vasari corridor firenze

Discovering the Vasari Corridor, secret passageway of the Medicis

vasari corridor florence italy

Last Friday I got the really awesome opportunity to see something I have been wanting to see for years in Florence. A private tour of the famous ‘Vasari Corridor’ – or 1 kilometer long secret passageway linking the Palazzo Vecchio – Uffizi Museum with the Pitti Palace and specifically commissioned for the famous Medici Family. What family, however rich, could possibly have the power to alter a city just for them? Well the Medici Family can and did, chew on that for awhile Donald Trump.

If you don’t know much about the Medici family, Alexandra Lawrence (our tour guide) mentioned this book and I too highly recommend reading the Rise and Fall of the House of the Medici written by Christopher Hibbert to learn more about Florence’s most famous noble family. They are beyond interesting from a historical perspective and thanks to them Florence is a cultural gold-mind known all over the world.

As for the corridor, I have heard about this place for years but it was no small task to visit since they don’t exactly open it up to just anyone. The day ended up being extra ‘special’ since before we toured the corridor – there was a short {but shaky!} earthquake that I most definitely felt. After living in Los Angeles – I really can’t believe the first time I ever felt the earth shake was in Florence, Italy and in the Uffizi museum no less! After a quick twitter search – it was confirmed that there was indeed a 4.8 quake centered 35 Km from Lucca.

The tour itself is one offered by The Florentine and Alexandra Lawrence as part of their special series “So you think you know Florence?” The focus this tour was on women artists in Florence and included a book written by Jane Fortune and Linda Falcone titled “Art by Women in Florence: A Guide to Five Hundred Years.” During the tour itself she focused very much on artist’s self portraits which are unique to the corridor. For me, these self-portraits provided a little peek into the minds of the artists – even if only for a moment.

vasari corridor 2013 Upon entering a nondescript door in the Uffizi, there lies the corridor in all of it’s glory. Quiet inside and larger than I expected, we immediately spotted the works of art damaged by the 1993 Mafia bomb set off right under the gallery, killing five people and damaging these works of art that they later pieced together and returned to the corridor as a reminder.

While you are not allowed to take pictures of the art, you can outside of the windows hence the shots above. I especially liked the vantage point from above the Ponte Vecchio and looking in the Church of Santa Felicita where the Medici Family could attend church in their own medieval ‘vip section’ as I like to think of it.

Photo from http://www.advancingwomenartists.org/doc-apbs-special.php

The standout artist self-portrait for me was completed by Maria Hadfield Cosway completed sometime around 1778. Sometimes I wish I could transport myself in time to live a day like she lived. This artist had quite an adventurous life that was almost cut short due to a mentally ill nursemaid who killed four of her siblings and tried to kill her before she was arrested. Besides meeting Napoleon, this English-Italian artist apparently struck up quite a unique relationship with America’s Thomas Jefferson during his Paris envoy 1786. Rumor has it they remained in contact for life after that first meeting and that if anything, makes Maria more interesting in my eyes especially since Jefferson wrote her a 4,000-word love letter dated October 12–13, 1786 titled “The Dialogue of the Head vs. the Heart”, in which he writes of his head’s conversing with his heart, and the struggle between the practical and the romantic. This being a time before plastic surgery and hair dye, perhaps we can learn a lot from people like her.

Not just an artist, she was also an accomplished composer and musician {honestly where can I get these skills!}and founded several girl schools in Paris and Italy.

We were hurried through the rest of the corridor because of the earthquake and the museum’s fear of further aftershocks. Alexandra Lawrence was really great and making everything interesting and funny – a memorable first experience exploring this famous place.

We ended in the Palazzo Pitti’s garden next to the “grotto of Moses” where they have recently started to host jazz concerts during the summer. In my opinion it was the perfect place to finish such an amazing tour and ‘live’ like a Medici if only for a moment.

The Florentine & Alexandra are also offering other really cool tours discovering Santa Trinita & Palazzo Davanzati, Museum of the Opera del Duomo, the Uffizi : Tribune & Niobe room, Palazzo Vecchio and the Chiostro di Sant’Antonino and the convent of San Marco. They are all at a really affordable prices and if they are anything like my Vasari Corridor tour – you can expect an interesting few hours discovering hidden gems about your own city.

It’s  really awesome to have these options for people like me (young underpaid immigrants) who can’t afford 80 euro + tours but are very interested in learning more about their own city. Double this up with a trip to Osteria Buongustai or a nice cafe and you have one fantastic afternoon in Florence.

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  1. Alison

    So envious! I’ve always wanted to see the Vasari corridor in person. Someday!

    Maria Cosway makes an appearance in a fiction novel (with a lot of historical figures) called The Fire by Katherine Neville. She’s not a major character, but she does get involved. :)

    • ggnitaly84

      thank you, I really enjoyed the experience. Can you believe that I took all the photos with my new phone? Samsung galaxy s3, it pretty much takes better photos than my real camera..

  2. D

    My boyfriend and I did this a couple of years ago and while I liked the actual corridor, views and “feeling” better than the artwork (I am just not big on portraits), it was indeed an amazing feeling and a pretty cool finish in P. Pitti. Your description is even better, IMO! Unfortunately our tour guide sucked, clearly reciting from memorizing facts and I felt bad for a small older man who asked questions about certain works only to be brushed off because “we had a timetable.” More like, the guide had no clue about anything outside of his required readings. lol

    • ggnitaly84

      Oh no, I truly believe the tour guide makes a difference, we had a time constraint as well due to the earthwuake but I didn’t feel rushed. In fact, I wanted to go only with someone I knew would keep it interesting and explain about both the corridor & the artwork which Alexandra Lawrence did both. Our’s was more of a focus on women artists in Florence so we didn’t go through every painting either (there are so many) but she knew a lot about the history of the artists themselves and interesting factoids (like the thomas jefferson reference). Hope you get a chance to go again and with a better guide!

  3. kat

    This sounds like a lot of fun! I learner only a little bit about the Medicis, I think when I visited the Palazzo Medici in Florence, but I’d love to learn more! I’ll check out this book :)

  4. Cassandra

    How crazy that you guys experienced an earthquake while on the tour!

    I looked into touring the passageway when I studied in Florence but was deterred by the price and the wait lists–the line outside the Uffizi was already long enough! So it was very interesting to get your perspective on the outing and finally peer inside this secret part of Florence..

    • ggnitaly84

      thanks Cassandra! The past two years it has been easier to get into the vasari, I have even seen ads on groupon! For me, I wanted a special experience since it was my first time and luckily, I got it – earthquake included!

  5. Vasari Corridor tour

    TheE visit to the Vasari Corridor has left me a bit puzzled, I mean the city of Frienze was beautiful, everything hit me, but the Vasari Corridor is not so good, I think.
    I would say that once you’re in Florence make a visit to the Vasari corridor, but do not go to Florence for that.
    But if you do not find the right guide is only a thin corridor, is the most beautiful in the history of this strange work in secrecy and mystery that surrounds and spectacular views

    • ggnitaly84

      I would disagree completely because if you know the city and appreciate its history, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the mere fact that something like this was created as a secret passageway of the nobles. I do agree with you that it really depends on the guide and luckily when I went, that’s what got me hooked, were the stories behind the artists self-portraits. :)


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