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Vasari Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano)
The Vasari Corridor is an elevated walkway about 1 km long, connecting Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti on the river’s opposite bank. The corridor was built in five months by Giorgio Vasari (according to the latter, but in reality, it took eight months) in 1564 on the occasion of the wedding between Francesco I de’ Medici and Giovanna of Austria. The aim was to connect Palazzo Pitti, the residence of the Grand Duke, with Palazzo Vecchio, where Francesco went to administer the Grand Duchy.
The singularity of the corridor is that it is one kilometer long and passes from one building to another without ever coming out in the open, including in the section above the Arno. It starts from Palazzo Pitti, continues via dei Bardi, goes around the Torre dei Mannelli, emerges inside Ponte Vecchio, flanks the river through large arches, and enters and from there into Palazzo Vecchio. The Medici could also attend the Holy Mass of Santa Felicita without mixing with the people. The corridor has access to a private balcony that overlooks the church’s interior.
The Vasari Corridor now houses one of the largest collections of self-portraits in the world, collected over the centuries. The credit for this patrimony goes to Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, who, a great enthusiast and collector, in 1664, began to decorate the corridor with drawings, paintings, statues, and self-portraits. Today, the corridor’s walls are covered with hundreds of 17th to 19th-century paintings.
In the second room of the corridor coming from the Uffizi is a painting by Anna Maria Luisa de Medici. Thanks to her if the city of Florence can show all the wonderful works of art by her to the whole world. In 1737 she signed a “family agreement” with the new dukes of Tuscany, the Austrian Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, which did not allow them to take any works of art, paintings, statues, and libraries from Florence. Can you imagine where David could be exhibited now?
In short, Francesco de’ Medici needed it to go “to work,” avoiding mixing with the vulgar, and he, unable to bear the smell of meat, ordered that the butcher shops be evicted from the Ponte Vecchio in favour of the goldsmith craftsmen. During the Second World War, he served the partisans to pass with relative tranquillity from the liberated neighbourhoods to the occupied ones. Vittore Branca remained in the occupied area, born in Savona in 1913 and died in Venice last year, but was awarded the honorary citizenship of Florence for his merits in the Resistance and literature. In a fine book of memoirs (Ponte Santa Trinità, Marsilio publisher), he recounted that it was decided to stay where we were to speed up the German retreat. However, a partisan could pass a telephone wire along the Vasari corridor and thus establish constant contact with the liberated Oltrarno.
Above the Ponte Vecchio, large panoramic windows offer a splendid view of the city. But originally, they weren’t there. The light only came through small portholes that still existed. It was only in 1938, during Fascism, on the occasion of Hitler’s official visit to Florence, that Mussolini ordered the installation of these large windows to give the Fuhrer a splendid view of Florence. It seems Hitler liked the sight that Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in the city to survive the bombs of WWII. Being the only connection between the northern and southern parts of Florence, in 1944, the partisans even used the corridor to break the enemy line.
Over the past century, a number of other unfortunate events occurred at the Vasari Corridor. In 1966, the disastrous flood that went down in history also thanks to the so-called Angels of the Mud seriously damaged the Vasari Corridor. In 1993, then, the entrance to the Corridor and some paintings suffered serious damage caused by the mafia attack in Via dei Georgofili.
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