Palazzo degli Uffizi, one of the most important museums in the world for its marvellous collection, was started by Giorgio Vasari in 1560, on commission to Cosimo I de’ Medici, and finished by Buontalenti.
An architectural Florentine masterpiece of the 1500s, it was built in order to house both the courts and the administrative offices of Florence, which until that time had been in separate buildings.
In 1581 Palazzo degli Uffizi was turned into a museum: the gallery on the second floor was closed with large windows, and various collections of medals, jewels and Medici family arms were kept there.
It was the Grand Duke Francesco I who decided that the Uffizi Gallery should be enriched over the years when the city was ruled by the Medici family, whose members were great art lovers.
It has masterpieces from the great masters, such as Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo, Raffaello, Titian and many others. No less important are the classic and Hellenistic statues, which the Medici family also collected. And there are also collections of tapestries, ancient marble sculptures and miniatures. On the ground floor, in the rooms which were originally the church of S. Pietro Scheraggio, fine frescoes can be seen.
The Uffizi Gallery was also the first museum to be opened to the public: from 1591, you only had to apply to the Grand Duke to be allowed to visit.
The Medici family continually enriched the Gallery with pieces that it inherited or bought, with the collection of self portraits, now housed in the Vasarian Corridor.
The Vasarian complex also houses other important collections: those in the Drawings Room and the Uffizi Prints.
The Contini Bonacossi donation, given in 1998, includes 35 paintings, some wonderful antique furniture and ceramics, which belonged to Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, and is one of the Gallery’s most prestigious acquisitions.
The Palace also houses the Medici Theatre, this too designed by Buontalenti: in the shape of a horseshoe, it rests on an open gallery completely decorated with niches inside which are statues of important Florentines who lived from the Middle Ages until the 1800s.
Today the Gallery has 45 rooms with splendid paintings, sculptures, tapestries and various pieces of furniture. In 1773, when there were no more heirs to the Medici family, the entire artistic heritage became the property of the Comune of Florence.