According to the circumspect Florentine merchant Giovanni Morelli, friends were not to be trusted. As such, he thought it wise to ''test your friend a hundred times... before you trust him once.'' In and of itself, these words (taken from the book's third and final Chapter 'Could Friends Be Trusted') aren't exactly a hundred miles removed from that of The Godfather 2, in which Al Pacino's Michael Corleone declares: ''My father taught me many things... keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.''
Upon reading Dale Kent's analysis of Friendship, Love, and Trust in Renaissance Florence, it's a whole lot easier to surmise and understand just how (profound) Italian ideology has managed to traverse the test of time; without so much as an inkling of being swayed into another mode of social calculation. That the aforementioned Morelli went on to ''stress that protestations of eternal fidelity were invariably suspect and added that 'you should never trust anyone so much that he can destroy you,''' surely demonstrates that this book is a nigh blueprint of (continuing) Italian morality.
Regardless of time, place, context or age; this book of Florentine Friendship appears to be a deeply entrenched code of conduct, by which many Italians (or at least the Italians I know) essentially lead their lives. Not that there's anything wrong with this of course, it's just that such non-kinetic, behavioural stasis, would be hard found in someone from say, Belgium.
Replete with Machiavellian overtones and a persuasion that's as equally gentle as it is inspired, Dale Kent has written a book – which unsurprisingly, is dedicated to all her friends - that sheds just as much light on Michelangelo as it inadvertently does on such characters as Tony Soprano and Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito (in the film, Goodfellas). Writing in Chapter Two's 'Where Did Friends Meet' for instance, Kent quotes the Florentine poet, Alberti: ''Believe me... nothing harms the ability to make oneself loved as much as being poor; become rich, and you will have more friends than you want.''
Friendship, Love, and Trust in Renaissance Florence
By Dale Kent
Harvard University Press – £19.95