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C.V. Starr Professor Middlebury College Robert Langdon, the Harvard Professor of Symbology and Art History, has been sighted again. The creation of author Dan Brown, who with his novels and films of Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code and The Lost Symbol has reached hundreds of millions readers and viewers, returns to Europe where he had searched and solved puzzles in Rome and Paris, based on his knowledge of art, architecture and history. The popularity of Brown’s novels created its own touristic explorations of those two cities and there is little reason to doubt that Florence and Venice will be experience anything different. Brown commented in a May 17, 2013 interview with Charlie Rose: “Location is a character in these books. I love art. I love architecture. My hero loves art and architecture. And part of this chase, really in all of my books, is a chase through a landscape. Langdon is one of these characters who, while he's on the run, if he passes a Caravaggio, he's probably going to have a thought about it." One should be clear from the beginning that Brown has written a novel and had no intention of making his work a guidebook to Florence or Venice. But Inferno, as the preceding Robert Langdon novels opens with a declaration before the actions commence that “All artwork, . . . and historical references are real.” The astute reader will have read on the copyright page the more revealing disclaimer: “This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, . . . places . . . are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance . . . is entirely coincidental.” But, and this may be our starting point, Brown has rediscovered and presented for millions some very famous places in a new light, and some lesser known attractions that may now receive their due. This work traces the geography of the novel, Inferno, in the order the sites appear in the book. The verbal art of Dan Brown is here enhanced by the actual visual representation through photographs taken by the author and additional hyperlinks to other resources. At the end of Robert Langdon’s visit to Florence, then Venice, I will provide some suggestions as to how and what can be accomplished in a single day or two.
© Thomas R. Beyer, Jr.
Shade, the first reference to Dante and his own Divine Comedy where the inhabitants of Hell (Inferno) are known as “shades,” is running feverishly. Believing he is hotly pursued he turns left from the banks of the Arno River and heads north along the Via dei Castellani, sinking into the shadow of the Uffizi that will also take him past the rear of the Palazzo Vecchio. Onward to the Piazza di San Firenze he passes the Bargello Museum on his right and then makes his way into the courtyard of the Badia Church and Monastery. The Church itself is the first of allusions to the poet and patrician/politician of Florence, Dante Alighieri, in the novel. Founded in 978 the Church is across the street from Dante’s birthplace and presumed to be the Church mentioned in Canto XV of Paradise: “Florence, within her ancient ring of walls that ring from which she still draws tierce and nones sober and chaste, lived in tranquillity.” The Church complex also served as the meeting place for the city councilors or Priors before the construction of the Palazzo Vecchio in 1299. Dante was one of them for a brief period of time. It is here that the Shade will climb the tower of the Badia Fiorentina and eventually leap to his death. As abruptly as it had begun, so does the Prologue end with the body of Shade on the ground just yards away from more places intimately connected with the life of Dante.
Robert Langdon awakes disoriented to discover he is in a clinic or some other health care facility. Readers who have completed the novel will understand why the specific clinic or hospital cannot be identified or geographically positioned. The mysterious Vayentha, however, is waiting outside on the Via Torregalli. (There is an actual hospital, the Nuovo Ospedale di San Giovanni di Dio nearby). From his room Langdon can see the stone fortress with its three hundred foot tower, bulging at the top, the Palazzo Vecchio. As such we know that Langdon is on the south side of the River Arno. From the clinic Langdon makes his escape with the help of Sienna Brooks. (*See the conflict of Siena and Florence in Wikipedia. Dante will use it in Inferno Canto XXXII). Via taxi they pass a cemetery to her apartment, another place not to be located on the map. Langdon does look out a window to see the spires of the the Badia, the Bargello, the Campanile (Bell Tower), and the dome of il Duomo (The Cathedral). On the street below across and in front of the Pensione la Fiorentina sits Vayentha, who, we believe, is on an assassin’s mission. When it is time to leave the apartment Langdon and his newfound savior or guide (not unlike the guides in Dante’s Divine Comedy), scooter out of a garage and make a hard left onto the winding Viale Niccolò Macchiavelli. They stop short three hundred yards north of the southeastern edge of the Porta Romana. Meanwhile Vayentha is heading north along the Viale del Poggio Imperiale— a straight boulevard leading into the south end of the Porta Romana. Finding a massive traffic jam she reverses direction to find another way across the Arno River via the Ponte alle Grazie. Then she will circle to her left toward the Palazzo Vecchio, park her bike and walk out onto the Ponte Vecchio. From the bridge she will take her motorcycle north of the Palazzo Vecchio, park then return through the Piazza della Signoria passing the famous Loggia dei Lanzi.
The Far Side of the River
Langdon and Sienna take to foot avoid the roadblock at the Porta Romana rotary and join a group of students headed for classes at the L’Istituto Statale d’Arte (The longer name being L'Istituto d'Arte, ora Liceo Artistico Statale di Porta Romana). We can follow along through the gateway on the right at the end of the Viale Niccolò Macchiavelli. On their way in Langdon asks a student how one might enter the Boboli Gardens without attracting attention. Robert and Sienna head to their left behind a set of cars where they leap over the wall into the south east corner of the gardens. (We can avoid that tricky move by simply paying the entrance fee at the entrance to the right of the Porta Romana through a huge iron-‐wrought gate). The Boboli Gardens, like many of the other places described by Brown, deserve more time than Langdon cares to spend. A wonderful overview is provided by Professor Jack Ahern and Megan Plante. Beginning at the far southwestern end of the Gardens we too shall rush this time to the Isolotto, and the fountain and statue of Perseus on a half submerged horse. The difficulty with describing something seen in the past is that like internet links, they may no longer be accurate. The statue in fact is at the time of this writing (June 2013) being restored. The center of the isle known now as the Fountain of the Islands, is Giambologna’s Ocean Fountain, originally designed for the Amphitheatre and placed here in 1636.
Trying to stay ahead of detection Langdon suggests they ascend the hill by following a covered pathway or arborway, La Cerchiata, parallel and slightly to the right of the more majestic Viottolone. As they reach the top of the hill they dash forward to the statue of Neptune: “The Fountain of the Fork.” They look down at the Pitti Palace and descend the embankment to join the tourists in the lower garden.
They cross the Amphitheater and pass the obelisk of Ramses and a rather prosaic, at least today, sculptured object looking a bit like a bath tub, originally from Rome’s Baths of Caracalla.
From here they descend a stone passageway to emerge into the courtyard of the Palace where off to the left is a small café. They approach the main entrance and look out onto the Via dei Guicciardini and the Piazza dei Pitti.
Seeing a gathering set of police arriving, they step back into the courtyard and then back up the staircase where Sienna asks directions to the Costume Gallery at the far end of the Palace. But they actually head down the opposite pathway.
They pass by Fontana del Bacchino, a statue of a naked dwarf riding a turtle. This is, in fact, Braccio di Bartolo, the court dwarf of Cosimo I as rendered by the sculptor Valerio Cioli. They continue on to the back wall housing the famous Buontalenti Grotto.
The grotto itself is an extraordinary piece of work. Although it is normally gated, Langdon and Sienna make their way inside the first of three chambers, each described accurately. The outer chamber has Michelangelo’s Prisoners (here in copy since 1909).
In the second chamber they hide behind a statue of intertwined lovers. The third chamber is highlighted with sunshine and the Bathing Venus.
With no place to escape our heroes are saved momentarily when their pursuers are redirected to the Costume Gallery before the two are discovered. Nevertheless they need a way to leave undetected. To the left of the grotto is a grey door, and knocking vigorously they summon the guard inside the door.
While some have always known of its existence both for its architectural significance and its magnificent collection of portrait art, the Vasari Corridor will come as a surprise even to many who have visited Florence and have walked the famous Ponte Vecchio replete with its gold jewelry shops.
The Vasari Corridor indeed leads above ground from the Palace Pitti along the Via dei Guicciardini. A slight curve around a neighbor’s building leads over the Ponte Vecchio. Langdon recalls historical events and a plaque at the entrance of the Ponte Vecchio from Dante’s Paradise Canto XVI. In the photo to the right the golden lines beginning at the lower left pass through the tiny building at the southern end of the bridge. They cross the Ponte Vecchio where it will turn right then left into the Uffizi. Crossing to the right hand hall down its end the Corridor veers right then left exiting into the Palazzo Vecchio. (The poetical sound of “vecchio” simply means “old” in Italian.)
At the end of the Ponte Vecchio the Corridor turns right for about 100 yards before it enters into the Uffizi Gallery. If one walks along the corridor of the Uffizi to its end, the Corridor goes once again above the street into the Green Room of the Palazzo Vecchio.
(The pathway taken by Langdon and Sienna can be largely replicated by those fortunate enough to arrange a special tour of the Vasari Corridor that we will mention later.) The pair does miss stopping to admire Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation, Michelangelo’s Holy Family and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera to name just a few.
They cross over the street through the passageway from the Uffizi Gallery into the Palazzo Vecchio.
Inside the Palazzo Vecchio the geographical locations and imagination are stretched to accommodate the needs of the novel. But the places themselves are here and can be seen. Let us begin where the pair does by entering the Salone dei Cinquecento, Hall of the Five Hundred. Here Langdon admires first the statues, The Labors of Hercules that include Michelangelo’s Genius of Victory and the Hercules and Diomedes. But it is Vasari’s Battle of Marciano that is the key to the mystery: with the words in the flag cerca trova. The words are not new (they go back to Gospel Mathew 7:7. “seek, and ye shall find.”). Yet some have concluded they invite the viewer to look more closely. The fresco is enormous, but the naked eye is unlikely to find the words from below.
In rapid succession the pair will cross over with their backs to the Vasari painting to Lo Studiolo. Pursued again they make their the Hall of Geographical Maps with its Mappa Mundi and the Map of Armenia with its secret passage, to the Sala dei Modelli di Architecturi. We discover that Langdon has taken the Mask of Dante. But thankfully it ahs been returned and you can view it and the actual historical explanation of its origin.
Finally Langdon and Sienna make their way up to the rafters running above the ceiling of the Hall of the Five Hundred, navigating the beams to reach the Duke of Athens Staircase with its secret entrance that exits onto the Via della Ninna.
Instead they both proceed to the Chiesa di Santa Margherita dei Cerchi. Beatrice Portinari was the love inspiration for Dante’s compelling New Life and she will also be his guide through Paradise in The Divine Comedy. Next to her tomb is a basket containing letters from lovelorn and others, including we learn from Langdon himself years earlier. Dan Brown in his appearance at Lincoln Center mentioned that he himself has left a similar note bearing the words of Homer’s Odyssey: “Sing in me Muse, and through me tell the story.” (There are other intersections between Brown and Langdon as we shall see). With no copy of The Divine Comedy to be found Langdon turns to 21st Century technology, asking a visitor for an I-‐phone and then accessing the text online. The text he finds from Canto XXV of Paradise: “I shall return as poet and put on,/at my baptismal font is, the laurel crown.“ It will lead him north along the Via dello Studio toward the Piazza del Duomo to the Baptistry of San Giovanni of the famous Cathedral of Florence, il Duomo. The Baptistry of San Giovanni is adorned on the east side with gilded bronze doors crafted by Lorenzo Ghiberti and once called by Michelangelo “The Gates of Paradise.”
Here Langdon pauses to admire the golden panels, now enclosed behind a gate. His actual favorite, we learn, is the center left panel with Jacob and Esau, and where the artist had signed his name. The originals are actually housed in the Museo dell’Opera. (Langdon mentions at least to the reader that another set adorn the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.) The preservation of such originals recalls Michelangelo’s Statue of David in the Accademia Gallery and the Four Bronzed Horses of St Marks in Venice housed inside the cathedral museum. The black gates that keep tourists at a distance as well as the doors themselves are left open for him, and Sienna and he enter in search of the place where one is baptized. Like most his gaze is first directed upward to the dome and the mosaic that depicts heaven and hell. Above the altar sits Jesus Christ with the righteous to His right hand, the viewer’s left.
On His left side, the viewer’s right, are the sinners along with Satan, the man-‐eating beast with three heads, just as recounted by Dante. Langdon also views the tomb suspended in air of the Antipope John XXIII, and then turns his attention to the tiled floor. Originally the Baptismal font would have been in the exact center of the floor, a spot still marked conveniently for those who wish to place their cameras at the exact center and photograph the magnificent dome mosaic. The actual baptismal font is in a corner where by lifting the lid Langdon discovers the Mask of Dante that he and the curator had taken the previous evening. It is behind a raised platform and decorative gate to the right of the Gates of Paradise. Here he finds the baptismal basin or font to recover the Mask. In a Ziploc bag! On the backside of the Mask they discover seven PPPPPPP’s. To decipher it Langdon recalls the paining inside the Cathedral itself of Dante by the artist Domenico di Michelino. Depicted is the Angel who guards Purgatory and writes on the forehead of Dante seven “P’s” for “peccatum” — sin. For in Purgatory we are told each of the seven deadly sins is purged one by one.
As they wash off the layers of gesso on the inside of the mask a message of nine spirals appears beginning with Dante’s exhortation to his readers: “O, you possessed of sturdy intellect . . . ” Among the words are references to severed heads of horses, a lagoon and a doge of Venice. After a decoy phone call to send their pursuers to a private airport in Lucca, they take a car along the Via dei Panzani toward Florence’s main railroad station of Santa Maria Novella. As they pass the Hotel Baglioni on the right they pull up at the station. Here they purchase tickets and board the Frecciargento train for the two hour direct ride to Venice. ,
At the end of the novel, Robert Langdon returns to Florence and stays at his favorite hotel, the Brunelleschi. The name is significant (he was the architect of the Duomo), and the hotel is a delight hidden in the back streets nearby.
In a matter of a few hours Langdon has traversed a path that itself would serve as a wonderful introduction to Florence. But to do it as he has would also mean to have no time to pause to admire the extraordinary works of art and architecture the city has to offer. If you can take a day, or better two, you too can experience the secrets of the Palazzo Vecchio, the mysteries of the Vasari Corridor, the Boboli Gardens as well as the other sights worthy of being seen. The exact order may not be the same, and one should plan on doing this in manageable slices of time. Maurizio of www.Florencepass.com has put together two tours that take in the vast majority of Robert Langdon’s Florence in Dan Brown’s Inferno. Tour I (Museums). Starting at Piazza della Signoria you visit the Palazzo Vecchio. Here you enter the Hall of the Five Hundred and peek at the door to the Studiolo, then climb upstairs to see the entrance/exit in the Palazzo of the Vasari Corridor, Dante's Mask, and the Mappa Mundi with the secret passage door behind the Map of Armenia.
You leave the Palazzo Vecchio on the Via della Ninna, where you can admire the secret doorway of Gualtieri of Brienne and cross to enter into the Uffizi. Here unlike Robert Langdon and Sienna, you will have a chance to examine Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Primavera, Leonardo da Vinci’s's Annunciation and Michelangelo's Holy Family (Tondo Doni). Then you will walk the one-‐kilometer length of the Vasari Corridor, and exit through the grey door next to Buontalenti's Grotto. Finally you will exit onto the Piazza Pitti where you can admire the panorama of the Palace itself.
Tour II (Panoramic). We begin at the Piazalle Michelangelo for an unforgettable panoramic view of the city. From here we will explore some of the best kept secrets of Florence. We will retrace the pathway of Robert (and Dan Brown) as they proceed to Porta Romana next to the Istituto d'Arte. [You may join the tour here]. From here we will enter the Boboli Gardens passing through the Isoletto and then you may ascend either via the arborway, La Cerchiata, or the more spectacular Viottolone. As you emerge to view the Fountain of Neptune you can look down at Ramses’ obelisk and the Pitti Palace itself. Taking the pathway to the right brings us to Buontalenti's Grotto and the unmarked entrance to the Vasari Corridor. Heading back up to the courtyard of the Palace we will exit onto the street and follow along the path of the Corridor to the Ponte Vecchio. As we cross on foot the Ponte Vecchio you can admire the plaque with Dante’s words, the famous gold merchants, and look up with your secret knowledge that the Vasari Corridor is just overhead. We will stop at the Piazza della Signoria to enjoy the sculptures and facades as well as the famous Loggia. Then we move on past the Badia Fiorentina and Bargello and the Casa di Dante. We shall stop at the Chiesa di Dante to pay homage to Beatrice before heading for the bronze doors of the Baptistry. Inside along with our hero we will uncover the secrets it reveals. The Panoramic Tour promises to show you aspects of Florence far beyond the traditional tours of the inner city. Dan Brown’s choice of these locales is his gift to the city and to us. Whether you take a tour or set out on your own here are things you should not miss.
The Boboli Gardens are in themselves worth a long afternoon visit, or a virtual tour. While Langdon hops a wall to enter on the southwest side and avoids paying the entrance fee, you can still follow his steps by going to the Porta Romana, then walking through the gates to the L’Istituto Statale d’Arte. It is probably wise not to hop the fence, but pay the fee to enter at the southwest corner. Here you would proceed up the main alley to the Island Fountain, then pass through and choose the path slightly off to the right and walk in the footsteps of our heroes up through the arborway, La Cerchiata. Alternatively you could take the parallel and more scenic route along the main alley, the Viottolone, climbing northeasterly.
The Boboli Gardens
At the top of the hill take time to admire the view of the city to your left before you exit to the top of the Neptune Fountain. From here the panorama reveals the Pitti Palace itself and in the foreground the Amphitheater. As you descend you will pass the Ramses obelisk and “bathtub.” Follow the pathway into the courtyard.
Perhaps stop for a cup of coffee or light snack. You might also visit the actual Costume Gallery inside the Palace where Langdon sends his pursuers.
Then you will want to walk down to the Buontalenti Grotto.
It is normally enclosed behind a locked gate, but if you are fortunate it may be open permitting you to enter all three chambers. Be sure to take notice of the grey door to the left of the Grotto, the exit of the Vasari Corridor. In real life those fortunate enough to tour the Vasari Corridor are likely to exit here. If you walk up the pathway leading directly opposite the Grotto you will see on your right the statue of Cosimo’s naked dwarf riding a turtle by Valerio Cioli.
The Vasari Corridor can be visited only by prior arrangement and here one is best served reserving a tour in advance. One of the best is offered by Florencepass (www.florencepass.com) that can also include a visit to The Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Vecchio. The Corridor is noteworthy both architecturally and also because of its portrait gallery. Take time to enjoy both. There are also windows along the way where you look down at the Ponte Vecchio and capture one of the photos Brown has posted on his Facebook page (facebook.com/danbrown).
The Vasari Corridor
Inside the Corridor there is also the list of portraits of the Medici family that too was one of the earliest hints on Facebook of the role of Florence and the Vasari Corridor prior to the novel’s publication.
The Palazzo Vecchio
Most of the Palazzo Vecchio is open, but access to a few places (Studiolo, the attic) mentioned in Inferno requires a special Secret Passages Tour. But let us take one by one those you can see on your own.
The Hall of the Here across from the statues mentioned in the the Apotheosis of Cosimo I Fans of Brown’s novel similarities here to the of Washington in the Capitol Building in portrayed in The Lost
Five Hundred. entrance are the book, as well as on the ceiling. will clearly see great Apotheosis Dome of the U.S. Washington DC Symbol.
The painting that catches Langdon’s eyes is by now the already familiar Giorgio Vasari, designer of the Corridor and responsible for the redesign of the Hall of the Five Hundred. His paintings include the Apotheosis just mentioned and the large three story high Battle of Marciano.
This fresco painting has recently come under greater scrutiny by art historians. One theory is that an original unfinished fresco by Leonardo da Vinci was covered over and on top of it the new Vasari fresco was created. There are the barely legible words (and you will not be able to spot them without binoculars or opera glasses) in the green flag in the upper section right of center: cerca…trova. (By this time you should have also seen on the dust cover of the novel inside the nine circles around Dante’s head the letters). C A T R O V A C E R Several interpretations of its meaning and reference can be found, but Langdon decides to look further and make his way over to the left hand corner, if his back is to the painting, to enter the Studiolo. You too might be able to peek into the room; a visit is possible only with a special tour.
Since we cannot follow Langdon’s route, you should take the stairs at the back right of the room opposite the Studiolo and go up to examine the series of rooms that Langdon this time avoids. In the museum you will pass through several rooms. Take note of the Green Room that has the original entrance to the Vasari Corridor. Pass by the Mask of Dante, safely returned to its case as described in the novel. You will also end up in the famous Hall of Geographical Maps with its Map of Armenia in the right rear corner that has a secret door to a secret passage.
Some spaces are indeed accessible to those on the “Secret Passages Tour.” Here you will enter the tiny door on the Via della Ninna where Langdon and Sienna exit. The room has a secret door connecting into the Studiolo. Langdon mentions only a few of the paintings The Fall of Icarus…An Allegory of Human Life…Nature Presenting Prometheus with Spectacular Gems. Langdon even mentions in passing that he, (and most likely Dan Brown), had first seen the room on a “Secret Passages Tour” — the only way that you will be able to examine its treasures. On his own homepage (www.danbrown.com) the author has a box at the very bottom where you can enter a word that is the solution to some of the puzzles on the page. Typing in the name “Pythagoras” will open a video of Dan Brown himself exiting into the Studiolo from one of its secret doors. The paintings that line the walls each conceal either a secret door to somewhere or formerly treasure chests. The Secret Passages Tour also lead one through a door that goes one floor higher to open onto a small model of the inner ceiling of the Palazzo redesigned by Vasari. The ceiling above the Hall of the Five Hundred in the rafters houses a model of those beams and structures along which Langdon and Sienna tread, and through which the mysterious Vayentha trips and falls tearing through the Apotheosis. Fortunately there are really no such blank spots in the floor, save for where the chandeliers were lifted.
The Secret Passages
You can see the secret doorway through which the novel’s heroes pass on the Via della Ninna. You will want to head east then north past the Badia on your left and the Bargello Museum and Tower on your right. You can admire the Casa di Dante where you actually can purchase the entire Divine Comedy on a poster.
In Search of Dante’s Baptism
At the Chiesa di Santa Margherita dei Cerchi. you can leave a message in the basket by Beatrice.
As you make your way to the Baptisty pass by along the narrow alley home to the Hotel Brunelleschi, Piazza Santa Elisabetta, 3. Readers of The DaVinci Code may recall that Langdon had told Sophie he would be there a month later, hoping she might come. At the end of Inferno, Langdon returns to his hotel where you too might want to stop for a delightful cup of espresso or cappuccino. (The hotel has no public record of the author Dan Brown having stayed there, but that does not rule out his use of an alias).
As you arrive at the Piazza del Duomo admire the striking Cathedral itself and the Campanile (Bell Tower).
The Baptistry can be visited, either on a tour or by purchasing a ticket in the passageway to the north. Entrance for tourists is normally through the north, but the famous Gates of Paradise are on the east side. The favorite plate is the one in the center on the left Esua and Jacob. Inside be sure to examine the floor, bend down and see the earlier foundation through the grates. You can also place your camera here and point to the ceiling to capture the mosaic on the dome. Above the altar is the mosaic of the Last Judgment and on the bottom to the right of Christ is the devil. The baptismal fountain where the mask of Dante is recovered is to your left as you enter from the north. Realizing that the actual trail leads to Venice. Langdon will take a cab, but it is a short walk along the Via Panzani past the Hotel Baglioni on the way to the Railroad Station of Santa Maria Novella. Here you too can purchase tickets and board the Frecciargento to Venice.
Places Not to Miss
Realistically speaking you need two days just to cover the ground Langdon and Sienna cover in but a few hours. But it would be a shame to rush through the Boboli Gardens, The Uffizi, The Palazzo Vecchio, The Vasari Corridor, The Baptistry, and Dante’s places. If you confine yourself to a Dan Brown itinerary you will not have walked and admired and perhaps made a purchase on the Ponte Vecchio, visited the Church of Santa Croce, where are buried Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and a place still waits for Dante. There is also the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella near the train station, the site of the Council of Florence, the final attempt to reunify the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity before the fall of Constantinople.
Some of my favorites and sites that you will surely want to visit are The Duomo Ponte Vecchio Uffizi Gallery Santa Croce Rivoire Café The Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapels Accademia The Open Air Markets
Don’t forget that Florence has some of the finest gelato in the world, and a thriving outdoor market in leather goods. Here too is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, still producing and selling cosmetics and teas, in what is more a museum than a shop, the renowned Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy. But it is time to take the train and travel on to Venice.
Venice and its masquerades were already on Dan Brown’s mind ten years ago. The webpage for Professor Robert Langdon highlighted a picture of a masked and costumed Robert Langdon and his editor identified as J. Faukman (an anagram for his real life editor, Jason Kaufman) in Venice. As their train arrives at the Santa Lucia central train station of Venezia, Langdon looks back at the stoic architecture and the simple initials “FS” inscribed in wings, for Ferrovie dello Stato, the state run managers of the railroad system. In front of the station he could take the vaporetto, a waterbus, the most inexpensive and preferred method of transportation. But being strapped for time he hires the Venetian version of the limousine for hire, a mahogany ship (you could too). With Sienna he sets off at breakneck speed along Venice’s Grand Canal.
They pass under the Ponte degli Scalzi and view the Church of San Geremia (the Church of Saints Jeremy and Lucy) that houses relics from Santa Lucia (Lucy). Langdon uses the occasion to tell the story of Santa Lucia, who in one historical legend plucked out her eyes to preserve her chastity.
Also on their left is the Casino di Venezia. The banners which Langdon recalls are nowhere to be seen, but the bright burgundy awning can’t be missed. Soon on the right they pass the Ca’ Pesaro, the Venetian Museum of Modern Art.
Rialto. As they turn to the right they pass under the famous and spectacular Ponte di
Langdon’s short historical architectural narrative also mentions the edge of the island that overlooks the famous St Mark’s Square, the Dogana da Mar with its massive golden globe.
The driver asks disembark in front of the clientele that has Marilyn Monroe, Woody Allen.
if they wish to Harry’s Bar, famous for included among others Ernest Hemingway, and
Langdon prefers the other entrance to San Marcos Square passing in front of the Doge’s Palace, admiring the Bridge of Sighs and docking by the Hotel Danieli.
They will move to their left back to the Square passing the two columns, where stands St. Theodore and atop the other the winged lion, symbol of the city.
As they look straight ahead they make their way to glance at the Clock Tower.
On their left they walk past the Campanile, the bell tower, and arrive at St. Mark’s Basilica dominating the square with its statue of Mark, the winged lion and The Horses of St. Mark’s.
Langdon notes that the bronze horses had been taken from Constantinople during the Crusades just as The Tetrarchs off to the right hand side with the missing foot.
The horses above the main entrance are not the originals; they are kept on the second floor museum accessible through the front of door of the Basilica and to your right. Also from the second floor one can observe looking downward the broad expanse of the Cathedral in all its golden glory including the golden mosaic ceiling and the Pala d’Oro, with its famed icons.
There is a crypt supported by columns but it is not open to the general public. The planned escape route through the grates leading to the plaza might be viewed from the top on street level.
But as we know Langdon is captured and transferred to the Mendacium for his next adventure. Sienna does escape and makes her way through the famous arch of St. Mark’s Clock Tower and along the Merceria dell’Orologie. Sienna crosses the Rialto Bridge and then goes left along the Fondamento Vin Castellano. She will turn into an alleyway east of the Frari Church and knocks on the door of the famed costumer, Atelier Pietro Longhi. She asks to speak with Giorgio Venci, the master designer. He is more than willing to help by providing his private jet to Sienna. The Venice journey is over for Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks, but ours is just about to begin.
Venice in a few hours is certainly a shame. You will want to take time to explore its museums, its churches, its canals and streets and shops.
If you choose to follow in the footsteps of Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks, it is possible in a few hours to travel to St. Mark’s Square on the water and return by foot. You can see most to the places mentioned if upon arrival either at the Santa Lucia train station
or the bus depot on the Piazzale Roma.
Outside the station purchase a ticket for the Vaporetto, the famed Venetian waterbus. Vaporetto #1 has a few more stops than Number 2, but both follow the same route along the Grand Canal. (If you want to get off and on it may be best to purchase a twelve hour unlimited ticket).
As you embark on the leisurely trip along the Grand Canal take note as you pass under the bridge, for on your left will be the Chiesa San Geremia (Cathedral of Saints Jeremy and Lucy), with the inscription of the wall: LUCIA VERGINE DI SIRACUSA, MARTIRE DE CHRISTO, IN OVESTO TEMPIO RIPOSA.
Next on your right comes the Casino de Venezia and shortly thereafter on the opposite side of the canal the Ca’ Pesaro comes into view.
Pass under the Ponte di Rialto and around the next bend in the canal off to your right admire the Dogana da Mar and the golden globe. The first Vaporetto stop for St. Mark’s Square will let you off in front of Harry’s Bar, But you might want to go one more stop, San Zaccharia, to view the square from the water and pass by the Doge’s Palace. You can walk back admiring the Bridge of Sighs and the Hotel Danieli.
Take time to look up at the two columns with St. Theodore and the winged lion.
In front of you in the distance will be the Clock Tower and on your left the Campanile, the bell tower. On the right as you approach the basilica you can see The Tetrarchs off to the right hand side with the missing foot. Before you enter the basilica walk to its front and look up at the statue of Mark, the winged lion and the Horses of St. Mark’s.
To see the originals you will need to ascend the stairs to the second floor museum. Here look down upon the entire expanse of the basilica including its golden mosaic ceiling and the Pala d’Oro. You will not be able to enter the crypt supported by columns for it is not open to the general public. As we know Langdon is captured and transferred aboard the Mendacium for his next adventure.
The planned escape route through the grates leading to the plaza might be viewed from the top on street level. You can follow in the tracks of Sienna who escapes and makes her way through the famous arch of the clock and along the Merceria dell’Orologie.
Cross the Rialto Bridge and then turn left along the Fondamento Vin Castellano.
There is alleyway east of the Santa Maria dei Frari Church, leading to the Atelier Pietro Longhi. You may knock on the tiny office door at Sestieri San Polo 2608, and if you are adventurous and can plan ahead you might e-‐mail Raffaele (email@example.com) or call the Pietro Longhi studio and museum for an appointment (+39 041 714478). Saving the tradition of the great costumes, using original and hand made materials, the master recreates the glory of the Venetian Carnivale. The modest ground floor cramped office does have a secret passageway to a reception room with little of note.
But behind closed doors to the Palazzo Zeno there are costumes and hats and masks on display along with the riches of the Renaissance palace itself. If you can’t make it to the address, or call ahead, then be sure to visit the website and have a look.
Most of all enjoy and explore Venice and all it has to offer. Enjoy a city where there are no motor vehicles. Sit and enjoy the magnificent St. Mark’s Square— actually an L shaped construction with a view of the cathedral and the famous clock tower. Ride the vaporetto along the Grand Canal itself. Step inside a few of the extraordinary churches, each with its own collection of art. Visit the museums, get lost in the back streets of this unique city of canals. Window shop! Take time to read about the Black Death, the Plague, and its impact then and now on this city, once one of the richest in the world. Our word “quarantine” comes from the forty day required off shore anchorage of ships coming to the city. If you so desire you can pick up a souvenir of lace, or a mask or a piece of famous Murano glass. Venice can be expensive and busy all year round, but especially in the summer months when it celebrates the Biennale, the worlds largest art exhibit. You might consider staying in a hotel across the water in Mestre that has good bus connections to the city itself. Remember that no motor vehicles are allowed so whether you arrive by car, bus or rail makes little difference. If Inferno has not been 100% accurate as to how you move from one place to another, it certainly meets the original statement that “All artwork, literature, science and historical references in this novel are real.” Moreover, Brown has done a great service in shining light on a number of aspects of the city largely overlooked in the quick one or two visits to the city. This illustrated guide to the cities is intended for readers of Dan Brown’s novel, Inferno, to visualize and experience the real geographical places mentioned. All the photos are original and done by me. The hyperlinks are provided for those who wish additional information, but they are only a starting point. These notes will become part of a larger online guide to the novel at http://keystoinferno.wetpaint.com/ I welcome your comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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