The Shepherdess of Siena: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany

The Shepherdess of Siena: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany

Linda Lafferty

Language: English

Pages: 359

ISBN: 1477822070

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Raised by her aunt and uncle amidst the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, young orphan Virginia Tacci has always harbored a deep love for horses—though she knows she may never have the chance to ride. As a shepherdess in sixteenth-century Italy, Virginia’s possibilities are doubly limited by her peasant class and her gender. Yet while she tends her flock, Virginia is captivated by the daring equestrian feats of the high-spirited Isabella de’ Medici, who rides with the strength and courage of any man, much to the horror of her brother, the tyrannical Gran Duca Francesco de’ Medici.

Inspired, the young shepherdess keeps one dream close to her heart: to race in Siena’s Palio. Twenty-six years after Florence captured Siena, Virginia’s defiance will rally the broken spirit of the Senese people and threaten the pernicious reign of the Gran Duca. Bringing alive the rich history of one of Tuscany’s most famed cities, this lush, captivating saga draws an illuminating portrait of one girl with an unbreakable spirit.

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thought of the tanner’s son. Could I have been happy bedding a stinking simpleton who would never let me walk the streets and hills of Siena, let alone ride a horse? Every night he would have climbed into my bed, forcing his smelly body onto mine. Once married, I would have had to give up my freedom to be his wife. “Have you looked carefully at the marvels of our convent? Have you seen the frescoes—the one of Jesus climbing up a ladder to the cross? Look at it during prayers. Jesus is not

Alfonso. “What brave girls you breed in Siena.” Riccardo’s eyes dropped for a moment to stare at the straw on the ground. “Yes, she was indeed brave,” he said, raising his chin and meeting the duca’s eyes. “With an uncanny sense with horses. She feared nothing.” “What has become of her?” asked Duca Alfonso “My duca, she has disappeared. If I may speak frankly, sir, I believe that it involved Granduca Francesco and a Florentine who resides in Siena—but I have no proof, no recourse.

putting down a bucket to scratch his head with his dirty fingernails. “March 25th. All Siena is light of heart on this day. Only the devil himself would not find joy in his soul.” The devil himself be damned! “Might I be excused, signore? Otherwise the cook will box my ears,” asked the boy, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “Go, get out my sight, you little beggar!” snapped di Torreforte. “Santa Caterina’s birthday indeed!” It does not change the fact that you were born in rags and

stories—the most painful story for any Senese. Now I needed to hear that story again, even as Zia Claudia tried to command us to come to the table. “A year of siege,” my uncle intoned, recounting the story we both knew too well. “A year with no food from beyond the walls of the city. Many from the countryside risked their lives, running food to the walls at night for the city men to haul up in buckets. Many were slaughtered, their houses and fields burned for aiding the city. Inside the

the blazing lights and the de’ Medici above us. Giorgio squeezed my shoulder, whispering in my ear. “It is very dangerous, these words this poet has chosen. Stay close to me when we leave the piazza. Do not speak to any Florentines.” Again I looked up at the balcony of the Palazzo Pubblico. The granduca stared down at me, not applauding. He rubbed his open palm over his beard. “Viva Virginia Tacci!” shouted a voice from Aquila’s contrada. “Viva Virginia Tacci e Siena!” I sat

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