Publishers Weekly acclaims that The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is “strikingly feminist…a compelling narrative that is difficult to putdown.”
About the Book A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.
Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.
Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.
Q. What inspires your writing?
I draw inspiration from many sources – history, of course, being the main one; historical people and places and time periods that interest me. As an artist myself, I’m also fascinated by the artistic process in all mediums, and that has of course been a theme in my first two novels. I’m also greatly inspired by the wonderful women in my life, who always compel me to continue creating real, vibrant, and resilient women on the page, and to depict the inner life of women as accurately as I can, even when I’m writing across time periods. Lastly, music is always a great source of inspiration for me: it can help get my brain working and even occasionally inspire scenes and help me resolve plot points as I listen to and interpret lyrics in different ways.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
Honestly, I most love writing stories! Writing is truly my favorite thing in the world to do, and I love being able to escape into another world, another time and place – even if the things going on there aren’t always particularly pleasant! It’s the closest I’ll ever come to being able to visit another era, or to live another life, if only briefly.
Q. What is the toughest part of being a writer?
Writing is also hard work, at some times more than others. Pushing through those moments when the words aren’t flowing and the work is difficult and you’re doubting yourself is probably the toughest part.
Q. If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
It’s tough to imagine, because if I wasn’t a writer I’m not sure who I’d be! But I think I would have focused on my love of music instead and tried seriously for a career as a performer.
Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?
“The Girl Who Was Crushed by Her Books” – because I have so many that that is how I will no doubt die someday.
Q. What is your favorite book of all time?
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – it’s the book that really inspired me to write historical fiction as a teenager. The era comes completely to life, and the characters are so real and vivid that I feel like I know them, like they’re old friends. And I love how (as she does in many of her books) she resurrected a little known heroine (in this case Mary Boleyn) who managed to survive the cutthroat Tudor court and make her own way.
Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?
This is a tough one! Maybe Alessandra Cecchi from The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. She is passionate about pursuing her dreams and doesn’t let anything stop her, and I like to think I have similar focus and determination. She also loves to learn and doesn’t want her world to slip from the Rena
ALYSSA PALOMBO is also the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Buffalo, New York.
Connect with Alyssa Palombo