Siena & its Women

Siena was very important during the Middle Ages. Located on the via Francigena, the main road connecting the north of Europe to Rome, the city quickly developed its 'penchant' for banking and trading. Soon the Ghibelline republic started a long fight - with many temporary agreements - with Florence. The brutal end of the story came with the conquest of Siena by Imperial and Florentine troops in 1555, and its annexation, four years later, into the Duchy of Florence.

Throughout this period of history, women seem to be non-existent. But we know that Sienese women were quoted by illustrious authors, among them Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, later pope Pius II.

My project is to reconstruct the history of the difficult times between the early 1500s and the 1560s as experienced through the lives of women. I look for their activities in the familial, social, and economic life of their natal and marital families; their role in the life of their children and relatives, in culture, in female artistic patronage, and also in the male political arena.

The town was relatively small and the number of people belonging to the same social class was relatively low. Everybody knew everybody else: inter-marriages were frequent and often politically strategic.

The period of time I consider is one of the most complex in Sienese history and still awaits an accurate political and economic analysis. For this reason the role of women cannot be neglected.