The Many Lives of a Florentine Palazzo


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Advance Praise for House of Secrets


In this provocative and lively account, Allison Levy deftly mingles scholarship and personal history to tell the story of a building that is also the story of a family, a city, a country and a continent over the course of several tumultuous centuries. Essential reading for lovers of Florence, House of Secrets will join Shirley Hazzard’s Greene on Capri, Jan Morris’s Venice, and Edith Templeton’s The Surprise of Cremona on the shelf that I reserve for those rare books that tell us something new—and true—about Italy.

David Leavitt

Author of Florence, A Delicate Case

With House of Secrets, Allison Levy presents an enthralling tour through an extraordinary Florentine palazzo, complete with romance, murder, lives of the rich and famous, and layer upon layer of history ranging from the heart of the Renaissance to yesterday. A scholarly thriller that is virtually impossible to put down.

Ingrid Rowland

Author of From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town

With the delicious happenstance of securing her lodging in a grand Renaissance Florentine palazzo (otherwise quite off limits to the public), the author weaves together a lively—dare one say sexy?—personal narrative with a chronicle of several hundred years in the life of the city’s nobility. We meet not only the very multi-colored Rucellai family, but also a whole cast of other characters. There is hardly a bold-face name in the Italian Renaissance who doesn’t get to play at least a cameo role. As we absorb a flood of delightful anecdotes from past and present, we slowly come to realize that we are in the hands of a scholar who is teaching us a great deal about a vibrant episode in the European past. The book is a triumph of both story-telling and history-telling.

Leonard Barkan

Author of Michelangelo: A Life on Paper

Art Historian Allison Levy has written a delightful, fascinating, and riveting yarn about a palazzo, a family, and a city across time. In her tale, scandals, orgies, murders, and love affairs (including her own) mingle with the creation of extraordinary architecture, art, and patrimony. Her cast of characters is rich, from Leon Battista Alberti to Cy Twombly, from Nannina de’ Medici to Lysina Rucellai. At once highly entertaining, profound, and enlightening, Levy’s account succeeds in making the walls of the Palazzo Rucellai sing.

Jenny McPhee

Author and translator of Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon

Florentine Renaissance palazzi are so well-known that it seems little can be said about them afresh. Allison Levy manages that rare feat in her personal and behind-the-scenes exploration of Palazzo Rucellai, bringing on stage its inhabitants over the past six centuries and fleshing out the dreams and dramas that unfolded inside the building. The story she weaves is rich in history and anecdote, scholarly erudition and private experiences. The resulting book is as layered and multi-dimensional as the palazzo itself.

Marina Belozerskaya

Author of The Medici Giraffe