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Dreaming with eyes open or “Sognare ad occhi aperti” as the Italians call it is something Sophia, the protagonist of “Dreaming Sophia” shares with her mother. From a very early age, Sophia’s mother encourages her daughter to develop her imagination. Every night before bed she tells her daughter a bedtime story, starring Italian muses. She weaves fanciful tales about Roman soldiers, Cinecitta movie stars, Machiavellian princes, and radiant Renaissance duchesses.

Sognare ad occhi aperti

Sophia’s mother also fills her daughter’s head with fanciful ghost stories like the legend of Donna Bianca who lived in the Vincigliata Castle in Fiesole, the hill town overlooking Florence.

Bianca was a beautiful maiden with skin the color of translucent alabaster. She was courted by many men, but her heart belonged to one man only, the son of the family’s arch-enemy. Hoping to mend an age-old feud, Bianca pleaded with her father to allow her to marry him. Seeing the love and hope in his daughter’s face the old man’s heart softened and he reluctantly agreed to the alliance. 

The nuptial bans were read, and a large feast was prepared to celebrate the young couple and put an end to years of strife between the two feuding families. On the day of celebration, Bianca dressed in her wedding attire, an elegant gown of dark blue satin and a cream-colored bodice, climbed to the highest tower of the family’s castle. She wanted to be the first to catch a glimpse of her beloved as he rode towards her ready to be received into her family.

As he emerged from the forest on horseback, she waved and called to him “amore mio, sono qui! – my love I am here!” Her fiancé looked up and greeted her with a warm smile. At that moment Bianca’s heart burst with love and happiness. She believed her love for this man had indeed conquered all the hatred and evil in the world.

But what she saw next terrified her. From the shadows of the nearby woods galloped two horsemen. Swiftly they approached the distracted bridegroom, pulling him from his mount and pushing him to the ground. A fierce sword battle ensued. Bianca watched in horror as blow after blow was struck. The young bridegroom fought back with astounding agility, but being outnumbered by his massive attackers, he quickly lost his edge. Bianca began to scream uncontrollably, calling for her brothers’ to help. But it was too late. The larger assassin pivoted from behind taking the man by surprise, piercing the young man through the heart with his sword. Bianca’s bridegroom succumbed instantly to a painful death. He would never dance at his own wedding, or toast his beautiful bride with a goblet of wine. He would never know the joy of embracing his unborn child.

Glancing furtively around, the attackers seemed to hear for the first time Bianca’s tortured wails. In unison, both hooded assassins turned and looked up at the castle’s tower. As they did their hoods slipped from their heads, revealing their real identities. Bianca’s eyes grew wide with pained astonishment and her screams caught in her throat as she recognized her own two brothers.

Unable to fathom the monstrous act her siblings had just committed, Bianca joined her fiancé in death, her heart pierced by pain as if it too had been run through by a sharp sword. With her last dying breath, she looked into the face of her bridegroom who appeared before her beckoning for her to join him. Taking hold of his extended hand she rose up and tried to follow him. But, something held her back. She realized she needed to remain here on earth to help all kinds of loves threatened by jealousy, hypocrisy, and discrimination.

It is said that Bianca’s ghost remains trapped inside the walls of the Vincigliata Castle. She continues to haunt the palace protecting lovers, hoping that one day, with her assistance, love will triumph over hate.

Melissa Muldoon writes the dual-language blog in Italian and English. She produces Matta Youtube videos in Italian and co-leads Italian Language Immersion programs in Italy as well as organizes Homestays with Italian teachers to improve language skills and learn more about Italian customs and culture. 

She is also the author of a new novel about Italy called “Dreaming Sophia”. Through dreams Sophia meets and talks to famous Italian personalities from past eras—individuals such as Michelangelo, Leonardo, Simonetta Vespucci, Lucrezia Borgia, Garibaldi, Brunelleschi, and even Lorenzo de’ Medici himself! Dreaming Sophia is now available on Amazon in print and e-pub versions. The e-pub book has links to art, music, and film clips mentioned in the book so you can experience the book visually and aurally. You can also find Dreaming Sophia on Facebook, Pinterest, and more information on the website where Melissa will be posting more stories about Florence, Italy, and art.

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