Veronica Franco

Veronica Franco was born in 1546 to Francesco Franco and Paola Fracassa, in Venice. Born into a household of three brothers, Veronica became involved in their studies, and began her education at a young age. It was rare in Venice that girls would have a chance at an education unless their father encouraged learning.[1] When she was older, Veronica surrounded herself with learned men as she followed her pursuit of knowledge. Around 1560, Franco was married to Paolo Panizza, which would shortly end and Franco would return home to her mother.[2] Unable to reclaim her dowry, Franco became a courtesan to provide for her family. It is unknown what happened to her father and brothers, who would have been the sole providers. With the help of her mother, who had also been a courtesan, Veronica soon became one of the respected cortigianas onesta, in Venice. Franco’s mother was the “go-between” who set her appointments and collected her fee.[3] It was with the guidance of her mother and her own thirst for knowledge that Veronica Franco was allowed into the most elite social groups of Venice.

Franco’s hardships took place in 1580 when she was summoned by the Inquisition to charges of performing “heretical incantations.” Being in her line of work, Franco was subject to men whom despised Veronica based upon her actions. Maffio Venier and Ridolfo Vannitelli had been disappointed in Franco for years. Maffio and Veronica had a history of poetry duels, as exemplified in Terze Rime.[4] With her influence in Venice, and her reputation with the elite, the charges against Franco were dropped. Rosenthal acknowledges that Franco’s victory highlighted her strength to fight evil and those who sought to rid her.[5] After her trial, Franco had a hard time recovering. Since she was arrested in May 1580, she realized that thieves had broken into her house, making it near impossible to recover from such a devastating loss.[6] Similar to the fate that Franco could have endured, two courtesans of Venice were charged with the same accusations along the lines of witchcraft. The women did not have the power and reputation in Venice; therefore, they were punished in the Piazza San Marco, and fined with an hour of whipping, followed by a five-year expulsion from Venice. Isabella Bellochio was one of the women accused in the hearing, and although she was favored among the Venetian elite, she was victim to the same fate of leaving the city.[7] Similar to the letter in the previous paragraph to the mother of a daughter, the life of a courtesan involves hardships. The outcast and degrading image that courtesans receive on a whole does not outweigh those women who are successful cortigianas onesta.


[1] Jones, 5.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., 2.

[4] Margaret Rosenthal, 154.

[5] Ibid., 155.

[6] Ibid., 156.

[7] Ibid., 158.


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