The year was 1426 and four-and-a-half feet tall, seven-year-old Dolce Gaddi circled a twenty-foot tower of graying marble known as Il Gigante that rose into the twilight air. Dolce was barefoot, saving her one pair of shoes for when she was permitted to accompany Mea, the housemaid, to market.
Thick red hair curled down Dolce’s back. Dirt smudged on her nose and cheeks. Her heart shaped lips were pushed into a pout. Il Gigante was weathered and beaten from three years of wind and rain on Il Poderino, the small farm tucked into the Apennine Mountains outside the gates of Firenze.
She looked toward the one story house where she occupied a small room—a poorly insulated cupboard where olives and flax tilled from the fields were stored. She lived with her father and half brothers who enjoyed the luxury of the entire home. The servants’ quarters were larger and warmer than Dolce’s.
No one was in sight except for a few workers who were milking goats and getting cows ready for market. She heard Iacopo and Piero, born three minutes apart and four years before her, laughing. She smelled Mea’s fresh breakfast bread. She considered joining the twins or peeking her head through the open window of the home and waiting for Mea’s wide smile to warm her heart and a piece of hot bread to soothe her belly. But Bandino, her father, or Niccolo, the oldest of her three half brothers, might see her.
With the back of her hand, Dolce wiped sweat from her upper lip leaving behind a line of dirt. Her heart pounded out of her chest, into her ears. She picked up a scratched and dented chisel and a worn mallet and struck the giant. White powder scattered then dissipated like the first flakes of falling snow. She hit it again and again, loving the sound of metal on marble and feeling empowered by the dimple that slowly formed. Aside from the few times she had actually held a book or got to draw on parchment or vellum, she had never felt stronger and never experienced such joy.
It was in her blood. Even though Bandino heaved and bucked whenever he acknowledged Dolce as his daughter, she was still a Gaddi. A descendant of the architects of the pre and early Renaissance, Dolce resembled her great great grandfather Gaddo Gaddi who studied with Cimabue and Giotto. She also had the dexterity of her great grandfather Taddeo Gaddi who designed Ponte Vecchio. The proof was not only in her blood but also in her green eyes that were dulled by hardship yet still glowed with wonder. The proof was also in her strong hands and long fingers connected by wide, flexible webs. Unfortunately for Bandino—and for Dolce too—the Gaddi talent had evaded him and had landed with a wallop in the heart, soul and fingertips of little Dolce.