A loud hurrah for Giorgio’s fish market

Vasari self-portraitI often think that if Giorgio Vasari hadn’t written his well-known book, he’d be more famous!

Vasari livesThis apparent contradiction comes about from the fact that in some quarters at least, Vasari is only known for his book Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, the first-ever treatise on art history, in which he lauded Michelangelo as the apotheosis of artistic development.

But Vasari, who lived from 1511 to 1574, was also a great Renaissance Man in his own right: painter, architect and street-planner, as well as writer and historian. He painted (with others) the inside of the dome of Florence cathedral and wonderful frescoes in the palazzo vecchio; he built the uffizi and in particular the loggia of the uffizi, creating a unique Renaissance street with unified architecture, the first regularised streetscape in Europe. Oh … and the Vasari corridor, linking above street level the palazzo vecchio with the Pitti place, so his Grand Duke, Cosimo 1 de’ Medici, wouldn’t have to mix with the hoi polloi on his way home.

The interior of the dome of Florence cathedral

The interior of the dome of Florence cathedral

And he built the Fish Loggia, one of my (many) favourite buildings in Florence.

Vasari fish restored

The Grand Duke’s corridorio was part of a flurry of building projects designed to celebrate the marriage of his son and heir Francesco de’ Medici to Joanna of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I.

To support the foundations of the corridor the old fish market near the ponte vecchio had to be moved. So Vasari build a new one, which can now be seen in the piazza dei ciompi. We regularly walk past it on our strolls through central Florence and when we visit the flea market in the piazza on the last Sunday of each month. (Fish are no longer sold there, but you can buy old fishknives.)

Alternating pairs of square and round columns support a double row of eight arches (increased to nine by Cosimo III in 1699), enclosing canopied vaults. And around the outside, there are wonderfully tondi celebrating fish and fishing. There are flamboyant coats of arms at the corners, including the one on the right celebrating Francesco and Joanna’s marriage, as well as those of Cosimo I and his wife Eleonora of Toledo.

All in all a graceful, rhythmic architectural space: lucky fishmongers – and lucky us! Let’s raise a cool glass of dry white wine (to go with the fish) to Giorgio’s lovely loggia del pesce.

fish loggia coat of armsVasari fish tondo_07








You can come and see the Vasari Fish Loggia with us (and some other famous Florentine buildings!) on our beguiling three-day Florence Add-on before your week-long creative course at The Watermill. You can find out more about it by clicking here.


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