In the previous two posts, we talked about developing the character of Ercole, the Romagnol cop who will be guiding users along our upcoming Crime and Punishment tour. Today, I want to present a sneak peak at the Sex and the Sacred walk – and its guide, Marietta degli Innocenti. This character was written and developed in coordination with Julia Rombough, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, who works on the sensory experience within Florentine convents and charitable institutions during early modern period.
Marietta was abandoned as a baby, and she grew up in the Ospedale degli Innocenti, the foundling hospital of Florence. While still a child, Marietta learned the basics of silk weaving, and she spent most of her adolescence working inside the walls of the orphanage. Eventually, she found her way out of the institutions that shaped her young life, got married, and had a child. But, by the time our users meet Marietta, her husband has died and she is back to working the silk loom.
With this walk, we wanted to highlight the challenges faced by the abandoned children of early modern Florence, and especially those difficulties which were particular to young women. Foundling hospitals and care homes provided the abbandonate with what few advantages they possessed – nourishment, trade skills, dowries – but they also enforced strict labour regimes. To highlight this, we developed a character, Marietta, whose personality was shaped by the opportunities and dangers of her upbringing.
In our story, Marietta’s life in charitable institutions gave her a gift for spotting opportunities, as well as the sharp elbows needed to reach the front of any given line. First at the Innocenti and then in the widows’ asylum just down the street (the Orbatello, above), Marietta carefully cultivated her image as a dutiful worker and devotee of the Virgin Mary. When she speaks, she has the confident voice of life experience married to a strong internal narrative.
To be sure, Marietta is an extreme case: a winner. But she’s well aware that many of her Innocenti sisters ended up in less comfortable situations. Some would still be living on the inside, being worked to the bone in a convent or other charitable institution; others, like her friend Antonia, maintain a precarious independence on the outside through a combination of sex work and poorly-paid jobs in the textile industry.
Marietta is as completely a Florentine as our other guides, and she’s happy for the chance to present the city to our users. But, like Ercole, she also knows that life can be tough for the urban poor. An experienced wheeler-dealer, Marietta knows all the best ways to make a living and stay safe in the big city, a service she wants to provide to you, her newest friend. We hope you enjoy meeting her in the upcoming Sex and the Sacred walk!