The Uffizi Palace is one of the most loved monuments of Florence. Commissioned by Cosimo I, it was designed by Giorgio Vasari around the middle of the 16th century. In order to realize the project, Vasari had some of the buildings surrounding the area demolished.
The intention of Cosimo I was to build a palace that could host the thirteen administrative and judicial Magistrature or Uffizi, from which the palace will get its name. When Vasari died, the construction of the Uffizi was handed over to Buontalenti and to Alfonso Parigi.
Buontalenti projected the Teatro Mediceo according to the will of Francesco I, the son of Cosimo I, in 1586. When Florence was the capital of Italy the theatre was the seat of the Senate. The building has the unusual and singular horseshoe shape, also called U shape, which opens towards the Arno River.
The two bodies of the building are parallel and conjoined by a connecting corridor that has six big arched windows that open over the courtyard of the palace and over the Arno River. The two floors of the building, divided by stringcourses, stand over a portico that runs along the whole length of the palace and is sustained by pillars.
In the niches of the portico are the statues of the Florentines who distinguished themselves from the middle Ages until the 19th century. At the present day the Palazzo degli Uffizi hosts one of the most admired and visited museums in the world for the quality of its artworks and the history that accompanies them from the 13th century to the 18th century: the Uffizi Gallery.
In 1993 the Palace was involved in the bombing attack at the Accademia dei Gergofili undergoing damages and loses of inestimable value; another act of vandalism against a patrimony of the world that managed to resist and to win returning, after a long restoration work, to its original splendour.
The Uffizi Gallery, founded by Francesco de' Medici to delight himself during his walks, has become through the centuries one of the most famous and admired museums in the world.
It was Francesco I de' Medici who created an art Gallery on the second floor of the Palazzo degli Uffizi to delight himself, during his walks, with the collection of paintings, sculptures and arrases belonging to the Medici family. Thanks to Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici the Gallery became a "public and inalienable good": the Duchess, in fact, handed it over to the Lorena family providing that it would remain open to the public.
At the present day the Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous and celebrated museums in the world, the symbol of the vocation for collecting and to patronage. An interesting group is represented by the artworks commissioned by the corporations of arts and trades thanks to their economical, cultural and artistic exchanges, Florence has become the world capital of art and, especially a meeting and exchanging landmark for the most important Italian and foreign artists.
Other artworks come from private donations, from diplomatic exchanges, from antique convents and dynastic inheritance. Currently 2,000 works of art are on display, while another 1,800 pieces lie in storage.
The entrance is located the beginning of the east loggia. On the ground floor, in the rooms originally forming the church of S. Pier Scheraggio, which was incorporated into the palazzo by Vasari, is the series of frescoes of Famous Men by Andrea del Castagno as well as an Annunciation by Botticelli (1481), a fresco detached from the church of S. Martino alla Scala.
A large staircase, built by Vasari, leads to the second floor, were the Medici theatre once stood. This area now contains the Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe, exceptional graphic collection comprising more than 100,000 sheets, from the 14th to the 20th c.
If you continue along the large staircase you will reach the third floor, where there are two vestibules, which lead into the gallery and which contain a collection of busts of grand dukes and Roman statues. The visit begins with a walk through the corridors that correspond to the three wings of the buildings.
In the first corridor the examples of sacred art, of the Renaissance and the artworks by Flemish artists narrate a nostalgic and enlightened past through the alliance between art and spirituality.
The entrance hall to the Uffizi Gallery hosts Roman age sculptures belonging to the Medicean collection: plaster moulds and copies which serve as an anti-room to the museum. The first museum serves as an access to the rooms that expose artworks belonging to the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.
Along the perimeter of the corridor is the Medicean collection of head moulds and sculptures placed at regular intervals with one statue and two head moulds. On the vaults are frescoes that represent animals, imaginary monsters, satyrs and feats and Medicean achievements.
Under the vaults are the portraits of famous men and rulers from all over the world. The first rooms are dedicated to the art of the 13th and 14th centuries. Here we find examples of sacred art among which the Madonna d'Ognissanti by Giotto, the Maestà di Santa Trinita by Cimabue and the Maestà by Duccio di Buoninsegna.
From the 14th century in Florence and Siena the Triptych of San Matteo by Andrea di Cione, the Polyptych of San Pancrazio by Bernardo Daddi and the Presentation to the Temple by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (rooms 3-4).
The rooms 5-6 are dedicated to the international Gothic: by Lorenzo Monaco the Adoration of the Magi. Among the artworks of the early Renaissance the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin by Beato Angelico, the Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello, Portrait of the Dukes of Urbino by Piero della Francesca (room 7).
In the rooms 8 and 9 are the artworks by artists such as Filippo Lippi: the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, the Adoration of the Magi, by Antonio del Pollaiolo A Female Portrait, Hercules and Antes.
Followed by the masterpieces by Botticelli: La calunnia, Primavera, the Birth of Venus, Adoration of the Magi, Madonna della Melagrana, and Coronation of the Blessed Virgin. The Renaissance is celebrated by the paintings by Leonardo among which l'Adorazione dei Magi and the Annunciation and by Perugino la Pietà, (room 15).
In the Tribune is the 16th century in Florence with Medicean portraits by Pontormo, By Rosso Fiorentino ‘l'Angiolino musicante’ and by Andrea del Sarto ‘la Dama col Petrarchino’. In a series of adjoining rooms are the works belonging to German art of the 15th and 16th century and paintings from Lombardia and Emilia that evoke mythological tales and detailed Flemish landscapes (rooms 19 -23).
Among them you can admire: Adam and Eve by Lukas Cranack, Adoration of the Magi by Andrea Mantegna and the Blessed Virgin adoring the Child by Correggio.
In the second corridor, with wide windows, is disclosed an impressive foreshortened view over the city which narrates itself through art.
The second corridor, also called 'midday corridor', is certainly one of the most enthralling places of the whole Palazzo degli Uffizi. It's the connecting corridor between the two wings or structures which give the palace its unusual horse-shape.
The impressiveness derives from its long windows that enlighten it and from which you can catch a glimpse at some views of Florence: the Ponte Vecchio, the Vasari Corridor, the Arno River, the hills: live postcards flow under the enthusiast eyes of those observing the harmony of the hilly landscapes and the serene gayness of the streets and of the elegant bridges of Florence.
On the vaults are the precious grotesque frescoes: among them a painting representing a pergola with birds, flowers and plants and the Virtues of the Medicean Grand Dukes by Nasini. Only the Miniature Cabinet opens on this corridor, originally called Camera degli Idoli (the Room of the Idols) and afterwards Camera di Madama (the Madam Room) since at first it hosted a collection of bronze statues and then the jewels of Cristina di Lorena.
On the vault you can admire the Allegory of fame by Filippo Lucci. In the oval room is kept the collection of miniature portraits most of which come from the collection of Leopoldo de' Medici. Very characteristic is the marble pavement. The inlaid marble creates an image of a big carpet.
Along the entire corridor, under the frescoed vaults, are the portraits of the rulers from all over the world. Among the sculptures is a Roman copy of Love and Psiche and numerous sculptures from the Roman age: flexuous female bodies and the powerful muscles of heroes and divinities.
The 16th century artworks by artists famous worldwide such as Michelangelo, Raffaello Sanzio and Rosso Fiorentino open the collections of the third corridor.
Like the two previous ones, the third corridor has grotesque frescoed vaults which depict animals, famous personalities and Medicean achievements. Here as well there are the portraits of the 'Jovian series' with the royalties from all around the world and the Roman statues.
The museum's pathway starts again with the rooms 25- 27, which host the Florentine painters of the 16th century: by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Tondo Doni or Sacra Famiglia con San Giovannino; by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio la Coperta di ritratto; by Raffaello Sanzio la Madonna del cardellino; by Andrea del Sarto la Madonna delle Arpie; by Pontormo Cena in Emmaus and by Rosso Fiorentino la Madonna col Bambino e Santi.
In room 28 you can admire Tiziano which is represented as the most illustrious exponent of 16th century Venetian art: by the artist there's la Venere d'Urbino, Flora.
Among the examples of Italian painting in Europe in the 16th century (rooms 29-34): by Tintoretto Leda e il cigno (Leda and the swan), by Parmigianino Madonna dal collo lungo (Blessed Mary with a long neck), by Giorgio Vasari La fucina di Vulcano (the furnace of Volcano).
Other examples from the 17th century: Rubens with the portrait of Isabella Brandt and Diego Velasquez with Filippo IV of Spain riding a horse. Followed by the room named after the queen Niobe: sculptures based on a mythological theme portraying the woman trying to protect her children from the deadly rage of Apollo and Diana who are shooting fatal arrows against them (room 42).
Following there are the 17th century collections through the examples of the Bacchus, The sacrifice of Isaac and Medusa by Caravaggio; by Rembrandt the Juvenile self-portrait and the Venetian foreshortenings and views by Canaletto (room 44).
Next to this last room is located the entrance to the bar and to the terrace of the Gallery where you can admire the architectural masterpieces of the city such as the Tower by Arnolfo di Cambio which towers over Palazzo Vecchio and the Cupola by Brunelleschi.
For any information:
The Uffizi Gallery
Piazzale degli Uffizi 6 (055 2388651).
Open 8.15am-6.50pm. Closed on Mon.
Admission: 6,50 euro.
Advance booking: Firenze Musei (055 294883).