Much of the action in the movie takes place in the Palazzo Vecchio which is the ancient and the current town hall of Florence. It was also the home to the Medici duke and his family in the 16th century.
Dave and I took the Palazzo Vecchio secret passages tour ( cost 21.5 euros each, 10 for the entry into the museum and 10 for the private guided tour which got us past the lines) . If you have read the book you will recognize the descriptions of the secret doorway in the room of maps ( we saw the room but not the secret doorway on the tour), the top of the great hall of 500 ( alternative name Salone dei Cinquecento. and the Duke of Athens secret stairway.
We started the tour with the secret stairway which you can enter through a 4 foot door on the side of the fortress. Our very good tour guide , Julia, told us this was used in the 15th century for spies and mistresses. It also has a key part in the Dan Brown book . After we went in the tiny door Julia showed us a diagram of the secret staircases It must have been dark ( only candles to light the way up really tiny stairs) cold and somewhat frightening to use this way in. From the bottom floor in the wall we climbed more tiny stairs and went into the Studiolo of Francesco I. This was a small hidden workroom for the strange Count Francesco who fancied himself a scientist. There were no windows so the light must have made it a problem to work in this space. It is covered with frescoes on the ceiling and paintings on wooden cabinet doors, why? Perhaps he just wanted to hide out in the dark and play with his treasures (coral, shells , pearls etc) which were hidden behind the cabinet doors. His mother Eleanor was painted over the doorway into the room to keep an eye on her wayward son.In this room there was another secret doorway behind one of the painted cabinet doors. Up a few more secret stairs and we find Francesco I’s father’s secret study. This room had a window that you could open and was much smaller. We were told this was his study where he could get away to think and read his large collection of books.
From here we crossed a balcony that is over the room of 500 ( spoiler, this room is involved in the death of one of the characters in the book) and up into the space above this great hall. Vasari ( the artist/ architect who designed the ceiling of the room of the 500) basically hung the canvas paintings on the ceiling with a set of trusses to suspend them. Here is a wooden model that shows how they fit under the regular ceiling of the great hall. Here is a photo of what it actually looks like in person. That was it for the tour but we were free to look at all the other parts of the fortress/ducal home that are open to the regular public. Here is a photo of Dante’s death mask David in front of one of the giant fireplaces ( luckily they had a lot of servants to clean and haul wood) and to finish our tour off, here is an indoor toilet. This door was set into a regular room wall about 3 feet above the floor they must have had some stairs to get up to it. Inside there is a seat with a hole and if you look closely there is a small vent to the outside for light and ventilation? Well, now you have seen some of the secrets of this old palace and some of the areas which will probably be featured in the film. Hope you have enjoyed the tour.