Hope Restored in Florence

I’ve always loved Florence, it’s the most amazing place I’ve ever been and I have visited countless times, from day trips beginning thirty years ago to studying Art History at the British Institute for a month in 2018. My love of art began here and, although I now enjoy many types and periods of painting, sculpture and architecture, it’s the Renaissance and Florence, for many including myself the cradle of that artistic and humanistic rebirth, that draws me back over and over again.

My appreciation of art has been heightened by setting it in the context of the history of the time and the history of Florence is rich and fascinating. Much of it centres around the exploits of the Medici family and the battles fought between Florence as a republic and its time under Medici rule. Among their many contributions to the splendour of Florence was a role as patrons of the arts, nurturing, among others, Donatello, Botticelli, Michaelangelo and Leonardo. Living in Florence for a month allowed me to absorb the sights and treasures of what is in many ways a living museum. Not all it’s treasures are hidden away in museums with long queues and expensive tickets either; many of my favourite pieces are free to see and on open display. No matter how many times I visit, there is always something new to discover.

When I was studying there in 2018, one of the women on my course was researching a book, which she published the following year. It’s a historical novel set around artists active at the time and was a thoroughly enjoyable read. At the time, I wasn’t writing regularly myself, although I was writing a travel blog and keeping copious lists of the things I had seen and enjoyed. During that month I read copiously, including fiction set around Florence which included as characters historical figures and artists. I have always enjoyed historical fiction as a genre.

The idea of setting a novel in Florence came quickly this year as I was awaiting the publication of my first novel. I had several inspirations all coalescing – the story of Eleanora of Toledo, wife of Grand Duke Cosimo de Medici; the art of Agnolo Bronzino whose work I had admired in Florence; the story of Artemesia Gentileschi and an upcoming exhibition of her work in London; articles I had read on art restoration and forgery. I developed the idea of knitting together these themes into a novel revolving around a young woman from Oxford, Lucrezia, who comes to Florence to study, only to be caught up in a mystery that threatens her survival. I wanted to include lesser known historical figures and artists – there are enough books about Michaelangelo and Leonardo. Although it was not a conscious decision at the outset, somehow the main protagonists, including many of the artists mentioned, are female. Writing from the perspective of strong female characters was very rewarding. As part of the process, the stories of Eleanora and Lucrezia become parallel.

The novel came together quickly as much of the ‘research’ had already been done. I did wonder about anyone spying on my Google searches at the time as they included various aspects of fraud, money laundering, hacking into iPhones and other such nefarious deeds, but so far so good! It’s a completely different book from ‘The Things You Think You Cannot Do’; although it reflects many of my passions it’s much less personal for me and probably in many ways an ‘easier’ read. If you enjoy art, history, a bit of Italian skullduggery then I’m sure there’ll be something there for you!

Look out for more details and some of my favourite pictures showing where the action takes place, coming very soon! 😌🇮🇹

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