Rachel arrives in Piombino on a clear spring morning. The sun illuminated the sea and the houses in the Old Town in bright colours, bringing out the shades of the squares and alleys far from the big factories. A captivating show for those who, like her, had grown accustomed to the more melancholic landscape of the north. Her love for art had brought her from Florence, where she was staying for a few weeks, directly to Piombino, fascinated by the story of the beautiful Simonetta Cattaneo, considered by many to be Botticelli’s muse for the absolute masterpiece of Renaissance beauty: "The birth of Venus". During a visit to the Uffizi, Rachel was impressed by the face of Venus, whose features were the very ideal of perfection, inspired by a woman who was considered to be the most charming lady of the 1470s, loved by artists, poets and the powerful, perhaps because she died young. Rachel discovered that Simonetta, of Genoese origin, lived in Piombino for ten years, a Signoria under the Appiani at the court of Jacopo III.
So she heads straight for the ancient heart of the city in search of the building where the young woman had lived, the ancient and noble palazzo degli Appiani, which stands in Piazza Bovio and from which the Lords controlled the sea, the Pisan formwork, whose upper part became the present day Citadel. Here the beautiful Simonetta lived alongside her sister Battistina who was married to Jacopo III. And in this old mansion, which over the years has been used for different purposes and is now an institute for marine biology, Rachel imagines the girl's life before she met Marco Vespucci, the groom who brought her back to Florence at the age of 16.
Now, in front of Rachel, the sea appears. In the background Palmaiola, Elba Island and the small island of Topi guard the scene and even farther away are the islands of Capraia, Corsica and Montecristo. Rachel sees a bench in Piazza Bovio. It’s impossible to resist the temptation to sit down between the blue water and the celestial sky. "Piazza Bovio is like the prow of a ship, it embraces the sea seamlessly," Rachel thinks. Fascinated by the ships that left the dock, Rachel begins to follow the line of the promontory and imagines white pebble coves and inlets in the middle of the Mediterranean maquis. Noting fishing nets hung out to dry in the nearby marina, she thinks about the fishing boats in the rich-in-fish channel.
Think about life’s mysteries. If Simonetta had never come to Piombino, she would have never met Marco and so would never have moved to Florence and would not have become the muse of Botticelli, Poliziano, Pulci and Lorenzo de 'Medici. And she would not have known Piombino.