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Searching for the Creed: Assassin's Creed Florence Landmarks

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18 Feb 2024

Written By:

Edited By:

Colum Blackett

Banner by Thea Marie Rivedal (Moonchildgecko)

 

Florence. The 15th century. The cobbled streets are bustling with merchants selling their wares — wools and silks dyed in bright colours, cheeses and breads, carpentry and armour. Bankers and nobles dressed in the finest velvet pass shops displaying artworks painted in the studios of the masters. Doctors call out their cures, masked in white and smelling of herbs and spices.


This world comes alive half a century later in Assassin’s Creed 2. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence was a city of economic and cultural development, but hiding behind the mask of wealth and beauty was the political tension and violence of medieval Italy. Through Ezio, players get to interact with key figures (Leonardo da Vinci, Caterina Sforza, and Rodrigo Borgia, to name a few), experience historical events (such as the Pazzi Conspiracy, the Siege of Forlì, and the Bonfire of the Vanities), and explore Florence as it would have been in the 15th century. The Assassin’s Creed series has always done this well; weaving the war of the Assassins and Templars into the game’s chosen time period to create an exciting narrative. History is rich with stories — with intrigue and murder, betrayal and honour — and through the medium of gaming we are able to experience them. It is as close as you can get to time travel.



Although some important locations in Assassin’s Creed II don’t exist, such as Leonardo’s Workshop, La Rosa Colta and Palazzo Auditore, many of the locations that players can visit exist in real life. Here are several of the real/modern day versions of those places!

 

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore/the Duomo


The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, known as ‘The Duomo’, is the most famous landmark of Florence. It looms over the city, the gold tip of the dome peaking over rooftops and between buildings, a constant reminder of its presence.


Construction on the cathedral was begun at the end of the 13th century. The next hundred years saw it pass between several architects, who enlarged it from the original design and began planning for the dome. There was a problem however: the technology hadn’t yet been invented to build and support a dome of that scale. The city’s leaders decided to hold a competition to find an architect willing to take on the challenge and it was won by Filippo Brunelleschi. Considered an unconventional choice, both in how he was primarily trained as a goldsmith and sculptor instead of an architect, and for his unique suggestions of how to go about the construction, Brunelleschi’s design was nevertheless successful and has since been considered one of the greatest feats of engineering. The dome was finally completed in 1436, 140 years after the cathedral was begun.


In Assassin’s Creed II, just like in real life, the cathedral is a central part of Florence’s history and culture, and as such it’s fitting for there to be a story section set here. As Ezio, players have to try to stop the Templar plot to assassinate the Medici brothers. Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici really were attacked during Mass by the Pazzi conspirators, Ezio’s Templar targets in game, who wanted to the Medici family out of power.


The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore also holds one of the game’s six Assassin tombs. Ezio has to navigate the scaffolding inside the unfinished cathedral and climb high inside the dome to reach the tomb of Iltani.


The Cathedral is free to enter, but visitors can also buy tickets to climb the bell tower, the dome, and visit the the museum and baptistry, starting at €15.


 

Palazzo Vecchio/Piazza della Signoria


For Ezio, this is where everything goes wrong. The tower prison cells that historically held people such as Cosimo de’ Medici and Girolamo Savonarola, now trap Giovanni, Federico and Petruccio. In the morning they are executed. It is here, standing in the Piazza della Signoria, that Ezio sees the darkness his city is capable of, and it is here, that he is set on his journey of revenge and justice.


Originally called Palazzo della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio was where the governing body of renaissance Florence (the Signoria, or Priori) ruled from. The name was eventually changed to what it is today (“the Old Palace”) when the Medici family who were living there at the time moved their primary residence over the river to Palazzo Pitti.


There are a several story points set here. The murder of Ezio’s father and brothers is the most poignant, but Palazzo Vecchio is also where Ezio assassinates Francesco de’ Pazzi, and where part of the ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ DLC is set.


In-game, Francesco de' Pazzi is the only one of the Pazzi conspirators Ezio assassinates in Florence, but historically several of the other conspirators were captured and executed at Palazzo Vecchio alongside him. The rest were hunted down and killed in the years that followed — some were hiding as far away as Constantinople.


The old stone building has an imposing presence, towering high over the piazza in front of it. It’s easy to imagine it being a place of power all those centuries ago, a place that inspired fear in those who rose up against the city, and a place that gave hope for change to others.


The Palazzo Vecchio museum is €17.50 to visit, plus an additional €12.50 to climb the tower and battlements.


 

Ponte Vecchio


Ponte Vecchio is easily another of Florence’s most famous landmarks. So much so that when the German army retreated from the city at the end of the Second World War, it was the only bridge that wasn’t destroyed. This is where players are first introduced to teenage Ezio, as he taunts, then fights, Vieri de’ Pazzi’s gang and gains his signature lip scar.


During Ezio’s time Ponte Vecchio would have been lined with butchers and fishmongers, but nowadays the shops crossing the bridge sell jewellery. Another feature of the bridge is the Vasari Corridor, which the Medici family commissioned Giorgio Vasari to build in the mid 1500s. They wanted a way to travel safely between Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti without having to ride through the city streets. The resulting passageway stretches one kilometre, crossing Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery on the way to its destination.


Ponte Vecchio is free to visit.


 

Palazzo Medici Riccardi


Palazzo Medici was the primary residence of the Medici family in the 15th century until it was bought by the Riccardi family in 1659. The Medici were one of the prominent banking families of renaissance Florence. Their power grew through the success of their bank and their involvement in the city’s politics (after the time period of Assassin’s Creed 2 some of the family members were even elected as Pope, as well as marrying into royalty), until they were the rulers of Florence in all but name. As a result, there were many attempts through the decades to remove them from power. As well as being key figures in Florence’s leadership, the Medici family were passionate patrons of the arts, commissioning works by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo Buonarotti and Leonardo da Vinci. Their support of artists was one of the reasons that Florence flourished as the cultural centre of the Renaissance.


There is a Templar side quest set in Palazzo Medici where Ezio has to save Lorenzo from the soldiers who have invaded his home. The quest gives players a glimpse into the interior of the building, including the courtyard, gardens, and several rooms. Nowadays the palace is a museum, displaying some of the many artworks owned by the Medici.


Palazzo Medici Riccardi costs €11.50 to visit

 

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella


Built in the mid 13th century, the church of Santa Maria Novella is home to sculptures and frescos by some of the most renowned Renaissance artists (such as Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippo Brunelleschi and Giorgio Vasari.)


In Assassin’s Creed II it hides one of the Assassin tombs (the tomb of Darius), and is also where Ezio overhears the Templars’ plan to assassinate the Medici in Sequence 4.


Tickets cost €7.50.


 

Basilica of Santa Croce


Another of Florence’s churches, Santa Croce is the burial place of some of the most famous figures of the renaissance. Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are all buried here.


In the game, this is where Ezio kills his first target: Uberto Alberti, the Gonfaloniere of Florence, Templar, and the man responsible for the murder of his father and brothers.


Tickets cost €8.


 

Church of Santa Trinita


The church of Santa Trinita is a far smaller church than the others on this list, but no less important. This was the church that featured the opening credits sequence of Assassin’s Creed II, when Federico challenges Ezio to race him up the bell tower.


Looking out at the city in front of them, the world at their fingertips, anything feels possible.


And for us as players, it is.


Santa Trinita is free to visit


 

The Uffizi Gallery


Another place that may be of interest is the Uffizi Gallery. Originally it housed artworks from the Medici family’s private collection, including a wide selection of Roman sculptures, and it has since expanded to become one of the most famous art galleries in the world. Nowadays the gallery is home to more than 300,000 artworks, including several by Leonardo da Vinci such as the Annunciation (1472-1476) and Adoration of the Magi (1481). Leonardo’s Annunciation is one of the paintings players can buy for the Auditore Villa in Monteriggioni. Also, the gallery’s courtyard is lined with statues of key figures from the city’s history, several of which Assassin’s Creed fans will recognise — Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and Niccolò Machiavelli.


While the Uffizi Gallery doesn’t feature in the game — it was built almost a century after when Assassin’s Creed 2 is set — it is definitely worth a visit.


Tickets are €12, or €18 for combined access to the Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti.


 

Conclusion


This is by no means a definitive list of all the Florentine landmarks that are featured in Assassin’s Creed, but these are the most important to Ezio’s story. Fans can walk the streets Ezio walked, steal through the narrow alleyways, climb the towers he scaled (albeit not throw themselves into a conveniently positioned hay bale) and enjoy the stunning views of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan landscape that Ezio scanned from his vantage points.


Ubisoft has done a wonderful job of re-creating renaissance Florence, leaving fan’s eager to trace Ezio’s steps. Rich with history, culture and beauty, Florence should be at the top of the list of places to visit for every Assassin’s Creed fan.

 

Sources:


Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore:


Ponte Vecchio:


Medici family and Palazzo Medici Riccardi:


Palazzo Vecchio:


Santa Croce:


Santa Maria Novella:

 

Other articles in the series:

Searching for the Creed: Assassin's Creed London Landmarks

Banner by Thea Marie Rivedal (Moonchildgecko)

 

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About the Author

Yasmin is a Digital Artist based in Melbourne, Australia who discovered the Assassin's Creed series in 2019. Since then she has fallen in love with the franchise and created beautiful realistic digital artworks of several of the main characters. By joining TOWCB, we hope to introduce Yasmin to the AC Community by collaborating on a number of exciting projects such as art releases and podcasts.

Yasmin Page

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