Florence, Vasari Corridor will reopen soon. Portraits will be removed, and it will be open for visits by appointment only

All set for the reopening of the Vasari Corridor in Florence. A year and a half of 10 million euro work.

Everything is ready in Florence for the reopening of the Vasari Corridor. Closed to visits since 2016 for security reasons, it will reopen to the general public in the ordinary way, entirely reorganized, with a route and a special ticket. Visitors from all over the world will thus be able to enjoy a unique panoramic walk, overlooking the heart of Florence, which, starting from an ad hoc entrance on the ground floor from the Gallery of Statues and Paintings, will pass over the Ponte Vecchio, to reach across the Arno River to the Medici Boboli Gardens and the grand ducal palace of Palazzo Pitti.

The executive project of the reopening, carried out by the Uffizi and Soprintendenza dei beni architettonici with the direction of the works by architect Mauro Linari (the single person in charge of the procedure is instead architect Francesco Fortino), after 18 months of studies, research and investigations involving dozens of specialists (more than a thousand pages of the program, 201 square meters of elaborations made, 23 specialized reports drawn up, 2435 photographs, dozens of tests and essays on materials made) is finally ready. The total cost of the works, the duration of which is calculated to be around one and a half years, amounts to about 10 million euros (already financed) and the development agency of the Ministry of Economy, Invitalia, will put it up for bidding in the coming months. The new Vasari Corridor route will ensure complete accessibility for the disabled, with an integrated system of ramps, platforms and elevators that will make it easy to overcome any unevenness along the route and will be equipped with toilets; for the first time, it will have an air-conditioning and heating system that will regulate the temperature of the interior at all times (geothermal probes placed underground in the courtyard of the Hunts of the Boboli Gardens will also be part of it, for the purpose of reducing environmental impact); it will have low-energy LED lighting and will be fully video monitored. Among the main interventions envisaged by the project is the construction of new emergency exits: among these, a total of five, one will be made inside a compartment of a postwar pier after Ponte Vecchio, in Oltrarno, at Via de’ Bardi, and another at the height of the Cortile delle Cacce, in the Boboli Garden, where two buffered arches of the Corridor will be reopened to make the connection.

The program also includes structural consolidation work (as part of the earthquake prevention plan) and the restoration of the interiors, which have not undergone restoration work for several decades: in particular, plasterwork, tiling, and the floor, which will be entirely disassembled and reassembled in ancient terracotta. No work on the exterior of the Corridor is planned, as it is not necessary, but only some work in the courtyard of the Hunts at Boboli.

The new Vasari Corridor route will be accessed from the ground floor, ala di Ponente, from the room adjacent to theVasari auditorium, which will be set up with a ticket office and metal detectors. Using an elevator, visitors will ascend to the second floor, where the actual entrance to the Corridor will take place. It will be passable in only one direction, that is, from the Uffizi (entrance) to Palazzo Pitti (exit), and it is currently planned that inside it can hold a maximum of 125 people at the same time, according to regulations to protect security. At the end of the itinerary, visitors will have the choice of exiting into the Boboli Gardens or continuing inside the Pitti Palace, near the Palatine Gallery.

As for the displays, the more than 700 paintings, including a substantial nucleus of self-portraits, that hung on the walls of the Vasariano in past decades will no longer be part of the itinerary. Removed in recent months, the self-portraits will be displayed in a series of rooms soon to be opened on the second floor of the Gallery of Statues and Paintings. In light of its new function as a scenic promenade above Florence, the 73 windows placed along the walkway (of which many have hitherto been obscured to protect the paintings) will be ’opened’ so that visitors will be able to admire as much as possible of the beauty of the historic center as observed from the walkway’s unique and evocative view. Still, about 30 ancient sculptures will remain to decorate the Vasariano, as well as a collection of Greek and Roman inscriptions (currently in storage since the 1880s). There will also be a space dedicated to the 16th-century frescoes, created at the behest of Giorgio Vasari himself, which once decorated the exterior of the vaults of the Corridor to the Ponte Vecchio: detached from their location in the late 19th century, they were restored in the 1960s and then displayed as part of temporary exhibitions before returning to storage, where they remain today.

In addition to the panoramic one, however, the walkway will also have a historical vocation. For this reason, two points of the walkway will accommodate memorials: the first, at Via Georgofili, from where it is possible to see the spot where the device that caused the massacre in 1993 exploded, will house metal blow-ups with photographic reproductions of those dramatic moments and the Uffizi paintings damaged by the bomb blast (including the recently restored ’Card Players’ by Bartolomeo Manfredi and the ’Nativity’ by Gherardo delle Notti); the second will be located just past Ponte Vecchio, and will be dedicated to the theme of the devastation by Nazi troops of the historic center of Florence (particularly on the Night of the Bridges, August 4, 1944), again commemorated through metal blow-ups of photos from the time.

The Corridor will be open on a regular basis, albeit by reservation. The idea is to guarantee its accessibility every day the Uffizi is open (that is, Tuesday through Sunday) with the addition of the two Mondays a month when the Boboli Gardens also remains open. Estimates for visitation flows are about 500,000 people per year. A special ticket will need to be purchased to gain access: the cost will be 45 euros in the high season, 20 in the low season. School groups will enter for free. Also under study is the idea of an integrated ’XXL’ ticket, which will allow visits to Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Vasari Corridor, Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens, Forte Belvedere and Giardino Bardini (for a total of more than 10 km of Florentine museums and cultural spaces).

Like the Uffizi, the Vasari Corridor was designed by architect Giorgio Vasari at the behest of Cosimo I de’ Medici. The work was commissioned and built in 1565, on the occasion of the wedding between the grand duke’s son, Francesco I, and Giovanna of Austria. Its function was to enable the grand dukes to move quickly from their palace, in the Pitti Palace, to the palaces of administration (Uffizi) and government (Palazzo Vecchio, connected to the Gallery through the so-called “Passetto”). It was walked by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini on the occasion of the Führer’s visit to Florence in 1938; partially destroyed by the Nazis during the War, in 1944, its central parts were used by the Resistance as a connection point between the two banks of the Arno, as also documented by Roberto Rossellini’s film ’Paisà’. Closed routinely since the early 1900s, the Corridor has in recent decades been occasionally accessible for institutional visits or, occasionally, by reservation for organized groups, until its total closure in 2016 for security reasons. The hypothesis of reopening it on an ordinary basis to the general public began to be talked about in 1964; in 1995, the then Minister of Cultural Heritage Antonio Paolucci set up a commission to study the possibility of expanding the Uffizi, and as part of the body’s work, for the first time, this possibility was concretely explored.

“Everything is finally ready to ensure the democratic opening, for visitors from every corner of the world, of the world-famous Vasari Corridor,” says the director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt. “By 2021 every year half a million people will be able to freely visit it. We wanted this exceptional cultural asset to be able to be truly accessible to everyone, in complete safety, so that we can offer anyone who wishes a walk through the heart of Florence’s art, history and Memory. The occasion of its reopening will be a key measure for the tourism of Florence and Italy: it will be oxygen for the entire sector and help create new jobs in the sector and its allied industries.”

“This project,” adds Superintendent Andrea Pessina, “is the result of a team effort to which the entire Mibac staff, assisted by scholars and specialists from different fields, has contributed with the highest professionalism. I think it should be emphasized, with great satisfaction, the ability of our offices to activate institutional collaborations at the highest levels.”

Pictured: rendering of the section of the Vasari Corridor that runs along Ponte Vecchio.

Florence, Vasari Corridor will reopen soon. Portraits will be removed, and it will be open for visits by appointment only
Florence, Vasari Corridor will reopen soon. Portraits will be removed, and it will be open for visits by appointment only

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