Kirsty Jane Falconer is a Scottish writer and translator who wanted to escape Brexit Britain and so moved to Italy. In this, her first article for hidden europe, she reflects on the Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli. “I love Machiavelli for his combination of uncompromising political insight and that vulnerability that comes through in his letters and poems,” she explained to us. As Tuscany emerged from Italy’s COViD-19 lockdown, Kirsty made time for Machiavelli.
Elisabetta Mori takes a deep breath. “Yes, at the start I was a bit afraid,” she says. Elisabetta, known to everyone as Betty, has worked at the Albergaccio for 32 years. “First of all because there was this tradition of the ghost and I don’t know if it was my nerves, but sometimes I felt him breathing down my neck. A window would bang upstairs and I’d get into a state, you know. Now if I hear the window bang, I realise it’s nothing to worry about. It’s most likely just Machiavelli closing the shutters.”
We are standing in the shade of Niccolò Machiavelli’s house in the hamlet of Sant’Andrea in Percussina, about twelve kilometres south of Florence’s southernmost gate. It is late afternoon in August and the sun is merciless. I look up at the upper windows of the house and see the shutters half open, a glimpse of wood panelling somewhere in the background.
The legend of the ghost is a comfortable joke around the Albergaccio, the historical hospitality complex that includes the house-cum-museum, the old coaching inn across the road — the Albergaccio proper, now run as a restaurant — and the vineyards and olive groves belonging to the Saraceni Group, who own and run the place.