vasari corridor firenze

Discovering the Vasari Corridor, secret passageway of the Medicis

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.

Tf February walks & tours – PDF

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