Allora! So, Bruce and I are not really big fans of Dan Browns books (The Da Vinci Code ets.) but we read his latest book Inferno before we left because it takes place mostly in Florence. And he is very descriptive of the places his characters find themselves. So we decided to have our initial visit to the Palazzo Vecchio by taking the Dan Brown tour. This tour actually existed before the book was written and Dan Brown took this tour to get ideas for the book. Much of the action and clues take place in the Palazzo Vecchio. This Palazzo is the historical seat of government of the city of Florence. Residence of the Priors and of the Gonfalonier of Justice in the Middle Ages, a Medici palace in the middle decades of the 16th century, the administrative centre of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and later of Florence when it became capital of the Kingdom of Italy, and finally the town hall when the Commune, or municipality, took it over in 1871, the palace reflects its prestigious history in the sumptuous decoration of its Monumental Apartments. Its current appearance is mainly due to the splendid restoration work and interior decoration carried out in the mid-sixteenth century to adapt the building to its new function as ducal palace as ordered by Cosimo I de’ Medici. After the transfer of the Medici court to Palazzo Pitti, it continued to host the Guardaroba (where the ceremonial costumes and family treasures were stored) and various governmental offices, until it became the seat of the Florence City Council in 1871.
On the first floor we find the grandiose Salone dei Cinquecento, a work by Cronaca (1495), which was used for the assemblies of the General Council of the People, after the State reforms brought about by Girolamo Savonarola. The walls of the hall, originally decorated by Michelangelo and Leonardo, owe their present-day monumental appearance to Vasari and his pupils and date back to the second half of the 16th century. The panelled ceiling, the frescoes on the walls, the Udienza (the raised section of the room with statues by Bandinelli and Caccini), the sculptures of De Rossi featuring the Deeds of Hercules contribute to the complex and rich symbolism and offer a precise historical view of the glorious past of the Medici family. While taking Italian classes at The San Diego Italian Cultural Center in Little Italy we heard a lecture by some UCSD students who were working with a professor here in Florence to find the lost Da Vinci believed by this professor to be behind the Vasari painting in this Salone dei Cinquecento, so during our tour we were very interested to hear what the guide had to say about this. They did allow this professor to drill some tiny holes in the Vasari works and try to extract some of the paint between the walls to prove it was the kind of materials De Vinci used but from what I understood today they are not convinced it is anything but a De Vinci “mistake”. Anyway we continued to all those places written about in the book – some true and some not. But it was a great way to see this magnificent and historical Palazzo.