It’s been 13 months since we left Florence after living there for over a year. Miss it..



How things have changed.. re-visiting Florence from the couch..

Google Street View… the possibilities are endless…

Palazzo Pitti... and beyond...

While reading an ebook – and listening to jazz radio webstyle, we did a little checkup on the geography of Florence, and walked around the city blocks at full-screen with google maps..

And old memories are refreshed and new.. and some adjusted a bit.. with some years in between – the architecture clearly looks a bit different than remembered, and even more beautiful than last visit..

Thanks Google!

Machiavelli on human nature..

Doing some follow-up reading after the splendid Borgia series.. here’s the famous passage about love or fear as a ruling tactic.

Kind eyes... practical thinking..

First, on human nature:

Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you.

And even if love and fear is the best authority – love has to go first:

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.

But – as the 15th century Italy was a lump of independent cities in constant battle – this context shaped his thinking. A prolonged peaceful period of time for a government was never experienced or even thought possible.

Same goes for his experience of human nature – it was a somewhat tilted society he grew up and worked in. All he ever saw was permanent games of power and wealth – even the church was about to split religion and politics apart, as the absolutes of faith often proved impractical in governing the papal state.

Here comes the French… 1494 and Lucca…

Here they come....

After a smooth passing of Milan, the french king Charles VIII and his 25.000 men march on south towards Rome and Naples. But first stop is Lucca, the little gem in Tuscany – which still has its city walls from the 1400-hundreds fully intact.

For a little warmup, the king decides to send a little message to Florence.

Terms..? I'll show them terms..

When Lucca wants to negotiate terms – Charles don’t show any interest in small talk. He’s already tired of the second thoughts and hesitations of Cardinal Rovere – who’s beginning to understand the consequences of his plot to use an invading force in his own country – to grab the papacy.

Gunpowder and cannons was still a fairly new and modern invention back then, which made the bloodshed of climbing the city walls unnecessary. And in some cases like this, made resistance very futile.

The walls of Lucca fall quickly.

This is my terms..

Slaughter and carnage commences..

The word spreads all over Italy..

The Pope Alexander VI reconsiders his options..

Naples starts to tremble..

Let it be a lesson...

And the snubbed cardinal gets very cold feet, running ahead to Florence to negiotiate a peaceful surrender and passage for the french.


spurs the french terms of 400.000 ducats, demanding no resistance and one hostage from each of the big families of Florence.

The King feels no reason to be modest after the italian city-states had proven so unable to co-operate for security, and easily sold each other out for personal amibition and old rivalries.

Cardinal Rovere briefly stalls for a second, then lays flat and rides to Florence.. with a new set of rules for the war.

I surrender everything.. look at Lucca...

And to Machiavellis disgust – the ruler Piero II di Medici quickly surrenders everything at whatever terms the frenh have. The news of Lucca clouds his judgement – and the French are given an unconditional welcome into the city-state of Florence.

Well, almost. Machiavelli tricks Charles VIII into riding into the city with his lance backwards. First upwards to avoid the symbol of conquest, then backwards becase the city gate proved too low for the lance. A small victory for the statesman in the midst of all the humiliating events..

The 1490s… the fate of Florence and Italy discussed..

This my son, is how we rule the land.

The show keeps getting better.. now onto the bigger games of Italy and the five great powers of Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples.. and how the French and Spanish kingdoms covet for the southern part of Italy..

There’s more great acting, and good insights into the power politics of the Catholic Church in Rome at the end of the 15th century. The tiny papal state has the power to crown kings in Europe with religious  authority – a power they exercise with complex strategies and alliances.

Only problem is the internal politics of the Vatican, and the fight for the Papacy among the Cardinals. Which is why the snubbed cardinal Giuliano della Rovere is travelling around Italy to gain support for a coup – involving a passage of French forces trough Milan and Florence to conquer the Kingdom of Naples, snatching the Vatican on the way. The French get Naples, Rovere becomes Pope, Florence has a new friend ruling the Church. That’s the theory, anyhow.

Machiavelli ponders the fate of Florence..

Major take-aways from the series are an insight to the nature of the Vatican’s big politics through the centuries, and a sense of the instabilites of city-states as sovereign entities. The endless games and rivalries among the tyrants is a losing construct for everyone – both for the rulers and for the public.

And you get the sense of how they often face all bad options in their fight for survival.

But the arts and the architecture, oh man…..