Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vasari Corridor

My students and I yesterday had the fantastic opportunity to tour Florence's Vasari Corridor, which was built in 1564 by Giorgio Vasari to serve as a passageway for the ruling Medici family between the Uffizi, were they worked, and Palazzo Pitti, where they lived.  This way, they could show their superiority by walking literally above their subjects, they never had to mix with the populous, and they had an escape route in the event of political turmoil.  The corridor is almost a kilometer long and starting from the Uffizi, weaves along the river Arno, over the shops of the Ponte Vecchio, around the Mannelli family's tower, through the interior of the church of Santa Felicità, and finally spits out in the Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace.

Living in Florence, I've always been very aware of this secretive corridor and wondered what it would be like inside, but in practice it was even cooler than I'd imagined.  People on the Ponte Vecchio were looking at us through the windows and waving and I'll be darned if we didn't all feel like the Florentine royal family. 

I was absolutely not supposed to take the above photo, but I had to show you guys what the corridor is like on the inside.  I was surprised by its width as well as its simplicity, and was shocked to learn that the corridor houses more than 1,000 paintings that are only accessible to 150 people a day.  The corridor is famous for its unique and unparalleled collection of self-portraits, including that of Vasari himself, as well as hundreds of other artists including Rubens and Chagall.

Despite the abundance of rarely seen art, it was the view that really took our breath way.  The Arno, the jewelry stores, Santa Felicità-it was our city, but from a completely different and spectacular perspective.  The oohs and ahhs from the group continued their melody throughout the entirety of the corridor.  We couldn't help but feel very lucky to have access to one of the city's most exclusive and beautiful museums.

At one of the angles weaving around the tower, there was a great view back over the length of the Ponte Vecchio, which originally was the location for the meat market and butcher's guild.  However, during the building of the corridor it was decided that the market's odor would be offensive to the Grand Duke, so the butchers were transferred elsewhere and the more appealing (and necessarily odorless) gold stores moved into the neighborhood.

The church of Santa Felicità can be seen through the corridor's window, providing the Medici court with an ironically exclusive way to be pious. 

At the end of the Ponte Vecchio, one can see the corridor weaving around the Manelli family's tower.  One can also see hoards of tourists, a reality check between the 16th and 21st centuries. 

That evening I met up with Cristina and her beau Giulio for an aperitivo at the aptly named Dolce Vita in Piazza del Carmine.  It's always fun catching up with Cri, and I love hanging out on the other side of the river, where there's more of an authentic Italian feel to all things.  Plus, it marks my first outdoor aperitivo of the year-spring must be upon us!

Later, as we strolled back to my bus stop, we paused in Piazza della Repubblica to enjoy this great band that seems to have made the piazza its permanent stage.

To cap off the evening, we swung by the ever-fabulous Duomo.  I swear the last picture looks like a 3-D pop-up puzzle-it's simply perfection!

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