Tag Archives: Ponte Vecchio

Uffizi Museum and the Vasari Corridor


Since we didn’t have a tour planned for this morning, we thought we’d go to Mass.  Unfortunately, our usual luck followed us and it was a big no-go. Those of you who’ve followed this blog in the past know our efforts to go to Mass have become sort of a joke.  We just can’t seem to pull it all together. We had a chat with  the concierge last night to find an English Mass and he was happy to look them up for us.  He found two . . . but both were on Saturday and we’d already missed them. There were two German Masses today, but no English. Maybe the Germans are more faithful?  I just can’t believe there’s isn’t one English Mass somewhere in the city on Sunday given how many tourists are here.  Oh, well.  Sorry, Mom!

Even though it was Sunday, Florence was open for business.  In fact, there was some kind of run this morning so the streets were full of contestants and their families enjoying the beautiful weather.  We spent several hours wandering all the streets, getting lost, and finding the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flowers again.  It is so beautiful.  In front of it is the Baptistry (which is completely wrapped in scaffolding and plastic because it’s being cleaned.)  Luckily, the very famous bronze doors, completed in the 1400s, are still there.  The picture above is a close up of a couple of the panels.  They are stunningly beautiful.  When Michelangelo saw them, he declared them perfect and that they must be the doors to paradise.

Speaking of Michelangelo, remember the other day when I was telling you about the medieval building that sort of set the standard for buildings in the future?



Yup, that one.  Well, first I have to say the benches built into the building all the way around are a GOD SEND!  Thank you ancient architect, you were very thoughtful.  What I really wanted to tell you about it is it was originally the palace built by the Medici family when they first came to power in Florence.  They lived here when they recognized the genius of Michelangelo when he was only 12.  In fact, they brought him to live with them in this building.  So, this is the place where Michelangelo grew up.

After about 100 years in this palace, the Medici family sold it to another wealthy family and moved into the Palazzo Vecchio.  This is the place where the Statue of David stood for many years and it was also the seat of the government.  So, the Medici family lived in the same building where they worked.

Apparently, it got old after awhile and the mistress of the house coveted another house just across the Arno River.  It had a garden and she wanted to enforce some private family time on her husband so he wouldn’t always be working.  She eventually got her way and the family moved to the Palazzo Pitti.

The problem was the guy in charge had to walk several blocks from his house to his office and it wasn’t very safe.  He always needed an armed escort and he had to cross the Ponte Vecchio which caused traffic problems.

The solution?  He asked the architect Vasari to design a private corridor from his house to his office.  By then, the office was on the top floor of the Palazzo Vecchio, so the corridor begins on the third floor, crosses a bridge to the Ufizi (which was an office building at the time), crosses to the Ponte Vecchio where it was placed on top of the small businesses that line that bridge, it continues over the roofs of several buildings and crosses through a church before it arrives at the Palazzo Pitti.  It was built in only 5 months and over the years, the Medici family lined the walls with paintings, a practice that continues today.  You can read more about the corridor here.


In short, it permitted the Medici family and their very close friends to travel from home to office in complete privacy.  It is said they even sometimes made the trip in their jammies : ) I have some pictures below. It’s closed to the public, but we were able to walk the corridor with the tour we took.

As for the Uffizi, I didn’t take too many pictures; it was VERY crowded.  If you want to see the works of art in the Uffizi, they’ve been kind enough to put most of them online.  I think this link is a good place to start if you’re curious.


So, now for the pictures!



Some of the little places to eat in Florence are quite charming.  Here, we have what appears to be a French Fry Pizza.  It’s not even close to the weirdest pizza I’ve seen.  I think the tuna pizza, the pumpkin flower pizza (yes, that’s flower, not flour!) and the sliced hard-boiled egg pizza were a little weirder.

In the second picture, you can pick up gelato or pizza and then head upstairs to eat it.  All very cozy.



Here are the famous Baptistry doors.  They are truly spectacular.  You can learn more here:


Okay, so we have to start at the beginning with the Palazzo Vecchio.  Remember the building with the scary staircase in the tower?  Same place.  Here’s a picture.


The picture below is what the front looks like.  See that building right next door?  That’s the Uffizi.  Uffizi means “office” and it houses many government offices, both then and now.  The museum is on the third floor.  If you look down the alley between the two buildings, there is an enclosed walkway/bridge between the third floors.  That is the beginning (or end?) of the Vasari Corridor.




Here’s what the main hallway in the Uffizi Museum looks like.  The second picture is a close-up of what the top of the walls and the ceiling looks like.  Most of the art is in the rooms that line this hall.


This is the view out the window of the Uffizi.  See the yellow building with the narrow tiled roof?  That is the Vasari Corridor leaving the Uffizi, turning toward the Ponte Vecchio (the bridge) and you can see where it crosses the bridge on top of the little businesses that line that bridge.


Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Ufizi.  Our tour guide when on, and on, and ON about this painting but did he ever tell us its name?  I don’t know, I was zoning out. : (  Seriously, it was incredible to look at it.  The colors popped out and it is interesting to note that Michelangelo designed the frame, too, and it is meant to be part of the interpretation of the painting.  It’s hard to tell, but it’s probably between 4 and 5 feet in diameter.


Here’s an interesting lady.  She’s the very last Medici.  The family died out in 1743.  It was her Will that helped to make Florence the bastion of art that it is today.  She left the entire Medici collection to the City of Florence on the condition that none of it ever leave.  In fact, the Uffizi Museum was started a short time later to house some of the masterpieces.


A view down one segment of the Corridor.


A view from one of the many windows along the Corridor.


Here’s a view of the shops on the Ponte Vecchio from the Corridor.


Here’s the church as seen from the Corridor.  This part reminded me a little of the Disneyland rides that used to drive through the gift shop as part of the ride.  It was a little weird.


The Corridor ended at Palazzo Pitti where I found this in the garden.  I felt a little sorry for the turtle.  : )


This is another section of the Corridor we saw from the ground when we were walking back to our hotel.


Along the way we also ran across this interesting art.  It’s hard to see because it’s so big, but there are “people” zip lining from one building to another and there are others climbing the building.  Still others were scattered around on the ground that you could take pictures with.  I have no idea what it’s called, why it’s here, nothing.  It was just really cool.



Florence is both ordinary and absolutely fantastic.  At first glance, it is a little dull,  a little dingy, and everywhere we looked things are surrounded by plastic sheeting and scaffolds.  However, look a little deeper and the real gem is revealed. Many of the buildings are medieval, built in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries.  These buildings are simple, but if you look closely, there are details worth noting.  For example, look at the original palace built by the Medici Family in the mid-1100’s.

DSC01014 I know, it doesn’t look like much, but look again.  Start at the base of the building where you can see between the cars. There is a bench built into the building along its entire length.  Believe me, as a tourist today, I really appreciate such thoughtfulness!  It’s hard to see in this photo, but above the benches are rings where horses could be tied and on top of these are brackets for torches so the walk would be well lit.  The architecture of this building may seem commonplace, but that’s because its been copied all over the world.  When this building was made, it was very unique.  Even the scrolling under the eves were seen for the first time in this building.  Also, notice the brackets in the wall between the windows.  Two of them are being used to hold the flags over the door.  Can you imagine flags in all the holders?  It would be quite festive.

DSC01055 Here’s a close-up of the ring used to tie up horses and you can see the bracket where they stuck the torches.  Notice the very top of the bracket has a little animal head. Of course, there are some buildings that are so breathtaking on the outside, it’s hard to leave the street and enter them.  One of those buildings is the Duomo, also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Saint Mary of the Flowers.


DSC01020 See what I mean?  This building is completely covered in marble.  Mostly white, green, and pink marble.  The building was begun in the 1200’s but wasn’t completely finished until the 1800’s.  The detail is so intricate, I could have spent hours just looking at it. Surprisingly, the inside isn’t at all what I expected.  I thought we’d be overwhelmed with bric-a-brac and elaborate details, but that isn’t the case.  The inside is huge, and its covered in an elaborate and varied marble floor.

DSC01028 See how it’s pieced to produce an optical illusion?  This is just a small section; it varies in design and complexity every 20 feet, or so.





The walls have paintings and stained glass windows and the altar is beautiful, but not as elaborate as others we’ve seen. DSC01033

The real show is the dome.  You can see the light from it above the altar, but until you get under it, you can’t know how amazing it is. Of course, the pictures can’t begin to do it justice. DSC01031

To give you an idea of how large this dome is, the wood rim beneath the smaller round windows is actually a walkway, and so is the rim above the windows and just below the frescoes.  Also, the sunlit spot at the top is called the lantern, and it is also full of people.  It costs 10 Euro for a ticket to climb into the dome, and it’s hundreds of claustrophobic steps, but we plan to do it in the next couple of days. The dome is a bit of an engineering mystery/miracle.  It’s way too complicated for me to explain, or even completely understand, but you can read more here.


The rest of the city we’ve seen so far is in the photos below.  It’s just a taste, but we have all week to soak it up!



Cracked me up.  Have a reservation at this hotel?  Too bad, so sad.  No idea where you’re supposed to go.


DSC00954 A typical medieval street in Florence.  The cars, motorbikes and buses sometimes go down them, but the side streets are mostly for pedestrians.  Mostly.  You still have to watch out. DSC00955

Bob and dinner last night.  I had to laugh because a couple sat at the table next to us and she was clearly having trouble with her leg.  Bob, always the doctor, asked her about it.  The couple was from Norway and she was having lots of pain.  One thing led to another and before I knew it, Bob was palpating her leg muscles and looking for pulses.  The lady was worried about a blood clot, but Bob was able to reassure her that a blod clot was unlikely.  She was very grateful and they were fun to talk to.

DSC00956 This is the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, the building beside the restaurant.  I was amazed by the staircase so far up there — that doesn’t appear to have a handrail!

DSC00958 Bob had the lasagna and it was AMAZING! DSC00960




Here’s a full picture of the Palazzo Vecchio, with that tower way up there. DSC00965

The front of the Palazzo Vecchio, which is currently the city government building in Florence.  Notice the statue of David?  Its a copy, but its in the place where the original David stood for centuries before it was moved to the art school (I think in the 1700’s).

DSC00973   Yum!

DSC00979 Ever seen a real live Stradivarius violin or cello?  How about both?  Here you go, the nearer one is a violin and the further one is the cello.  They really are properly sized for those instruments, the angle of this shot makes that hard to see.  These are originals and the violin has never been restored.  It is exactly as it was when Stradivarius made it so it’s priceless today.  Every year both of these instruments are taken out of the case and played by some very lucky musicians.

DSC00990 DSC00995

So, here we go.  This is the original David.  Call me stupid, but I never really understood that the statue depicted David right before he killed the Philistine giant, Goliath.  It was originally built to decorate a church, but because the statue shows the moment where David is considering Goliath and making his plan of how to act, the Florentines of the time felt it depicted mind over brawn, which was much more of a political statement that resonated with them at the time.  So, the statue was placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the center of their government.

DSC00996 DSC00998

The detail is incredible and the proportions are perfect, except for the head and hands, which are a little big.  Since Michelangelo made the statue for a church where it would be seen from a distance, it is thought he made the hands and head bigger to emphasize the mind over brawn theme.



This is the front and back of a plaster statue made by one of the teachers at the school or art.  The plaster was made to get the details right before it was carved out of marble.  I liked it because of the children.


This is a clock in the back of the Duomo.  It dates to the middle ages so it’s not a conventional clock.  First, it runs counter-clockwise.  Next, it has all the hours of a day.  Finally, 1 o’clock always depicts the hour the sun sets.  It still works, but it needs to be readjusted every couple of weeks.  Above, the clock shows its about 9 hours until sunset, which was correct at the time.


This is a view of the dome from the outside.  You can see the large circular windows that were obvious from the inside.  Above them is the dome, which is actually two domes in one. The one here is the outer dome and the one with the pained frescoes on the inside is a separate dome.




This is three shots of the same market.  It is said if you touch the pig’s snout, you’ll return to Florence someday.



These are views from the same spot.  The top picture is the left of the camera and the bottom picture is to the right.  Of course, the bottom picture is of the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence, and the only one left standing by the Germans in WWII.  Originally, the shops on the Ponte Vecchio were all butchers because they dumped the “extras” from the carcasses into the river–thus cutting down the smell.  Nowadays, its the center for gold and silver in Florence.


A view down the Ponte Vecchio.  Every store window was literally dripping with gold jewelry of all kinds.


Here, a shop lady has to use tongs to reach one of the hundreds (thousands?) of items in the window.  When she got it, Bob applauded and she bowed to him and laughed.


Did I mention that some of the styles in the shops are kinda questionable?  Here’s a good example of something not everyone can carry off.  Maybe only a basketball sportscaster?


Gelato was invented in Florence.  O.M.G.  It was heavenly.  I don’t have words.  I barely had breath to breathe.  It was fabulous!

Final note for today:  Doing laundry at a laundromat in a foreign county is SO much more enjoyable if you’re just a little bit tipsy.  Just saying. : )