The Daughter of Siena

The Daughter of Siena

3.8 20
by Marina Fiorato
     
 

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Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio, the breathtaking horse race set in Siena....
It's 1729, and the Palio, a white-knuckle horse race, is soon to be held in the heart of the peerless Tuscan city of Siena. But the beauty and pageantry masks the deadly rivalry that

Overview

Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio, the breathtaking horse race set in Siena....
It's 1729, and the Palio, a white-knuckle horse race, is soon to be held in the heart of the peerless Tuscan city of Siena. But the beauty and pageantry masks the deadly rivalry that exists among the city's districts. Each ward, represented by an animal symbol, puts forth a rider to claim the winner's banner, but the contest turns citizens into tribes and men into beasts—and beautiful, headstrong, young Pia Tolomei is in love with a rider of an opposing ward, an outsider who threatens the shaky balance of intrigue and influence that rules the land.

Editorial Reviews

AUTHOR OF THE RUBY RING ON THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURA DIANE HAEGER

A compelling story, richly detailed, with wonderful, memorably drawn characters.
AUTHOR OF THE BORGIA BRIDE ON THE GLASSBLOWER OF M JEANNE KALOGRIDIS

Marina Fiorato has beautifully recreated the bright, glittering world of the seventeenth-century glassblower, and nestled it surely within a compelling contemporary romance.
AUTHOR OF GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE ON THE GLASSBLOWER SUSAN VREELAND

Marina Fiorato has fashioned a tale of artistry, love, and intrigue....From its mysterious, highly crafted opening to its stunning, riveting culmination, it took my breath away.
From the Publisher

“[Fiorato] brings the beauty and danger of 17th-century Venice vividly to life…Those who enjoy intrigue and European history will be easily drawn into this romantic story.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY ON THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO

“Fiorato crafts a historical novel in the style of Girl with a Pearl Earring blended with painting as code à la The Da Vinci Code.” —LIBRARY JOURNAL ON THE BOTTICELLI SECRET

“An intriguing mix of history, mystery, art, music, poetry, romance, and politics…Writing with charm and authenticity, Fiorato produces a blend of historical mystery and modern romance that is thoroughly entertaining.” —BOOKLIST ON THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO

“Marina Fiorato has fashioned a tale of artistry, love, and intrigue....From its mysterious, highly crafted opening to its stunning, riveting culmination, it took my breath away.” —SUSAN VREELAND, AUTHOR OF GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE ON THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO

“A compelling story, richly detailed, with wonderful, memorably drawn characters.” —DIANE HAEGER, AUTHOR OF THE RUBY RING ON THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO

“Marina Fiorato has beautifully recreated the bright, glittering world of the seventeenth-century glassblower, and nestled it surely within a compelling contemporary romance.” —JEANNE KALOGRIDIS, AUTHOR OF THE BORGIA BRIDE ON THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429968720
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
05/10/2011
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
187,266
File size:
479 KB

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Daughter of Siena


By Marina Fiorato

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2011 Marina Fiorato
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-6872-0



CHAPTER 1

The Owlet

For her nineteenth birthday, Pia Tolomei, the most beautiful woman in Siena, was given a necklace and a husband.

Her name-day was spent sitting quietly in her chamber, a day like any other — the same, the same, the same. But then Pia's maid told her that her father wished to see her and she knew exactly what was coming. She'd been awaiting this moment since she was eleven.

She laid down her hoop of embroidery with a shaking hand and went down to the piano nobile at once. Her knees shook too as they carried her slight and upright form down the stair, but she had courage. She knew it was time to face what she had dreaded for years, for as long as she had been old enough to understand the expediencies of the marriage market.

For eight years Pia had expected, daily, to be parcelled up and handed in marriage to some young sprig of Sienese nobility. But fate had kept her free until now. Pia knew that her father would not marry her beyond her ward, the contrada of the Civetta, the Owlet. And here she had been fortunate, for the male heirs of the good Civetta families were few. A boy that she was betrothed to in the cradle had died of the water fever. Another had gone to the wars and married abroad. The only other heir she could think of had just turned fifteen. She had a notion her father had been waiting for this lad to reach his majority. She went downstairs now, fully expecting that she was about to be shackled to a child.

In the great chamber her father Salvatore Tolomei stood in a shaft of golden light streaming in through the windows. He had always had an instinct for the theatrical. He waited until she approached him and laid her cool kiss upon his cheek, before he pulled a glittering gold chain from his sleeve with a magician's flourish. He laid it in her palm where it curled like a little serpent and she saw that there was a roundel, or pendant, hanging from it.

'Look close,' Salvatore said.

Pia obeyed, humouring him, masking the impatience she felt rising within her. She saw a woman's head depicted on a gold disc, decapitated and floating.

'It is Queen Cleopatra herself,' whispered Salvatore with awe, 'on one of her own Egyptian coins. It is more than a thousand years old.'

His ample form seemed to swell even further with pride. Pia sighed inwardly. She had grown up being told, almost daily, that the ancestors of the Tolomei were Egyptian royalty, the Ptolemy. Salvatore Tolomei — and all the Civetta capitani before him — never stopped telling people of the famous Queen Cleopatra from whom he was directly descended.

Pia felt the great weight of her heritage pressing down on her and looked at the long-dead queen almost with pity. That her long, illustrious royal line should distil itself down into Pia, the Owlet, daughter and heir to the house of the Owls! Pia was queen of nothing but the Civetta contrada , sovereign of a quiet ward in the north of Siena, regent of a collection of ancient courtyards and empress of a company of shoemakers.

'And on the other side?'

Pia turned the coin over and saw a little owl in gold relief.

'Our own emblem, and hers; the emblem of Minerva, of Aphrodite, of Civetta.'

She looked up at her father, waiting for the meat of the matter. She knew he never gave without expectation of return.

'It is a gift for your name-day, but also a dowry,' said he. 'I have spoken with Faustino Caprimulgo of the Eagle contrada . His son, Vicenzo, will take you in marriage.'

Pia closed her hand tight around the coin until it bit. She felt a white-hot flame of anger thrill through her. She had not, of course, expected to choose her own husband, but she had hoped in her alliance with the Chigi boy that she could school him a little, to become the most that she could wish for in a husband; to treat her with kindness and leave her alone. How could her father do this? She had always, always done as Salvatore asked, and now her reward was to be a marriage to a man she not only knew to be reviled, but a man from another contrada. It was unheard of.

She knew Vicenzo by repute to be almost as villainous and cruel as his father, the notorious Faustino Caprimulgo. The Caprimulgo family, captains of the Eagle contrada, was one of the oldest in Siena, but the nobility of the antique family was not reflected in its behaviour. Their crimes were many — they were a flock of felons, a murder of Eagles. Pia was too well bred to seek out gossip but the stories had still reached her ears: the murders, the beatings, Vicenzo's numerous violations of Sienese women. Last year a girl had hanged herself from her family's ham-hook. She was barely out of school. 'With child,' Pia's maid had said. 'Another Eagle's hatchling.' Apparently Salvatore could overlook such behaviour in the light of an advantageous match.

'Father,' she said, 'I cannot. You know what they say of him — what happened to the Benedetto girl. And he is an Eagle. Since when did an Eagle and an Owlet couple?'

In her mind she saw these two birds mating to create a dreadful hybrid, a chimera, a griffon. Wrong, all wrong. Salvatore's face went still with anger and at the same instant she heard the scrape of a boot behind her.

He was here.

Pia turned slowly, a horrible chill creeping over her flesh, as Vicenzo Caprimulgo walked forth from the shadows.

A strange trick of light caught his nose and eyes first. A beak and two beads — like the stuffed birds in her father's hunting lodge. His thin mouth was curved in a slight smile.

'I am sorry, truly, that the match does not please you.' His voice was calm and measured, with only a whisper of threat. 'Your father and I have a very particular reason for this alliance between our two contrade . But I am sure I can ... persuade you to think better of me, when you know me better.'

Pia opened her mouth to say that she had no wish to know him better, but she was too well bred to be insolent, and too afraid to speak her mind.

'It's something you can do at your leisure, for your father has agreed that we will marry on the morrow, after the Palio, which I intend to win.'

He came close and she could feel his breath on her cheek. She had never been this close to a man save her father.

'And I assure you, mistress, that there are certain arenas in which I can please you much better than a fifteen-year-old boy.'

The malice in his eyes was unmistakable. There was something else there too: a naked desire, which turned her bones to water. She shoved straight past him and back up the stairs to her chamber, her father's apologies raining in her ears. He was not apologizing to her, but to Vicenzo.

Alone in her chamber, Pia paced the floor, fists clenched, blood pounding in her head. Below she could hear the final preparations being made for the celebratory feast she had believed was for her own name-day. How could her life be overturned in this way?

Several times during the evening Salvatore sent servants to knock at her door. She ignored them: the celebrations would go on whether she was there or not. Despairing and frightened, she sat huddled in a chair as dusk fell, hungry and shivering, although it was not cold.

Eventually her father came himself and she could not refuse his bidding. She was to take a turn about the courtyard with Vicenzo, he said, to admire the sunset. The servants were all inside. It would be a chance for her to get to know her husband.

Pia did as she was commanded and walked Vicenzo to his horse as the sinking sun gilded the ancient stones. Still frozen by shock, she made no attempt to converse with him, and by the time they had crossed the courtyard his sallies and courtesies had turned to scorn and provocation. Numbly, she observed how the shadows of twilight closed around her. She took him, unspeaking, to the loggia where his horse was tied and waited silently for him to mount. Suddenly he lunged at her, spinning her behind the darkest pillar. His hungry lips mouthed at her neck and his greedy hands snatched at her breasts.

'Come,' he whispered viciously, 'the contracts are inked, you are nearly mine, so nearly.'

She fought him then, desperately crying out, although there was no one to hear, striking him about the face and chest. Her struggles only seemed to madden him more, and when he grabbed her by the hair and threw her through the half-door of the stable she thought she was lost. She smelled the warm straw and tasted the tang of blood where she'd bitten her cheek. But Vicenzo seemed to check himself.

'Stay pure, then, for one more night,' he spat, as he stood over her, 'for tomorrow I'll take you anyway.' He turned in the doorway. 'And never strike me again.'

Then he kicked her, repeatedly, not about her peerless face, but on her body, so the bruises would be hidden under her clothes.

When at last he was gone the shock hit her and she retched, great dry heaves, into the straw. In the warm dark she could hear the Civetta horses, snorting and shifting, curious.

She straightened up, aching, and walked directly out of the courtyard straight to the Civetta church across the piazza. She laid her hands on the heavy doors that she had passed through for years, for her christening, confirmation and shrift. Tonight she did not tenderly lift the latch but hurled the oak doors open so they slammed back against the pilasters, sending angry echoes through the belly of the old church. She ran to the Lady Chapel and there her legs gave way, her knees cracking on the cold stone. She prayed and prayed, the pendant pressed hard between her palms. Not once did she look up at the images of the Christ or Mary; she was calling on far more ancient deities for help. She thought it more likely that the antique totem between her hands could help her. She prayed for something to happen, some calamity to release her from this match. When she opened her hands there was the imprint of Cleopatra on one palm and the owlet on the other.


The Palio.

A year of planning, ten men, ten horses, three circuits of the piazza, and all of it over in one single moment.

No outsider could conceive of — let alone understand — what the Palio meant to the Sienese. That they ate it, breathed it, slept it. That they prayed to their saints for victory every day, the year round. That all their loyalties, their colours and their contrade proceeded from the Palio, as the web radiates from the spider. The concentric circles of their customs and society originated from this piazza and this day, and this smallest circle of all — the racetrack. Scattered with the dust of tufa stone hewn from the Tuscan hills, run by Sienese-born men on Sienese-bred horses, right under the ancient palaces and towers of the old city. The Palio was the centre; the Palio was Siena. To know this was to know all.

On the second day of July 1723, Siena was punishingly hot. But, despite the heat, the numbers assembled to catch a glimpse of the Palio di Provenzano seemed greater than ever. On other days the beauteous shell-shaped Piazza del Campo lay as serene and empty as a Saint Jacques scallop, but today it was crammed with a thousand Sienese, drumming their drums and waving their flags. Every other place in the city was empty: every street, every courtyard, every dwelling, church and alehouse. The courtrooms were deserted, the apothecaries closed. The bankers had put away their tables and the tailors had pulled down their blinds. At the hospital-church of Santa Maria Maddalena the sisters instructed the orderlies to carry their patients in litters to the piazza. Even the starlings gathered to watch the Palio in the hot blue circle of sky high over the track. They wheeled around the tower-tops, to gather in smoky clouds and break apart again, dissipating like ink in water, all the time screeching with excitement.

Everyone had their role on this day of days, from the greatest degree to the least. At the very top, on the balcony of the great Palazzo Pubblico, with its crenellations of terracotta teeth and tall clock tower, stood the governess of the city. Duchess Violante Beatrix de' Medici, fifty and plain with it, presided over the race with great dignity and grace, as she had done for ten years now since the death of her husband.

Below her the capitani, the captains of the contrade, were in final clandestine counsel with their deputies. These were the greybeards, the chiefs of their families; silver heads bent close as they discussed their final pacts and partiti. Their faces, weathered and lined, had seen it all, and they knew the city and her ways.

The fantini, the jockeys, dressed in silks of colour so bright that they stung the eye, were being given their nerbi whips, vicious lengths of stretched oxhide, which they would shortly use not only on their horses but on each other. These young men, the flower of Sienese youth, were alive with tension, their black eyes glittering, their muscles taut. Fights, both verbal and physical, broke out in little volcanic pockets along their lines. To a man they had abstained from the pleasures of their wives and lovers for weeks now, to prepare in body and mind for the race.

Ill-disguised betting syndicates signalled across the crowd in their secret ciphers, street sellers brought skins of wine or dried meats to those who had been in this square since sunrise, canny fan sellers sold paper fans in the contrada colours to their members. The Palio band repeated obsessively the solemn notes of the Palio anthem, a task they would not leave off now until tomorrow's dawn, each musician sure of his harmony and his counterpoint.

Even tiny children flew the bright flags of their contrada, trying to emulate their older brothers, those princes of swagger the alfieri, who, in the main parade, tossed their larger flags so high and so skilfully. The little orphan boy and water-carrier known as Zebra — so-called because he wore the black-and-white colours of the city, not of any contrada, showing allegiance to no one and everyone — trotted busily back and forth, bringing wooden goblets for the thirsty in exchange for coin, sure-footed of mission and purpose.

The horses too, mere dumb beasts, circled in readiness. Their bridles were bright with streamers, their manes woven with ribbons, their saddles hung with pennants. They were led in rein but knew that they would soon be loosed to race, and must win for the colours that they bore.

Pia of the Tolomei felt lowlier than all of these. As a betrothed woman she was not afforded the respect that she had known when she was a marriage prize — a renowned beauty to be bargained for and bartered over by the well-to-do families of the Civetta. She was now merely a spectator, required to cheer for her betrothed and nothing more. But Pia of the Tolomei had no intention of fulfilling that role. Yes, she was going to watch her betrothed ride in the Palio, but she would not be cheering for him. Pia of the Tolomei would be praying that during the course of it he would be killed.

For tonight she was to be wed to Vicenzo Caprimulgo in the basilica. For the last time she was wearing the red and black of the Civetta contrada. Her bruises were hidden under a girdle in the same Owlet colours around her handspan waist and her lustrous black hair was piled high under her hat. She was seated, as she had been for the last nineteen summers and thirty-eight Palios, on the elevated benches of the Owlet contrada next to her father. Mindful of this position, this upbringing and her aching ribs, Pia was trying not to cry, for by the next Palio, the Palio dell'Assunta in August, Pia would be sitting across the square, as Vicenzo's wife, wearing the black-and-gold plumage of the Eagles. She would graduate up the order of birds of prey to the very top.

All about her she could feel the mounting excitement, almost palpable, like a current of air or a haze of heat, but she felt completely outside of it. Pia had been born in Siena and had scarcely been outside the city. Tuscany had a coast but she had never seen the sea. Yet despite her hermetic existence in her contrada, her nineteen years bound by the city walls, today for the first time she felt that she did not belong. By reason of her betrothal she was no longer an Owlet but was not yet an Eagle; she was an odd, vestigial, avian genus. An aberration.

In Siena every citizen was a product of their contrada. Their identity began with their ward and ended where the Dragon contrada became the She-Wolf, or the Unicorn became the Tower. Pia was familiar with the colours of each ward or contrada from the red-and-blue of the Panther to the yellow-and-green of the Caterpillar. And twice a year these divisions of geography and hue assumed an even greater significance.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato. Copyright © 2011 Marina Fiorato. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Marina Fiorato is half-Venetian and a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialized in the study of Shakespeare's plays as an historical source. She has worked as an illustrator, an actress, and a film reviewer, and designed tour visuals for rock bands including U2 and the Rolling Stones. Her historical fiction includes The Botticelli Secret and her debut novel, The Glassblower of Murano, which was an international bestseller. She was married on the Grand Canal in Venice, and now lives in London with her family.


Marina Fiorato is half-Venetian and a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialized in the study of Shakespeare’s plays as an historical source. She has worked as an illustrator, an actress, and a film reviewer, and designed tour visuals for rock bands including U2 and the Rolling Stones. Her historical fiction includes the Venetian Bargain, The Daughter of Siena, The Botticelli Secret, and her debut novel, The Glassblower of Murano, which was an international bestseller. She was married on the Grand Canal in Venice, and now lives in London with her family.

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The Daughter of Siena 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
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SweetHarmoney More than 1 year ago
Marina Fiorato has done a great job on this historical fiction. I couldn't put it down!!!
MistySkye4333 More than 1 year ago
If you're a historical fiction reader you will enjoy Matina Fiorato. Her characters are real and their situations transend time. Also enjoyed The Boticelli Secret by the same author.
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penname96 More than 1 year ago
Positive note: a stunning cover. This is one of those stories that could have been great. The evil Caprimulgo family scheming for power over the Duchess Violante de' Medici. Throw in Pia, a beautiful woman married off and abused by the Caprimulgo family. Then the hero horseman Riccardo gets into the mix. Sounds like a great story right? What a disappointment. It started out strong, but lost my interest around page 100. The characters never started living. They reminisced too much about the past (I'm sure the plan was for character development) but this was not the case. The writing just didn't flow for me and didn't keep my interest. I was looking forward to this book. The description focuses on a great horse race. I thought I'd be on the edge of my seat? Sadly, I didn't care.
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Wonderful book that has suspense, intrigue, mystery, romance, and great characters.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1723 Siena, Owlet Contrada leader Salvatore Tolomei informs his beautiful nineteen year old daughter Pia she will wed Vicenzo Caprimogo, son of the leader of the Eagle Contrada. Pia is mortified partly because she thought she would wed one of her own kind though few are eligible; and mostly because Vicenza and his father Faustino are vicious and abusive. Pia pleads with her sire arguing a previous fiancée Benedetto did not fare well and besides an owl and an eagle do not mate. He refuses to budge on his decision. Stunned, Pia tries to understand why. She soon realizes her father and her betrothed's father are part of "The Nine" contrada leaders conspiring to take over the city-state from the Governess Duchess Violante Beatrix de'Medici during the running of the second Palio of the summer. The Daughter of Siena is a fast-paced historical thriller that brings to life the ward caste system that divided and ran the city, as well as the famous still running horse race. The story line is driven by the cast especially the two women who both know what is going on, feel they must act, and approach what they can do differently. Although some key premises are over the top of the Cathedral of Santa Maria, fans will enjoy this exciting early eighteenth century Italian tale as Marina Fiorato once again has escorted armchair readers to historical Italy (see The Glassblower's Daughter). Harriet Klausner