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On Literary Location with DV Bishop

  • Submitted: 15th February 2024

On Literary Location with DV Bishop

Ritual of Fire is my third Cesare Aldo historical thriller, set in and around 1530s Renaissance Florence.

Ritual of Fire David Biishop

The first two books of the series –City of Vengeance (2021), and The Darkest Sin(2022) – based Aldo in his beloved Florence, a city knows very well.

Map of locations in Ritual of Fire

But Ritual of Fire banishes him to the Tuscan countryside, force Aldo to find fresh allies and rediscover himself as a detective. Meanwhile, murderous events are gripping Florence and its citizens, heightening Aldo’s isolation and his fear of becoming irrelevant.

San Jacopo al Girone (c) DV Bishop

San Jacopo al Girone (c) DV Bishop

Map of locations in Ritual of Fire

In short, this book is both a home and an away fixture. To make that work meant Aldo had to be no more a day’s ride or walk from Florence to avoid too many pages being wasted on him travelling. The solution was basing him in San Jacopo al Girone, a small Tuscan settlement to the east of Florence. The village is still there today, nearly 500 years later. Then – as now – San Jacopo al Girone is divided between the humble homes of working people that nestle beside a curve in the River Arno, and the villas of richer residents on the steep hill that overlooks the valley, with majestic views to Florence and beyond.

Map of locations in Ritual of Fire

How did I choose San Jacopo al Girone? The answer dates back to my last trip to Florence before pandemic lockdowns made it impossible to visit Tuscany. Part of that trip was spent visiting religious buildings in the city as preparation for writing my second Aldo novel The Darkest Sin, a locked room mystery set in a convent. But my imagination was already leaping ahead to Ritual of Fire, aware I was going to set that story in both the city and countryside.

Map of locations in Ritual of Fire

That’s why I stayed outside Florence in a small village called – you guessed it – San Jacopo al Girone. Our holiday rental was on the hillside, requiring miles long hikes up and down a vertiginous pathway in scorching heat. That inspired several sequences in Ritual of Fire, which is set during a summer heatwave full of soaring temperatures.

Unlike Aldo, I didn’t have to walk to Florence or borrow a horse for journeys into the city. These days there is a frequent bus service between San Jacopo al Girone and the city centre. Best of all, each journey was on time and in September 2019 cost only two euros – a bargain, especially compared to a lot of public transport in the UK!

the Podesta staircase (c) DV Bishop

the Podesta staircase (c) DV Bishop

Map of locations in Ritual of Fire

Many of the key locations that appear in Ritual of Fire are familiar from past novels in the series. In 1538 the Palazzo del Podestà is home to the city’s most feared and powerful criminal court, the Otto di Guardia e Balia. The ominous stone building still stands in Florence today but is now home to the Bargello Museum. There you can see a stunning selection of busts and bronzes, including Donatello’s David (not to be confused with Michelangelo’s David which features in the next Aldo novel, A Divine Fury, coming June 2024). The Bargello is well worth a visit if you are fortunate enough to be in Florence.

the Podesta courtyard (c) DV Bishop

the Podesta courtyard (c) DV Bishop

Map of locations in Ritual of Fire

One place you won’t find today is Zoppo’s tavern, a disreputable inn just north of the Arno in the western quarter of Florence that serves hot gossip and terrible wine. Aldo pays his last visit there in Ritual of Fire but it is unlikely he will return, not after what happens in the novel. I will say no more to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t read the book, but can reveal that Aldo frequents two new taverns in A Divine Fury. Alas, neither of them provides the inside information Aldo used to get from Zoppo, but they have other compensations…

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass:  Ritual of Fire

Insta: @cesarealdo/

 

Many many thanks David!

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