The secret passages of Palazzo Vecchio

The Palazzo Vecchio is undoubtedly one of the most mysterious buildings in Florence.

ts mediaeval façade suggests to us a captivating and impressive sight. When you have the chance to visit the secret passages, all assumptions are confirmed.

We begin our tour by entering one of the many gates in the lower part of the complex, where we can see the wall that separates the original part of the building from the new construction. This part of the tour explains how the executive body of Florence was formed, itself made up of a representative of the 7 most influential guilds of the time, including Dante Alighieri.
Once this explanation has finished, you enter a room that was the bedroom of Cosimo I de Medici, through a staircase that was carved into the wall by Gualtieri di Brienne. Like others similar in the period, this staircase is spiral-shaped and gets narrower and narrower to the point where you can barely fit your feet on the step.

From Cosimo's room, there is also access to a room, which was destined to store some objects that caught Cosimo's attention. Many of them were strange things to his eyes, such as tools, utensils and even some minerals and potions. Entering, it is very surprising to see the small size of the room and the great richness of its ornamentation. The ceiling is filled with paintings that are joined by elaborate gold decorations. On both sides of the corners, there are paintings of women representing the four elements (water, air, fire and earth) expressing that the most basic of the universe was in this small room. It is decorated with paintings that almost cover the entire wall on two levels. In the top of the walls, we can see some bronze statues, also on both sides of the corners and it is a particular painting in which we can appreciate a scene with several alchemists who are doing some formula or experiment but in which we can also discover Francesco as one of them, even being supervised by a more experience one. We will observe this more often, as Francesco wanted to be depicted in the paintings as just another worker and in many scenes he is present.

On the lower level, we can see a painting depicting a dinner party in which Cleopatra can be recognised in front of her lover, Mark Antony, and in the background of the painting, we can also see Francesco.

Behind the painting, there is access to another room, even more impressive due to its small size, where he kept more of these weird items. This room has the peculiarity that behind one door, among the many that cover the walls, it opens up to a narrow shelf where Cosimo, in this case, kept important documents relating to state matters, banking documents...
Using another door, a different staircase is revealed which also leads to the previous room of objects, the two rooms are connected by two staircases.

From here you can go directly to the Salone dei Cinquecento, one of the most impressive and overwhelming halls in Florence.

lthough it was originally 8 metres shorter in height, it would still seem quite large as it is now 18 metres high. Cosimo asked Giuliano Vasari to redecorate and improve it for his son Francesco's engagement. Therefore, it took Vasari only 2 years to remodel it entirely, even enlarging the ceiling and decorating it with such beautiful paintings. If there was one thing that made Vasari stand out among others, it was how fast he worked thanks to the help of his numerous assistants.

On the right side, we can see three huge paintings representing the conquest of Florence over Siena and on the ceiling, almost on top of the paintings, we can appreciate some premises of that war. The same happens on the opposite side but about the conquest of Pisa. Also in this same room we can find some statues of Michelangelo.

To finish this tour, we go up to the upper part of the ceiling to observe the mechanism that Vasari designed to support the decoration and, at the same time, prevent the ceiling from falling. It is composed of wooden beams and some metal reinforcements that made the two parts support each other. Vasari built three of these structures, but more were added with the same function over time. In addition to this, Vasari took into account opening several windows around the structure as the wood needs fresh air in order to stay in good condition, which makes it possible to remain in good condition to our days.

After this tour you can appreciate the monument a little more, if possible, and learn more about some members of the Medici family. You can also see one of the great works of Vasari, an incredible painter, sculptor and architect.

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