Passion in the shadow of Vesuvius

Written by  Antonio Roberto Lucidi
Tirinella, a tragic renaissance lover reminiscent of Parisina
In 1421 the young Venetian nobleman and textile merchant Alvise Dandolo had been living in Naples for some time. One fateful afternoon that year, his gaze met that of a lady who was returning from Mass at the church of San Giovanni a Carbonara accompanied by her maidservant. The lady in question was fifteen year-old Caterina Capece, known to her friends as Tirinella. She was married to a nobleman in his fifties, Pietro Capua, already father to four sons and an influential representative in the local Sedile, or parliament.
As their eyes met, passion was instantly kindled in their breasts. It was the maidservant who, in exchange for a reward, suggested to Alvise that he pay a visit to the lady. And thus was the fire ignited! Burning with passion, Tirinella was ready to risk all to be with the handsome Alvise. Her husband, Pietro di Capua was too wrapped up in politics, with his duties towards the crown and to government, to realise what was going on, and his age hardly inclined him towards passion. As ever, though, the course of true love did not run smooth. On 4 January 1424 Pietro was at court, and Tirinella, together with her four step-brothers, was in the great hall of the family's palazzo, intent, or so it seemed, on listening to the story of Tristan and Isolde, read by a young man. As she was listening, the shadow of the nurse darkened the doorway and with a hasty gesture she announced the arrival of Alvise.
Tirinella signalled her order by way of a fleeting glance, indicating that the young Venetian be escorted to the bedchamber. However, out of the corner of his eye, one of the sons had spotted a shadow lurking in the corridor. A moment later the young man pleaded a terrible headache and took his leave. The step-son informed his brothers of what he had seen, and concluded that the family's honour was about to be destroyed under its very roof. Weapons in hand, they marched to their stepmother's chamber. Hearing shouts and cries, Alviso realized he would have to defend his love, and grabbed his sword. Tirinella opened the door and threw herself between her lover and his assailants. The tragedy was played out within a matter of moments: the two lovers were stabbed repeatedly, then dragged to San Giovanni a Carbonara and hurled into the rubbish beneath its walls.
This account of the events was related by Giovanni Aurispa, a Sicilian humanist, to Ferarrese lawyer Niccolò d'Ancona, because, by a singular coincidence, only sixteen months earlier, an event had scandalised the Emilian city, namely the condemning to death of Laura Malatesta (known as Parisina), the wife of Nicolò d'Este, who accused her of having an affair with his son Ugo.