Wanted - lofty commute with views and private gallery
Named after it's architect, the Vasari Corridor was commissioned in 1565 by Cosimo de' Medici to celebrate the wedding of his son Francesco I with Joanna of Austria. The 1km passageway, started in March 1565, was finished in just 5 months on time for the wedding celebrated on December 16th.
Why so important? Well, this elevated route enabled the Medici to move freely and safely (above and away from the masses) between their residence in Palazzo Pitti and government headquarters in the Palazzo Vecchio - without ever needing to come into contact with the public.
Up to this point, the Ponte Vecchio housed butcher shops - with waste commonly thrown into the river. Since the Corridor was planned over these shops - including windows to look out over the streets and the Arno - all offensive sights and smells of the meat markets were comprehensively eliminated by ordering the replacement of all the butcher shops with Goldsmith shops.
The bridge remains famous for it's views and jewellery shops to this day - and for not being blown up by the retreating Nazis.
The corridor was heavily damaged at the Uffizi entrance by a bomb set by the Italian Mafia in 1993, however it remains most renowned for it's famous collection of Self-Portraits - one of the most complete in all Europe and first started by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici in the 17th century.
A walk through the passageway is only possible in small guided groups (to minimise risk to the priceless works on either side of the narrow walkway) and at a pace that really only affords an overview - a mere taste of what draws your eye most. A return visit or two is required to really be able to fully appreciate all that is on show.
Entering the Vasari Corridor you enter history and a special place which gives an insight into how individual artists have viewed themselves and how self-portraiture has changed through the centuries. It is like having the winning ticket to a private showing in one of the more unique galleries in the world, exhibiting work right through from the old masters to modern day contemporary artists.
Many paintings and self-portraits that are a part of the collection are actually not on display for lack of space along the corridor's walls. Let's hope this is something they are able to address during the current closure for renovations. The project foresees it will open to the public as a passageway between Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti in 2018 - more wall space for inspiring art we hope!