"Francesco Novello da Carrara saw the sky turn black. Hawkwood's men had started firing their longbows. A storm of arrows hit the Veronese like sitting ducks. The iron tips pierced their necks, finding the chinks in their armour and biting their flesh. Soon the central ranks of the their army spun out of control, broken by the hailstorm of arrows. Novello saw the enemies collapse, fall to their knees, arrows jutting out of their flesh like the stems of macabre flowers. And then he ordered his army to attack the enemy's flank with all their might."
The Renaissance encapsulates all my major passions – Italy, History and Art – and it is mankind’s most incredible creation in a thousand years. Starting with Rome and Florence, but also Venice, Padua and Ferrara, Naples and Milan. A hundred years, from the construction of Brunelleschi’s cupola to the sack of Rome. From the dream that became reality, the impossible dome designed by a brilliant goldsmith from Florence, to the most terrifying and ruthless sack in human history.
In between we have the condottieri, Donatello, his David, Leonardo da Vinci and the lost painting of the Battle of Anghiari; and also, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and the Platonic Academy, the birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli and Lorenzo de Medici’s scintillating court. And the Renaissance’s dark side with Lucrezia Borgia and her brother Cesare, the Landsknechts, but also the bravery of warriors such as Giovanni dalle Bande Nere.
And then of course there is love and passion. These eight essays don’t claim to explain anything, they are just eight fragments in a gallery of words and images: short, educational essays, stories, snippets of a biography, action scenes, short range considerations. The extraordinary art, the frescoes, drawings, illustrations, stills, coins, swords, family crests, a whirlwind of visual and graphic elements, a feast for the eyes and the senses.
All of this in the hopes of sharing a burning passion for Italy, the cradle of art and history, something we often take for granted, something the whole world envies us and that we tend to guiltily forget. Nostalgia? Maybe. But also an awareness of our past, of the heritage that makes us Italian. Italy, during the splendour of its Renaissance.
This book is an excuse to fall in love with our country again. (M.S.)