initially, Vasari wanted to build the corridor in a straight line, directly linking the Uffizi to the Pitti Palace, but four towers marking the entrances to the Ponte Vecchio blocked the way. Three were destroyed, but one, the Mennelli Tower, remained as the Mennelli family refused to let it be destroyed. The end product of Vasari’s labor and Medici gold is a covered footpath almost a kilometer in length.
Now, the 500 year old corridor now hosts the self-portrait collection of the Uffizi – over 1000 paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries and 130 portraits from the 20th century. Artists like Andrea del Sarto, Pieter Paul Rubens, Domenico Beccafumi are represented here. This collection, unique in the world, was created by Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici in the mid 17th century and the Uffizi has continued to receive donations over the centuries. Recently, portrait artists from around the world were invited to donate works to further decorate and modernize the appearance of the corridors, and hundreds answered the call. A beautiful mix of the old and the contemporary, the Vasari Corridor is a special must-see if you’re studying in Florence.
Watch this LdM news video that sums up the history and latest news about the Vasari Corridor.