The two pictures below of the exterior of the Vasari Corridor in Florence encapsulate some of this city’s recent history. In the 19 C photo, we see the supporting arches of the then-closed corridor packed with workshops that hang out over the River Arno. This was the traditional location of the gun makers’ workshops, the embankment of the arquebusiers (Lungarno degli Archibusieri).
In the 20 C photo, we see a restored structure with the arches as Vasari designed them. Only close inspection reveals the changes at the approach to the Ponte Vecchio. During WW II, Gerhard Wolf was the German Consul in Florence. In 1944, during the German retreat northwards, it was Wolf who interceded personally with Hitler to prevent the destruction of the Ponte Vecchio. (All the other bridges over the Arno were blown up.) However, the buildings on either side were heavily damaged and after the war were replaced by a mixture of traditional and modern buildings. Wolf was made an honorary citizen of Florence in 1955, not only for saving the bridge but for helping the numerous foreign residents of Florence, including the art historian Bernard Berenson, who were hiding out in the hills around Florence during the occupation.
It’s currently not easy to view the interior of the Vasari Corridor. It’s mandatory to be part of a guided group and the inexpensive tours run by the Uffizi seem to have been replaced by over-priced offerings from private tour companies. Nevertheless, definitely take a tour if you can reserve a reasonable option. The corridor itself, running from the Palazzo Vecchio, via the Uffizi and across the river to the Palazzo Pitti is intrinsically fascinating, and the collection of artists’ self-portraits hung along the walls are absolutely worth the effort to see.
Information on how to visit the Vasari Corridor in Florence.