There is a palazzo on Via Maggio which stands out from its neighbours, on account of its beautifully decorated façade. The palace was once the residence of Bianca Cappello (1548-87), a Venetian noblewoman, who had eloped to Florence with a penniless son of the city.
Bianca Cappello was born in Venice in 1548, the daughter of Bartolomeo Cappello and Pellegrina Morosini. At the tender age of fifteen this scion of a rich and noble Venetian family fell in love with a young and impecunious Florentine clerk, by the name of Pietro Bonaventuri, who worked in a bank near the palace where Bianca lived.
On the night of November 28th, 1563, the couple ran off together and all hell broke out in La Serenissima. Pietro was banished from the city, on pain of death if he ever returned, while Bianca was simply banished.
Bonaventuri whisked the teenager off to his native city, where they were married. However, true love doesn't seem to have lasted very long and the couple were soon unfaithful to each other, Pietro with a member of the Ricci family, while Bianca became the mistress of Francesco de' Medici, the son of the reigning duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. Pietro's infidelity cost him his life, Bianca's ended in marriage.
On April 21st, 1574, Francesco became the ruler of Florence following the death of his father. Four years later Francesco's wife, Joanna of Austria, died in childbirth leaving the way open for him to marry his mistress, thereby making the thirty-year old Venetian the grand duchess of Tuscany.
At this point the authorities in Venice made a spectacular volte-face, proclaiming Bianca Cappello as a 'true and special daughter of the Republic'. Hypocrites!
Some of the people of Florence were less impressed by the marriage, if the following ditty is anything to go by: "Il granduca di Toscana, Ha sposato una puttana, Gentildonna Venetiana." (The grand duke of Tuscany has married a whore, a Venetian lady.)
The grand duke and his grand duchess died within twenty-four hours of each other in October 1587, while they were staying at the Villa Medicea in Poggio a Caiano.
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