Does your home have a cool passageway connecting you across town? Probably not, but the Medici family had the Vasari Corridor built across Florence making for a quick, private trip between their home and work. Cool right?!
Okay, I admit, it’s not like you’re pulling a special book and a secret door opens, but the Vasari Corridor has gone through quite an adventure! And, luckily for us, the corridor is not so secretly exclusive anymore so let’s check it out.
Walking the Vasari Corridor
Good news! You can access the Vasari Corridor through the Uffizi Gallery! As an old and small space, the Corridor closed down for renovations, security, and COVID safety. But….drum roll please…. the Corridor is scheduled to reopen regularly in 2022! Yay, it’s practically right around the corner! For up-to-date official information click here!
Tip: You’ll need to book ahead!
As an elevated passageway, the Vasari Corridor connects the Uffizi to the Pitti Palace. During this journey, you’ll walk above Florence for some amazing art and viewpoints! From the Uffizi start point, the Corridor passes above streets, runs along (and crosses) the Arno River, enters palaces, bypasses Mannelli Tower, overlooks St. Felicita Church, and takes you to Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace!
Traditionally, the Vasari Corridor displayed a collection of self-portraits from Rembrandt to Peter Paul Rubens. This collection was added to by the Medici’s themselves! Although, according to the Uffizi, during its recent closure, the Corridor has undergone a rearrangement. Now, you’ll probably see ancient statues and inscriptions, 16th century frescoes, and two memorials.
Medici Family Secrets
The Medici Family rose to power in Florence during the 15th century. With power and wealth, the Medici family had their reasons for building the Vasari Corridor! So, in 1565, the Corridor was commissioned by Duke Cosimo de’Medici and designed by Giorgio Vasari.
In total, the Vasari Corridor stretches 1 kilometer from Palazzo Vecchio (the government offices) to Pitti Palace (the Medici home). On one hand, the Corridor enabled the Medici’s to travel freely and safely. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing you are safe from potential assassins on your way to work. Not to mention it’s great for any quick escapes!
But the Corridor was ‘officially’ built in celebration of Duke Cosimo’s son Francesco’s marriage to Joanna of Austria. Some wedding gift, no?!
Don’t you think the Corridor would be a great place to spy on your subjects too? You never know who’s watching the streets below! Hmmm… what a clever way for the Medici’s to instill their power and control over Florence.
Of course, there’s also the bonus beautiful views!
Despite his power, Cosimo de’Medici was bold to build a private corridor through public areas. Most owners gave their consent for the Corridor to pass through their property, but not the Mannelli Family! They objected against the construction. Impressed by their courage, Cosimo de’Medici left their tower alone. In fact, Vasari designed the Corridor to go around the Mannelli Tower resulting in some awkward turns!
If you have the power to install your own private passageway across the city, admit it, you’re privileged! Convincing other families to let them build the passageway through their property isn’t the only Medici entitlement. Rather than mingle with pesky commoners, the Medici’s made sure that the Corridor ran through St. Felicita Church’s upper balcony. They could attend mass and skedaddle without anyone knowing!
That’s not all. Originally, as the Corridor passes the Ponte Vecchio, there was a meat market below! Disgusted by the unattractive smells, the Medici’s replaced the butchers with jewelers. A far more suitable smell (and view) for the Medici nobility.
Beating the Odds
The Vasari Corridor isn’t just some fancy walkway for Florentine nobility. Rather, it’s seen its fair share of tyrants and faced destruction too!
Benito Mussolini, the infamous Italian dictator during WW2, walked through the Vasari Corridor. In 1939, he had the Corridor’s central windows (near the Ponte Vecchio) enlarged to create an even better viewing experience. Mussolini wanted to impress his guest, Adolph Hitler. Rumor has it that Hitler admired the view so much that he ordered retreating German troops to spare the Corridor. Everything was, sadly, fair game for bombs.
Enduring the Italian Mafia
1993 marks the date of a terrorist attack headed by the Italian Mafia. Explosives were detonated around Via dei Georgofili. The bombing killed five people, damaged the Corridor, and severely burned paintings.
In remembrance of these events, the Vasari Corridor now has two memorials: one showing the damaged paintings following the mafia bombing and the other shows original photographs depicting the damage to Florence during WW2. #neverforget
These memorials and art are worth checking out. Also, wouldn’t it be cool to walk through this special passageway to see the same views as the Medici’s all the way back to the 16th century?! I sure think so!
Let us know about your experience and any other secret passageways in the comments!