Like all kittens, I’m curious, but I’m also pretty impatient.

First I’m looking out the window of the altana

then I get bored so I jump down and then jump up onto the hammock…

but then I get bored by the hammock, and so I run and look for new places to hide my mouse,

and then I run into the bathroom and get something to eat

then I get bored again and run all over the apartment like a maniac, and then collapse,

Now I’m getting pretty impatient with how slow my new novel is rolling out, so I’m just going to flat out tell you some really juicy stuff without beating around the bush:

First of all,

you need to know that the handsome young guy DeDo is the



great-great-great-great-great-great grandson

of Double R Guinigi.

Yep, his name is Davide “DeDo” Guinigi.

The reason why I had to tell you that now, is that it’s not possible to understand what DeDo did next, unless you understand something super-important that his ancestor Double R Guinigi did several years earlier, in 1315.

Like Castruccio Castracani, Double R Guinigi was acutely aware of the military danger that Lucca faced from Firenze and Pisa. But the two men’s responses to this danger were very different.

Castruccio Castracani believed that Lucca needed an awesome defensive fortification — so he threw himself and his family’s power and fortune behind the construction of Project BRENDA, Lucca’s mammoth wall anchored by gigantic fortified baluardi.

Double R Guinigi, on the other hand, decided that the most important thing that Lucca needed was superior intelligence over what its enemies were planning to do — in other words, spies.

His little son Paolo’s excitement about a fabulous new Guinigi family tower was going to serve as a brilliant cover for Double R’s spy network’s critical piece of infrastructure: a high point that could serve as the launching and receiving point for messenger pidgeons that could bring Lucca critical advance warning about Firenze’s and Pisa’s war plans.

The Guinigi family was fabulously rich, and owned hundreds of banks, caffes, farms, shops, and businesses of all types. One of Double R’s farm tenants was a huge contadini family with 13 boys. The family’s name was Iacobi.

The Iacobi were hard workers, and very loyal both to Lucca and to the Guinigi. Double R sent for the father to come to Palazzo Guinigi.

The father was strong, and quite intelligent, but he had never before been summoned to Palazzo Guinigi, and he was fearful that something bad was going to happen.

Double R met him at the front door of the Palazzo Guinigi, a high honor to the father: “Come into my study, Signor Iacobi”. The father was flattered, as he had never been called “Signore” before, ever.

“Congratulations on your wonderful large family of boys, Signore!” Double R Guinigi began. “How many do you have these days? 10? 12? 15?”

“God has blessed us with 13 healthy boys, Signor Guinigi” the father said.

“Well I’m going to get straight to the point: I want to hire eight of them, fulltime, starting immediately. They will work for my family for the rest of their lives. Each one will receive excellent pay, his own house fully furnished,

a horse,

a carriage,

four sets of clothes,

a female household servant,

and a young man to serve as his assistant,”  Double R said.

“What?????” The father nearly fell on the floor with shock and excitement. “To serve the Guinigi family! My sons will be delighted to do so! Immediately! …… But sir, my loyal wife will certainly ask me, how can eight of our sons possibly be of any value to a family with your resources and influence?”

“I shall employ one of your sons as my personal assistant. I have confidential assignments for the others, which you and your wife are never to inquire about again.

Who is your tallest son?” Double R asked.

“My tallest son? Well that would be my seventh son, Gianfranco, the father answered.

“Fine, first send in Gianfranco for a private talk with me. When Gianfranco leaves, then send in all of the rest of your sons as a group” Double R instructed.

Gianfranco Iacobi entered the magnificent study of the Palazzo Guinigi, and bowed to Double R solemnly.

“Is it your wish to become my personal assistant?” Double R asked.

“Yes of course sir! It would be a great honor!” the young man answered.

“Fine. You shall have a very good life — if your loyalty to me and to the Guinigi family is as strong as granite. But show any disloyalty to me or my family, and you shall jeopardize your life and the lives of your future wife and children. Is that clear?” Double R asked menacingly.

“Yes of course sir! Your loyal servant sir!” Gianfranco immediately responded, enthusiastically.

Double R looked at him carefully for a minute and made his decision: “Fine. Here is your first assignment:

Immediately go to the Guinigi family coinmaster in the next room, and draw 1,000 gold coins of the Republic.

He is expecting you.

“Then proceed to purchase the finest messenger pidgeons you can find anywhere in Tuscany — I only want the finest available — and bring them to my aviary warehouse at Via Roma 19. A group of my soldiers will accompany you, so you will not be bothered by anyone, I assure you.

To be clear:

I want at least 200 messenger pidgeons safely inside Lucca within 30 days. If you cannot find at least 200 of them in Tuscany, then travel to Genoa or even Rome if you have to. If an owner won’t sell his best messenger pidgeons even for a premium price, tell him that he will have to answer to Roberto Roberto Guinigi personally;

he will be persuaded to sell, trust me.

“Then: hire the finest trainer of messenger pidgeons in Italy, signor Bertoni from Collodi

and bring him to Lucca. I only want the best. Find out what he’s making now, and triple his salary to get him and his entire family to move to Lucca immediately.

The Guinigi family does not take ‘no’ for an answer, Gianfranco.

Mystified by this unusual assignment, but determined to please his new employer, Gianfranco Iacobi immediately responded “It shall be done exactly as you have specified sir!” and he walked out and over to the office of the Guinigi coinmaster.

In walked 12 more of the Iacobi boys, most of whom were muscular lads from working hard and long hours in the fields of San Concordio.

“Sit down” Double R commanded. They sat. “I am interested in hiring seven of you to work for me. I am sure that your father has informed you that I contemplate hiring you for life, on terms significantly more attractive than your family’s current lifestyle could ever afford.

“However, you must understand that if you take this assignment, you shall leave Lucca one week from today and you shall take up residence in other cities throughout Tuscany, acting as my personal eyes and ears. You shall secretly alert me by messenger pidgeons of any military or political mobilization or movement or anything else whatsoever that might threaten Lucca.

“But to any person living in that city, you shall appear to be a person who has had some unspecified major disagreement with his family, which has caused you to leave Lucca with great distaste, if not hatred, for our wonderful Republic!” Double R said.

This explanation caused an animated but hushed conversation to be held among the Iacobi brothers, which went on for about ten minutes.

Finally, Double R Guinigi, not used to waiting on anybody, stated in a loud voice “Enough of these consultations, deliberations and confabulations! Quite enough! Up to seven of you who wish to serve me as described, join me in my private library, now! The rest of you go back to your plowing and your pigs and chickens, and leave immediately!”

Exactly seven of the Iacobi sons solemnly walked over into Double R’s private library, waving goodbye to their other brothers.

In the private library, Double R said: “I am going to call you The Magnificent Seven.

“Your decision will prove to be an excellent one for yourselves and for your future wives and children.

So long as you faithfully and loyally serve as my spies, you shall always be under the protection of the Guinigi family, you have my unqualified assurance of that! Here are your assignments.”

Double R then walked around the room and handed out envelopes to each of The Magnificent Seven. Double R had purchased nice houses for each of them in seven cities:







and Pistoia.

Double R continued: “Gentlemen, most people in Tuscany spend their Sundays worrying about one thing: partite di calcio (soccer games). During the afternoon soccer matches, nothing else is important.

A huge Carnevale float from Viareggio could be going down the street with majorettes and music playing, and no one would notice because they are thinking about the soccer matches.

“So every Sunday afternoon, you spies shall send me a messenger pidgeon with all of the important news that I need to know in order to protect the Guinigi family interests and the Republic of Lucca. And I shall send you replacement messenger pidgeons, with occasional messages from me of course, also on Sunday afternoons.

“And once a year, during the great procession of thousands of people carrying candles through the streets of Lucca on the feast of Santa Croce on the 13th of September, you shall have someone representing you — not yourself, you must ALWAYS act like you do not care for Lucca in the least, and would never come to Lucca yourself! — come to the fabulous new tower with trees on top that I am going to build next to this Palazzo, I plan to call it the Torre Guinigi — which is where the messenger pidgeons will leave from and arrive —

and present the special golden ring with the huge diamond “7” that I am handing to each of you now — and your representative will be given a nice bag full of gold that will easily tide you over until the next year.

“Whoever provides me with the best information will undoubtedly receive a substantially larger bag of gold, of course!”

and Double R laughed.

The seven young Iacobi men were nodding happily as they heard all of this, except that one young man stood up and said:

“Signor Guinigi, you are undoubtedly a brilliant man and have always thought through all issues and complications. So, I must ask, won’t all of these messenger pidgeons going back-and-forth to Lucca once a week naturally tend to attract the attention of neighbors and the authorities?

Do we risk being arrested and imprisoned, or worse, as spies because the pidgeons might give us away?”

Signor Guinigi gave the group a cheerful smile.

He said:  “Don’t worry about that at all, my friends! I have already sent out 50 of my men to go all over Italy, in fact all over Europe, to acquire literally tens of thousands of common pidgeons — ‘flying rats’ some people call them!

“In the dead of night over a period of six months, we are going to release these tens of thousands of pidgeons into every piazza, large and small,

in Lucca







and Pistoia!

“My agents in each of these cities are then going to pay a lot of money to thousands of old men and women, to spend all of their days sitting in these piazzas feeding focaccia bread and other food to these thousands of pidgeons!

“My agents are also going to pay a lot of money to thousands of young parents, to take their precious bambini to the piazzas to play with these thousands of pidgeons!

“The result is: pidgeons are going to be everywhere! Thousands of old men and women, young parents, and children will be mesmerized by the thousands of pidgeons! The pidgeons will become as much a part of Tuscan life as buccellati are in Lucca!


The young Iacobi who had asked the question looked at Double R and simply said, in an admiring voice:

“Signor Guinigi, you are a genius!

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