The daughter(1) of the Duke of Calabria passed through Florence, on her way to wed the Duke of Milan,(2) with a large escort of horsemen, and many Signori and matrons and damsels in her train; a very great and noble company. A magnificent escort was sent to meet her, at incalculable cost.
> (1) Isabella d'Aragona.
> (2) Giangalleazzo Sforza.
We heard that the Pope had made six cardinals, who were as follows: two French, one Milanese, two of his nephews, and one Florentine, son of Lorenzo de' Medici.(1) Thank God! It is a great honour to our city in general, and in particular to his father and his house.
> (1) Giovanni de' Medici, who later became Pope Leo X.
We heard that a monster had been born at Venice; its mouth was split up to the nose, and one eye was by the nose and the other behind the ear; the face was cracked all over, as if it had been hacked with a knife, and on the forehead was a horn. It lived three or four days only; for they cut off the horn, and it died directly. They say that the lower parts of its body were very strange, and it had an animal's tail. And another was born at Padua, on Good Friday, that had two heads, and two hands on each arm. This one also lived two or three days; one on the heads died first, and when it was cut off, the other did not live much longer. Besides the above cases, a woman of sixty gave birth to three children at once. All these strange things happened in Venetia within a few days of each other. The letter described the facts exactly as I have set them down, and was sent to the bank of Tanai de' Nerli. I copied it, and the facts are true. Such signs signify great trouble in the city where they take place.
A letter from Andrea Mantegna to Francesco Gonzaga:
I commend myself cordially. The fame and glory of the most illustrious House of Gonzaga are filling all Italy, and especially this city of Rome, with the rumour of the honours shown to and by Your Excellency, wherein I delight and take pride how all here are perpetually crying aloud: Gonzaga, Gonzaga. The Turk, the Turk! Marco, Marco! It is my hope, indeed my assurance, that Your Excellency will not prove unworthy of the many most learned Lords of that most illustrious House. And may God grant me to live until I see that which my heart longs for.
I am now well pleased, and meseems this is worthy beginning to what I trust will have good continuance and an excellent conclusion. With such feeble powers as I have, I seek here, being your Excellency's servant, to do you honour with all my poor skill. And for love of Your Excellency I am well regarded by His Holiness the Pope and by all the Palace. True it is that I am given only the return of what I lay out, having never received even the slenderest reward; but I would fain ask nothing, being minded only to serve Your Lordship. Therefore I beg that you will not forget your Andrea Mantegna, that he may not lose his wages that he has received these many years from your most illustrious House, for matters cannot go well if I have nothing either here nor there.
Therefore, my most illustrious Lord, I urgently commend this matter to you. Of my conduct here and my zeal, Your Excellency is, I believe, informed. It is a great undertaking for one man alone who desires the highest honour in Rome, where be so many learned and worthy men. But as with them that ride a race, the first wins the prize, so I must have it in the end, if it please God. Meanwhile I commend myself to Your Excellency.
They began to bring gravel to make the foundations of the Palagio of Filippo Strozzi, on the side of the _Canto de' Tornaquinci_, which was begun first on this side.
They began to dig the foundations on this side, and took about 10 _braccia_(1) off the Piazza.(2).
> (1) A braccio was about 23 inches, so 10 braccia was about 19 feet (5.84 metres). (Trans.)
> (2) The _Piazza de' Tornaquinci_; the Strozzi had permission from the Republic and from the _consertia_ (assembly) of this family to occupy a portion of it. These records relating to the building of the palace are much more copious than those written by its founder and published in the appendix to the _Vita di Filippo Strozzi_ (Firenzi, 1851). To show their exactitude they can be compared with those left us by Tribaldo de' Rossi in his _Ricordanze_.
They began to build the walls upon the aforesaid foundations.
And at this time the following buildings were erected:
The _Osservanza di San Miniato de' Frati di San Francesco_(1); the sacristy of _Santo Spirito_; the house of Giulio Gondi(2); and the church of the _Frati di Sant' Agonstino_,(3) outside the _Porta a San Gallo_. And Lorenzo de' Medici began a palace at the _Poggio a Caiano_, on his property, where so much has been beautifully ordered, the _Cascine_, etc. Princely things! At Sarrezana a fortress was built; and many other houses were erected in Florence: in the street which goes to Santa Caterina, and towards the _Porta a Pinti_, and the _Via Nuova de' Servi_, at Cestello,(4) and from the _Porta a Faenza_(5) towards San Barnaba, and towards Sant' Ambrogio, and elsewhere. Men were crazy about building at this time, so that there was a scarcity of master-builders and of materials.(6)
> (1) The monastery (lately built near San Miniato) of the _Osservanza_, a Franciscan Order, who already had one at Fiesole. (Trans.)
> (2) In our days we have just seen this palace completed on its southern side, thanks to the care of its owner. In finishing this work the remains of the house opposite in _Via de' Gondi_ were demolished; this used to be the _Casa della Dogana_, and in still older times the _Casa delle Prestanze_, that Giuliano Gondi bought from the _Arte della Lana_ (Guild of Wool) to use in his building, and in it Leonardo da Vinci lived as a boy, a fact which I was the first to prove in July 1872.
> (3) _Chiesa di Sant' Agonstino_. In the siege of 1529 it was demolished together with the convent which was united to it. They occupied almost the same area as the _parterre_ and oratory of the _Madonna delle Tosse_. The monks were moved into the city, where they were given the church of _S. Jacopo tra' Fossi_.
> (4) _Cestello_ was at that time the name of the present convent of _S. Maria Maddalena_ in Borgo Pinto, which belonged to the Cistercians. In 1628 they exchanged it for that of the nuns of _S. Maria degli Angeli_ of Borgo S. Frediano, still called _S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi_.
> (5) See note to 8th June, 1481.
> (6) In May 1489 the Signoria, desirous of providing for the beauty of the city, and for the wants and convenience of those who might wish to inhabit it, granted an exemption for forty years from any tax for those new houses which should be built within five years "in places where there was no house or any beginning of one." In March 1494 this term was prolonged to the end of the year 1497.
They began to fill in the foundations, at 10 in the morning (6 a.m.), here and there; and Filippo Strozzi was the first who began to throw down the gravel and chalk, on this side, together with certain medals.
They finished filling in the foundations on this side, in the _Piazza de' Tornaquinci_. And all this time they were demolishing the houses, a great number of overseers and workmen being employed, so that all the streets around were filled with heaps of stones and rubbish, and with mules and donkeys who were carrying away the rubbish and bringing gravel; making it difficult for anyone to pass along. We shopkeepers were continually annoyed by the dust and the crowds of people who collected to look on, and those who could not pass by with their beasts of burden.