Uffizi, the Terrace of Maps reopens after 20 years.

At the Uffizi, the Terrazzo delle Carte Geografiche, a loggia with spectacular views of Florence and the two large 16th-century maps depicting the Medici domains, reopens after being closed for 20 years and after two years of restoration.

At the Uffizi reopens after 20 years the Terrazzo delle Carte Geografiche, an important 16th-century environment that is presented as a work to the public after two years of restoration and with the new layout. It is a frescoed loggia, overlooking Florence from the church of Santa Croce to Piazzale Michelangelo via the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, which features two wall maps from the late 16th century on the walls, each occupying an entire wall, with the names of localities penned in gold. The maps depict one the Florentine territory (called the “ancient” domain) and the other the Sienese territory (called the “new” domain, because it was obtained a few years earlier). On a third wall is also depicted the island of Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea: this is in this case a painting that dates back to the mid-19th century, since the original version, sixteenth-century like the others, had been lost during an operation to remake the entire wall.

About a hundred square meters wide and called “Terrazzo” because architect Giorgio Vasari had originally had it built as an open loggia, this room was transformed into an enclosed space around the 1690s, when Ferdinando de’ Medici returned from Rome, where he was a cardinal, to become, under the name Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of a newly unified Tuscany after Florence’s victory over Siena. To celebrate this conquest and the greatness of the dynasty, he had the cartographer Stefano Bonsignori devise maps of the territories of the Grand Duchy, later painted by the painter Ludovico Buti, with the two large maps depicting minutely and at a scale of about 1:30,000 the Medici possessions, which in breadth already almost traced the shape of present-day Tuscany. To this place, Ferdinand used to bring his most distinguished guests to amaze them with the depiction of the beauty and vastness of his domains. Not only that: from a salon in Palazzo Firenze in Rome, Ferdinand had a ceiling with allegorical paintings, created by the painter Jacopo Zucchi, transferred here.

The Terrazzo delle Carte Geografiche, also famous for its “appearances” in the cinema (here Dario Argento shot, for 1996’s The Stendhal Syndrome, the scene in which the protagonist loses her senses) reopens to the public tomorrow, after a closure that lasted more than 20 years and was interrupted only briefly, in 2014, to host an exhibition on the Tavola Doria. The presentation took place today at the opening of the International Congress of Cartography, organized precisely in Florence.

The restoration and refitting of the Terrazzo delle Carte Geografiche was a long and complex work, carried out in coordination by the Galleries and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence. Over two years in duration, about 50 specialists involved, at a total cost of more than 700,000 euros, of which about half a million was offered by the Friends of the Uffizi Galleries, the U.S. branch of the Friends of the Uffizi. Of particular delicacy were the operations on the wall maps and the nine ceiling paintings: of the former, the color scheme and the legibility of even the luminous gold toponymy were restored, while on the latter the restoration work involved both the panel paintings (in some cases severely damaged by water infiltration from the roof over the centuries) and the decorated and gilded frames. Finally, the flooring, in handmade terracotta, which recalls the original one, of the ancient Vasarian terrace, was completely restored. The architectural restoration and layout are due to Antonio Godoli (former architect in charge of the Uffizi), and the scientific direction of the restoration of the wall and panel paintings to Anna Bisceglia (curator of 16th-century painting at the Uffizi). Technical direction is by Cristiana Todaro (restoration officer at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, wall paintings and stucco sector), documentary and archival research by Daniela Smalzi.

The room is also equipped with ten seats to stop and enjoy the details of the maps and ceiling; an air conditioning system with special calibration will ensure constant climate control. To avoid gatherings and ensure a safe and pleasant visit, the space has been equipped near the door with a computerized system that automatically regulates access for up to twenty people. Also on display from today, next to the map of the island of Elba, is the famous table top in semi-precious stones with the View of the Port of Livorno, created in the 16th century by Cristofano Gaffurri based on a drawing by Jacopo Ligozzi.

“On these walls,” says Uffizi director Eike Schmidt, “we admire a spectacular representation of Tuscany, where the ancient names of more than 1,200 towns and villages, even the smallest and most remote, are elegantly inscribed in gold and often accompanied by the first known pictorial depiction of the various localities. All the inhabitants of the region can recognize in the large Uffizi maps the places dear to them, their origins rediscovering the history of the territory and its landscape.”

“This is wonderful news,” stresses the president of the Region of Tuscany, Eugenio Giani. “With the reopening of the hall, the already rich cultural heritage of this city is enriched, which Florentines and Tuscans will be able to enjoy. The beautiful sixteenth- and nineteenth-century maps of the Grand Duchy that return to view will surely also have tourism appeal: further appeal for a restart after the months in which the pandemic had reduced travel and visitors.”

“Finally, after 20 years,” concludes the president of the Friends of the Uffizi and Friends of the Uffizi Galleries, Maria Vittoria Rimbotti, “we can re-admire the terrace of the Maps made by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cardinal Ferdinand I, a man passionate about science and the arts. To have contributed, together with the Friends of the Uffizi Galleries, to the return of this 16th-century jewel to the public fills us with satisfaction.”

Uffizi, the Terrace of Maps reopens after 20 years.
Uffizi, the Terrace of Maps reopens after 20 years.

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