It may sound weird to write an article suggesting exploring the birthplace of the Renaissance by walking a Dan Brown’s Inferno self-guided tour of Florence. I am sure, instead, that lovers of the novel (and not only them) will appreciate this itinerary following the footsteps of Professor Langdon and his companion Sienna Brooks.
During their fast and exciting escape, they hit both some of the main attractions and some hidden places of the UNESCO historical center, so this Inferno self-guided tour of Florence could be interesting for everyone.
I love Dan Brown’s novels for their historical setting and their thrilling storylines. After reading the famous Da Vinci Code and another couple of his books I was missing Inferno. Until October 2016 when the center of Florence hosted the world premiere of the film adaptation directed by Ron Howard. I could not wait anymore to discover what Professor Langdon need to do in Florence to save the world.
A brief history of Inferno
Robert Langdon woke up in a hospital bed in Florence with no memories of what he did the last couple of days. At his side doctor, Sienna Brooks will help the Professor to escape from a lady with grey spiky short hair, and to decode an altered Botticelli’s Map of Hell that will bring them on the trail of the Sommo Poeta Dante Alighieri. “The old city is where we need to go…Old Florence was Dante’s entire world.”
The Places along Dan Brown’s Inferno self-guided tour of Florence
The Badia Fiorentina is the place where the events of Inferno begin and where immediately the life of the villain ends.
Even if it is not on the list of popular monuments, every tourist visiting Florence has at least one picture with the Badia. In fact, the hexagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina is part of the wonderful skyline of Florence, between the tower of Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello Museum.
It is the oldest and most renowned abbey of Florence, being founded in 978 by Willa, mother of the Marquis Ugo di Toscana, as a Benedictine monastery. The Marquis contributed to the splendor of the Badia with important donations. That is why he is buried here and why he was declared the Patron of the abbey.
One of the most fascinating details of the church is its layout. It has been rotated 90 degrees over the years, and today the entrance is from Via del Proconsolo, 11. It has importance not only as a place of worship but also from a cultural point of view. In fact, it was the place where Boccaccio read to the public Dante’s Divina Commedia for the first time.
The church and the annexed Cloister of the Oranges are open to the public on Mondays in the afternoon between 3 and 6 pm.
The Medieval Gate of Porta Romana and the Lyceum of Art
The first step of Dan Brown’s Inferno self-guided tour is Porta Romana. Being impossible to enter the old town from the other bridges, Langdon and Sienna reach the medieval gate in the Oltrarno district to find a free way of access.
Porta Romana, built in 1300, was part of the fortified walls that surrounded the city. Today is one of the best-preserved gates of the city, and you still can admire its huge iron door and a slab with the Medici Coat of Arms.
On its right side, you find the outer perimeter of Boboli Gardens. If you want to enter the Giardino, do not climb over the wall of the Lyceum of Art as Professor did. Simply use the secondary entrance, which usually has no line compared to the main gate at Palazzo Pitti.
The Lyceum of Art is the yellow building at the end of the green oak tree garden on the right of Porta Romana. It was built at the end of 1800 when Florence was the capital of Italy, and not commissioned by Medici as Dan Brown says. Being a school it is not possible to visit the entire building but you can visit, by reservation, the Gipsoteca, a collection of more than three thousand plaster casts of important pieces of art from Florence and Italy made by Michelangelo and other Masters of sculpture.
Porta Romana is also a starting point to reach Piazzale Michelangelo and its amazing lookout taking the lovely tree-lined avenue of Viale Machiavelli.
Boboli Gardens and the Grotta del Buontalenti
Professor Langdon decides to cross the Boboli Gardens thinking to confuse themselves with the crowd of tourists could be a good idea, but he soon realizes that is not so easy. Once inside, although they are in hurry, he could not avoid stopping o admire the beautiful Italian garden created in 1550 just behind Palazzo Pitti, the house of Medici, Lorraine, and royal families.
The garden offers its visitors a quiet place to walk out of the noise of the center. A unique mix of nature and art: trees, flowers, green fields, ponds, an amphitheater, sculptures, fountains like the one of Neptune, and a weird bizarre grotto. I am talking about the Grotta del Buontalenti. Located at the entrance of Palazzo Pitti, it has three different rooms decorated with stalactites, frescoes, and statues (as the Giambologna’s Venus emerging from the bath and Michelangelo’s Prisoners).
It is definitely a place where to linger during the Inferno self-guided tour of Florence, even because it hides the entrance (or exit) of the Vasari Corridor.
The secret passageway of the Vasari Corridor
With the entrance of the Gardens blocked by the Italian Polizia and a special task force, the only way to get out for Langdon and Sienna is the Vasari Corridor. The Vasari Corridor is a secret passageway that runs for about one km, away from curious eyes, from the residence of the Medici in Palazzo Pitti to Palazzo Vecchio.
It was commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici and realized in only eight months by Giorgio Vasari in 1565, on the occasion of the wedding between his son Francesco I and Princess Johanna of Austria. Being an exclusive and small place full of paintings and works of art, it is not open to everybody and you can visit it only by reservation.
If you wish to know more about the Corridor and how to visit it, click here to read our experience.
If you are not able to get in the Corridor while you are doing the Inferno self-guided tour of Florence, an alternative way is to walk the street from Palazzo Pitti to Ponte Vecchio (raising your head to see the windows of the corridor), follow the cloister of Lungarno Archibusieri until you arrive at Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Vecchio.
The splendor of Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio hosts the city hall of Florence. Langdon and Sienna arrive here following the clues of Botticelli’s Map of Hell. They have to “seek and find” something in the wonderful Salone dei Cinquecento built by the Pollaiolo at the end of the 1400s and renovated later by Vasari.
They also visit the museum where the mask of Dante is. They run through the studiolo of Francesco where he used to study, and inside the Hall of Maps hosting nice geographical maps on the wall and a splendid globe in the middle of the room. To get out of the building, they sneak through secret passageways, walking like tightrope walkers along wooden paths over the ceiling.
If you like you can do the same. In fact, Palazzo Vecchio offers its visitors the opportunity to experience an exciting tour of the secret passageways.
On the trail of Dante along the Medieval Florence
Once outside Palazzo Vecchio, leaving from the little tiny door cut in the stones located in Via della Ninna, the two fugitives cross Piazza della Signoria and run along the streets of Medieval Florence looking for more clues about Dante.
They reach Via Santa Margherita to go into the museum of Dante’s House and visit the church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi. The location of the original house of the Poet is unknown. On the occasion of the 600th anniversary of Dante’s birth, the municipality of Florence chose this building to host the museum because in the same area as the real one. The museum is dedicated to the life of the Poet, to the Divina Commedia, and to the medieval history of Florence.
To be honest, I would not recommend a visit since I didn’t find it very interesting. Moreover, if you are a real fan of Dante, the ticket is only four euros and you can take a look. Along the same street, there is the tiny church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, a scene of the most important love story of Italian poetry. It’s here that Dante met for the first time his beloved and muse Beatrice. At the feet of her grave (it is not sure, but seems that she’s buried here), a basket contains handwritten messages left from lovers of the entire world. The entrance to the Old Catholic church is free every day from 8 am to 12:30 pm, and from 5 to 7 pm.
The Baptistery of San Giovanni
The final destination of Professor Langdon’s exciting run and last step of the Inferno self-guided tour of Florence is the marvelous Piazza del Duomo. Instead of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, you have to turn your head towards the Baptistery and look for the Door of Paradise. Dedicated to John the Baptist, the Patron Saint of Florence, the Baptistery seems to be the oldest monument in Florence dating back to the time of the Romans.
It formally became a baptistery in 1128 and was the place of the investiture of many knights and poets, as Dante (who was baptized here) says in the Paradiso of the Divina Commedia. It has an octagonal layout and three huge bronze doors. The most famous of the three is the eastern one, created by Lorenzo Ghiberti and named by Michelangelo Door of Paradise. It took 27 years to be finished and the eight squares, totally covered with gold, represent eight scenes of the Old Testament (they are copies and the Museum of the Opera del Duomo hosts the originals).
Once inside, as the pair does, you will direct your gaze to the sky admiring the wonderful ceiling. Then, you can admire the marble floor, precious golden mosaics, and the baptismal font. Usually, only the Duomo and the Giotto’s bell tower attract tourists, while they ignore the Baptistery. Fortunately, today, a single ticket allows visitors to discover the Baptistery, reach the top of the famous Brunelleschi Dome, climb the Campanile, and also visit the museum of the Opera del Duomo.
The Inferno self-guided tour of Florence ends here. The adventure of Langdon in Florence continues with his companion (and another ambiguous person) up to Firenze Santa Maria Novella SMN central rail station to get a high-speed train to Venice.
Florence beyond the Inferno tour
I hope you find interesting this post about the Inferno self-guided tour of Florence. If you decide to take it during your travel to Tuscany let me know by leaving a comment below.
It costs you nothing, except for the entry tickets. It hits most of the top attractions of the city (the 10 most important places in Florence), and also places that probably you have never heard of them before. Have time, so do not rush as Langdon and Sienna did. Take your time to walk the Inferno self-guided tour of Florence, explore the hidden places (10 unusual things to do in Florence), and enjoy all treasures of downtown.
Related Articles about Florence
Visiting Florence you can even be interested in reading something about:
- The Basilica of Santa Croce
- Palazzo Borghese
- American Cemetery of Florence
- Day trips to take from Florence
“If you know where to look, Florence is Paradise”