Post 277 – by Gautam Shah
CORRIDORS and PASSAGES IV Vasari Corridor of Florence
An elevated and enclosed passageway of 1 KM length was built in Florence Italy in 1564, within a short period of 5 months. The corridor was designed by Georgio Vasari for the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. The duke was feeling politically insecure, because he had replaced the Republic of Florence, and wanted a Corridoio between his place of residence, the Palazzo Pitti and the place of work, the Palazzo Vecchio (Duke’s Uffizi or offices). The need for a passage for incognito movements was acute, due to the wedding between Francesco I de’ Medici (Cosimo’s son) and Giovanna of Austria.
The construction of a corridor with huge arches, between the residence and the government palace, located across Arno river, and over a densely populated Florence city, was not without its share of troubles. The resistance to passing of corridor structure over several private properties was scuttled, but had to skirt the Mannelli’s Tower, after the staunch opposition of that family. The smelly meat market of Ponte Vecchio was replaced with Goldsmith shops, which still occupy the bridge.
The corridor had several well-placed small windows overlooking the streets and river it crosses. Mussolini in 1939 ordered corridor windows facing river Arno to be enlarged so that Florence visiting Adolf Hitler could enjoy the view. Hitler (the architect by heart) was impressed by the view through the windows, and later saw to it that bridge is saved from German bombing during World War II. All the other bridges in Florence were destroyed.
The Uffizi end of the Corridoio Vasariano (Vasari Corridor) is now used as an art gallery. This part was severely damaged by a terrorist attack of the Italian Mafia in 1993. Several artworks were destroyed, and those badly damaged have been pieced together and placed back on their original spot, to serve as a reminder of the incident.
After passing the Ponte Vecchio (market on bridge), the corridor passes over the Loggiato (arcade) of the church of Santa Felicita, here it had a balcony allowing Duke’s family to follow services without mixing with the populace.
The corridor was conceived as a raised private footpath for incognito movement, and so its entrance within the Uffizi Gallery is behind an unmarked or featureless door. Walking over the heads of the people below gives a feeling, as if spying over the streets, while remaining unnoticed. The 1 KM long passage was fairly long, for ordinary staff and royalty, so it is presumed the corridor had benches on the way for rest.