2.1 From Cecco Angiolieri to Sigmund Freud

If I were fire

In the populous gallery of famous people, Siena also has a ’cursed poet’, Cecco Angiolieri (ca 1260-ca 1312). He liked to cloak himself with cursing, perhaps confusing his life a little too much with his irreverent poetic production, as if it reflected a punctual autobiographical story. In fact, it should not be forgotten that in Tuscan comedy poetry (a real literary genre), one had to be provocative, desecrating, controversial. Of course, Cecco seduces and amuses, and in one of the most well-known sonnets, says how much he would like to be fire to burn the world, wind to overwhelm it in a storm and water to drown it. If he were God, he would send everyone to hell, or contenting himself to be pope, he would definitely amuse himself by endangering Christians. As emperor, however, he would be of the opinion to cut off many heads. And in the event that he could be death, he would go straight to his scrooge of a father (who keeps him on a stick) and his mother who is allied with her husband; on the contrary, if he were life, he would find a way to stay as far away from them as possible. The invective ends with a certain complacency: but if I were Cecco, which in reality I am and always have been, I would take only young and fair women for myself, while I would leave the old and racy ones to others. In short, the poet is clearly playing the bully (in another poem declares that “the woman, the tavern, and the dice” are the things that cheer him the most) but, above all, he tends to create a caricature of the angeled love of the dolce stil novo, matching it against very concrete female figures, such as an unbearable wife, or the beloved Becchina, who is madly in love with, who soon turned out to be a foul mouthed, vulgar and lustful woman. Beyond the suggestions and certain references in the rhymes, biographical data on Cecco Angiolieri are rather scarce. Of noble origins, he was born around 1260 from messer Angioliero and monna Lisa Salimbeni. He died in Rome around 1312. His father, Angioliero degli Angiolieri, was among the most distinguished people in the city in terms of wealth and nobility: banker for Pope Gregory IX, he took part, in 1257 and 1273, in that public body called the “Lords of the municipality”, after being twice prior. His mother was also a noble, monna Lisa of the Salimbeni family. A traditionally Guelph family, so much so that Cecco, in 1281, took part in the military campaign to conquer the Ghibelline Castle of Turri, in Maremma. He did not have to be a model soldier. He was fined at least twice for being arbitrarily absent from the camp. And, also speaking of his intemperate character, he received other penalties in the following years. One of these (1282) is documented in the Archivio di Stato of Siena. There is a fine of 20 money «quia fuit inventus de nocte post tertium Sonum campane Comunis» (he had not complied with the curfew and was screaming in the street along with his friend musician Casella). In 1291, he was put on trial on charges of wounding a certain Dino by Bernardo Da Monteluco, but then he was found to be innocent. As for the Roman exile of Cecco, the philologist Celso Cittadini argues that the Angiolieri would have found refuge in the House of the Sienese Cardinal Riccardo Petroni. The abandonment of Siena was probably due to political reasons. No information is available on the last years of his life, except that he sold, in 1302, his vineyard to this Neri Perini for seven hundred lire. Nor do we know exactly the year of his death, which occurred before 1313. It is from February of this year the document attesting that Meo, Deo, Angioliero, Arbolina, Simone, «filii olim Cecchi domini Angelerii», refused the paternal inheritance, because it was excessively mortgaged. We do not know from whom Cecco had these children, and another daughter, Tessa, already previously emancipated and is therefore not named in the document. Certainly not from that Uguccia Casali who certain historians indicated as his wife, and who, instead, was the wife of his contemporary namesake who survived him. In the street today named after the poet, there is the House of Angiolieri. We are reminded of this by an auto-celebrative plaque from 1234, placed on the facade of the palace by Cecco’s father as a reminder that «this house was built by Angelerio Solafica when he was a currency exchange officer under Gregory IX» (the Angelerio in question was the father of the father). If we wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the time of Cecco, we should reach the Castellare degli Ugurgieri, a fortified structure dating back to the thirteenth century. In this corner of the Middle Ages almost still intact, the voice of the irreverent poet could also resonate, who, with his sharp verses, rages against the four antagonists who damaged his life: the father, Becchina, love and his mother. It was they – he will trust – who trapped him like a thrush in the hedge. First of all his father, who constitutes a daily curse. Immediately after Becchina, who demands from him things that even Mohammed could not obtain with his evil magic. Then love, which makes him fall in love with thieves who look like daughters of Gaetto (a famous thief, it is not known whether he really existed or was a legendary character). Finally his mother, who cannot stand him anymore, to the point that the day before yesterday, crossing her in the street, he addressed her a greeting to try to mitigate the mutual hatred, but she hissed: go away Cecco, that you may be cut in two by a sword stroke.. So, to call Cecco cursed is a little too much, but you could call him indomitable and reckless. 

The enlightened economist 

Sallustio Bandini (Siena, 1677-1760) was an appreciated intellectual figure. He graduated in philosophy and law and, after having obtained the post of reader of Canon Law at the University of Siena, began his ecclesiastical career becoming archdeacon. A man of vast interests, he devoted an important part of his studies to economics. A text considered fundamental in the economic doctrine of the eighteenth century is his Economic discourse on the Sienese Maremma, in which the opportunity to liberalize trade and industry with the introduction of a single tax on land is highlighted. Bandini was distinguished by a modernity of ideas in the most diverse fields: economy, science, politics, sacred scriptures. He rivals Francesco Datini regarding the invention of the promissory note. He owned a well-stocked library that, before he died, he decided to donate to the city and which formed the first core of books and manuscripts of the Municipal Library of the Intronati. Archdeacon Bandini continues to observe the city with an intense and authoritative gaze through the statue, work of Tito Sarrocchi, erected in his honour in the centre of piazza Salimbeni, in front of the historical seat of the Monte dei Paschi bank.

Nemo propheta in patria (no man is a prophet in his own land) 

In the course of its long history, Siena has not missed anything. Not even certain respectable heretics like Lelio and Fausto Sozzini, uncle and nephew. We find variants of the surname in Sozini, Sozino, Socini or Socinus (Lelio himself latinized his surname to Socinus). Their faces look at each other, thoughtfully and somewhat disconsolately, in two medallions placed on the side of the family building (where via Bandini ends and via Di Follonica begins). Under their faces, we read that they «in times of fierce despotism awakened with new doctrines the freedom of thought». While the inscription placed on the main facade of the same building (the one overlooking via Pantaneto) reminds even more how Lelio and Fausto Sozzini have been  «against the supernatural revenge of human reason: and were the founders of the famous Socinian school, preceding the doctrines of modern rationalism by three centuries». We forget to recount all the discussions that preceded the laying of these stones ad memoriam (a real monument was not possible to realize it) objected until after the unity of Italy by certain citizen circles. Lelio was born in Siena in 1525 with a genetic imprint that could not be denied: already his grandfather, Mariano Sozzini (1397-1467) is remembered as the first free thinker of the family. Lelius ‘ studies were not systematic, but ranged from jurisprudence to Sacred Scripture, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek. As soon as he reached maturity, he moved to Venice. He began to attend evangelical circles and travelled to much of Europe: Switzerland, France, England, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland. In Geneva, he met Calvin and an understanding was immediately born between the two, although later disagreements of a theological nature would arise between the two. Lelio, while having made their own the ideas of the protestant reformation, rejected the concept of the Trinity, he considered Jesus Christ a human being who well embodied the suffering of the poor caused by the rich and the powerful. He denied any form of absolutism by bringing the religious dimension back to reason. In Basel, he found consonance of ideas with another Sienese heretic, also an important Italian reformer, Bernardino Ochino (1487-1564) whose name came from being born in the Contrada Dell’Oca. Upon the death of his father, Lelius was in serious financial condition, since the Inquisition had seized the entire inheritance and had his brother Cornelius imprisoned in Rome. The other two brothers (Celso and Camillo), considered Lutherans, had to flee Siena, as well as his nephew Fausto. On 14 May 1562. Lelio died in Zurich in the house of the weaver Hans Wyss. His nephew Fausto collected his uncle’s theological thought and elaborated it further into what became the doctrine of ‘Socianism ‘ and which, in addition to the rejection of Trinitarian dogma and the divinity of Christ, rejected the doctrine of Original Sin, the power of the sacraments and the possibility of eternal condemnation. Fausto’s theoretical and preaching activity took place mainly in Poland, where he managed to reconstruct the various Polish Antitrinitarian components into a single movement that was called, in fact, Socinian. He also began the drafting of a catechism (the Racovian catechism, from the city of Rakov) which was then finished by his disciples. It was March 3, 1604, when he died in the Polish city of Luslawice. The movement was short lived. In 1610 the Jesuits arrived in Poland forcing the socinians to convert to Catholicism or to leave. Some became part of the Arminian Church of the Dutch remostrants, others emigrated to Germany and Transylvania joining the Unitarians. The small socinian community remaining in Poland became extinct in 1811. Lelius and Faustus, according to the best tradition, were not prophets at home. Their face carved on the walls of their home has the patina of time and ideas which time, inexorable, disperses.


The friend of Vittorio Alfieri 

Vittorio Alfieri had a great friend in Siena, Francesco Gori Gandellini, a merchant of thirst, a lover of letters and arts. In 1777, the Asti born writer stayed with Gandellini for about five months. He wrote in his autobiography: «So I passed the Arno, and I found myself tough in Siena. And I’ve always blessed that point where I happened…». In fact, it was a particularly serene and fruitful period for him. During this stay, he worked on the Treaty of tyranny and on four tragedies (La conspirura de’ Pazzi, Virginia, Agamemnon, Orestes). The Alfierian Tragedies also had a Sienese edition in three volumes for the presses of the Pazzini Carli printing house. Over the years, Alfieri would stay in Siena several times. For example, we can recall his presence at the palio of August 15, 1783, ran ‘ alla lunga ‘(that is, along the streets of the city) for the Feast of Our Lady of the assumption. The events of that race were the subject of two sonnets dedicated to the main protagonists, the horses: «here they are at the tense canape deployed … in their power altered», we read in one of the two compositions. He had fallen in love with the city so much that he wanted to take it home. In addition to Gori Gandellini, he was close friends with several people, including Mario Bianchi who, in fact, hosted him in the country villas in Geggiano and Montechiaro. His connection with Siena was saddened by a grieving event. At the beginning of August 1784, Alfieri had set out on a journey to join his love the countess of Albany in Alsace (“the one I was always calling and looking for, blind to her for more than sixteen months”). On 7 August, remembering Siena, he had sent Gori the Siena verses, from the hill where it towers and sits. A bold praise to the city where – according to the poet- courtesy, banned from Florence and headed to Rome, decides to stop for the welcome reserved for her by the Sienese and enchanted by their “bel parlar”. The poet says this is why courtesy is revered like a deity in Siena. Shortly after arriving in Colmar, Alfieri receives news of Francesco Gori’s sudden death (the trip had lasted weeks). Disconsolate, the poet will write the verses for him : «the day, the hour, and the fatal moment, / in which, my dear friend, I left you; / and that extreme embrace, which I gave you, / (who would have said extreme!) each recalling». Alfieri would return to Siena the following autumn, but would say that «the stay in Siena without my Gori, became immediately unbearable». Francesco Gori was buried in the Church of San Giovanni Battista della Staffa (present-day piazzetta Grassi). In the church vestibule, there is the tombstone which Alfieri dictated and had carved in marble at his expense. The epigraph, written in Latin, says: «Here lies Francesco Gori Gandellini city of Siena, whose name has perhaps become less known to posterity, of him the same, because, true scorner of any vanity, he would not become famous, ripped her from premature death, no one left the most bitter mourning to Vittorio Alfieri of Asti, said estimator disinterested of his virtue, he himself deeply known, caused him to erect in a short time this sepulchral monument, in memory of the imperishable friendship». But the true literary monument Alfieri erected in memory of his Sienese friend is found in the dialogue La virtù sconosciuta (the unknown virtue)

Why piazza Manzoni 

Along via Pantaneto and past the Arch of San Maurizio (once gate of the thirteenth-century wall) and turning right, you reach piazza Alessandro Manzoni. The basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi stands in a secluded cove of the urban fabric, and from the churchyard you can enjoy a wonderful panorama. Naturally, you will ask yourself why this place is named after Alessandro Manzoni. Hence we must busy ourselves in the private affairs of the Manzoni family and, in particular, of Matilde, the last of the nine children of Alessandro and Enrichetta Blondel. Ill with consumption, Matilde died in Siena, aged only twenty-five, on 30 March 1856. A story that moves and which is in some respects outrageous, since the last child of Manzoni found herself orphaned by her mother when she was three years old and, in fact, abandoned by her father for the rest of her life. At the age of eight, after her father had remarried with Teresa Borri, she was placed in a boarding school with nuns; at the age of sixteen, she left and, together with her sister Vittoria, stayed with her aunt Luisa maumary, who had married Enrico Blondel (Enrichetta’s brother) and, remaining a widow, had joined Massimo D’azeglio in a second marriage. This aunt, a lively and nonconformist forty-year-old, helped change scene for the two Manzoni sisters, taking them with her to Liguria and Tuscany. In Tuscany, Vittoria will meet Giovanni Battista Giorgini, called Bista, wealthy and good-looking, and gets married to him. Thanks to her brother-in-law’s generosity, Matilde, who was already displaying the first symptoms of the disease, was able to continue living with her sister and enjoy the affection of a family. Giorgini was a professor of canonical institutions at the University of Pisa and when a decree of the Grand Duke established that some faculties, including that of law, would be transferred from Pisa to Siena, he had to move, albeit with disappointment. Thus, in January 1852, Vittoria and Bista moved to Siena in villa Bonelli, outside porta Pispini, taking Matilde with them also. In her family memoirs, Vittoria will say: «Matilde, shortly after our arrival there, seemed to blossom again. We took long walks outside the city, and we really liked those places a little sad and grey, but still so beautiful, and in which, more often than elsewhere, we meet the memories and picturesque leftovers of other times. […] Dear Siena! then I cried a lot there, and I left poor Matilde and my Luisina [the little daughter who died of scarlet fever when she was not even ten years old] … but how many sweet memories of those years, of those places, of those friends, who were so comforting even in the days of the most terrible pain!». Even more than illness, Matilde’s punishment was that sense of orphan hood due to paternal disinterest. Also from Siena, repeated letters would be sent asking her father to come to visit her. In the answers-when they arrived – a subservient paternalism always seems to prevail over the affection Matilde craved a sign of. Even the repertoire of the excuses adduced by Manzoni for constantly postponing his visit to his daughters is almost cloying: the bad season, his wife’s aches, the economic restrictions, the revision of the essay on Catholic morality, even the improbable duties of silk farming. In a letter addressed to Vittoria, Manzoni writes: «[…] I will tell you then that if, at the opening of the season, my circumstances (since, however, I must always fall there) allow me, I am determined to come, either with Teresa[ the wife], or with Pietro[ second-born son], to delight myself with you my dear ones in the Sienese House. […] For me I assure you (see selfish!) that the image of Siena laughs at me more than that of Pisa». After further and lamentable promises, Manzoni finally came to Siena for a few days in October 1852. In the spring of 1855, the Giorgini family moved to an apartment overlooking the Lizza. It was assumed that Matilde’s health would also improve in that house well exposed to the sun. Victoria will note that the sister «[…] seemed to have recovered; she enjoyed that beautiful green along the Liza, and that spring air». Manzoni wrote to Matilde: «I hope that the progress of the good season will have helped your recovery. And I too run with my mind to the house that looks over the Lizza, and if I run in going there, I am not the same in leaving». Thus begins an asymmetrical correspondence between father and daughter, where one follows his own set of excuses and the other sends increasingly desperate messages. It is October 1855 when Matilde, with difficulty, verges these lines: «sorry dear Dad, I fear it hurts to complain like this, I fear to annoy you, but not to seem demanding […]. You know you have not written to me in months and you cannot imagine what a line of yours is to me? Every morning, I look forward to the hour of the mail, and I always say to myself, today I will certainly have a letter, but every day there is nothing». From that point, the disease became ever more virulent in a few months. Incessant cough, hemoptysis, fainting, pain throughout the body. Until the afternoon of March 30, 1856, when Matilde died. The priest of Santo Stefano Alla Lizza will record in the parish registry that «the noblewoman Matilde Manzoni, aged 25, wealthy, celibate, died in the arms of her sister Vittoria and those of Gaetano Giorgini, father of her brother-in-law Bista, who was also a loving father to her». She was buried in the cloister of the Chiesa dei Servi. Next to her rests her niece Luisina, who died the following year. Manzoni dictated both tombstones. On the daughter’s stone, we can read: «Here rests Matilda / daughter of Alessandro Manzoni / killed by slow disease / the XXX of march, 1856 / in the last year of the fifth year period / she was the envy of others / for a beautiful life with all the virtues /which sublimate gender/ Her father, brothers/ and sister Victoria / wife of Gio. Battista Giorgini / recommend her to the prayers / of the pious Sienese». That is why Matilde rests in this corner of Siena where the sky opens in blue and in precipices of swallows. And that is why it was right that the square bears her name. 

Freud and the nightmares of Porta Romana 

From the back of the basilica, the staircase descends and leads to Porta Romana, a beautiful example of medieval fortification. Along the two sides of the road leading to the gate, there are still solid railings from the former asylum of San Niccolò, established in 1818 to give shelter to mentally ill patients, but also people with ‘ringworm’ and the ‘secretly pregnant’. Over the years, the structure grew more and more until it became a true village in the first half of the 20th century. It opened and closed its gates permanently in 1999. This Porta Romana is an area of silence and loneliness, often remembered in the pages of writers and travelers. But the most unique description of the place is given to us by Sigmund Freud, who visited Siena in September 1897. In his book the Interpretation of Dreams, he analyzes his own dream where Porta Romana appears to him as a gateway to the exodus of the Jews. The dream- writes the author-was linked to certain events that happened in Rome, as a result of which it was necessary to bring the children to safety. In the above-mentioned dream visions, the scene moves «in front of a door, a double door according to ancient usage (the Porta Romana of Siena)». The dream continues in a crescendo of drama: «I was sitting on the edge of a fountain and I was very down, almost in tears. A woman-custodian or nun-would take two boys out and hand them over to the father, who was not me. The eldest of the two was clearly my eldest son: I did not see the face of the other. The woman who had taken the child out, gave him a kiss goodbye. It was noticed because of a red nose. The child refused to kiss her, but, shaking her hand to greet her, said: auf geseres and to us two (or one of us): auf ungeseres. I think these last words meant a preference». The same Freud explained that the dream had been the result of a complex tangle of thoughts produced by a sight seen at the theatre (named the new ghetto), regarding the Jewish problem, concern about the future for children, to whom it was not possible to give a homeland and a freedom enabling them to move around everywhere. After that, citing the poignant poem of Psalm 137 («on the Rivers Of Babylon, we sat there weeping»), he continues: «Siena is as famous as Rome for the beauty of its fountains; for Rome I have to look in the dream for any replacement with another place known to me. Near Porta Romana in Siena, we saw a large illuminated building. We later learned that it was the asylum. Just before the dream, I had learned that my co-religionist had been forced to give up his position, obtained with great difficulty, in a state asylum». Finally Freud, through a series of conjectures about the two mysterious words, and apparently without sense (geseres and ungeseres) concludes that the link could not be found in the Hebrew terms gesäuert- ungesäuert (leavened / unleavened): «In their hasty flight from Egypt, the children of Israel, and did not have time to let the dough rise for bread, and, in remembrance of this, even now eat bread that is not leavened during Passover time». Nightmares aside, we can assume that Freud’s Sienese stay was quiet and pleasant. There were no shortage of gossip professionals to investigate whether, on that Sienese holiday, Sigmund had been alone or with his sister-in-law Minna Bernays. No evidence emerged, unlike what happened the following year in a luxurious hotel in the Swiss Alps where, instead, the adultery was signed on the Register which allocated a double room to Dr. Sigmund Freud and Madame. But the lady (understood as the wife) had stayed at home, where she saw her husband deliver a postcard that decanted the beauty of the landscape and the modest little hotel (which was in fact far from it). Mrs. Martha Freud also received a letter from Siena, dated September 6, 1897, which read: «I deal with the hosts. Yesterday I reduced the dinner price from 10.9 to 9 lire, and today lunch from 6.65 to 6 lire». Given the banality of the news provided, it would almost be suspicious. 


Produced by: toscanalibri.it
Texts edited by: Luigi Oliveto
Editorial coordination: Elisa Boniello e Laura Modafferi
Photos: Archivio Comune di Siena
Graphic design: Michela Bracciali

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