Located in Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio is the Town Hall of Florence. This magnificent construction was built in 1299, when the commune and people of the city decided to represent Florence’s power with a new palace, perfectly defensible and with secret passages for the most difficult turbulences. The construction was begun by Arnolfo di Cambio, who built Santa Croce Church and the Duomo too, and was at the beginning called Palazzo della Signoria. Its secret passages can be visited only with a guided tour, but we will reveal you some of them in this article.
This is the most famous and longest passage of the city. Built in 1535 by Giorgio Vasari, the corridor construction was ordered by Cosimo I de’ Medici. It crosses the whole city, connecting Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Pitti and Ponte Vecchio. It was the fastest connection between the private location and the political heart of Florence and protected the city “Signoria” from attacks, epidemics or turbulences of any kind. The passage may reopen in 2021, so stay tuned!
On the footsteps of Robert Langdon
Let’s now focus on Palazzo Vecchio itself. If you’ve watched “Inferno” by Ron Howard, you’ve certainly seen some of the palace passages. The first one we want to talk about is located in the Hall of Geographical Maps, in the Apartments of the Priori. This fascinating room is also called Guardaroba, and was created to represent the known world of the 16th century through murals of cartography and scientific instruments and artefacts of the time. The room was designed by Vasari, who left it uncompleted. It was used as a study space, a “studiolo”, but it has another purpose too. The room hosts indeed one of the many secret passages of the palace! Robert Langdon knows it very well, and uses it during the escape scenes in “Inferno”, the movie that takes inspiration from Dan Brown’s book. The map of Armenia, in fact, hides a small door, which leads to Bianca Cappello’s room – the second wife of Francesco I – through some very steep stairs. The door is not visible at all, and you can visit it only with a professional guide!
Francesco I and his love for alchemy
Completed between 1570 and 1572 under the supervision of Vasari, the studiolo was a small no-window room used as office and laboratory, hiding room but also cabinet of curiosities. The duke Francesco I loved alchemy, which was a forbidden study field at that time, and decided to build this studiolo to conduct his researches and keep his collection of small and precious rare objects. The room’s decorations are breath-taking, being adorned with a Late-Mannerist style. This hidden room can be accessed through a door-painting, a secret passage that leads to this magnificent space, where every painting can be opened to see Francesco I treasures.
Let’s get out of here!
Another secret passage that is represented in “Inferno”’s movie is the one that ends in via della Ninna. Duke Gualtiero di Brienne, during his 10 months in power, designed an expansion of Palazzo Vecchio perimetre, adding some secret stairs that went from his room to via della Ninna. He ordered its construction to use it for night escapes and other secret reasons, but it actually saved his life in 1343, when the citizens tried to kill him because of his bad behaviour and robberies. He managed to escape from his fate and never came back to Florence. The door saves the life of Langdon too, that manages to escape from the palace and continue his researches.