The Medici

If you are tempted to envy the wealth, power and influence once wielded by this famous Florentine dynasty, consider what it took to achieve and maintain it.

I highly recommend watching the series currently available on Netflix if you want to learn how not to live your life. While none of the violence is particularly graphic, I have nonetheless found myself sleeping badly.

The bank is endlessly on the edge of collapse following some crisis or another. No change there then: think Barings and Lehman.

The family is under constant physical threat from their banking and political rivals. The Medicis are not averse to lashing out themselves.

Life seems to be constant strife and fear which must, you would have thought, tarnish all that beauty around them.

What use are statues by Donatello or paintings by Botticelli and Michaelangelo if you live in fear of a dagger in your back round the darker alleys of Florence or Venice.

Intrigue and violence and a constant battle to stay top dog can’t be much fun. Nor can it have been greatly amusing to find yourself married off to some ugly old tart for the good of the bank or the family.

But it’s all good fun, and, I am reliably informed, reasonably accurate.

If you find yourself less than enthralled by the behaviour of these ancient magnates you will at least gasp at the Renaissance beauty their wealth commissioned.

Stunning palaces and works of art, churches, libraries, all the fun of the fair. How very ironic that such beauty should arise from such venality but then it has always been so.

Bestial Popes, venal Cardinals and such beautiful, ethereal music and architecture. How do they go hand in hand? More kiddy fiddling than god fearing I suspect. I will never be able to reconcile such bizarre contradictions.

Are we that much better off today? Does great beauty and art still have to rely on sordid business and corruption?

I don’t think as a species we have changed much over the 500 years since the Medicis first ruled Florence. In essence it’s still a smash and grab show.

These days I don’t really give a toss. Although I wish the world were otherwise.

But the series has really captivated me. I am forced into a sneaky and grudging admiration for those ghastly rogues and can’t wait to go back to Italy once the Black Death has retreated.

A month in Tuscany beckons.

My only visit to Florence has thus far been to its railway station and I have no pictures to hand. You will have to content yourselves with the above photograph of one of England’s finest remaining Norman churches. It is to be found in a tiny village called Barfreston, a few miles from where we live.

I wonder whether it was built with dirty money? The Normans were a horrible bunch too.

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