9 months to built it, 7 years, so far, to reopen it!
More and more often, visitors to Florence ask one question: “When is the Vasari Corridor set to reopen?”. Giving an answer is not an easy one, as all of the deadlines set during the last few years have been missed. Frankly speaking, it’s evident that the gallery gave up on promising any exact opening date to all Florence aficionados waiting to experience the thrill of a walk on the corridor. As of today, the gallery website reads: “All users are asked to check this web page about official news and info concerning the upcoming opening and the new admission rules of the Vasari Corridor”. A rather bare bulletin, evidently intended as a way to counteract the spreading of false information from unofficial sources and definitely not aimed at nurturing hopes of any imminent opening.
This said, as the direction of the gallery doesn’t provide any date, we can simply share what we know so far concerning the state of the works.
The Vasari Corridor, built – surprise, surprise!- by the architect Giorgio Vasari at the behest of the duke Cosimo I Medici in 1565, was designed to connect Palazzo Vecchio, where the Medici Dukes were residing at the time, to their newly acquired residency, the Pitti palace, located on the other side of the Arno river. The corridor was conceived so as to allow the family to move from one residency to the other safely, comfortably and most importantly prestigiously – a VIP exclusive fast track lane we would say nowadays. Hence, being the sole domain of the family, for centuries the only way to have a walk on the corridor was to have a duke invite you, definitely a privilege for the very very few. In more recent times, it became part of the Uffizi museum and a couple decades ago the doors of the corridor were opened to those visitors who could be patient enough to go through a rather laborious, and very expensive reservation system. In 2016 access to the corridor was indefinitely intermitted, the reason being that the structure was not deemed compliant with modern norms of emergency evacuation. It looks like the motto “health and safety first” hadn’t reached either Vasari’s or Cosimo’s ears back in the days. Jokes aside, the 2016 closure marked the beginning of the planning of additional emergency exits, new ventilation and better lightning. Definitely not an easy one, when we consider that the historical value of the corridor and of the urban context which surrounds it place some serious limitations on what can and can’t be done. On top of that, it’s needless to say that two years of pandemic slowed down, and at points put to a halt, the whole process. This means that the planning stage was finally completed only in 2022 and that the actual works began not so long ago. If you are not in Florence at the moment, our pictures might give you an idea of how things are looking from the outside in winter 2023.
Ritornando alla nostra domanda: “quando riaprirà il Corridoio Vasariano?”.
Considering the relatively recent beginning of the works, the several missed deadlines and the general complexity of the project, we can surely reach the conclusion that, alas, the corridor won’t open soon. Rumours have it that Fall 2023 is going to be the date to save, but this is just tittle-tattle, rather than official news.
With this in mind we cannot but wonder how come that in the 21st century 7 years were not enough to modernise the corridor but in the 16th century 9 months were enough to build it. Fact is that Vasari, back in 1565, completed a real architectonic speed-run: not only he managed to finish the corridor, started in March 1565, by December of the same year, but also succeeded in having it all bright and shiny so as to impress the many international guests that flocked to Florence for the wedding ceremony between Joanna of Austria and Francis I Medici. Of course, as the Uffizi director Eike Schmidt reminds us, our world is much more complex, fragmented and cautious. If Vasari had on his side the autocratic and resolute command of the duke Cosimo I Medici, modern architects and engineers need to swim upstream against what looks like an overwhelming flood of regulations and bureaucracy. I bet that if they are watching us from above, Vasari and Cosimo I are rather puzzled by our paperwork and regulations. Meanwhile, down here, we cannot arm ourselves with patience and wait for the moment when we will finally be able to guide you again on one of the most unique walks in the world.