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When I finished this memoir, I felt as if I were saying farewell to a valued friend. Marco Parentis story of his life experiences in Renaissance Italy is unlike most others in that he was neither a Medici, nor the wealthy member of any other high-ranking Renaissance family. He was a moneyed silk merchant and ordinary citizen of Florence with minor political standing whose upward mobility in the city came from his marriage to Alessandra Stozzis daughter, Caterina. Once wed, Marco found himself the go-between for Caterinas brother, Filippo Strozzi, who was in exile in Naples, and the Florentine government, which adamantly refused to allow Filippos return to his homeland.At the time, the Medici were in the very air in Florence as the de facto rulers of the republican government. Through Marco, we live through a revolt against the Medici family after the death of Cosimo de Medici in 1464—will Cosimos sickly son and heir, Piero de Medici, survive attempts to assassinate him and his son, Lorenzo, by those who wish to take their places? Will Filippo ever be allowed to return home from Naples? Yes, and yes, again.The Medici remained at the helm of the Florentine government for another thirty years, until 1492, when Lorenzo de Medici died a relatively young man. (It is primarily through Lorenzo and his golden circle of poets and philosophers that we have the Renaissance.) And of course Filippo Strozzi not only returned to his city but also became one of the richest men in Florence and the builder of the grandest private Florentine palazzo of his century (the Stozzi Palace, now a museum open to the public). (Success, Marco!)What made Marcos observations (through his record book, his correspondence with his exiled in-laws, and the memoir itself) dear to me is that Marco is not part of Florences inner circle. He is an observer—one who is startled and as wide-eyed as we are when on occasion he is not viewed as an outsider, but as someone who is welcome in the home of one of the governments most important men. It is also interesting to have Marcos take on that government—he is not a Medici man, by any means. No, as Mark Phillips states in his preface to this work, Marco has high hopes for a more open regime.The connection with Alessandra Strozzi is interesting, too. Alessandras own, well-known collection of letters—in which Alessandra laments, for one thing, that her family cannot possibly attend the latest Medici wedding: they cannot afford the clothes!—are a constant source of study for scholars of the Italian Renaissance. Seeing Alessandra and the Strozzi family come alive through Marcos comments is a nice peek into 15th-c daily life.Note: This is not a casual read. The politics are in-depth—a close look at the machinations of powerful men and Marco Parentis response to them.

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