Gallery Director Schmidt told a press conference that, after 18 months of planning, a call will soon be published for tenders to oversee renovation works which are expected to take another year and a half to complete, with reopening planned for 2021.
The renovation means the general public may soon be able to get a peek at the paintings lining Florence's mysterious Vasari Corridor, the kilometre-long passageway over Ponte Vecchio which connects the famed Uffizi gallery to the Pitti Palace.
A view of the river Arno and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Photo: Depositphotos
Access to the corridor was previously only available through private tour companies, with tickets starting at €45 per person. These tours were stopped abruptly in 2016 after the fire brigade declared the passageway unsafe for visitors.
Uffizi director Eike Schmidt plans to abandon the “privileged” access system and open the passageway, which contains an important collection of artworks dating back to the 16th century, to the general public.
The renovation plan includes installing new emergency exits, an air-conditioning system, LED lighting and video surveillance.
The project also calls for restoration of the passageway's interior walls and flooring. A new ground floor entrance will be created next to the Vasari Auditorium, where visitors will be able to purchase tickets for the passageway.
Opening up the corridor will allow half a million people to visit it every year., Schmidt said. “We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy this extraordinary heritage, and in total safety, offering visitors the opportunity to walk through the heart of Florence’s art, history and memory.”
The route will run from the Uffizi Gallery to Palazzo Pitti and will be open to no more than 125 people at a time. Upon reaching the other side, museum goers can choose between visiting the Boboli Gardens or continuing onto Palazzo Pitti.
Built by Giorgio Vasari in 1565, the passageway was commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici to celebrate the wedding of his son Francesco I and Joanna of Austria.
The passageway had a practical use, too, as it allowed the aristocracy to move between their residences and offices in Palazzo Pitti, the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio without needing to walk through the streets.
Famously, in 1593, Ferdinando I banned the butchers' shops that had historically lined the bridge because he coudn't stand the odours wafting up into the corridor. Instead jewellers opened up shop along the bridge, and are still there today.
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