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Trivia about the books
THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO
The heroine’s name changes halfway through The Glassblower of Murano – in England she is Nora, in Venice she reverts to her Italian name Leonora.
Two chapters in the The Glassblower of Murano – 1 and 35 – are almost word for word identical. In the first chapter we witness a twilight footchase where our hero is followed through Venice. In the later chapter we understand the context of the pursuit, and the identity of the hunter…
Marina has peppered The Glassblower of Murano with family names: Corradino is the italian version of Conrad, her son; Venetian cop Alessandro (Sandro), has the italian version of Sacha, her husband’s name. Adelino, head of the glass foundry on Murano, is named for her father Adelin, who hails from the Veneto. Daughter Ruby was born just before the proofread of the book, and made it into the story as the stone in an engagement ring!
THE MADONNA OF THE ALMONDS
Bernardino Luini was a prolific artist, but he painted the same red-headed beauty over and over again. He also repeated a secret monogram in his work, an almond within a heart.
His most accomplished fresco cycle, in the Ex Monasterio Maggiore in Milan, is just a street away from The Last Supper, the most celebrated fresco of his more famous master Leonardo.
Amaretto di Saronno, despite its almond taste, is principally flavoured with Apricot stones.
THE BOTTICELLI SECRET
The outline for The Botticelli Secret was written in a villa in the Tuscan hills, next door to the Medici Villa of Castello, where the actual Primavera hung for hundreds of years.
While in Venice Luciana visits Murano, the setting of Marina’s first novel ‘The Glassblower of Murano’. Luciana’s second name is Vetra, which means glass in Italian, and her entire name is a clue to the last location in the story.
Brother Guido, the most learned character in the book, is named in honour of Italian historian Enrico Guidoni, who first posited the theory upon which the book is based.
The secret passages that feature in the book are not invention. Ludovico Sforza built a passage from his castle in Milan to the church where his beloved wife was buried, so that he could mourn her in private. And there is a passageway in Rome between the Vatican and the Castel Sant’Angelo.
DAUGHTER OF SIENA
The Palio race takes only 70 seconds.
Horses can win the Palio without a rider. This is called ‘scosso’.
Winning riders are often dressed in nappies and given dummies to reflect the fact that when you win the Palio you are reborn. Contrade that have not won for many years are known as ‘Nonni’ – Grandfathers.
There used to be 23 Contrade instead of 17. In the 16th century the contrade of the Viper, Strong-sword, Cock, Oak-Tree, Lion and Bear were suppressed for sedition and violence.
THE VENETIAN CONTRACT
In Venice, Plague and fire came a year apart, just as in London.
The Festa del Redentore, when Venice’s citizens build a bridge of rafts from Zattere to Giudecca and process to Palladio’s church, still takes place every July.
The famous beak mask of the Plague doctor originated in Venice, city of masks. The nose was stuffed with health-giving herbs, and if spectacles were drawn around the eyes this denoted the physician’s seniority.
The giraffe is Marina’s lucky totem and has appeared in all of her books. Can you find them all?
BEATRICE AND BENEDICK
The witty lovers of Much Ado About Nothing were so popular in the reign of Charles I that the play actually became known as ‘Beatrice and Benedick’. Charles I himself altered the play’s title in his own personal folio.
The ‘nothing’ in the title is a cheeky reference; in Shakespeare’s day, nothing (represented by an ‘O’) meant a woman’s genitals. The word is also a play on ‘noting’ as so much of the plot hangs on characters overhearing one another.
In Messina, Sicily, there is a statue of Don John of Austria, illegitimate brother of Philip II of Spain, who was said to be the model for Don John in the play.
One of the minor characters in Much Ado About Nothing is called Conrad, which is the name of Marina’s son.
Would Shakespeare’s lovers have lasted? Read Marina’s article here: