renaissance florence reading?
March 18, 2005 8:05 AM   Subscribe

NovelFilter: I just finished Romola, by Eliot, and didn't love it, but want to learn more about Florence in the era--a very interesting time, to put it mildly--with the Medicis, Savanarola, etc. Any good novels or non-boring non-fiction on Florence in the late 1400s-early 1500s?
posted by amberglow to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy held my attention for the 700 or so pages. It's been years since I read it, but it stands out in my head as a decent historical novel about the time period you are interested in, and specifically involves the Medicis.
posted by brheavy at 8:18 AM on March 18, 2005

I second the Stone book. I'm only about 250 pages in, but I love it, and the descriptions of Italy (Florence, Bologna, etc) it has.
posted by misterioso at 8:36 AM on March 18, 2005

While the whole book may not be relevant to your interests, Barbara Tuchman's The March Of Folly has quite an informative section on the Renaissance Popes and their world. Lots of good stuff on the plottings and machinations of the Medicis/Borgias etc.
posted by jtron at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2005

thanks all--keep em coming!
posted by amberglow at 9:25 AM on March 18, 2005

Sarah Dunant's recent novel, The Birth of Venus, was excellent.
posted by judith at 11:07 AM on March 18, 2005

I haven't actually read these yet, but one of my favorite historical writers has a whole series set there--Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo books.

I've only read her books from the "Lymond Chronicles" series, but those were head and shoulders above just about any other historical fiction I've read. I can only assume that the Niccolo series is also quite good.
posted by LairBob at 11:49 AM on March 18, 2005

Was that Galileo's era? I enjoyed Galileo's Daughter quite a bit. (It's more about Galileo than his daughter.) I was fortunate to read it just before visiting Florence for the first time.
posted by booth at 12:16 PM on March 18, 2005

Ross King's short book Brunelleschi's Dome is, obviously, about the construction of Santa Maria del Fiore's cuploa, but there's also a fair amount of historical information about 15th century Florence, including a number of plagues, wars, and ongoing political intrigue.
posted by Dean King at 12:20 PM on March 18, 2005

Giovanni and Lusanna by Gene Brucker is a slender volume but is a great microhistory -- "Lusanna was a beautiful woman from a middle-class background who, in 1455, brought suit against Giovanni, her aristocratic lover, when she learned he had contracted to marry a woman of his own class." She was certain that she had already married him, but he denied it. Even if the general wronged-woman story doesn't appeal, it's a nice snapshot of daily life in the period.

At the moment I'm reading Apocalypse in Rome: Cola di Rienzo and the Politics of the New Age by Ronald G. Musto. It's earlier (1340s) than you want, and it's Rome, not Florence, but, umm, it's good backstory? And Cola di Rienzo is awesome -- I named my cat after him.
posted by xueexueg at 1:29 PM on March 18, 2005

cool! thanks all! : >

If it's a really good book, i'll go earlier/later, definitely.

(i won't mark a best answer since they all are great)
posted by amberglow at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2005

I know this has been archived but wanted to add some info. The Dorothy Dunnett book is 'The Spring of the Ram' and here's the description:

"In 1461, Nicholas is in Florence. Backed by none other than Cosimo de' Medici, he will sail the Black Sea to Trebizond, last outpost of Byzantium, and the last jewel missing from the crown of the Ottoman Empire. But trouble lies ahead. Nicholas's stepdaughter--at the tender age of thirteen--has eloped with his rival in trade: a Machiavellian Genoese who races ahead of Nicholas, sowing disaster at every port. And time is of the essence: Trebizond may fall to the Turks at any moment. Crackling with wit, breathtakingly paced, The Spring of the Ram is a pyrotechnic blend of scholarship and narrative shimmering with the scents, sounds, colors, and combustible emotions of the 15th century."

Much of the book is about Niccolo's dealing with the Medici family and other personalities alive at the time e.g. Brunelleschi, Donatello. It's really marvelous in its evocation of Florence during its Golden Age.
posted by gleenyc at 3:11 PM on March 26, 2005

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