Sapia Salvani


The noise of weapons and arms rattling against each other was getting louder and louder as she was approaching the window on the western side of the castle. She barely slept that night, ever since she heard Ghibellines retreated to the hillock near her house, escaping the Guelph army that overtook the Colle castle that same night. Anxious to see how the battle will resolve, after rumor had it that Guelph army, coming from Florence, will easily outnumber and wipe the Ghibellines from Siena off the ground. Sienese, were, despite that, certain of their victory, having Provenzano Salvani as their leader, a great commander that won the battle of Montaperti and became a dominus of Siena. He was certain he’ll be victorious too, especially after he was told a prophecy stating that after the battle “his head will be the highest in the camp”.

Contours of the armies in the valley and their shadows moving across the dry meadow, was all she saw, anticipating who will win this time. Ghibellines, fraction her dead husband and her nephew Provenzano were part of, were nobles pledged to fight for King and Holy Roman Empire, while Guelphs were in favor of Pope, their ranks coming from Florence mostly. Imperial party against church party, noblemen against merchants. Sapia, on the other hand, had her own reasons why she preferred one over the other and was eager to know the outcome right away. Lucky for her, the castle and the household she ran ever since her husband died, was on the perfect place and distance to watch the battlefield. Placed at the hilltop, in the middle of pilgrimage route, overlooking Monteriggioni castle on one side and Colle di Val d’Elsa on the other, this fortified castle was always a kind of observation and lookout post. She sets off down the stairs with mind fixed on the battlefield and, after two stores of stairs, reaches central courtyard, protected by tall, yellow, stone walls repelling the outside noise. Pushing the tall, heavy doors she reaches outside, with clamor growing louder as she started walking around the walls not taking her eyes off the field. The sun slowly warmed her back up as she walked through the yellow fields, between bales of hay towards the tower at the left bottom corner. Inarticulate sound of men roaring and shouting, swords encountering, started mixing with the sound of breeze slipping through the rips and gaps of the stones while she was walking up the circular stairs, climbing the tower. As she reached the top, scenes in the valley became more vivid, armies became two waves sinking into each other, then separating, splashing on the side and merging again, spilling the blood and arms over honey colored meadow. It was obvious from the distance that Ghibellines have more people, but despite that they seemed scattered and confused, running around like the scared ants you threw a pebble at. All of a sudden, some of these ants seem to be fleeing over the slopes, faster and in greater number, retreating, leaving Guelphs, grouping in the middle, joyously shouting, announcing victory and finally, lifting the spear into the sky with the head of Provenzano on its top, making his head highest in the camp.

Sapia, as a happy blackbird on a warm winter day does, defying God, lifted her face to the sky saying “Oh Lord, do with me what you wish, do all the harm you can, now my prayers are answered, and I die content”.

“She actually wished her nephew to die and Sienese to lose the battle?” asked I, stepping over the fallen rocks and creepers around the remains of the tower. “Yes, she did. That’s why she ended up in Dante’s Purgatory, in the circle of the envious, blind, with her eyes sawed by wire, as she hated her nephew and wished her fellow citizens to lose the battle”, Paolo answered.

We were on our way to San Gimignano, city of towers, when Paolo wanted to show me the castle he was about to buy. As we were climbing up the road through the forest and cypresses, he told me about the numerous families that owned the castle over the last 10 centuries. When we reached it, it didn’t look as I expected one castle would. It was more of a tall, lumpish building with thick, yellow stone walls and small windows, with uneven sides as it stood on the slope and was upgraded many times throughout centuries. Entrance was on the higher level of the slope, opposite to the estate, as if it was supposed to be hidden. Its huge and heavy wooden doors lead to the square courtyard surrounded by empty walls on the side and three stores of red brick terraces and their overlapping arches in front. Walls, covered with wild grass, were protecting peaceful piece of indoor yard from rays and sounds coming from the outside.

“I need to show you something”, said Paolo, breaking the silence, inviting me back outside into the field that stretches toward Monteriggioni castle. At the bottom, left corner, what, at first, seemed to be a pile of rocks grown in bushes, as we approached it was in fact remains of the round tower, with spiral stairs following one remaining wall and stopping at its half, with the rest of it spilled on the ground. My gaze shifted over damaged walls and lizards disappearing in its cracks to the golden hills and dark green valleys in front of the tower, when Pier told me “It’s yours.” I turned to him, question mark drawn over my face, wondering if I misheard him. “I want you to have this piece of land, especially this tower; it has your name written all over it. It belongs to you” he added.

“Are we part of some medieval play? Am I supposed to be Lady Sapia Salvani and you the lord Ghinibaldo Saracini?” I joked, still wrapping my head around what he just said, looking back and forth to him, tower and the castle.

“Might be. I’d like to think I am more handsome than him, but whatever.”

“Is this for real?” I thought to myself, my eyes fixed on same stairs Sapia climbed that June 1269, praying for Ghibellines to lose the battle, for her vicious, private reasons, that she repented later, in her mature age.

“But you for sure are no Sapia Salvani”, Paolo continued, drawing my attention back, “She herself said, in Purgatory – Sapient (knowledgeable) I wasn’t, although I Sapia was called. I was at another’s harm, more happy far than at my own good fortune

“And Ivana, you are everything she wasn’t. You belong to this land and this land belongs to you, more than it belonged to Sapia or anyone else on that matter. I am just happy I get to offer it to you. The tower is yours. It belongs to you”.

I stayed numb for a moment, then nodded in acceptance and appreciation, looked back at the top of the stairs, wondering if someone will come here, few centuries from now, look at this pile of rocks and listen to the story about a man gifting a tower to a woman, bringing her the sense of belonging, pledging his respect and love to her, winning her heart over.

“Sapient she was, although Ivana she was called, very happy at her own good fortune”, they might say. “Because someone supported and loved her”, I’d add.

Published by ratomirovna

Travel gal. Storyteller. The voluntary slave of Duda and Pier. Mother's daughter. Brother's bro. Road tripping and budget travel master. Fan of turkish coffee. Into hats. In romance with Italy since 2015. You offer an adventure, i say "yes please"

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