last week i discussed the vasari corridor from the inside; but it’s outside form is just as fascinating. from the uffizi palace to the pitti palace, it provided the medicis with a secret, tranquil and sometimes strategic exit from the city. as you walk along the corridor, you first have small windows on the street-side, and larger windows overlooking the arno. The small windows were really serving to prevent the ‘normal’ people from looking in, ensuring privacy and exclusivity. there is little doubt that, despite their interest in the (relative) democratisation of art and science, the medicis physically elevated and isolated themselves from the lower classes.
the appearance of the vasari corridor, however, changed in the 1930s. adolf hitler was coming to florence in 1938, an official visit aiming to further secure the relations between the two fascist powers. of course, germany was by far a stronger force than italy, and there is no doubt that mussolini would have been keen to impress hitler who had a penchant for art and architecture. the plan was to show him the vasari corridor and the ponte vecchio during his time in florence; but would this be enough? the dulce probably did not think so. (well, that’s how i picture it anyways.) and it is for this reason that he redesigned the corridor. halfway down the corridor, midway across the arno, a series of 3 sets of giant windows were built to give an incredible vista over the arno river, the ponte vecchio and the city itself. let’s take a pause and compare. here is the view from the previous little windows dating back to the renaissance:
…and here’s the new view.
ok i exaggerate slightly…. the small renaissance windows offer some wonderful views too. but they are surely not as grand. samples? here you go:
(view from the pitti end, overlooking ponte santa trinita)
but back to the medicis: the idea of being permanently elevated must have been very nice indeed. the epitome of this segregation, in my eyes, came when, towards the end of the corridor, we stumbled across a set of medium-sized windows peering into a church. indeed, a passage had been created so that the medicis could step straight from the corridor into their balcony seats in the church santa felicita. basically, they could attend mass without ever having to mingle with the people.
so there it is: from the medicis to hitler, the corridor offers not only a beautiful vista of the city, but a window into the tangled histories of class, arts and politics, all embodied in one of europe’s most famous bridges.