Friday, November 4, 2016

Florence "Inferno" by Dan Brown

When Dan Brown released The DaVinci Code in 2003, the world was captivated by his controversial story of conspiracy, religion and secret societies. 

Ten years later, the author’s Inferno ignited interest again with the latest adventures of protagonist Robert Langdon, portrayed by Tom Hanks in the recently released movie. With many scenes set in Florence, Brown’s Inferno makes frequent references to some of the most popular places to visit in the city.

Organized tours have sprung up that take tourists along the path traced by Harvard professor Langdon as he races to avoid assassination in Inferno. You can always choose your own adventure at a more peaceful pace by exploring these sites independently when you are no longer a tourist but a resident.

The Palazzo Vecchio with its tower overlooking the Piazza della Signoria has played an important role in Florentine government since it was conceived in 1299. Now largely a civic museum, it is still the seat of Florence’s mayor. In Inferno, it is where Vasari’s painting The Battle of Marciano is located, which provides early clues to the mystery being solved by Langdon and his companion bearing the very Tuscan name Sienna.

One of the ways Langdon and Sienna escape capture in the novel is to use the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed passage elevated above street level that runs from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, crossing the Arno River via the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Interestingly, some of the Corridor’s small windows were replaced with larger ones to give Adolf Hitler a better view of the Arno when he visited Benito Mussolini in 1939.

The Ponte Vecchio is the most famous bridge in Florence. Many depictions of the Arno include the bridge, which was once the city’s meat market but was designated a trading area for jewelers and goldsmiths by Cosimo I de’ Medici so that he would not have to smell the stench of slaughtered animals from his adjacent palace.

Across the Arno from Palazzo Vecchio, the Palazzo Pitti is today an enormous museum complex that was built to be the residence of banker Luca Pitti during the Renaissance. It was the home of the Medici family in the 16th and 17th centuries, and of Napoleon in the 18th century. There have always been fascinating finds in the Florence real estate market!

The Boboli Gardens, a beautifully manicured park of greenery, fountains and sculptures is another stop for Langdon and Sienna in their quest to elude danger and solve the mystery at the heart of the film. The park is located adjacent to the Pitti Palace, and was originally designed for the wife of Cosimo I de’Medici, Eleonora, in the 1500’s.

As with many visitors to Florence, the departure point for Robert Langdon as he flees to Istanbul in Inferno is the Santa Maria Novella Train Station. If you will be staying long term in Florence, you will become very familiar with the station and its convenient connections to other European cities.

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