Friday, July 6, 2012

Secrets of Vecchio

After a weekend in Venice, we came to back to an uncomfortable heat wave in Florence. High nineties was the forecast for the week. We don't have air conditioning. We were in need of a fan. Thankfully, after asking three pharmacias, some local non-English speaking police, and a Tabacchi shop owner, we found a place to buy a fan!

Earlier that day, we toured Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's city hall and home to the Medici family for a while. I was completely surprised. I didn't expect to climb inside a secret door that looks like a cabinet!
The main hall: the large covering to the right is an on-going project. Art historians have found a famous Da Vinci painting behind the Vecchio architect's painting. The architect left a few inches between the two paintings.
Upon entering the place, you see huge paintings that cover the walls and ceilings and an original Michelangelo statue. Our guide Stefano is legitimate and intelligent. He told us that he would take us through the rooms of the royal Medici family and a few other cool places, where he knew secrets that he would share with us.

Stephano grabs a set of keys and pulls back a velvet rope to quickly let us in. It's a tiny room, so only 10 people of our Baylor group are allowed in at a time. 
This room was a private workshop. Filled with beautiful paintings, we soon discover that each painting symbolizes what was kept in each cabinet. Yes, it turns out that each panel is a cabinet. But it gets better. One of the panels is a secret door! 
Inside the private study
Cabinets are behind every painting.
Secret door behind a painting panel.
Our jaws dropped when Stephano twisted a key, and a door opened to a mysterious staircase. He nodded us to go in. What?! We get to go in? Ah, I felt like a princess in a movie. We climbed the stairs in child-like wonder and entered a private study. 
The three colors of tiles symbolizes the unity of the three regions of Tuscany.
Cabinets inside the study
The private study
We didn't exit the same way we came in. Instead, Stephano made us figure out which of the panels in the study was a door, and we exited that way back into the workshop.
That wasn't the end of our adventure. Our tour time was technically over by this point, but Stephano is so passionate about this stuff that he extended our tour for 45 minutes.

We climbed another narrow staircase behind a velvet rope, while other people looked at us in confusion. When we reached the top, we saw the infrastructure of the ceiling. We could see where the paintings frames were and the original wood and metal that hold it all together. 
The very top of Palazzo Vecchio
Our journey continued as we toured the public rooms of the family. When we got to the room of maps, another cabinet turned into a door, and we proceeded through. This led to yet another door with a balcony and to the Duchess' private room. This was her own space, where she could escape and get away from everything. This room connected to a public chapel we saw earlier.
The room of maps 
A secret panel turns into a door.
The balcony attached to the Duchess' room 
The Duchess' room
The door to the chapel
The coolest part was the secret window. Back in the Medici era, events and meetings would be held on the main hall. The Duchess had a hidden window that overlooked the hall, so she could spy on people and see what was going on. 
Hidden window
View of the main hall from the window
Think Princess Diaries 2. You know, the scene where Mia is spying on the parliament in a secret passageway. Yeah, I pretty much totally did that, and that mind of thing definitely existed in Medici times. 

Who knew that this stuff was real? This definitely goes on the 'Top Ten Coolest Things I've Ever Done List.'

After the tour, we had class a couple hours later. I actually learned a lot in that one hour. We had the opportunity to use the photo lab at FUA. We got to learn about lights and how the studio works in general. It was so interesting and really fun. I definitely want to explore studio photography more.
Then I got to see Lauren!...all the way in Florence! Catherine and I had dinner with her and some other Baylor business students. I was so excited to see her! It's pretty awesome to meet up with your best friend in Firenze for an Italian dinner!

Fan, secret passageways, photo lab, and Lauren...overall this day was awesome!

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