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Inferno


Chapter 32


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Chapter 32
Il Corridoio Vasariano-the Vasari Corridor-was designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1564 under orders of the Medici ruler, Grand Duke Cosimo I, to provide safe passage from his residence at the Pitti Palace to his administrative offices, across the Arno River in the Palazzo Vecchio.



Similar to Vatican City's famed Passetto, the Vasari Corridor was the quintessential secret passageway. It stretched nearly a full kilometer from the eastern corner of the Boboli Gardens to the heart of the old palace itself, crossing the Ponte Vecchio and snaking through the Uffizi Gallery in between.
Nowadays, the Vasari Corridor still served as a safe haven, although not for Medici aristocrats but for artwork; with its seemingly endless expanse of secure wall space, the corridor was home to countless rare paintings-overflow from the world-famous Uffizi Gallery, through which the corridor passed.
Langdon had traveled the passageway a few years before as part of a leisurely private tour. On that afternoon, he had paused to admire the corridor's mind-boggling array of paintings-including the most extensive collection of self-portraits in the world. He had also stopped several times to peer out of the corridor's occasional viewing portals, which permitted travelers to gauge their progress along the elevated walkway.
This morning, however, Langdon and Sienna were moving through the corridor at a run, eager to put as much distance as possible between themselves and their pursuers at the other end. Langdon wondered how long it would take for the bound guard to be discovered. As the tunnel stretched out before them, Langdon sensed it leading them closer with every step to what they were searching for.
Cerca trova ... the eyes of death ... and an answer as to who is chasing me.
The distant whine of the surveillance drone was far behind them now. The farther they progressed into the tunnel, the more Langdon was reminded of just how ambitious an architectural feat this passageway had been. Elevated above the city for nearly its entire length, the Vasari Corridor was like a broad serpent, snaking through the buildings, all the way from the Pitti Palace, across the Arno, into the heart of old Florence. The narrow, whitewashed passageway seemed to stretch for eternity, occasionally turning briefly left or right to avoid an obstacle, but always moving east ... across the Arno.
The sudden sound of voices echoed ahead of them in the corridor, and Sienna skidded to a stop
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. Langdon halted, too, and immediately placed a calm hand on her shoulder, motioning to a nearby viewing portal.
Tourists down below.
Langdon and Sienna moved to the portal and peered out, seeing that they were currently perched above the Ponte Vecchio-the medieval stone bridge that serves as a pedestrian walkway into the old city. Below them, the day's first tourists were enjoying the market that has been held on the bridge since the 1400s. Today the vendors are mostly goldsmiths and jewelers, but that has not always been the case. Originally, the bridge had been home to Florence's vast, open-air meat market, but the butchers were banished in 1593 after the rancid odor of spoiled meat had wafted up into the Vasari Corridor and assaulted the delicate nostrils of the grand duke.
Down there on the bridge somewhere, Langdon recalled, was the precise spot where one of Florence's most infamous crimes had been committed. In 1216, a young nobleman named Buondelmonte had rejected his family's arranged marriage for the sake of his true love, and for that decision he was brutally killed on this very bridge.
His death, long considered "Florence's bloodiest murder," was so named because it had triggered a rift between two powerful political factions-the Guelphs and Ghibellines-who had then waged war ruthlessly for centuries against each other. Because the ensuing political feud had brought about Dante's exile from Florence, the poet had bitterly immortalized the event in his Divine Comedy: O Buondelmonte, through another's counsel, you fled your wedding pledge, and brought such evil!
To this day, three separate plaques-each quoting a different line from Canto 16 of Dante's Paradiso-could be found near the murder site. One of them was situated at the mouth of the Ponte Vecchio and ominously declared:
BUT FLORENCE, IN HER FINAL PEACE, WAS FATED TO OFFER UP UNTO THAT MUTILATED STONE GUARDIAN UPON HER BRIDGE ... A VICTIM.
Langdon raised his eyes now from the bridge to the murky waters it spanned. Off to the east, the lone spire of the Palazzo Vecchio beckoned.
Even though Langdon and Sienna were only halfway across the Arno River, he had no doubt they had long since passed the point of no return.
Thirty feet below, on the cobblestones of the Ponte Vecchio, Vayentha anxiously scanned the oncoming crowd, never imagining that her only redemption had, just moments before, passed directly overhead.

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