This story passes through two different periods in Tuscan history, with the character of Margherita appearing at times as a holy figure of the 12th century, and at times as a modern – day Margherita.
Is there any connection between the two characters? Is the modern-day Margherita influenced psychologically or spiritually by the Holy Margherita? Is it a case of reincarnation?
The reader will experience two historic periods, eight hundred years apart, intertwined with each other, revelations and parallel lives shrouded in mysterious, hallucinatory reality, occurring in the most beautiful region in the world, where history has always blended with romance, religion and mystery.
The year is 1247; the village is Laviano, a small rural community located in Umbria, in the valley between the Tuscan town of Montepulciano and Lake Trasimeno.
Margherita was born to a poor family. Her mother died when she was eight years old and her father remarried and had more children with his second wife. The second wife hated Margherita, and as a result Margherita was pushed aside and totally neglected.
After running away from home at the age of sixteen, Margherita met Arsenio Del Pecora, a young man from a wealthy, respectable and aristocratic family in the town of Montepulciano. He was ten years older than her, and drawn to her beauty and spirit. They decided she would take up residence with him at his parents’ home.
However, the members of the family were not keen on welcoming a member of the lower classes planning on living with their son without being married. Their disapproval notwithstanding Margherita stayed in the house, became pregnant and eventually bore a son.
Margherita lived a life of luxury, banquets and trips, and there was no doubt in the minds of everybody in the town that she was the wife of the most desirable and popular member of the aristocratic community of Montepulciano in Tuscany. She was instrumental in organizing cultural and social events in the region, and became the most beloved citizen of the town; except to Arsenio’s family.
In 1273, after nine years of happiness and wealth, Arsenio mysteriously died while hunting in Petrignano del Lago, an agricultural village which belonged to his family near Lake Trasimeno. Arsenio’s loyal dog ran all the way home and summoned Margherita who followed the dog to the dead body.
The next tragedy that befell Margherita was that her dead lover’s family drove her and her son out of their home. The most popular socialite of the community suddenly became a homeless wanderer, as even her own father refused to take her back. She was forced to sell her body in order to survive.
In despair, and as a last resort, Margherita decided to relocate to the city of Cortona, and to settle in a recently founded Franciscan Order. She befriended two monks, Giovanni de Castiglione and Fra Giunta Bevegnati, who guided her and counseled her to live a new life. In 1277 Margherita entered the Franciscan Third Order where she devoted her life to prayer, repentance and acts of charity.
In 1278, Margherita founded an order called Ordine delle Poverelle to help poor women. She also founded a hospital near the Church of San Basilio and an association called Santa Maria della Misericordia for women who dedicated their lives to the care of the poor.
Margherita died on February 22, 1297. Her body was embalmed, dressed in clothes embroidered with gold thread, and buried in the Basilica of San Basilio. In 1728 Pope Benedict XIII raised her status to that of sainthood. When the church was completed in 1887, she was re-interred in a glass coffin, lying on her back with her arms crossed wearing the same shoes and clothes she had worn since her death.
Fragment of the book
After warning Salvatore, her boss and lover, several times to leave her alone and not to interfere in her private life, Margherita decided to embark on a new profession; that of a call girl.
Approximately a month after she received her first salary and bonus for her excellent work, she decided to hang small notices advertising her new profession in all corners of the city with her new phone number which she acquired for this purpose.
The announcement read:
Beautiful 18 year old girl available for discreet meetings. Must be over 50. Call evenings….
That evening she received a phone call from a gentleman who asked to meet her. He asked the price and what the services were that she provided.
“My price is 200 Euro for the entire evening in my apartment. You are free to do to me as you please,” she answered.
They agreed to meet on a street near her home. She came a bit early and waited nearby in order to first observe him. He was a short balding man with a slight potbelly, but seemed pleasant to look at. She walked up to him, introduced herself as Cecilia and told him to follow her.
They took the elevator to her floor. As soon as they entered her apartment she asked him to take a shower and handed him a condom.
When he came out of the shower she was waiting for him naked in bed. He lay down on his back and she performed oral pleasures on him. When he climaxed, she asked him if he wanted to continue, but he was unable. She handed him a glass of red wine and they sat for a bit on the balcony and talked. She purposely avoided asking any personal questions, so their conversation centered around the cinema; which films and which actors he liked most.
He suddenly asked, “Would you agree to meet me on a set day every week?” Margherita answered that she would be willing and would reserve the evening he chose for him. She also gave him the choice of changing the day if he so wished. As he was leaving, he discreetly placed the money on the chest. Margherita placed a kiss on his cheek and locked the door behind him.
In the days that followed, she had a number of additional clients, so that at the end of the first week working by day at the ice cream parlor and by night at home, she had accumulated 2,000 Euro in cash. When she had five steady customers, she removed the advertisements because she did not want to expand her business.
Salvatore tried to get into her apartment once again, but she gently turned him down with various excuses until he finally stopped bothering her. He never demanded rent from her, in appreciation for the full cash register he emptied every night at the ice cream parlor due to her efforts.
After a few months Margherita opened a bank account and deposited twenty-four thousand Euros in cash. She continued her usual daily routine and did not flaunt her new-found wealth. She did not buy a car, fancy clothing or expensive jewelry. Every morning she would go to work in her white coat, stand at the street corner and distribute to the passersby samples of the ice cream that was sold at the ice cream parlor located at the corner behind the large billboard.
Margherita realized that every positive has a negative side to it. Her sharp mind and beauty helped her to adapt to her new life in Italy, but sometimes she asked herself whether this way of life was the right way to feel fulfilled.
She thought about it many times, but did not have a clear answer. On one hand her bank account was growing and on the other hand she was performing sexual acts that most of the time she did not even enjoy, faking orgasms to satisfy her clients.
Margherita would call her mother every day and they would talk about her apartment, her work and about a boy she had met but did not know his name. She obviously did not tell her about her bank account or about her new profession.
Several months passed and things seemed to be going well for Margherita, so that she decided it was time to expand her customer base. She quit her job at the ice cream parlor to enable her to start earlier and service more customers, thereby doubling her nightly takings.
However, she did not take into account that once she quit her job, the income at the ice cream parlor would diminish drastically. Salvatore, who had gotten used to a full cash register, would stop at nothing to get her back, and if he did not succeed he would take revenge. And that is precisely what happened.
The next evening, while one of her customers was with her in the apartment, the doorbell rang. She went to the door and asked, “Who is there?”
“It’s me Salvatore. Open the door, I want to talk to you.”
“Not now Salvatore, I am not dressed. I will come to the ice cream parlor tomorrow morning and we talk then. Okay?” Margherita said.
“It will only take five minutes. Put something on yourself. I’ve seen you in this situation plenty of times. You have nothing to fear, I will not touch you.”
“Salvatore,” Margherita implored, “I have a friend in my apartment. Please understand me. I promise you that I will come to the store tomorrow morning.
“As you wish,” Salvatore answered, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Unbeknownst to Margherita, the envious Salvatore hid behind one of the bushes in the yard and waited to see who walked out of Margherita’s apartment. After waiting for several hours he saw the entrance light switched on and a mature man came out wobbling from side to side. He got into his car and drove away.
Salvatore waited for about ten minutes and once again went into the building and knocked on her door. He heard footsteps approaching then he heard “Who is there?”
“It’s me, Salvatore. Now open up.”
“Salvatore, “she screamed through the door. “Did we not arrange a meeting for tomorrow? Why did you come back?”
“Because I saw your friend leave.”
“My boyfriend has not left, he’s still here asleep.”
“Margherita,” he shouted. “You either open the door or I’ll kick it open. Decide quickly.”
Margherita opened the door, and Salvatore walked over to the bed. “Where’s your friend? Did he suddenly disappear?”
He walked over to her, threw her on the bed with all his might, so that she knocked her head against the wall and almost passed out. He pounced on her and started tearing off the robe she was wearing. She was naked underneath as she had just showered.
“You despicable whore,” he yelled, “You turned my apartment into a brothel. You got rid of me and took these customers instead.”
Margherita tried to resist but he struck her face with his fist. He raped her repeatedly until she passed out. He got up, zipped up his pants, spat at her, and said, “Trash, you will get out of this apartment by tomorrow morning. If I find you here after that time, your fate will be a bad and bitter one.” He slammed the door as he left the apartment.
Margherita tried to get up but her strength failed her. She was lying naked in a semiconscious state, crying, bleeding from her head with her whole body aching. After some time she finally fell asleep.
When she awoke the next morning, she saw that her pillow was soaked with blood. Despite the excruciating pain that she felt all over her body, she was able to get to the bathroom and take a shower. She stood under the under the hot water for very long time until she felt a bit better. With great effort, she got dressed. She did not take anything with her, just her bag that contained her money and documents. As she left the building for the last time, she paused, turned around and tossed the keys among the bushes. When she got to the main street she stopped a taxi and instructed the driver to take her to the railway station of Santa Maria Novella.
She took the train to the town of Camucia, which was closest to Cortona. When she arrived at Camucia, she took a taxi for the short trip to Cortona. Riding on the steep, winding road, she marveled at the valley below with its sprawling green fields. As the visibility was good she was able to see Lake Trasimeno which was at the border of Umbria and Tuscany and the highest mountain, Mount Amiata.
As Margherita approached her house, she tried to appear calm and not show any of the overwhelming emotions that engulfed her. With great difficulty she climbed the steps. She tried to hide her bloodshot eyes with dark sunglasses. She got undressed, changed into a light house dress and lay down in bed. When she finally felt safe and alone, a growling cry burst from her and shook her entire body. She ran into the bathroom and began throwing up. She did not really have anything in her stomach besides the espresso that she had had in the morning at the train station in Florence. She vomited fluids that had accumulated in her stomach, seemingly from the beating to her stomach she received from Salvatore.
She suddenly heard the sound of steps and realized that her mother had come home. Margherita did not want to scare her mother, so she yelled down, “Mama, I am home.” Nevertheless, Federica nearly fainted and shouted, “Mio Dio. Oh, My God. I did not think you would come home without first notifying me,” and immediately went upstairs.
She could not believe her eyes; Margherita’s battered and sore face. Margherita began to explain to her mother that some street thugs tried to rob her and when she resisted they started kicking her from all sides until some passersby helped her and chased them away.
“Mother, I have decided never to return to Florence. I will stay in Cortona, find a job in the area, but first I need a week of rest. Please give me space, don’t crowd me and let me be alone, as I have been through a very difficult time.”
“But my Margi, I thought you were happy in Florence at the ice cream parlor. That’s what you told me.”
“Yes Mom, you’re right, I was. However, it was hard work and the pay was minimal. Besides, the owner is considering closing down the business,” she lied.