Today was our last full day in Florence. We have already had two days filled with great art and architecture and revisiting places last seen 20 years ago. Would today be more of the same or would the “Secret Room” in the Medici Chapels disappoint?

I am pleased to be able to report that the Stanza Segreto was more interesting than we even imagined.

The weather was a little overcast this morning. Between the time we got up from our breakfast table and the time we reached our room, there was a downpour. Since we had an errand to run and we planned to walk around for a while, we thought the rain might be a problem. But, 10 minutes later, when we got outside, the rain was gone and did not return for the rest of the day.

Due to extraordinarily good planning on my part, our hotel is literally across the street from the Medici Chapels, where the secret room is. I say “good planning” but it was more like looking for a hotel close to San Lorenzo and picking a nice one without actually paying attention to where it was actually located. We thought it might be a good idea to make sure that we (I) really knew where we had to go in the afternoon. We only had to cross the street and find the open ticket door, so that was a relief.

We then ran our errand, which included adding more items to be purchased several times after saying “no more.” Our goal was to walk down to the River Arno before returning to the hotel. The Maps app took us on a path I would not have chosen but I suspect that I would be writing this post from the Tuscan countryside had I followed my recollection. But we found our way to the Piazza della Signoria. This Piazza is where the Palazzo Vecchio is located. In front of that building is the reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. The piazza has monuments and statues on all sides including the Neptune fountain (not fountaining) an equestrian statue of Cosimo I, and a statue of Hercules originally meant to complement the David. The piazza was busy, but not overwhelmingly so.

From there we walked past the Uffizi gallery. That area has changed a little since we were last there. After crossing Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (Sounds grand, but it is basically a little street that runs along the Arno.) we reached the Arno. The sidewalk was crowded all the way down to the Ponte Vecchio. We walked across the old bridge, which is lined with jewelry and antique stores. I took a picture of a family with the Arno in the background and they returned the faor and took a picture of us.

I asked the Maps app how to get back to our hotel and it basically said “See the street you are on? Stay on it.” I think I could have done that set of directions myself.

Here is an observation for the mayor of Santa Fe, Alan Webber, just in case he is following our posts: Mr. Mayor, the streets in Florence Italy are hundreds of years older than the streets in Santa Fe (think early 1900s). Somehow most of them are in better condition than the streets in Santa Fe. Can you direct our city to do at least as well as Florence has done for hundreds of years?

We rested at the hotel for a little more than an hour before going across the street to the Medici Chapels.

I am going to resist giving you a step-by-step story of our visit to Medici Chapels and the secret room, because even a detailed account would miss the important stuff. The entrance to the chapels (the word doesn’t even come close to what we saw) is attached behind San Lorenzo church through a very easy-to-miss, unassuming, door. Most people were visiting for the chapels, but our tickets gave us a specific time to enter for the secret room and we visited the chapels later.

Our first surprise was to find out that only 4 people plus a docent at a time are allowed in the room at one time. I thought I remembered there would be a larger number. They are very concerned about the damage the room might suffer if too many people breathe in there. The room is then allowed to “rest” for a while after each group. Our docent took us from the entrance on the ground floor up to a chapel on the first floor, and then showed us a narrow stairway with 10 steps leading down to the secret room. She started a 15-minute timer, but the five of us were there for about 25 minutes.

The room is completely without adornment except for the sketches on the walls and a few on the ceiling. The room is at street level, and not under the street, as I thought it would be. In fact, there is a small lattice-type window that allows street sounds into the room! I later discovered that that window can be seen from the outside and is directly across the street from our hotel! [It is impossible to see in from the outside.]

It is impossible for me to describe the sketches, so pictures are going to have to tell the story. I spent most of my time switching between cameras trying to get good images and videos, knowing that I will never get another opportunity like this. I hope you will see from the images the ability Michelangelo had to evoke a face or a body part, at rest or in motion with just a few lines from a charcoal pencil.

The room is quite small , so the limited number of people was a big advantage when it came to taking pictures because we (two couples) could move around each other easily. The cameras brought out things I did not (initially) notice with my eyes.

The amount of time we had was just about right. A better photographer (like my brother Mark) would probably have captured much more than I did, but I am happy with our results.

After we left the room, we spent time looking at the chapels. Our first stop was the chapel I had completely ignored on the way to the stanza segreto. It has 4 statues by Michelangelo called Day, Night, Dusk, and Dawn which adorn 2 tombs—if tombs is the right word. Then we passed through a room which had two monuments to battles won. While I was taking pictures there, Patricia came back and said “I’m not going in the next room without you.” I thought there must be a problem, but when I went into the Chapel of the Princes, I saw what she meant. The space is about 30 meters in diameter, and the dome is 60 meters above the ground. It is one of the most impressive rooms I have ever seen. The walls are covered with more kinds of marble than I knew existed. Everything in the room is outsized. The room was designed to hold the sarcophagi of the first 6 grand dukes. There were also supposed to be giant statues of them, but it looks like the money ran out after 2.

I took some videos while we were in the chapels and the secret room. I will figure out how to post some of them. They may help give an idea of the size and impact on the eye.

Tomorrow is a travel day to Barcelona.

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