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The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book 
The Lesser-Known Medici of Florence.

Linguistic Note

The Ponte Vecchio is a famous bridge in Firenze, Italy. “Ponte Vecchio,” in Italian, sounds mellifluous and romantic. Translation into the barbarous tongue of England somewhat dampens this effect. For example, you could arrange a midnight tryst like this (Italian Version): “Incontriamoci sul Ponte Vecchio, carissima.” Or like this (English Version): Meet me on the Old Bridge, dearest.” Which sounds more inviting?

Since I wrote this book for English savages, I have consented, under relentless coercion from my editor (a former human intelligence collector at black ops locations throughout the Middle East), to refer to the city of Firenze by its anglicized name, “Florence.” Personally, I do not like Florence. It always puts me in mind of Florence Henderson, the perky, mildly arousing, MILF on The Brady Bunch.  But I’ve used it (with considerable reluctance, obviously) to make things easier for you, the English reader.

Ponte Vecchio, however, will remain Ponte Vecchio. If, as an English-speaking brute, you prefer to think of it as the Old Bridge, feel free. As you are reading along, simply substitute “Ponte Vecchio” (silently, in your head) with “Old Bridge.” If this is too complicated, you could also Wite-Out every “Ponte Vecchio” in the text and write in “Old Bridge,” provided you own the book, and it is in fact a book.  Applying Wite-Out to a Nook, Kindle, or other e-reader is not recommended.

Historical Note

In 1565 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de’ Medici, installed a private skywalk over the Ponte Vecchio. This passage, known as the Vasari Corridor (after its architect, Giorgio Vasari), runs all the way from City Hall, through Santa Felicita Church, to the Medici palace across the Arno River. By using the corridor, the Medici could effectively live, work, and attend mass in Florence without meeting a single smelly commoner.

Biography of Ugo de’ Medici

Thanks to the Vasari Corridor, the Medici were also able to lurk above the Ponte Vecchio and spy on people through small windows.  One member of the family—Prince Ugo de’ Medici—exploited these peepholes to voyeuristic ends.  What little is known of Ugo comes down to us from the casebooks of Dr. Luigi Stugatzi, a sanatorium physician who treated him in Tivoli around 1570.

Ugo was born to Cosimo and Eleanor de’ Medici in 1549. As a baby, he displayed an unusual fascination with his genitalia. At an age when most infants are content to crap their nappies and vomit milk, Ugo was masturbating—vigorously and constantly.

At first, his parents found this amusing.

“Look,” said Cosimo. “Little Ugo’s at it again.”

“Isn’t he charming?” said Eleanor.

During dinner parties they would bring him out after dessert to entertain their guests, who cheered his wailing orgasms.

“The Masturbating Prince” was considered quite a prodigy, and quickly became the talk of Florence. Ten years later, Ugo was still showing off his talents, and people were still talking, though not in favorable terms. In fact, they were beginning to suspect there was something seriously wrong with the heir to the dukedom.

As Ugo entered his teens, Cosimo tried to break him of his habit by sending nude courtesans to his bedroom. But the Prince had no interest in fornication. He would merely stare at the women and abuse himself as he always had, though he did notice that their presence made his daily exercises more pleasurable.

When Ugo tired of looking at courtesans, he began to seek female variety in the piazzas of Florence. As the son of a Grand Duke, he would never have mixed socially with peasants, yet the appeal of lower-class cleavage, when viewed from a safe distance, proved irresistible.

Cosimo, after receiving numerous complaints from fishwives and washerwomen, was forced to confine Ugo to the palace. Because the palace was connected to the Vasari Corridor, Ugo (now nearly 20) became a regular spectator above the Ponte Vecchio. When he was caught, for the hundredth time, manipulating himself at the windows, his father decided to send him to a sanatorium in Tivoli renowned for its progressive treatments of debilitating mental disorders. Ugo’s therapy (very advanced at the time) involved being clamped into a pair of leather gloves with shards of glass sewn into the palms.

One day, while looking out the window in the onanism ward, Ugo spied a nun walking along the road. Her skirt caught on a rough cobblestone and tore, exposing a long, shapely, somewhat unchristian, thigh. Ugo, unable to control himself, went at it with his gloves on, and ruined, permanently, any chance he had of producing a male heir.  Thus, he was passed over in the line of succession, leaving his younger brother, Ferdinando, to rule Tuscany. So shameful was Ugo’s autoerotic urge that Ferdinando, in an attempt to preserve the dignity of the Medici, struck his name from the family tree forever. 

What happened to Ugo is unknown. Some sources say he turned up as a castrato in an all-male Vatican choir, while others claim he was shipped off to Peking, where he became a powerful eunuch in the court of the Wanli Emperor.

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