THE MADONNA OF THE ALMONDS by Marina Fiorato
The year is 1525. A young widow, Simonetta di Saronno struggles to preserve her estate after the death of her husband. A gifted young artist, Bernardino Luini of the Da Vinci school, is commissioned to paint a religious fresco in the hills of Lombardy and his eye is caught by the beautiful Simonetta.
Captivated by her beauty and her sadness Bernardino paints her likeness, immortalising her as the Madonna in his famous work which can still be seen in the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazia in Saronno.
As the sittings progress artist and model fall in love, and Simonetta reciprocates Luini’s genius by creating a work of art of her own. She makes a drink for her lover from the juice of almonds – still enjoyed to this day as Amaretto di Saronno.
But as the fresco and the liqueur near their completion the couple’s affair distils into a heady brew of religious scandal which threatens their love; and ultimately their lives.