by Melinda Gallo

Indimenticabile!

The most indimenticabile (unforgettable) and exciting experience of my Florentine life happened today: I went to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio. Ever since Iíve been in Florence, Iíve walked by the Palazzo Vecchio and looked up, hoping that one day I could go to the top. I heard that years ago people were allowed to go up and have even seen pictures of people who were fortunate to go, but never did I imagine when I woke up this morning that I too would be able to finally live out one of my dreams!

Living in Florence :: Indimenticabile!

My husband asked me if I wanted to visit the Palazzo Vecchio on a visita guidata (guided tour). I jumped at the chance especially because I know the guida (tour guide) whose name is Letizia. She took us to the terrazze del Duomo (terraces of the Duomo) a couple of years ago. Iíve been to the Palazzo Vecchio, but never on a visita guidata before. My first question to my husband, ďPossiamo andare sulla torre? (Can we go up the tower?)" He told me that it wasnít part of the visita guidata, but I was happy to go anyway because Letizia has so much knowledge to give and does so in a way with great passion and Joy.

I learned that the Palazzo Vecchio is the centro della storia fiorentina (center of Florenceís history). We started the visita guidata in the Cortile di Michelozzo and then went up to the Salone dei Cinquecento. She informed us tha tthey are currently dong research to find one of Leonardo da Vinciís unfinished masterpieces, which is said to be the most spectacular one that exists. It is supposedly hidden behind one of the large frescoes depicting important battle scenes in Florenceís history.

As fate would have it, an Italian living in California along with a representative from one of the private patrons, National Geographic, both walked into the Salone dei Cinquecento to tell us about how they hope to find the masterpiece to give the Italians some good news.

I thought that moment would be the highlight of our tour, but little did I know how much better it would get.

Letizia also took us into the Studiolo of Francesco I, which she told us is where he spent his time studying alchemy. Behind each of the paintings is a hidden cupboard where he, they think, put his supplies.

We went through the other rooms on the second and third floors to get to the ballatoio (balcony/gallery), which I was told weíd be able to visit. If you look at the Palazzo Vecchio, the ballatoio is the long string of openings under the roof of the palazzo. I walked around it, snapping pictures, and poked my head out of the openings to look down.

The custode (museum attendant) who opened the door to the ballatoio, smiled at us to announce the good news, ďVi faccio salire la torre. (Iíll let you go up the tower)." Everyone gasped with joy. I followed him immediately and walked up the narrow stone staircase.

When I finally walked out onto the terrazza (terrace), I told the custode, ď» un sogno per me venire qua su. (Itís a dream for me to come up here.)" I almost cried as I looked out of each opening to see my beloved city in all its glory. All the chiese (churches), palazzi (buildings), and colline (hills) appeared so close as if I could reach out and touch them. Not only is the view spectacular, but whatís amazing is how we are in the middle of the city with all of its beauty sprinkled around the Palazzo Vecchio. I realize how important the Palazzo Vecchio is thanks to Letizia, but how perfectly situated it was to be at the center of the city didnít strike me until I could see the entire city.

It was hard to leave, but we had an appointment to visit the scavi del teatro romano di Firenze (Florenceís Roman Theatre excavations), which is located under the Palazzo Vecchio and extends outwards underneath the Piazza della Signoria.

I found it very interesting, but my mind was still on the torre. When the visita guidata ended and I was outside, I looked up at the torre and smiled. To think that a dream of mine came true when I least expected it to is probably the sweetest moment in my Florentine life. I am so grateful to Letizia for instilling me with even more passion for my beloved city, and Florence for being true to itself and shining on a beautiful summer day.

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