A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Florence – The Secret Passage

November 23rd, 2003

Florence is a city rich in history, but also one involved in centuries of conflict. Cities and factions fought ruthlessly to secure power and wealth. Beginning in the 15th century the Medici family ruled Florence, and held almost continuous control for three hundred years. During the Renaissance period of the 16th century, Florence prospered under the astute leadership of Cosimo I. In 1540, Cosimo moved from the Medici Palace to the Palazzo Vecchio. Shortly thereafter the Uffizi was constructed to provide a suite of offices for Cosimo. Around the same time, in 1550, the Medici family purchased the Pitti Palace, which became a main residence for the family.

As we visit Florence and see these magnificent palaces, and admire the work of Michelangelo, Donatello and Botticelli we easily forget the turmoil that took place 500 years ago. So while the Medici family were erecting buildings and collecting art, they were also aware of the dangers all their wealth and power posed to them. Therefore, in 1565, Cosimo I had Giorgio Vasari erect a corridor that connected Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace via the Uffizi. This “secret passage”, that enabled the Medici family to walk between their residences without armed guard, is called the Vasari Corridor. In addition to being a safe passageway, it also served as a place for the Medici to display their artwork.

After many visits to Florence, I felt I knew the city quite well. Needless to say I was speechless after learning that this passageway exists. Among the artwork on the top floor of the Uffizi is a non-descript locked door that looks like the entrance to a broom closet. This is the entrance to the Vasari Corridor heading toward the Arno. This elevated passage crosses the Arno at the Ponte Vecchio atop the eastern side of the bridge. Prior to arriving at the Pitti Palace, this corridor passes the Santa Felicita Church; and in fact, there is a door to enter the choir loft of the church. The Medici family could attend services at the church, with only the priest knowing they were there. Traveling this corridor is extraordinary; it makes it feel like you are a visiting head of state being shown a secret part of history

The Vasari Corridor is fascinating just in a structural sense; however, it is also lined with magnificent artwork. There is a Picture Gallery depicting works mostly from the 17th & 18th centuries. There is also a section of self-portraits including most of the leading Florentine painters; but also some very notable non-Italian artists including: Rubens, Rembrandt, van Dyke and Velazquez.

When traveling, there is always so much to do and never enough time. But hopefully, you will be able to visit the Vasari Corridor on your next trip to Florence.

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