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Florence: The invisible's corridor

The invisible's corridor

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In the Uffizi Gallery, the largest collection of paintings in Italy, between room 25 and room 34 there is a small passage leading to the famous and well hidden Vasarian Corridor. The Corridor was built in 1564 within only 5 months by Giorgio Vasari by order of Cosimo I De' Medici. Two reasons induced Cosimo to have the Corridor built. The first reason was the necessity to link his residence over Boboli Garden to the Uffizi (which means "the offices"), where the Grand Duke worked. The second reason, stemming from the psychosis of conspiracy typical of that time, was to give the Medici family the possibility of escaping in case of an uprising, or a discreet passage to move without being seen from the outside. So, as not to bother the Grand Duke with bad smells while walking through the Corridor, the meat market was driven out from the famous Ponte Vecchio, and was replaced by the jeweller shops, which are still there today.

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The Vasarian Corridor is about 1 km long, but only 3.50 mts large. In the section passing over Ponte Vecchio one feels observed by an incredible succession of ghosts: they are the well-known self-portraits, antique and modern, which seem to keep watch night and day. After spanning the Arno river, it was planned that the Corridor should directly enter and go through the houses of the citizens. But this plan was opposed by the Mannelli family. Walking through the Corridor, one can clearly see the effects that their refusal had on the shape of the passage: that strectch of the Corridor now skirts the Mannelli Tower, leaning on arches and stone supports, and, consequently, it proceeds in an extravagant zig-zaging fashion.

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After a while, one is confronted by the large window looking on the inside of Santa Felicita Church, closed by a grating, where one can imagine the Medici family attending the Mass from above. It was the triumph of "watching without being seen", the same sensation we might have today when we peep into other windows persuaded that nobody can see us. The Corridor goes on, leaning on the houses and gardens of the Guicciardini family, and at last ends in Boboli garden beside the Buontalenti Cave During the Second World War the Corridor was used by the Partisans during the days of the Liberation as a secret passage for the conveyance of supplies, while in the 1966, during the Flood, it was useful to bring provisions to the evacuees from Pitti Palace to Palazzo Vecchio.

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In 1973 the Corridor was restored and opened again to the public, but only for groups with a reservation. Beside the breathtaking views of the town visible from its round windows, the Corridor offers to the visitors 700 paintings, all dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and, above all, a collection of the self-portraits of the most famous artists from the 16th to the 20th century

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