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I had heard of Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Accademia before reaching Florence. But, little did I know the about the political heart of ancient and modern Florence – Palazzo Vecchio.
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Palazzo Vecchio at Florence, Italy with Context Travel
Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence. It overlooks the Piazza Della Signoria with its copy of Michaelangelo’s David statue.
As a traveler exploring a new location, there are so many stories that skip my untrained eye.
Unwilling to blindly pass through the treasure trove of Florence, I was looking out for tours which would provide more than just a brief overview of the city. And, to learn the history and culture from the local experts with a small group of travelers.
I stumbled onto Context Travel which hosts a variety of tours all around the world, catering to the intellectually curious travelers.
Suggested Read: Underground Rome tour with Context Travel
For someone who always likes to scour for information, Context travel fit the bill perfectly. Mostly because the docents were scholars and experts in their respective fields ranging from art scholars, archaeologists, historians, and so on. It also focuses on a more responsible and sustainable travel.
Thanks to my local docent Siro of Context Travel Tours, I uncovered many stories of Palazzo Vecchio which left me intrigued. Siro belongs to an important Tuscan family of art nouveau artists, so I knew I was in good hands.
My Palazzo Vecchio Florence tour with Context travel was quite eventful and lasted for about 3 hours.
The tour began in front of the palace, in Piazza Della Signoria, with Siro giving a brief introduction to the palace and taking us back to an era of the Florentine Republic. I learned about the powerful Medici family (former bankers) of Florence, their rise to power and lasting influence over the city.
Did you know? The popular Assassin’s Creed action-adventure video game is based on the city of Florence.
Hall of the Five Hundred
We then entered the Hall of Five Hundred – a massive hall with gold decor ceilings, hand paintings and frescos.
“This hall is the celebration of victories (against Pisa and Sienna) in the history of Florence and celebration of Florence in general.”, Siro explained.
If you have watched the Dan Brown movie – Inferno, then this might look familiar. The protagonists of the movie – Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks manage to escape from the Boboli gardens. They pass through the Vasari Corridor and reach the political heart of ancient and modern Florence: the imposing Palazzo Vecchio. It is on the roof of hall of five hundred that the shooter chasing the professor falls off to her death.
Note – The Vasari Corridor is closed for maintenance now, and will be open in 2019.
Studiolo of Francesco I
At the end of the Hall of Five Hundred, there is a small side room without windows which is a small secret study designed by Vasari for Francesco.
Francesca, the Grand Duke of Tuscany was considered more of an alchemist than a Duke. His passion for alchemy resulted in the creation of Studiolo of Francesco I – with each wall or roof depicting one of these elements – Air, Water, Earth, Fire.
Alchemy is the medieval precursor of Chemistry, involved with the conversion of base metals into gold.
Climbing on to the second floor, we passed through Apartments of the Elements, Priori, and Eleonora of Toledo.
I found another interesting room called as Sala del Mappamondo or easily known as the Map Room.
The Map Room hosts impressive hall of geographical maps that provide an insight into the geographical regions of the 16th century in the form of murals of cartography.
The maps are divided into sections of the then known four continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, and Americas.
The Map Room shows the region of Bohemia, Egypt, China, Japan, India, Mexico, California, and so on. The cabinet behind the maps served as a wardrobe for Medicci possessions collected from around the world.
Out of the 57 murals painted directly on the cabinet door, 53 of them remain today.
I uncovered many more mysteries at this political heart of Florence – Palazzo Vecchio, thanks to Context Travel.
It was a perfect way for me to warm up to the history and culture of Florence. Context Travel, for all intents and purposes, is more than just a tour operator. It was more of a walking seminar than a walking tour.
Disclaimer – I was invited on a tour of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence with Context Travel. However, as always, all opinions mentioned here are entirely my own.