“The Renaissance Rooms”
For anyone spending part of a tour in Florence, visiting the Uffizi Gallery is a must. When we speak of the “Galleria degli Uffizi”, we refer to one of the largest art collections in the world and, in particular, to its masterpiece-rich painting gallery.
The celebration of Florence begun under Cosimo I de’ Medici. In order to better control the city’s administration, Cosimo decided to accommodate the uffizi (offices) of the “Magistrature Fiorentine” (the city’s administrators, judiciary and guilds) in a single government building other than the Palazzo Vecchio, and which would eventually extend as far as the Lungarno.
The political and military glory of Florence after the conquest of Siena had to be publicly acknowledged and, to this end, Cosimo entrusted the project for the construction of the Uffizi to one of the greatest artists of the time: Giorgio Vasari. To make room for the new building, Cosimo ordered the demolition of the old river port area, which included a working class neighbourhood. The huge U-shaped palace was to incorporate the ancient Romanesque Church of San Pier Scheraggio, a small area on the Arno and part of the Zecca Vecchia (the old Mint).
Due to Cosimo’s tendency to economize on both material and human resources – he wanted even waste materials to be recovered and imposed servitude on certain workers -, Vasari had considerable difficulties in carrying out the project.
Works began in 1560 and were completed in 1580 (after Vasari’s death in 1574, architects Bernardo Buontalenti and Alfonso Parigi took over), giving us this architectural and town-planning masterpiece of the late Renaissance. The construction site demonstrates the originality, in terms of style as well as size, that characterizes Vasari’s design, with its long colonnade with Doric columns that leads to a loggia overlooking the Arno. In 1565, to celebrate the wedding of his son Francesco I with Joanna of Austria, Cosimo commissioned to Vasari a hidden raised corridor. Completed in just six months and later known as “Vasari’s Corridor“, it connects the Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti (the residence of Cosimo and his wife, Eleonora of Toledo) through part of the Gallery, the Arno and the Boboli Gardens.
The valorisation of the Uffizi started in 1575, when Francesco I de’ Medici decided to house at the second floor of the palace all the remarkable collections of the family, a heritage which would be enlarged over time through the addition of important works of art.
The Uffizi Gallery has an amazing visual impact, especially if you appreciate the figurative arts and the history of art: you are plunged right into the heart of man-made beauty, among the highest peaks of human creativity and achievement. In addition, you get to see the roots of our culture and its development through all sorts of collections: statues, bronzes, jewellery, gemstones, scientific instruments, armours, maps, natural rarities, etc… However, the most distinguishing feature of the Uffizi is that it offers you a chronological journey, room after room, through the history and masterpieces of painting, starting from a few classic sculptures and ending with Italian and European 18th-century paintings.
The first three rooms house works by Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini, Duccio di Boninsegna.
Rooms 4 to 8 feature some of the painters that anticipate and lead to the early Renaissance, such as Paolo Uccello, Pier della Francesca, Masaccio, Beato Angelico, and Filippo Lippi , before taking you to a real triumph in the rooms housing late 15th-century Tuscan and Flemish works and the masterpieces by Botticelli, the pinnacle of the Renaissance ideal of grace and beauty.
Room 15 houses works by Leonardo, Perugino and Verrocchio, while room 18 paintings by Pontormo, Bronzino, Vasari and Raphael. Room 20 has works by Durer, room 21 paintings by Bellini and Giorgione, and room 23 works by Correggio.
Room 25 contains the only existing painting by Michelangelo Buonarroti, while in room 26 there are paintings by Raffaello and Andrea del Sarto. Tuscan mannerism, with Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino, can be found in 27 room, whereas in rooms 28 and 29 you have, respectively, Titian and the Parmigianino. Skipping a few rooms, we find a famous artist in room 35: Tintoretto, who stands out among the painters of the 16-th century Venetian school. The presence of two foreign masters is also worthy of mention: the Flemish Rubens in room 41 and the Dutch Rembrandt in room 44.
Our purpose in providing the above information has been to pay homage to what we consider to be an unmissable highlight of a visit to Florence, without any pretence to be exhaustive. There is much more to see at the Uffizi and in the city as a whole – we just hope to have aroused your curiosity. It is now up to you to fill the gaps and enjoy your stay to the fullest.