The photo above is of the boar in the Florence market. Rub it’s nose, the saying goes, and you will return. Well, the first time I was in Florence, I rubbed his nose—hard—and it worked. We’re off to Italy next week and this will be our fourth trip. In the years between, I’ve been learning Italian. Can’t bear not being able to talk to people. As always, I’ll be keeping my antennae out ready to pick up possible ideas for stories. This is how several of my books were born.
When we lived in England, I heard the story of Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days when she was just 16 years old. A victim of her parents’ and the Duke of Northumberland’s conniving, the unwilling and tragic Jane was imprisoned in the Tower by the rightful Queen Mary and ultimately beheaded. Jane’s story moved me and became my historical novel, THE NINE DAYS QUEEN.
Then we lived in Bonn, Germany for four years. During that time I visited and explored the city of Cologne whenever I had a chance. Colonia Agrippina was an important Roman city in the early years after the birth of Christ, and a fascinating place to visit. There is a wonderful Roman glass museum there, and many Roman ruins. It was during one of these visits that I found out that the very first crusade of all, the People’s Crusade, had left from Cologne on Easter weekend of the year 1096, led by a mad French monk named Peter. At that point I knew virtually nothing about the crusades, but my curiosity was picqued and I began to research a book about this early crusade. The research expanded and grew, and eventually one book became five: THERE WILL BE WOLVES, SHADOWS ON A SWORD, LIONHEART’S SCRIBE, THE SCARLET CROSS, and ANGELINE. You can read about them on my website, at www.karleenbradford.com
Because of my husband’s job, we have lived in many countries during the past years, and many have provided “grist for the mill.” Now I’m looking forward to seeing what might come my way in Italy.
Italy has a complicated and colourful history. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Attila the Hun invaded in 485, but was dissuaded by Pope Leo 1 from sacking Rome. Subsequently invaded by the Lombards, the country was divided into three regions ruled by the Lombards, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Papal States. From then on it was a series of conquests and battles by the Autstrians, the Spanish and the French led by Napoleon.
The years from 1820 to 1850 saw a series of small revolutions in the Italian kingdoms, until Venice, Rome and Tuscany declared themselves Republics and began to fight amongst themselves. The country was not united until the Kingdom of Italy was formed in 1861 under the leadership of Guiseppe Garibaldi, then World Wars I and II tore the country apart yet again. Finally, on the 10th of June, 1946,Italy abolished the monarchy and established a republic.
Home to powerful families such as the Spanish Borgias and the Florentine de Medicis, and birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Italy continues to intrigue me. Every time I return I feel as if I were coming home and yet, as far as I know, I do not have a drop of Italian blood in me. I think the Italian language is the most beautiful language in the world—no mystery why opera and its glorious music sprang from this country.
There are a million and more stories in this country. I’m off to find mine. With luck I will be able to blog while I’m there. Mind you, I just checked the forecast for the Lago Maggiore district where we will be staying and it’s solid rain for all of next week.
Memo to self: take umbrella.