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  • The Beautiful Horror
    A Florentine Legend
    Page 1

    Every one knows that Florence, the gem of Italian cities, is encompassed for miles by grand old villas, dotting lovely valleys and cresting undulating hills. Linked to many of these ancient villas are strange legends—histories of wrong and revenge, of shame and grief, of heroic endm-ance and cruel martyrdom. One of the most startling of these narratives is associated with the villa Salviati, on the road to the picturesque hill of Fiesole, a little beyond the villa Careggi, where Lorenzo the Magnificent lived and died.

    The superb villa Salviati is now owned by singers of world-wide fame, and as one gazes upon the handsome portraits that adorn its walls, it is from the noble features of the Italian lyric queen that the eye turns to rest upon a face full of bitterness and woe—a face that has the look of one unloved, yet capable of love, and of desperate deeds through that love—the portrait of the Lady Yeronica, a daughter of the royal house of Massa, the wife of Jacopo Salviati, Duke of San Guliano, to whom the villa belonged.

    Towards the middle of the seventeenth century, there was a grand festival celebrated at this magnificent villa, the last ever given there by a Salviati. The host, then a dashing cavalier in the first flush of reckless manhood, was a few years younger than his wife. She could hardly have been thirty, but the disparity of their ages was rendered striking by the gay insouciance of Jacopo Salviati's handsome, furrowless face, and the stern intensity, the wistful eagerness of gaze, that was wearing sharp lines in the countenance of the Lady Yeronica.

    It was during this feast that one of the spies whom she employed to watch her husband's movements delivered to her a small package. The evening was far advanced. Some of the guests had departed; others lingered upon, the threshold, to enjoy the glorious panorama revealed by the rising moon. The Duchess could hardly conceal her impatience to have them gone. She started when the horse of the Duke was brought to the door, and her knitted brow grew visibly darker. Salviati, with smiling suavity, made his apologies to the remaining guests; the Grand Duke, his master, required his immediate presence.

    Page 2 >

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    Ritchie, Anna Cora Italian Life and Legends. New York: Carleton, Publisher, 1870. 211-226


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