The ruined monastery featured in Immortal Venus, Monte Malsano, was based on actual ruins located northeast of the town of Bagno a Ripoli, near Florence, Italy. Its history as reported in Immortal Venus is pure fiction.
The real ruins, a deteriorated structure half-hidden by the woods,
The ruined building was later called Il Palazzaccio di Marcignano, for it’s location. Historical references found on the internet at www.castellitoscani.com/marcignano.htm give its name as Castello dei Da Gavignano, or Castle of the Da Gavignano family. It was constructed in the 12th Century. Architectural details and the actual history of the ruins can be found on the above link.
I first saw the ruins when we were on a family excursion gathering chestnuts. As we climbed further into the chestnut woods we came across fallen brickwork and occasional holes where worn pavement had collapsed, suggesting hidden underground spaces.
into a pasture and turned around for this view. In Immortal Venus my awed protagonist, Megan Eston, follows in our footsteps, and this is the view of the façade that inspires her drawing.
The locals at the time of our discovery were unable to give us a history of the ruined structure; they seemed to believe it had been either a monastery, or a fortress.They told us a local rumor … that a tunnel might lead from there to a tower in the neighboring village of Quarate.
I’ve recently been informed that the owners have fenced in the entire property and have razed the structure and the chestnut woods. Where the ruins stood there is now only flat lawn and a few benches.
What a shame that such a well-loved local monument couldn’t be saved, even in its ruined state! Especially in its ruined state. There’s something about a ruin that makes our imaginations run wild. Immortal Venus would have been different if I hadn’t had the good fortune to experience my aha-moment of discovery. ===================================================
The photo of the tower of Quarate is by Tommaso Baldini. All other photos were taken by Mauro Salvadori, painter and author of La Polvere e il Tempo. Here Mauro stands below the facade of Il Palazzaccio.