As the May 19 release of The Da Vinci Code(a) movie approaches, the buzz surrounding the tale has turned from enthusiastic to fanatical. Whether it’s the religious controversy created by Dan Brown’s insanely-popular novel or the A-list actors starring in the film (Tom Hanks and French phenom Audrey Tautou), The Code has generated more than pop-culture hype. It has spawned a devoted following of da Vinci “Codies”.
Codies and curious travelers alike are flocking to true-life sites - like the famed Denon Wing of the Louvre in Paris where the Mona Lisa gazes past admirers as well as the gardens of the pope’s summer home outside of Rome. Travelocity’s editors reveal a wealth of ideas for enthusiasts, from the quintessential hotspots to the lesser known American highlights. There’s something for everyone - even on a shoe-string.
“For those who want to immerse themselves in the intrigue of The Code this summer, you can go on an international adventure or stick close to home,” said Travelocity editor Natasha Carvell. “You don’t even have to own a passport to schedule a private viewing of da Vinci’s sketches at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or check out the only da Vinci painting in the Western hemisphere in DC.”
The Da Vinci Code Essentials:
Paris, France - From the famous opening museum murder scene to our hero’s night at the famed Ritz Paris hotel, the car chase down the Champs Elysees to the villain albino monk’s surreptitious search of Saint-Sulpice, the City of Light plays a major role in both the dramatic plot of The Code and the creative legacy of the artist. If the Mona Lisa is a mob scene at the Louvre, sneak away to see other da Vinci works, including Madonna of the Rocks, Bacchus, Virgin and Child with St. Anne, and St. John the Baptist.
London, England - Can you find the Holy Grail in London’s Temple Church? Not likely. But, tracking down da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery shouldn’t be nearly as perplexing. Pay additional homage to The Code at Sir Isaac Newton’s grave in Westminster Abbey and with a stroll through leafy St. James Park.
Italy - Learn about The Code’s religious backdrop in Vatican City and relive the book’s intense moments in the shadows of Castel Gandolfo, the papal retreat outside of Rome. For more Leonardo da Vinci artwork, travel to Milan where the book’s centerpiece work, The Last Supper, is on display in the refectory at Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. Visit Florence where da Vinci completed his first solo painting, and his Adoration of the Magi, Annunciation, and Baptism of Christ are on display in the world-famous Uffizi Gallery.
Da Vinci In America:
Washington, DC - The National Gallery of Art is home to the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci on display in the Western Hemisphere. Ginevra de’Benci is the artist’s oil-on-wood portrait of a young Florentine noblewoman around the time of her wedding. In the spirit of intrigue, there has long been controversy about whether Leonardo actually painted the work or not (it is now widely accepted that he did), and the reverse side of the piece has an illustration of a juniper spring surrounded by a palm and laurel wreath with the phrase “Beauty Adorns Virtue” in Latin. Could there be another secret message here? The nation’s capital is also likely to figure prominently in Dan Brown’s forthcoming novel, The Solomon Key. Learn more about the city’s secrets at the International Spy Museum in downtown DC.
New York, NY - At 243 Lexington Avenue at 34th Street in Manhattan, you’ll find the unmarked, 17-story, 133,000 square foot headquarters of Opus Dei, the controversially devout Catholic sect which figures prominently in The Da Vinci Code. After admiring the building’s handiwork and gathering some anti-Code leaflets, head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where you can make an appointment with the Drawings Department to see the da Vinci sketches held in the museum’s permanent, but not-on-display collection. Or get even more into the super-sleuth act on one of Watson Adventures’ Murder at the Met Scavenger Hunts. Warning - these Da Vinci Code-like public hunts sell out fast!
Grand Rapids, MI - A quiet admiration of Leonardo da Vinci turned into proactive recreation of his work when Charlie Dent, a pilot and avid art collector, read a 1977 article about Leonardo’s doomed 1482 attempt to sculpt a 24-foot bronze horse, commissioned by the Duke of Milan. Dent decided to finish the job. After assembling data from Leonardo’s sketches, and working with Renaissance scholars to match the design of the horse to the great artist’s intent, he began work. While Dent died five years before its completion, the work was finished by celebrated sculptor Nina Akamu and installed in Milan in 1999. A second cast of Da Vinci’s Horse, appropriately titled The American Horse, was also made to majestically hold court at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.
More Da Vinci Destinations: Beyond the famous da Vinci sites or those here at home, make Dan Brown proud and go on an international adventure to cities you won’t find included on the standard Code tour itinerary.
Munich, Germany - The Alte (Old) Pinakothek art museum in Munich is home to The Madonna with the Carnation, also known as The Virgin with Flowers, which was once attributed to Leonardo’s tutor. It is now widely-accepted as one his first independent works.
Krakow, Poland - The Duke of Milan was one of Leonardo’s greatest patrons and the charming Lady with an Ermine depicts his young mistress. The work now hangs in Krakow’s Czartoryski Museum after being seized by the Nazis during WWII, and rediscovered by Allied troops in Bavaria.
Budapest, Hungary - A highlight of Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts’ antique sculpture collection is da Vinci’s bronze Equestrian Statue, sometimes considered one of the last works completed by the great artist (1516-19).
St. Petersburg, Russia - The Benois Madonna, also known as Madonna and Child with Flowers has earned special notice and popularity for its animated depiction of Mary and her child. Long considered one of Leonardo’s lost works, it was revealed by a private owner in 1909, and entered St. Petersburg’s Imperial Hermitage Museum in 1914.
Find great last-minute deals to da Vinci-inspired places at www.travelocity.com/davinci .