Who would have thought that I would be lucky enough to see James Taylor two times in my life in Italy! I have seen him many, many times in the USA, but it was a real treat to see him here. A little slice of my childhood had come to Italy!
The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago and we drove to Bologna for the event. This time he was in Florence at a venue I had not visited called Obihall. Obihall is located along the East side of the Arno and is an easy bus ride. The bus stop is just a 3 minute walk from the venue. The venue is small and looks like a circus tent, but is really nice inside, and the acoustics incredible.
James Taylor played many of his old hits along with some new songs that are coming out on a new recording called Before This World, which will be released on June 16th. His voice is still incredible as is his energy level! He brought a full band including a pianist, drummer, electric and bass guitars and 3 incredible backup singers.
James Taylor is incredible personable and a person that you would just like to sit down with and have a beer. Before the show, Ben said, “Let’s print out a photo of James Taylor and I will get his autograph”. I printed the photo but was very skeptical about getting him to sign it, but Ben did it! JT was signing autographs and taking photos with folks at the break and even after the show.
The Italian audience loved him and James warmed their hearts by speaking a little bit of Italian! They just love that effort! I hope that you get a chance to see him at a venue near you if you have to travel, believe me, it’s worth it!
I finally got to visit the Vasari Corridor. It wasn’t for lack of desire, although I had heard some mixed reviews about it, but lack of money. The tour is very expensive!!! Eighty five Euros or more was the going price, although now I see some for around 65 euro. That is still a bit of cash for a 1 ½ hour tour. I found an offer on Groupon for less so decided to splurge for my birthday!
We met at the Uffizi on a Sunday morning at 9:20. Alessandro, the guide from Ciao Florence was excellent! He was very organized and passed out audio guides and checked off his list to make sure everyone was there. There were about 20 in our group and we had an entrance time of 10:15 into the corridor. That meant we had to get into the Uffizi and around to the side where the entrance to the corridor is in about ½ hour. That can be challenging on a weekend!
The entrance was of course crowded, but as we got into the museum, it thinned out. We had time to learn about the first part of the corridor, which is actually within the Uffizi and starts at the Palazzo Vecchio, as well as the Tribunale which was actually the first museum in the world. When the structure was used as offices, the Medici had this room set up with “treasures” for the employees to enjoy. Soon, it was opened to the public, and later on the Uffizi was opened, and is considered one of the oldest and most important museums in Europe.
I was surprised to learn that the entrance to the corridor is just a couple of doors down from where the windows are with the excellent view of the Ponte Vecchio and the start of the corridor. We entered there with excitement!
It was incredible to learn that this part had been a part of the bombing which killed 5 people in May of 1993. There is a small olive tree that marks the site in memoriam, and on the outside of this wall there is a golden statute put up at the 20 year anniversary of the bombing. I can’t describe the feeling of walking in a place where nobility and some of the most important people in the history of Florence and the world have walked. It is exhilarating. Of course, if I think about it (and I often do) I have that feeling during the daily course of my life walking in the streets of Florence.
This corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti. It was built in 1564 and designed by Giorgio Vasari, for whom it is named, the Vasari Corridor. The corridor was built in only 5 months at the order of Cosimo I de’ Medici. He feared for his security in public and wanted to be able to pass freely from his place of work to his residence without fear for his safety. The meat markets that had occupied Ponte Vecchio at that time were moved and replaced with the gold shops that are still there today. The smell of the meat was too much for Nobile noses!
In the middle of the corridor are a series of windows that replaced the original ones. They were put there by order of Mussolini in 1939, when Hitler made a visit to the city. He wanted to give him a panoramic view of the river.
After this section, there is a window which looks into the tiny, beautiful church of Santa Felicita’. Originally, there was a balcony with a rail so that the family could attend mass without mixing with the commoners.
The corridor is filled with hundreds of artist’s self portraits. It is remarkable to see the changing styles over the centuries. Needless to say there are many important and famous artists contained in the gallery. I like these more modern ones and was astonished to find, Marc Chagall and Carlo Levy included in the mix.
The corridor ends at the Buontalenti Grotto and you exit through Palazzo Pitti. If you wanted to, you could probably stroll through the Boboli Gardens on the same ticket as there are no other ticket collectors between here and the gardens.
It was an absolutely fabulous tour! I was with an all Italian group and the tour was in Italian, but Ciao Florence does offer English speaking tours. We were alone in the corridor the entire time.
Other tours I have heard had multiple groups in them, which can be distracting. We also had individual audio ear plugs to hear clearly what Alessandro was saying. The tour for the corridor alone costs 85 euro and if you want to see the Uffizi as well, a little more. Guided tours for these types of museums are incredibly value and add so much to the experience. Consider it for your visit to Florence!
This year when I visited the Iris garden it seemed to be at its peak in blossoms! Always lovely, the rains this Spring may have been beneficial for these delicate beauties. The colors, as always are amazing and the setting and location is stunning.
After a long week of rain, the sun came out on a Sunday, and me and the rest of Florence went up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the Iris garden! The small winding paths down the hill, through the olive grove and beds of Irises were lovely and tranquil, even with crowds of people.
This garden is only open for 1 month each Spring when the Irises are in bloom This 58th edition was opened from April 25 to May 20. It’s not easy to find, but the entrance is located behind a refreshment stand at the southeast corner of the parking lot. Which one is your favorite? I really could not decide!