Fabulous Florence – Discovering the Secrets!
Florence is a beautiful city full of fabulous art and history. Over the course of our stay, and as you can see by Mik and Zoe’s blog posts, we went a couple of tours that focused upon the Renaissance and the Medici family.
On our own we did a couple of scavenger hunts with the Huntzz app on both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria. Through these two hunts, we were able to discover some amazing details about these famous squares that we would have never known about. For example, when they were building the dome of the church, it collapsed and great slabs of marble fell to the ground. As a reminder of this collapse – there is a small round circle of marble on the pavement behind the dome. There is no plaque or anything – just a small marble circle on the ground. It makes you realize that we don’t often know many of the small details about places because they are not always considered to be significant to tours or guide books etc…
Anyways, after doing our walking tours and Huntzz, we were excited to discover a new way to help us discover more secrets about the city. It’s called a whaiwhai which is Maori for “to search for”. It’s a very different type of scavenger hunt. First we had to locate the Florence guidebook and spent some of our time in both Italian and international bookstores until we were able to find it– lucky for us – there was one copy left in the travel section!
The idea behind the whaiwhai is that each city has it’s own story to tell. Florence’s story is focused on the years of the Renaissance. We learned about many of the key people who came from Florence such as Dante, Michelangelo, and Brunelleschi to name a few. You can play it as a group, in teams against each other, or even on the sofa! We all played it together, but it is written for adults. We had to help the kids with some of the vocabulary.
Through the guidebook and a mobile phone that sends you clues, it brings the readers to various points in the city where secrets that one would not usually find can be discovered. It takes the reader off the usual tourist path to some really neat places and the book gives lots of background and historical information all within a narrative. You start by reading the intro to the story so that you have an idea about the adventure ahead (these pages are like a normal book). You then text the code number found in the book and wait to receive your secret message about what to do and where to go.
The book is actually cut horizontally into 3 parts (except for the intro) and all the pages are jumbled up so you cannot read it from start to finish. Within a couple of minutes, you receive a code that tells you which parts of the book to read; for example -02A, 46B and 54C. When you put these sections of the book together and read the page – it tells you where to go and some amazing information about that part of the city.
Our clues had us go to the Palazzo Vecchio, the Pitti Palace, the Ponte Vecchio, the Baptistry, The Church of San Lorenzo, and the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. We found out small details and secrets about Florence that were really interesting and presented in a fun way.
These whaiwhais are only available for Florence, Venice, Verona, Milan, Rome and New York city so we are hoping we will be able to find the guidebook in Rome. I wish I had known about them sooner as they are available in Canada at Chapters. The girls really like the Huntzz and the whaiwhais but said they preferred the whaiwhais because of the mysterious story involved. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we’ll be able to find it in Rome!
If you’re interested to find out more about whaiwhais, watch the following video!