Very first thing this morning Sam and I made our way to a bookshop here on Florence and bought a copy of a Inferno. Sam really wanted to be able to read about the locations we were seeing in how they related to the story, after recently finishing Angels and Demons. So as we sat in a little cafe eating breakfast croissants, she was speed reading. To stall for some time I went off to get a reservation for a tour that would give us a good look at some cool stuff most people don’t see, which features heavily in Inferno (which I know because I read it the day it came out 2 years ago).
Well Sam definitely has a tallent for spead reading. A tallent I do not have, perhaps because as a writer I love savoring the sentences slowly. In any case, in almost no time she was nearing the section where ot talks about the first site on Rober and Sienna’s trail. Having looked up a walking guide of it beforehand, I took us in the right direction, and she continued diligently reading as we walked.
Spoiler alert. If you haven’t read Inferno by Dan Brown, he warned. I’ll try not to give away plot details but obviously settings might give stuff away. I won’t be offended if you choose to leave, buy the book, read it immediately, and then come back. If you have read it, or just don’t care about setting spoilers, read on!
We made our way to the Ponta Romana, the first part of the “old city” that Robert and Sienna visit. It’s basically part of the ancient city wall that now sits in front of a major roundabout. Sam was seriously giddy as she read the description in the book aloud, glancing up to find the real life counterparts. It was great for me too, because Dan Brown is basically the fictional author equivalent of Rick Steves, and I got to learn to a of stuff about it and remember stuff from the book I had forgotten!
Sam and I then continued through Bobili Gardens. At the entrance, I saw a notice that a certain grotto would be closed on the 11 and 12 during the morning. That was yesterday! And, having heard that the filming for Inferno is currently happening in Florence, I am almost positive that they closed it down so Tom Hanks could get his Langdon on! Tom flippin Hanks was here yesterday and we missed him!!!
As we ran through the gardens, almost exactly the way Robert and Sienna did, seeing the same sights and taking the same route, we felt a lot like them! It was especially citing as Sam read a portion aloud and we walked through that exact area! We never had to just imagine the settings, because we could see them all! It was an awesome blend of fiction, life, and history that couldn’t have been cooler.
Well we continued through the Pitti Palace, still retracing Langdon’s steps, hiding out in the same grotto, and even finding the tiny side door they escaped through. From there Robert and Sienna go through the Vasari Corridor, a not-so-secret passageway that the Mediccis would use to get from their palace to the government building a few blocks away without having to walk with the commoners. We couldn’t get into the passageway without paying lots of cash and reserving far in advance, but we followed it from below, at the same place where another character was fooled, waiting for Langdon and Sienna to cross the Vechio bridge as they passed overhead through the corridor. Oh, and naturally the Ponte Vechio was lovely.
From there the corridor winds over buildings and streets until it intersects the Ufizi Gallery, which we unfortunately didn’t have tickets to and ended up not seeing. I got to see it two years ago though, and Sam was enjoying our Infernp chase to care much. The corridor ends at the Palazzo Vechio, the ancient seat of the Florentine government. Now, this was the tour I went to schedule earlier: seeing the secret passageways inside the palace. The same ones used in Inferno. So, for today, we simply relaxed in the front square, strewn with statue masterpieces like Renaissance garden gnomes, while Sam read everything that happened inside the Palace. Tomorrow we would get to go inside and see everything up close.
The trail then continued to Dante’s house. Whether it is the actual home of Dante I’m not sure, but today a museum inside is dedicated to him and his family. Dante’s death mask is also there (one of two. The other is in Ravena with his tomb). Robert and Sienna go there hoping to find a copy of Dante’s Paradisio, but in the story the house was closed. Luckily it wasn’t for us. Robert thinks for a moment that they could get a copy at his favorite book store, but realizes it too, would be closed. This is the same bookstore that we visited earlier today, where Sam bought her own copy of Inferno! They end up going to Dante’s church, where legend says Dante first laid eyes on Beatrice, the love of his life whom he would never have. Beatrice’s tomb is there, and she has become a sort of patron for unrequited or lost love. So we visited the church and saw her tomb, which is accompanied by wicker baskets where lovesick pilgrims leave notes to her, asking for her help.
Then came the moment I had really been waiting for: the Duomo. The characters in the book never actually go inside, and neither did we (not today anyway), but we sat outside in the square. At first the combination of delicate pink and green marble with powerful gothic architecture is bizarre, but the more we you stare at it the more you love it. Sam read aloud as Dan Brown laid the entire square out for us, including interesting side notes and fun historical anecdotes about what we were looking at, especially the famous Gates of Paradise on the baptistery doors.
Finally, Sienna and Robert go inside the baptistery. Today, the baptistery exterior is under renovation, but the interior is still open. So we got our tickets and followed our fictional counterparts inside. We used the tourist entrance, unlike the uncannily sneaky characters of Inferno. Again, inside we stared wide eyed at the ceiling’s beautiful mosaics, and Dan Brown’s descriptions of them and their history instantly dropped us into the action. We saw the baptismal font and the altar where the action happens, and at the end of the narration in this scene, Robert and Sienna’s time in Florence is over, as another clue leads them to another city. (Which, for the fear of spoiling things I won’t name specifically, but we did visit it on our trip!)
When this was over, we weren’t quite done with Florence for the day. We decided to climb the imposing bell tower standing next to the Duomo. It was 416 (ish) steps to the top, but it was so worth it! I had been a bit bummed when I had been in Florence 2 years ago but didn’t get to climb the tower or the dome, so I was so glad we got to this time! Although it doesn’t happen in Inferno, it was definitely a high point. Buh-dun-chhhh!