I knew it was a special place to visit, but early this year when I booked the small-group tour of the famous Vasari Corridor, they closed it because the Florence Fire Department considered it a risk to life and art ... art, because its walls are filled with a priceless art collection.
They're correct ... a kilometre long enclosed passageway high overhead the hoi-polloi, over the Ponte Vecchio, with no method of escaping half way along?
It was opened again in September, but will shut permanently at the end of this month. But who knows what will happen? This is Italy!
In 1565, the Medici family paid for Giorgio Vasari to build the corridor, in only five months, for the wedding between Francesco I de' Medici and Giovanna of Austria.
It also served for the Medicis to from their palazzo to the business uffizi or office (now the Uffizi Gallery) across the Arno River - safe from assassination, and a great way to show off to visiting dignitaries.
Inside, Ireni, our enthusiastic, art-loving guide was brilliant!
What many don't know is the story of the Vasari Corridor's modern day tragedy.
On the night of May 27th, 1993, a car bomb set by the mafia, detonated next to the Torre dei Pulci. Five innocent people, including two young children, who lived in a nearby building were killed.
This is the place where it happened below this round window. The detonation blasted through these windows and below, destroying a section of the Uffizi Gallery. Several artworks in the Corridor were destroyed. The paintings, some hopelessly damaged, were pieced back together and placed back on their original spot. They serve as poignant reminders of the senseless violence.
The Vasari Corridor escaped being bombed in WW2. It could've been - the Germans destroyed all the other bridges except for the Ponte Vecchio. Apparently, Italian leader at the time, Mussolini showed Hitler through the Corridor, and he was so impressed he ordered his officers to keep the bridge safe - to preserve the Vasari Corridor. Luckily, for art and for us.
Here it is, along the top of Ponte Vecchio, as seen on our way back across the river afterwards, showing the three wide windows Mussolini installed for Hitler's benefit.