The Vasari Corridor of Florence: An Architecturally-Gifted Historic Passageway

The Vasari Corridor of Florence, Italy is an overhead or enclosed passageway having a length of about a kilometer. It has been named after Giorgio Vasari, who constructed it within a fascinatingly short period of 5 months, in the year 1564. The passageway serves as a link between the Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio, crossing Uffizi Gallery and Lungarno dei Archibusieri on its way.

In the photo above, the Vasari Corridor comes out of the Uffizi Gallery on the right side, goes over to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, and crosses over the Arno River on top of the bridge to arrive at the Piti Palace on the left side of the river.

Why was it built?

The structure was built to respect the order of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of the region at that time. The Duke wanted it built because the marriage of his son Francesco and Johanna of Austria was nearing. The passageway was primarily erected because the grand Duke felt quite insecure to move in public like most other monarchs of that period. The passageway was supposed to let him move freely between the palace and the residence. It is noteworthy that the design elements are inspired by the ideas of Vasari.

Vasari Corridor Window

What does it presently offer for tourists?

The corridor opened to the public only in the year 1973, after being restored. However, an appointment is required in order to visit the interiors. The entrance between room 34 and room 25 can be viewed with permission. The passageway, in total, contains at least 1000 different paintings, all painted between the 17th and 18th centuries. Many famous self-portraits painted between the 16th and 20th centuries can also be witnessed. Among other notable paintings, self-portraits by Beccafumi, Andrea del Sarto, Bernini, Annibale Carracci, Salvator Rosa, and Rubens can be seen. Also, the round windows are loved for offering an excellent view of the city.

Vasari Corridor Arno River View

Moving the meat markets off the bridge

When the passageway was built, the Ponte Vecchio meat market was moved from the region, because the bad smell reached the passageway. The meat market was replaced by goldsmith shops, and some of those shops can be still found. 

The windows near the middle region of the Ponte Vecchio were replaced in the year 1939 by large panoramic windows to let Adolf Hitler see the beautiful panoramic view of the Arno river. Hitler visited Florence for official purposes.

During the war in later years, Hitler heavily bombed all of the bridges across the Arno River, except one. The order was given to disable the Ponte Vecchio bridge, but not to destroy it. Both ends were closed off to keep the soldiers from getting across.

Vasari Corridor window with bars

Another view out the window while above the Ponte Vecchio Bridge.

Vasari Corridor chapel view

The photo above is the private balcony of the church. The Medici family was able to attend services without having to go into the church. The balcony is directly off the corridor and allowed the family to slip in and out as they needed to.

The Vasari Corridor is impressive for its paintings

The structure is one of the most unique structures that were ever built during any historical time. The beautiful design aspects impress the visitors easily, and the majestic size of the passageway, both in terms of length and height, is very impressive. The presence of the Arno River just beside it makes the scenic beauty even more appealing.

Inside, there are so many paintings that it is difficult to view them all. Walking along the corridor as a group and listening to the tour guide, you get the feeling that you are back in time.

I managed to get a few pictures inside the corridor. The tour guide was adamant about not taking photos inside the corridor. But we were allowed to take pictures out of the windows. I suspect that this was a security measure for the paintings and sculptures all along the corridor walls. I carried my camera strap around my neck, and just occasionally pushed the shutter button without lifting it to my eye. I just hoped they wouldn’t catch me doing it!

Here are a few of the better images I captured.

Walking along the Vasari Corridor

Another photo taken using my stealth technique!

Vasari Corridor tour

Our guide would stop occasionally to explain what we were seeing. There were so many paintings that they started to blur together!

Paintings in the Vasari Corridor

On the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, there are gold shops set up for the tourists. The large windows on the corridor above the bridge were installed so Adolf Hitler could see the river views when he toured the Vasari Corridor with Mussolini before WWII.

Vasari Corridor from the bridge

The Vasari Corridor tour ended at this point (see photo below). We took stairs down to ground level and went to have a look inside the grotto.

Vasari Corridor tour end

The Grotto was commissioned by Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici. You must go inside the Boboli Gardens to see it. It is a unique work of art.

Vasari Corridor grotto

The artificial grotto was designed by Bernardo Buontalenti. It was built over a 10 year period, from 1583 to 1593. The work was commissioned by Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici. At this point in the tour, you are on the other side of the Arno River in the Boboli Gardens. The grotto is decorated with mother-of-pearl, shells, stalactites, and stones that frame the beautiful frescoes. The sculptures seem to be trying to come out of the walls. In the past, there was a water feature.

Vasari Corridor inside grottoA view of the inside of the Vasari Corridor grotto.

The Vasari Corridor is a recommended tour for anyone wanting to learn more about how the Medici family lived and worked in Florence. The tour we took started with a guided tour in the Uffizi Gallery. Inside the Gallery, there is a stairway leading to doors that take you into the Corridor. The walk across the Vasari Corridor is full of interesting sights and sounds.

The mafia bombed the Vasari Corridor

In the year 1993, a car bomb was placed by the Italian mafia next to Torre dei Pulci. The car, full of explosives, badly damaged the part of the passageway near the Uffizi entrance. Many houses and paintings were heavily damaged due to the attack. Most of the paintings were put together nicely after the destruction took place, and placed at their original spots in order to remind people of the unfortunate event. You are able to see the spot where the bombing occurred and to see damaged paintings on display. It’s quite chilling to learn of this attack on the corridor.

The Vasari Corridor is a recommended tour for anyone wanting to learn more about how the Medici family lived and worked in Florence. The tour we took started with a guided tour in the Uffizi Gallery. Inside the Gallery, there is a stairway leading to doors that take you into the Corridor. The walk across the Vasari Corridor is full of interesting sights and sounds.

What To See & Do:

Book a tour of the Vasari Corridor using THIS LINK or search for a tour of your choice. You will get into the Uffizi Gallery without waiting in line, and then tour the Vasari Corridor with a small group.

Where To Eat:

There are fine restaurants all along the route of the Vasari Corridor. Finding somewhere to eat is not a problem! If you are ready to try gelato, there is a gelato shop at the end of the Ponte Vecchio bridge that is touristy (and over-priced) but fun and worth a visit for the experience.

Where To Stay:

Check VRBO for apartment and vacation rentals. CLICK HERE to view available apartments and rental rates in Florence, Italy. Or check for other locations near Florence. Staying across the Arno River is recommended for a more residential feel.

Steven Ward founded 10 Minute Travel in 2006. He wanted to create a website that would focus on interesting sights and attractions. The website has seen several changes over the years. Steve is a retired Coast Guard Officer who has worked in the IT field after leaving the service. He has been all over Alaska on ships, sailed through the Panama Canal, stopped in Jamaica and Aruba, and gone on a handful of trips to Europe and Asia. Taiwan, Japan, and Thailand were some of the more recent trips overseas. If there is a vaccine for the travel flu bug, he will refuse it.  🙂

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