Love in Venice

Palazzo di Bianca Cappello, Florence
I first came across the name of Bianca Cappello many years ago when I was living in Florence. I was renting an apartment on the southern edge of the city and my cycling route into town took me past the palazzo, with its fabulous façade, which bears Bianca's name. I soon discovered that its erstwhile resident was not a Florentine, but a daughter of the Serenissima.

Bianca Cappello was born in 1548, the daughter of Bartolomeo Cappello and Pellegrina Morosini. The palazzo in which she was born still stands in the sestiere of San Polo.
At the tender age of fifteen this scion of one of the richest and most noble Venetian families fell in love with a young Florentine clerk, by the name of Pietro Bonaventuri, who worked in a nearby bank. On the night of November 28th, 1563, the couple eloped and all hell broke out in Venice. Pietro was banished from the city on pain of death if he ever returned, while Bianca was simply banished. 
Palazzo Cappello, Venice
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 Duke Cosimo I. Pietro's infidelity cost him his life, Bianca's ended in marriage. 

In 1574, Francesco succeeded to power following the death of his father. Four years later Francesco's wife, Joanna of Austria, died 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 her as a 'true and special daughter of the Republic'. Hypocrites!

Francesca and Bianca died within twenty-four hours of each other in October 1587, while they were staying at the Medici Villa in Poggio a Caiano. 


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