Uffizi Gallery – what it is, what’s in it (and how do you pronounce it)?

Uffizi Gallery in Florence - a must-see, thing to do in Florence

The Uffizi Gallery, in the historical centre of Florence, houses what is one of the world’s greatest collections of Renaissance art.

Pronounced something like ‘oo-fit-zee’, the building was originally constructed by Cosimo I dei Medici (1519-1574) who was living in the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza Signoria. He decided to construct the Uffizi Gallery next door, stretching to the river Arno to give Piazza Signoria an even greater importance and beauty.

The project was given to Giorgio Vasari to create a series of official offices for the state (hence the name, Uffizi – coming from the word for ‘offices’ in Italian).

In 1560, work was began to create the horseshoe-shaped building that reaches from the Ponte Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria, to and along the river Arno.

Once construction of the Uffizi was complete, Cosimo I had Vasari, his favourite architect, create a passageway connecting the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, running atop the Ponte Vecchio which is just down river from the Uffizi Gallery. Originally built by Medici rivals, the Pitti family, Cosimo I purchased the building to be the new family home of his royal family.

Vasari constructed the ‘King’s walkway’, which has become known as the Vasarian Corridor. Starting in the Palazzo Vecchio, the Vasarian Corridor runs atop the Uffizi Gallery, across the shops of the Ponte Vecchio, and even includes a pit-stop in the Santa Felicita church where the Medici could pause unseen to see mass being held. Finally, the Vasari Corridor arrives at the the Boboli Gardens before concluding inside the Palazzo Pitti.

The intention behind the construction of the Vasarian Corridor was to allow the Medici and other important figures in Florence’s history, to pass unseen through the historical centre of Florence without having to be escorted along the streets. This was particularly important at a few rare points throughout the long reign of the Florence’s royal family when they were less than loved by the Florentine’s due to controversial political decisions.

At that time, the Ponte Vecchio – Florence’s famous old bridge which at the time was home to butcher stores who threw the remains into the water! Whilst the view from the bridge may have been spectacular, the smell was also quite impressive – just not in a positive way. As such, the butcher stores were eventually moved out of the Ponte Vecchio stores and today the bridge is lined predominantly with gold jewellery stores.

With the end of the Medici dynasty occurring in the mid-1700’s, the last of the Medici family, Anna Maria, bequeathed to the city of Florence the impressive collection of artworks amassed by the art-loving Medici family throughout their long reign.

Not long after, the Uffizi was revamped  and opened to the public, becoming one of the world’s greatest art museums.

The works housed in the Uffizi Gallery read like a who’s-who of famous artists: Giotto, Simone Martini, Piero della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Mantegna, Correggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Dürer, Rembrandt and Rubens.

It would take some months to truly explore all of the rooms of this world-famous gallery such is the extent of all the artworks housed in this world-famous museum. Artviva walking tours have created an interesting, informative guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery with an expert guide to see the best of the Uffizi Gallery artworks in a fantastic 3-hour skip-the-line guided Uffizi Gallery tour with an expert guide.

Artviva Walking Tours can also arrange a private guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery with an expert guide.

If you’d like to walk the steps of kings and dignitaries, email us on staff@artviva.com for details of our Vasarian Corridor guided tour available following our small-group skip-the-line Uffizi Gallery guided tour.


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