Laura's Blog

Throwback Thursday: My first trip to Florence

- by Laura Malone Elliott

October 22, 2015

"Throw-back Thursday” gives me a chance to tell one of my absolute favorite things about writing historical fiction—traveling to locations to research. What I have seen and felt there have made my books richer in detail and insight. But it’s also such personal fun, especially since I’ve been able to share research trips to France, England, and Italy with my family.

I have been blessed to go to Florence four times in my life—three of those trips with my son and daughter to absorb the city’s ambience, geography, sights, sounds, and art for DA VINCI’s TIGER (and my next Italian novel about Simonetta Vespucci). I actually first saw the Renaissance mecca as a teenager, in another life as a musician. Then I went as a flutist with a nationally-culled wind ensemble of students who had won seats in regional or state bands. It was an honor to be part of that phenomenally gifted set of young people. Many of them went on to conservatories and professional musical careers. For six wondrous weeks, we toured through Europe performing in concert halls, park gazebos, and city plazas, in England, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, and Italy.

I often peeled off from the group to go exploring on my own, and Florence was no exception. I had my handout on Medici sights (which was still tucked into this photo album I unearthed!) and I went off toward the Accademie to see Michelangelo’s David. This was in the late ‘70s (so yes, you see, this is definitely a "throw-back" !) and there was some political upheaval in Italy at the time. I turned a corner and ran into a communist demonstration, replete with a parade (Florence has always loved parades). I got swept up and “marched” several blocks with the crowd before I could slip into an alley and watch the mass pass by. A couple years later that wonderful movie, A Room with a View, came out, and I felt a tiny affinity with Lucy Honeychurch, who is caught up in a sudden brawl on the streets of Florence. But mostly, just like Lucy, I was completely captivated by Florence the moment I set eyes on it.

I hope my love of the city breathes through Ginevra’s story to you. For a visual tour of Florence, please see this link: as well as my Visual Companion to the sights, artwork, costumes, and persona of DA VINCI'S TIGER.

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