There are several locations in Florence which are not normally open to the public but which can be visited making special arrangements. One of these is in Palazzo Vecchio, which is still the official town hall; the Medieval Salone dei Dugento on the second storey has a beautiful coffered ceiling made in the workshop of the Maiano family. It is possible to see the room only when the city council convenes here for their meetings.
There are also some “secret passages” which have recently been restored and can now be visited (reservations are required – check at the ticket office). You can now visit the hidden stairway that, according to Vasari, the Duke of Athens had built by Andrea Pisano as a secret escape way out of the palazzo. It is reached from a little door in Via della Ninna; the stairway is built inside of one of the walls and ends in the apartments of Cosimo I on the second storey. From the duke’s bedroom we can reach the “tesoretto” of Cosimo and the private study of Francesco, which were secret rooms made in the space formed between the external walls.
It is possible to make reservations also to see the attic over the Hall of the Five Hundred, where a massive truss and beam structure supports the roof and coffered ceiling over the room. It is an engineering master-piece of the XVI century.
In palazzo Vecchio there are also special educational rooms fr children which have been set up in the areas which were once the secret rooms. There is an architectural laboratory where children can learn about construction with arches and beams, a room dedicated to clothing and one to science, where they can reproduce the vacuum experiments conducted in the XVII century by Evangelista Torricelli, inventor of the barometer. Visits must be booked in advance.
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