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The thread of history and culture are closely intertwined in Florence Italy. Culture…as in 21st century popular culture. After I had decided to visit Florence, I happened to be on a plane flying from here to there when the movie ‘Inferno’ (based on the Dan Brown novel) was one of the movie choices. Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones were racing through many of the famous sites of the city. Naturally, that caught my attention! I read up more about what I wanted to see and do in Florence and then ended up watching the move two more times before my visit! By the time I got to Florence, I felt like I could follow in the footsteps of the characters in that movie! This view of Santa Croce is taken from the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio where the main characters in Inferno escape the bad guys through a secret door in the map room.
The characters never climbed the tower to enjoy the view since it would have been a dead end in their race to evade all the ‘bad guys’. In reality, the tower climb is a bit of a disappointment. There are a limited number of viewing points from which to see the cityscape of Florence, so you can’t just hang out and enjoy the view. You have to have your look, take your photos and move along. This view takes in the sights to the east, with the Basilica di Santa Croce most prominent, standing tall above the tangle of medieval buildings and narrow streets. It’s not just a church, and it’s not just a repository of art. It’s the resting place of a lot of famous people, from the sacred to profane. Michelangelo…Galileo…Machiavelli. All here. Viewed from afar you can begin to understand the power that the Catholic Church had over the masses. The cathedrals/basilicas/churches dominated (and often still do) the landscape. In medieval times you would be able to see them from miles away (you can STILL see them from miles away). Pilgrims making their way to the city would gravitate toward those iconic structures.
But on this day, I continued my quest to see the sites in the Palazzo Vecchio. I visited the Hall of Maps where Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones take a secret exit behind the map of Armenia into the space over the Hall of Five Hundred where the huge wooden trusses and beams hold suspended the spectacular works of art on its ceiling. Spoiler Alert: In the movie, someone falls off one of the trusses and through the ceiling, destroying the artwork. It’s fun to imagine that scene as you are standing there but if it ever happened (it didn’t!), the artwork has been miraculously repaired.
If you have read or watched Inferno, you feel like you are a part of Florence. When you actually visit, it all comes to life in a surreal amalgamation of the past and the present. Sometimes you can’t tell what is real from what is imagined.