Castruccio Castracani was highly intelligent, aggressive, rich and powerful, but he knew that he was not a king.

Lucca was a Republic.

So even though Castracani usually got what he wanted, he also knew that Project BRENDA had some pretty significant obstacles in front of it, starting with the very important fact that the land upon which Castracani wanted to build his massive baluardi connected by huge red brick walls at least 40 feet tall was fully occupied by hundreds of little houses, shops, offices, factories, streets and whatnot.

Castracani called for his long-time assistant Gerardo

“Gerardo, who is the most clever and successful real estate developer in Lucca today, who is capable of leading the greatest real estate project that our city will ever witness, and that will become the universally recognized and respected symbol of our Republic?” Castracani asked.

Gerardo answered cautiously “I am not an expert in that field, sir. Let me visit Caffe Savoia in the late afternoon, and I will seek advice from the brilliant banker Christian di Swiss,

who has made hundreds of thousands of lire for Banco di Lucca financing major real estate deals of all types.”

That evening, Gerardo reported back to Duke Castracani. “Christian di Swiss strongly urges the Duke to consider employing the services of a Signor Lenci, head of the firm of Lenci, Oaktoni & Chuti Ltd.”

Have him come to my office tomorrow morning at 10″, Castracani directed Gerardo.

The next morning, Signor Lenci arrived at Palazzo Castracani in a magnificent carriage pulled by many horses.

To what do I owe this honor, my Duke?” Signor Lenci asked, bowing courteously.

Please sit down sir. I shall require several hours of your time. Please tell your assistant to cancel the rest of your appointments for today” the Duke ordered, rather imperiously.

I am honored, my Duke” Signor Lenci replied, and gave the order to his assistant, leaving only them and Gerardo

in Castracani’s gigantic and extremely luxurious study, which was full of fabulous paintings, oriental rugs, statues, furniture and other extremely expensive and rare objects.

For the next two hours, Castracani showed Signor Lenci hundreds of detailed blueprints and artist renderings of Castracani’s Project BRENDA, which Castracani had hired

the greatest architect in Lucca, Fede LaSpezia

to secretly prepare over the past six months.

It was very impressive, to say the least. Signor Lenci was visibly shocked and impressed by the gargantuan scope of Project BRENDA.

Duke, this project will make the walls of Bergamo,


San Gimignano,


and Perugia

look like the toys that babies play with!”

Signor Lenci exclaimed with great excitement.

Yes, I know that very well, but the question I must put to you Signor, is how shall I best acquire the real estate upon which these magnificent baluardi, walls, cannons and associated fortifications shall be built?” the Duke responded.

Signor Lenci shifted in his ornate and magnificent chair. He was an exceedingly clever, some would say brilliant, real estate strategist. He wanted to win, and he was willing to do what it took to win, provided that his client had sufficient financial resources to bear the costs of winning.

Your brilliant Project BRENDA will cost a very great deal, my Duke. Just acquiring the necessary real estate will take a great deal of effort … and an extraordinarily large amount of money!”

Signor Lenci warned:

Is the Duke prepared to bring the entire weight of the Lucchese treasury to this effort? Because this is not a simple transaction, even for a man of your immense resources!”

I am fully aware of the costs!” the Duke replied hotly.

“The resources that I have available for this project are beyond your imagination! Another word from you, supposing to lecture me about finances, and you may well enjoy the next several years in the dark unpleasant dungeon that is several floors below where we are sitting, sir!”

I DEEPLY APOLOGIZE TO MY DUKE FOR MY INSOLENCE!” Signor Lenci humbly apologized. “It would be my honor to assist the Duke in any way that this humble person may be able to!”

Mollified, the Duke responded “Then tell me Signor Lenci, if you were to be charged with the responsibility of acquiring the enormous amount of real estate needed for Project BRENDA — a project that must proceed forward with great urgency, for the defense of Lucca against the evil nations of Firenze and Pisa — how would you do it?”

If my Duke will grant my firm the necessary time to consider the matter, I shall be prepared to brief the Duke on potential strategies for acquiring the needed real estate in no more than a month’s time.” Signor Lanci suggested.

Castracani looked carefully at Signor Lenci for at least two minutes, saying nothing. He looked grim.

Signor Lenci suddenly said “Upon further thought my Duke, I believe that if my senior partners and I abandon all of our other assignments to subordinates, the necessary planning can be completed within only a single week!”

Castracani then smiled broadly, and motioned for Gerardo to bring him a large wooden box that was behind Castracani’s huge desk. Castracani opened the box, and counted out 19 fat gold coins of the Republic of Lucca, each of which had imprinted upon them the Latin phrase Lucca Lucensis”.

Signor Lenci’s eyes opened wide with amazement and delight. This was the most lucrative retainer that his firm had ever received, by far.

I expect you and your senior partners to be working on Project BRENDA non-stop, all day and all night. Anything less than your finest work, and you and your firm are finished. You will be designing outhouses for contadini. 

Is that clear?” Castracani asked with a note of menace in his voice.

“YES SIR, MY DUKE! PERFECTLY CLEAR!!!” Signor Lenci immediately responded, and Gerardo walked him out the front door of the palazzo.

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