A couple of weeks ago I went to a screening for the movie, Inferno directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. It’s based off the latest book by Dan Brown (he wrote Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.) Inferno was filmed mainly in Florence – my favorite city! Also in Venice, Istanbul and Budapest.
Before you read on, take a look at the movie trailer so you’ll get an idea of the locations in this post. Make sure to watch it all the way to the end to see a very important painting!
Did you watch it? Ok, let’s begin!
The thrilling story begins in the windows of the Bell Tower of Badia Fiorentina. Badia Fiorentina is a 10th century abbey where the famous poet, Dante Alighieri (Dante) grew up across the street. It is in that very tower where an event in the movie sets things in motion.
You can visit Dante’s home which is now turned into a 3-floor museum, The Casa di Dante.
Cerca trova “seek and ye shall find” is the mysterious inscription found on Giorgio Vasari’s fresco The Battle of Marciano located in the Hall of Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio. Those words are painted on a green flag of the army fighting against Florence. Robert Langdon (Tom Hank’s character) was lead there to find another clue in piecing together the Inferno mystery.
In reality, it is speculated that cerca trova was meant to be a clue from Vasari to lead people to the location of Leonardo da Vinci’s lost fresco, The Battle of Anghiari, which was unfinished and is hidden somewhere on the walls of the Hall of Five Hundred. I love a good mystery, do you?
The Vasari Corridor
Robert Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks make a quick escape from their enemies by cleverly entering a secret passageway in Palazzo Vecchio called the Vasari Corridor. However, the corridor is not movie fiction, it’s a fact!
The corridor is an enclosed and elevated 1 km long passageway connecting Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti. It was designed by Giorgio Vasari built in 1565 for the powerful Medici family who wanted to safely move from their office at Palazzo Vecchio to their home at Palazzo Pitti. The Medici were able to spy on the locals who were unknowing of the Medici’s presence above them.
It goes through the halls of the Uffizi Gallery, cuts across the Arno River with its passage above Ponte Vecchio’s shops. The passage continues in front of the Church of Santa Felicita, to the gardens of Palazzo Guicciardini, and exits in Boboli Gardens behind Palazzo Pitti. The secret passageway stays hidden because it cuts through the interior of palaces and private homes. You can spot it from the outside by searching for its round windows.
Now that you know about the corridor and next time you’re in its vicinity, remember to look up (or you can always take a private guided tour!)
The octagon shaped Baptistery of San Giovanni dates back as far as 1059. It is here that Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) enters the Gates of Paradise and unmasks a revelation – the plot thickens and sets them out to Venice. The Gates of Paradise is the main gate of the baptistry that was created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, a Florentine goldsmith in the 1400s.
No smaller or no larger they seemed to me
Than are those booths for the baptismal fonts
Built in my beautiful San Giovanni
And one of those, not many years ago,
I broke up to save someone drowning in it:
And let my word here disabuse men’s minds (Inferno, Canto XIX, 16-21)
In those verses from Dante’s Inferno, he speaks about his baptism and the story of how he saved a child from drowning. So if you are ever at Florence Baptistry, pause and know that he too was once there.
Piazza della Signoria, Boboli Gardens, Porto Romana and a few other Florence sites are in the movie. I have not read Dan Brown’s Inferno, but after watching the movie I think I’ve found something good to read!