Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor ★★★

Niobids, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Florence, Italy (Photo by Михаил Бернгардт)
Niobids

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

Uffizi Rooms 34–33: Ancient sculpture

The first room you come to in the second corridor is a shock: No paintings, just ancient sculptures.

It's worth popping into Room 34, though, because these were some of the statues and reliefs that decorated the Medici sculpture garden by San Marco, where Lorenzo de' Medici set up Donatello's star pupil, Bertoldo di Giovanni, as head of a carving school. One of Bertoldo's first students: A teenaged Michelangelo, escaping from the fresco studio of Ghirlandaio and picking up a hammer and chisel to learn his primary artistic love.

It is said that young Michelangelo labored over a statue of a satyr, inspired by an ancient original in the garden. One day, Lorenzo The Magnificent wandered into the garden and lightly teased the young sculptor, saying of the statue's leering face that an old man like that wouldn't have a full set of teeth. As soon as Lorenzo was gone, Michelangelo set about knocking out one of the teeth and carving a pit into the "gums;" he then rubbed dirt into the marble to give it a patina of age and anxiously awaited Lorenzo's return.

The impressed prince of Florence soon invited Michelangelo to live in the Medici palazzo.

(Zagazig Room 33, just beyond, has Roman copies of Greek sculptures, mostly portrait busts.)

[I know it looks like my room numbering is off there; some rooms are perennially closed, yet they keep the old, original numbers identifying each, so you do actually hit Room 34, then 33.]

Uffizi Room 35: Michelangelo and the Florentine High Renaissance

Michelangelo's bright and colorful Holy Family (1506–08) ★★★ signals our dive into the High Renaissance. Also known as the Doni Tondo ("tondo" because it is round; "Doni" after Agnolo Doni, who commissioned the piece for a family wedding)—this one of the few panel paintings by the great master. The glowing colors and shocking nudes in the background seem to pop off the surface, and the torsion of the figures was to be taken up as the hallmark of the 16th century mannerist movement (more on that when we get downstairs). Michelangelo also designed the elaborate frame.

Keeping the Doni Tondo company in this room are works by Fra' Bartolomeo—a follower of Savonarola who later took up Dominican robes himself—Francesco Granacci, Alonso Berraguete, and mannerist Andrea del Sarto.

Uffizi Room 41: Botticelli for now; eventually, Flemish and Northern European

This large room will house in 2015 (and likely into part of 2016) the Birth of Venus and Primavera (Allegory of Spring) and other famous works from the Botticelli rooms while those are being refurbished [see Rooms 10–14 for details on the works].

However, the paintings on the one blue wall—Rogier van der Weyden's, Lamentation of Christ, Hans Memling's Madonna and Child with Angels, and Hugo van der Goes's Portinari Triptych—are a hint at what this room will eventually be dedicated to: Northern European works of the 15th and 16th centuries.

(We can only assume they will eventually be joined by the Uffizi's collection of fine 15C and 16C Flemish and German paintings—currently MIA in the new Uffizi layout—by such masters as Hans Holbein the YoungerDürer, Cranach, and other Northerners who once worked in Florence.)

Room 38: The Hermaphrodite & the early exit

There is a vestibule off the corridor leading to the stairs down tot the exit used in the 1990s and 2000s as well as, just beyond, a small red room reopened in 2015 with a lovely Roman imperial-era copy of a 2C BC Hellenistic of a reclining Hermaphrodite statue acquired by the Medici in 1669 (Though the subject matter seems a bit odd—certainly obscure—this was a very popular type of statue you'll find in many major private collections of the era.)

Also in this room are Jacopo Ligozzi's Allegory of Virtue and other examples of the type of late 17C art preferred by Grand Duke Francesco I de' Medici.

Uffizi Room 42: The Niobids & a Medici Queen of France

Father down the Second Corridor opens Room 42 is a lovely side hall flooded with sunlight and graced by more than a dozen Roman statues which are copies of Hellenic originals, most of them of the dying Niobids.

Against the wall is a monumental canvas by Peter Paul Rubens, The Triumphal Entry of Henry IV into Paris (1627–40) commissioned by Maria de’ Medici for the Palais du Luxembourg. See, though she was born a Medici in Palazzo Pitti, young Maria—sixth child of Grand Duke Francesco I—married way up, becoming the second wife of King Henry IV of France.

As poor Henry was assassinated the day following her coronation as Queen of France, Maria ("Marie" to her subjects) became the regent to their young son, Louis XIII, and later did political battle with her son's other powerful counsellor, Cardinal Richelieu (yes, the baddie in Three Musketeers). Richelieu eventually came out on top, resulting in Queen Marie's banishment —and the abandonment of this glorious cycle of Rubens paintings celebrating her long-dead husband's reign.

Uffizi Rooms 43–45: Temporary exhibition space

These rooms currently act as a holding cell for works from rooms being refurbished (for the first half of 2015 this means the greatest hits from the Uffizi's first set of rooms dedicated to 13th–15th century Gothic and early Renaissance paintings by the likes of Giotto, Duccio, Simone Martini, Fra' Angelico, Paolo Uccello, Masaccio, and Piero della Francesca).

The Cafe—and the view

At the end of the second corridor you can enter a small cafe with access to an outdoor roof terrace atop the Loggia de' Lanzi, featuring close-up views of the Palazzo Vecchio.

Sadly, you cannot get all that close to the edge, and the wall is quite high, so you don't get really the good views down into Piazza della Signoria below that you would expect. No matter; the fresh air makes for a needed break from the swirl of amazing art you've just seen—and there's still more to come, now that the Grande Uffizi project has opened up the ground floor as exhibition space.

The Corridorio Vasariano

That odd covered corridor extending from the Uffizi, zigzagging over to cross the Ponte Vecchio atop its famous little shops, then disappearing into the Oltrarno on the other side is the Corridorio Vasariano.

It was built by Vasari for Cosimo I de' Medici so the Duke could walk the kilometer (0.6 miles) from his home at the Pitti Palace here to his downtown "uffizi" (which means "offices" in old Florentine) without having to mix with the hoi polloi on the streets.

Incidentally, those little shops once held butchers, who could conveniently toss their offal into the river below. Once the Duke started walking across the tops of the shops every morning, he found the stench unbearable. He evicted the butchers and replaced them with something more becoming for a duke to walk over: gold– and silversmiths. The bridge remains lined by jewelry shops to this day. 

Today the corridor is lined by a remarkable collection of self-portraits by a variety of Renaissance and baroque artists and tiny windows offering ducal peekaboo views over Florence.

Photo gallery
  • Niobids, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo by Михаил Бернгардт)
  • "Doni Tondo" or "Sacra Famiglia" (Holy Family) (1506) by Michelangelo, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • "Self-portrait" (1542–43) by Hans Holbein the Younger, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • , Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • , Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • "Adam & Eve" (1528) by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • "Adoration of the Magi" (1504) by Albrecht Dürer, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • "Moses Undergoing Trial by Fire" (1505) by Giorgione, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • "Portrait Diptych of Dürer
  • "Allegoria Sacra" or "Sacred Allegory" (1490–99) by Giovanni Bellini, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • "Madonna and Child" (1470) by Antonello da Messina, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Room of the Niobids, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The Vasari Corridor as it exits the Uffizi and runs across the top of Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo by louis-garden)
  • Self-portraits line the inside of the Vasari Corridor, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo by VladV5)
  • A view of the Ponte Vecchio from inside the Vasari Corridor, Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The second corridor, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
Uffizi: Secondo Piano—The Second Corridor tours
 
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Tips

Free admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Uffizi Galleries for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long does the Uffizi take?

You can easily spend all day here, but a super-fast visit will take about 2–3 hours.

The ticket office closes at 6:05pm.

They start closing the galleries at 6:35pm.

Book ahead, book ahead, book ahead!

By all means book ahead. In summer, the line can last for two hours—no joke. In winter it's more like 30 minutes—but still, do you want to waste even half an hour? There are two solutions:

  • (1) You'll have less of a wait early in the morning and again around 1:30pm when most people are out having lunch.
  • (2) I highly, highly recommend ponying up the extra €4 to book tickets with a timed entry at tel.+39-055-294-883 or Select Italy.
Save the Uffizi for the afternoon

The Uffizi is open relatively late (it closes at 6:50pm—the ticket office and entrance closes at 6:05pm), and most of Florence's other sights are best seen in the morning, so it's wise to save the Uffizi for an afternoon.

It is also open late in summer (maybe): In some recent summers, the Uffizi has instituted a late-opening schedule, staying open until 9pm on Tuesdays. Let's hope they continue the tradition

"Grande Uffizi" = more art (but it may have moved)

Of the more than 3,100 artworks in the museum's archives, only about 1,700 are on exhibit—though now that the "Grande Uffizi" project has (finally!) expanded the galleries to the first (ground) floor, many more are being put on display.

Put it this way: Since the Uffizi Galleries opened, the only regular display space for its art has been up on the third floor (second piano in Italian). Anyone who visited over the past 75 years or so, that's pretty much what they saw.

In just the past few years, however, the permanent exhibit has expanded to cover a good three-quarters of the second floor (primo piano) as well—and though most of the new rooms are frankly a bit tiny (they weren't originally intended as gallery space), the fact remains that thousands upon thousands of square meters of wall space have opened up to display even more of the Uffiizi's embarrassingly rich collection.

That said, the Grande Uffizi project is not quite finished yet.

Works are constantly being rearranged in order to free up some of the older rooms for their first (desperately needed) refurbishment in roughly 60–70 years.

You'll still get to see them. Just don't expect them necessarily to be in the same place it says on your map or in your guidebook.

Also know before you go that the Uffizi sometimes shuts down rooms for crowd-control reasons—especially in summer, when the bulk of the annual 1.5 million visitors stampedes the place.

Hit the gift shop early

For some reason buried deep in the idiocy of Italian bureaucracy, the museum gift shop actually closes before the museum does (around 6:30pm).

If you'll be staying until closing time and still want a commemorative museum book, postcard, poster, or whatever, pop in before your visit to the galleries or during the middle of your time there (or plan to stop by again on some other day just to visit the gift shop).

How long does the Uffizi take?

You can easily spend all day here, but a super-fast visit will take about 2–3 hours.

The ticket office closes at 6:05pm.

They start closing the galleries at 6:35pm.

Book ahead, book ahead, book ahead!

By all means book ahead. In summer, the line can last for two hours—no joke. In winter it's more like 30 minutes—but still, do you want to waste even half an hour? There are two solutions:

  • (1) You'll have less of a wait early in the morning and again around 1:30pm when most people are out having lunch.
  • (2) I highly, highly recommend ponying up the extra €4 to book tickets with a timed entry at tel.+39-055-294-883 or Select Italy.
Save the Uffizi for the afternoon

The Uffizi is open relatively late (it closes at 6:50pm—the ticket office and entrance closes at 6:05pm), and most of Florence's other sights are best seen in the morning, so it's wise to save the Uffizi for an afternoon.

It is also open late in summer (maybe): In some recent summers, the Uffizi has instituted a late-opening schedule, staying open until 9pm on Tuesdays. Let's hope they continue the tradition

"Grande Uffizi" = more art (but it may have moved)

Of the more than 3,100 artworks in the museum's archives, only about 1,700 are on exhibit—though now that the "Grande Uffizi" project has (finally!) expanded the galleries to the first (ground) floor, many more are being put on display.

Put it this way: Since the Uffizi Galleries opened, the only regular display space for its art has been up on the third floor (second piano in Italian). Anyone who visited over the past 75 years or so, that's pretty much what they saw.

In just the past few years, however, the permanent exhibit has expanded to cover a good three-quarters of the second floor (primo piano) as well—and though most of the new rooms are frankly a bit tiny (they weren't originally intended as gallery space), the fact remains that thousands upon thousands of square meters of wall space have opened up to display even more of the Uffiizi's embarrassingly rich collection.

That said, the Grande Uffizi project is not quite finished yet.

Works are constantly being rearranged in order to free up some of the older rooms for their first (desperately needed) refurbishment in roughly 60–70 years.

You'll still get to see them. Just don't expect them necessarily to be in the same place it says on your map or in your guidebook.

Also know before you go that the Uffizi sometimes shuts down rooms for crowd-control reasons—especially in summer, when the bulk of the annual 1.5 million visitors stampedes the place.

Hit the gift shop early

For some reason buried deep in the idiocy of Italian bureaucracy, the museum gift shop actually closes before the museum does (around 6:30pm).

If you'll be staying until closing time and still want a commemorative museum book, postcard, poster, or whatever, pop in before your visit to the galleries or during the middle of your time there (or plan to stop by again on some other day just to visit the gift shop).

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).