The UFFIZZI GALLERY is one of the gratiest museums in Italy and the world. The Uffizzi were intended to house the offices of the famous Medici family (Uffizzi = offices). From the beginning, however, the Medici set aside certain rooms to house the finest works from their collections.
Today the Uffizzi contains masterpieces by Italian and foreign artists from the 13th to the 18th century, such as Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Beato Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Caravaggio, along with Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya and many others.
Cosimo I dei Medici (1519-1574) came to power in 1537, when he was only eighteen. As a result of his extraordinary political and military abilities, he very soon became lord of almost all of Tuscany . In 1540 he left the family residence to move to Palazzo Vecchio, the historic seat of the city government.
Having renovated the Palazzo, Cosimo then turned his attention to Piazza della Signoria and the surrounding area, planning to enhance the centre of the State through an imposing urban development.
The site he chose was a popular residential district, stretching from the south of Piazza Signoria as far as the river Arno . Here he decided to build a magnificent edifice to house the principal government offices of the State, hence the name of Uffizzi (or offices). The project was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari, a painter and architect favoured by Cosimo, who began work in 1560.
The building, in the form of a horseshoe, was made up of one long wing to the east, which also incorporated the ancient Florentine church of San Pier Scheraggio, a short portion along the bank of the river Arno, and another shorter wing to the west, where the Uffizzi was designed to be connected with two existing buildings, the Zecca Vecchia, or Mint, and the Loggia dei Lanzi. Vasari conceived an architectural module to be repeated all along the building; this consisted of a portico flanked by two pillars, with niches on the ground floor and three windows on the upper story.
The construction, built in the fine-grained limestone known as pietra forte, demanded an enormous financial commitment, much of which was sustained by the Magistrature, the government officials who were to be accommodated in the new building. By 1565, the so-called Uffizzi Lunghi were already completed, as well as the part overlooking the river. In this section Vasari revised the architectural module, creating broad arcades which help to give greater amplitude to the narrow square of the Piazzale degli Uffizzi.