Florence is known for its history of powerful rulers and political intrigues. Combining these both into one massive architectural show of power and secrecy is the Vasari Corridor. Built in 1564, the enclosed passageway was designed to enable the Grand Duke to move between the Pitti Palace where he lived, to the Uffizi where he had his offices, and on to the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall since the thirteenth century.
Almost one kilometer (two-thirds of a mile) long, the corridor passes overhead from the Uffizi, along the river to the Ponte Vecchio, over the top of the shops lining the bridge, through the church of Santa Felicita, and along the tops of gardens and houses until it reaches the Boboli Gardens and the Palazzo Pitti. Being very grand indeed, the Grand Duke did not want to have to mingle with his people – and risk being heckled or possible knifed – nor did he want to get wet in the rain or the snow, or too hot in the sun. He also disliked the smells emanating from the butchers’ shops along the Ponte Vecchio and had them all replaced with the less offensive goldsmiths which to this day still line the bridge.
Vasari, the architect of the corridor, is best known for his books about Renaissance artists: The Lives of the Artists, one of our best sources of information about the life and times of those who artworks we cross the world to see. It’s fitting then that the Vasari Corridor is lined with self-portraits by artists, nearly 1000 paintings in all, dating from the sixteenth century and still being added to today.
To see inside the corridor you have to join a guided tour and book ahead as group sized are limited.