On my last weekend in Italy I did something that I’ve been trying to do for the last eight years-visit the Vasari Corridor in Florence. The corridor is a walkway that the Medici family had built in 1565 to connect their offices-gli Uffizi– to their home-the Palazzo Pitti.They fancied themselves as kings and queens and didn’t want to have to mingle with the common folk as they crossed over the river.
I tried to get into see the corridor back in 2003. The only way you can go in there is on a tour, which isn’t offered very frequently. I think when I first inquired about a tour the corridor was closed and not accepting any visitors. After that, I was either not in Florence on the correct day of the week or there weren’t enough people to form a group. Then last year I read that the corridor would be closing for a few years of restoration and I just about gave up. On a whim I looked into it one more time when I knew I would be in Florence for three days at the end of my tour and lo and behold, the corridor was indeed still open and I made a reservation.
Funny thing is, I almost missed the whole thing! I was with my friends V. and S. and we thought we had left plenty of time to get to the meeting spot, but it turns out that we weren’t able to locate the point on our map. By the time we found the location (about 3 minutes late) it was apparent that the group had already departed and we were left behind. Just then a women emerged from the building wearing a tour t-shirt and we pled our case with her. She phoned the guide and she led us over to the group.
We started with a tour of the highlights of the Uffizi and I was almost sorry we had joined the group. It was a very crowded Sunday afternoon and the museum was hot and stuffy. It was almost impossible to hear our guide and for a moment I thought about leaving. Thankfully I didn’t follow that impulse as a few minutes later we were led through a very inconspicuous door in the gallery and from there, down a long flight of stairs into the corridor. We were followed by security guards and warned to not get near any of the paintings, not to touch anything and no photos, except out of the windows.
I took all of these photos from the corridor. It was fun to be up above the Ponte Vecchio and looking down at all the people below who had no idea we were up there. There’ s a second floor to the Ponte Vecchio built up above the shops lining the bridge. You can see a row of windows in the photo of the bridge and this is where we were. The view in all directions was outstanding, but what was really special was the art collection lining the walls the entire route. The emphasis was on art from the 16th and17th century and included a fascinating collection of self portraits by famous artists.
All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours and thankfully I didn’t give up when we were in the midst of the crowds in the Uffizi gallery. After passing over the Ponte Vecchio we even we able to spy down into the Church of Santa Felicita, located in the Oltrarno area. The Medici could exit the passageway into a balcony in the church where they would go unnoticed. When it was time for us to leave the corridor, we passed through a small door that led out into the Boboli Gardens.
As of right now, they are saying the corridor will remain open until October of this year. If you happen to find yourself in Florence before then, you might want to sign up-just make sure you know where to meet your group!