One of my former colleagues once went on vacation to Italy. While he was staying in Florence, he got the opportunity to visit the Vasari Corridor: an enclosed passageway that connects the Palace of the Medicis on one side of the Arno River to the Uffizi Gallery on the other side. Named after the painter, architect and writer Giorgio Vasari (yes, the Italian Renaissance had some notorious multitaskers), the corridor was built in only 5 months in 1564 and is one of the hidden treasures of the Tuscan town. Visitor access is restricted, and you may only enter as part of a guided group.
My co-worker and his wife were conducted through the corridor by an enthusiastic Italian tour guide who took them back to the times of the Medicis, when Cosimo and his wife Eleonora walked along their private corridor and observed the crowd below. He entertained and educated them with anecdotes and stories, and told them with contagious passion about the great paintings on the walls of the Corridor.
When they stopped to admire one of these masterpieces, the visitors only observed an empty wall… The artwork had been lent out to a prestigious US gallery – which seems to be a common practice in Florentine museums. Most of the times a reproduction of the painting (sometimes just a photocopy) is exhibited instead. This was, however, not the case with this particular one in the Vasari Corridor.
But, even when the wall was strikingly blank, the guida spent almost 10 minutes explaining the beauty and provenance of the painting, using a rich Mediterranean vocabulary to describe the painter’s extraordinary technique and exquisite color palette. My colleague told me afterwards that he had enjoyed every minute!
That’s genuine storytelling in action: the art of generating interest and capturing the imagination of your audience (many thanks to Alan Mottram for the travelog, the inspiration and the story).