Maestra Giata, Italophile Enabler

Italian history reading list book recommnedations

Maestra Giata Magdalena Alberti tells us about the Ca’ d’Oro Salon that inspired it all. Then she drops some powerful wisdom from history that needs to be heard right now. Just so happens, it’s from a sex worker.

You’ll have to pardon the ever-constant fangirling I exhibit in this salon and the fleeting recording issues. Maestra Giata and I discuss understanding marginalized perspectives in history, and how to find inspiration even in the darkest places. We send shout-outs to patrons, shrug off the haters, and talk about Humanism in a theocratic world. And then, of course, there’s the book recs!


Show Notes

The Ca’ d’Oro Salon began as an immersive Arts & Sciences department at Gulf Wars (a reenactment event held annually) where artisans and scholars gather to socialize, teach, and learn about post 13th-century arts & sciences. It is based on the historical salon concept, specifically the 15th-century Italian Salon where artists, poets, musicians, philosophers, nobility, and courtiers would have gathered to pass the time away from the scrutiny of church or state. We emulate those “unsupervised intellectuals” at our living history Salon.

Maestra Giata’s blog, a pleasure to read. Absolutely packed full of information on all aspects of life in 16th century Italy.

Follow her on Instagram @labelladonnahistory, facebook under Giata Magdalena Alberti.

Maestra’s “Books From my library that helped me on my journey to understand early modern society on the Italian Peninsula”:

  • Lisa Gherardini of 15th C Florence – Mona Lisa by Diane Hales
  • Caterina Sforza 15th C Milan/Rome/FORLI –
    • Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev and
    • 19th C book Caterina  Sforza  by Pier Pasolini
  • IsaBella d’Este – by Julia Cartwright free online out of copyright
  • Beatrice d’Este – by Julia Cartwright free online out of copyright
  • Discourse to Lady Lavinia His Daughter by Annibal Guasco –


  • Veronica Franco – The Honest Courtesan by Margaret Rosenthal UC Press, and Selected poems and letters by UC Press
  • Sonetti Lussuriosi by Pietro Aretino – This 1524 collection of lusty sonnets forced Aretino to leave Rome despite his many patrons there. These sonnets describe the sexual desires in both men and women’s voices, including one of a voyeuristic older woman. They were inspired by a series of 16 erotic paintings turned into woodcuts by Marcantonio Raimondi, who was imprisoned for indecency. Aretino was given a private tour of the original paintings by his friend Giulio Romano and then penned 16 of the most erotic sonnets written during the renaissance. They were published in a book titled I Modi and translated into English by Lynne Lawner as The Sixteen Pleasures. The British Museum has 9 fragments of the art online.
  • Decameron by Boccaccio is an amazing glimpse into 14th century life
  • Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione 1508-1528
  • Platina on health – entitled De honesta voluptate et valetudine (“On honourable pleasure and health”), which achieved considerable popularity 1460 Rome
  • Giovanni Della Casa’s Galateo of 1558, as an important treatise on manners and resource for Info of court life during the Italian Renaissance.
  • IsaBella de’Medici -book Murder of a Medici Princess.
    A very interesting study of the 16th C Life and Times of Grand Duke Cosimo of Florence and his children, particularly the Princess Isabella. For anyone who has visited Florence and Tuscany, this book will be particularly exciting as the key locations are all still there. If you’ve visited The Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffici, the Vasari Corridor, the Ponte Santa Trinita, the Pittl Palace, and other key sites in Florence this will all be very evocative.
  • Gender and Society in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown, and Robert C. Davis note in their book, about courtesans
  • Tullia d’Aragona (c. 1510–1556): top courtesan in several Italian cities, and published poet. Her books
    • Dialogue on the Infinity of Love by UC Press and
    • Sweet fire: Tullia D’Aragona’s poetry of dialogue and selected prose and Her biography by UC Press
  • Pietro  Aretino, an Italian Renaissance Writer, wrote a series of dialogues (Capricciosi ragionamenti) in which a mother teaches her daughter what options are available to women and how to be an effective courtesan.
    • School of Whoredom on Amazon
  • Sarah Dunant’s In the Company of the Courtesan, Fiammetta Bianchini is fictional courtesan but paints a lovely visceral picture of early 16th C Rome and Venice
  • Standards of beauty in early 1500s explained in “On the Beauty of Women” by Agnolotti Firenzuola
  • Renaissance Woman by Gaia Servadio
  • Women Poets of the Italian Renaissance by Stortoni and Lillie
  • On the extreme measures wives were advised to take in order to remain chaste: “women rarely took off their voluminous undershirt, or camicia. As the Franciscan preacher Bernardino of Siena explained in 1427, “What you are permitted to touch, you are not permitted to see . . . Woman . . . it is better to die than to let yourself be seen [naked].”  Similarly in a book about Rules for Married Life(1450–81): “Certainly, when a wife needs to see her husband’s shameful parts, for some illness or for another necessity, it is not a sin; in fact, it is a charity. But when they do it for brute delight, it is a sin; because . . . some things are permitted to do, but not permitted to see. You, woman, never agree to allow yourself to be seen naked by your husband; because he is sinning, and so are you”


There is more but we only have so much time! Contact Maestra Giata on Facebook at Giata Magdalena Alberti or peruse her blog at



See you in the Ca’ d’Oro Salon. We’ll save you some cookies.



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Episode Credits

Sound Engineering: Evan Meier

  • Intro Music: The King of Denmark’s Galliard, written by John Dowland and published in 1604 in Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares. Performed by I Solipsisti. Provided by MusOpen. Sounds provided by ZapSplat and AmbientMixer.

Edited with Audacity.



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