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The Tigress of Forlì: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici
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The Tigress of Forlì: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,901 ratings  ·  216 reviews
“In this insightful, fascinating portrayal, Elizabeth Lev brings Caterina Sforza and her times very much to life.”—Kathleen Turner, actress and author of Send Yourself Roses

A strategist to match Machiavelli; a warrior who stood toe to toe with the Borgias; a wife whose three marriages would end in bloodshed and heartbreak; and a mother determined to maintain her family’s
Kindle Edition, 349 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2011)
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Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Biography lovers
This book was on my to-read list longer than any other (from April 2014) & it did not disappoint. Lev has a writing style that is like a novelist's & some of the content must be speculative, but everything is carefully footnoted about this beautiful, intelligent & complex woman.

Lev's theory that Machiavelli's unflattering portrait of Caterina in The Prince springs from being worsted by Caterina in one of Machiavelli's early diplomatic missions. Lev very ably rebuts some of
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly researched biography of Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici. I wish I would have read this before I read Scarlet City by Haasse. Because I would have understood the Italian city state wars (lasting for literally centuries) coupled with France or Holy Roman Empire alliances in a more complete "location" and economic sense. This book also taught me many practical reality facts upon clothing, manners, choir music, art in fresco and much more for this Renaissance cauldron as lived in Milan and ...more
Kate Quinn
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating biography of the woman who went toe to toe against Cesare Borgia, and nearly won. Caterina Sforza isn't as well known a figure of the Renaissance as Lucrezia Borgia or Isabella d'Este, but she should be: a blond beauty who mothered a brood of eight, wore out three husbands, killed countless enemies, defended her battlements by sword and word, and survived war and prison to fame and peace. Savage, intelligent, and loving by turns, her character can be summed up by the ...more
Rio (Lynne)
Caterina Sforza went down in European History as the women who defied The Borgias, but this book spans her whole remarkable life. Married at ten years old to Pope Sixtus IV's nephew, her life was constant battle and she constantly had to defy other ruthless families to fight for her and her children's legacy. Besides her war side, Caterina saw some of Renaissance Italy's most famous pieces of art come together. Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo and was even added herself to some of the famous ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, biography
She was brave, strong and beautiful. Her life is dizzying. She did amazing things for a woman (or even a man) of her times. Her biography shows the paradox of the Italian Renaissance. The era's artistic achievements reflect its strong religious mores while a culture of war and terror destroys unnamed and uncounted people. This dual morality is not just among nobles like Caterina Riario Sforza de'Medici; it extends to the church and is fully embodied in her contemporary Pope Alexander VI Borgia.

Jo Walton
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucid, fascinating, and full of well-observed detail, this is an excellent biography of an outstanding woman. I mean that literally. Caterina Sforza was more than she needed to be, more than anyone expected her to be, and yet in the end she put in so much effort to achieve so little. I can't accept "oh and her grandson became Duke of Tuscany" as a happy ending, hard as Lev tries to make it one.

But if you want a biography as an introduction to the Renaissance, or if you know a lot about Florence
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici was a fascinating woman: beautiful and accomplished in the things people expected of a woman; a fertile and involved mother; a military tactician as capable of fighting as any of her men; an indomitable spirit who rightly captured the hearts and imaginations of many of her time. She had formidable enemies and allies who let her down all too often: she, perhaps, deserved the former, but not the latter.

"Feminism gone wild", one of the reviewers quoted on the cover
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books

This is probably the best non-fiction book I have ever read...I immediately went to look for other books that this author wrote, and was so dissappointed to see nothing else. :(

Caterina Sforza was an amazing woman. I was enthralled, enamoured and entranced by her. I was thinking about this book and her life for days after reading it.
The fact that she was so capable, intelligent, strong, and vibrant (not to mention so young when she did most of these things) was
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe-general
While no masterpiece of the historian's art, Elizabeth Lev's The Tigress of Forlì is stirring and well-paced. An accomplished mistress of Renaissance Italian concepts of leadership, Caterina excelled as a politician, strategist, military chieftain, propagandist, and administrator. Men were her weakness. They served her poorly for most of her life. When the loathsome Cesare Borgia stormed the city of Forlì, and his French-led artillery breached the curtain wall of her fortress of Ravaldino, ...more
Lolly's Library
How is it possible that most of the world has forgotten such a dynamic, complex, amazing woman? A woman who, at seventh months pregnant, took control of the papal fort of Castel Sant'Angelo and held it, with some skillfully smuggled-in soldiers, for eleven days in order to defend her family's rights. A woman who went toe to toe, figuratively speaking, with one of the most brilliant wits of the Renaissance, Niccolo Machiavelli, and not only won but made Machiavelli look like an incompetent fool. ...more
Sarah u
4.5 stars.

“Caterina was a firsthand witness to the corruption in the [Borgia] family; if she chose to recount her story, she warned that she would ‘shock the world’.” (Lev, p.247)

In recent months (time of writing: August 2013) I have been increasingly interested in the history of the Italian Renaissance. This was one of the reasons I decided to buy this biography of Caterina Sforza by art historian Elizabeth Lev. In short: I'm so glad I did, because this book was fascinating and, after
Roman Clodia
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an accessible and readable biography of Caterina Sforza aimed at a popular general audience rather than an academic one. Lev is an art historian and her admiration for Sforza does make her sometimes a little insensitive to the more negative sources. Like Alison Weir, she is happy to quote from the positive, even hagiographical sources written by Caterina's own court followers, but dismisses those written outside of her own circle of influence as having been tampered with or edited to ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Silvana by: Mike
Truly a great (true) story about a strong woman who battled everything from thousands of invaders (once with her own sword), multiple assassinations, rape, years of imprisonment, marriages ended in tragedies, six children (at least two betrayed her due to their greed) - all during the Rennaissance era, where women's job mostly was to produce babies and stuff like that.

The early chapters are not as exciting as the rest. Maybe that is why I waited a long time before getting my appetite back in
Before picking this up, all I knew about Caterina Sforza was that she was Cosimo de' Medici's grandmother, she was obviously related to the Sforzas in some nebulous way, and she may or may not have flashed her privates at an invading army from the battlements of her fortress. Basically, I just had a dim notion she was some Medici ancestor with a potentially scandalous history.

The truth is far better. Yes, she was a Sforza, the illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, brought up
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am left feeling underwhelmed by this book, despite its competence. I rarely venture into the world of non-fiction but I have been curious about Caterina Sforza ever since reading anecdotes about her in Magnifico, the biography of Lorenzo Medici. Unfortunately, I was far more entranced by Magnifico than The Tigress of Forli.

The story of Caterina Sforza is certainly worth telling. Whether you interpret her as admirable or cold-hearted, there is no denying she was a strong, driven woman who
(Note: Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program)
I must confess, I was first attracted to this biography because I knew of Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici through the video game "Assassin's Creed II" and I wanted to learn her full story. Having read Mrs. Lev's first work, I am very glad that I did. In a little less than 300 pages, Mrs. Lev recounts the life of one of the most amazing women in Renaissance history, if not in all of history. Caterina was stubborn, brave, and passionate
Karin Gastreich
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Caterina Sforza is best remembered for her show down with Cesare Borgia at Forli, a military confrontation that humiliated Cesare and converted Caterina into legend. Despite her eventual defeat and imprisonment at the hands of the notorious son of Pope Alexander VI, Caterina Sforza was one of the very few of her time who bested Cesare at his own game and lived to tell about it.

Elizabeth Lev paints Caterina Sforza's story with the expertise of a Renaissance master. We are given the rich tapestry
I loved this book. It is such a pity that her main home Ravaldino, the fortress, can't be visited as it is now a prison in the centre of Forlì. But as it kept being in use the walls are completely intact and probably the inside must be amazing to visit.

Having read this book have such an interesting view on Romagna as a region without fo using on it. And reading about this extraordinary woman in those times in Italy wasn't only amazing but gave also a very good idea of the other side you don't
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome! This is a fantastic bio of a heroine I have longed to know more about. Lev writes her bio as if it is a novel, and it is supremely entertaining and accessible! Brava!
Tony Tubb
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Se io potessi scrivere tutto, farei stupire il mondo" (If I could write everything, I would shock the world). -- Caterina Sforza to a monk during the last decade of her life.

A superbly researched biography of an extraordinary woman we don't hear enough about except her connection to the Borgias. Her story is a lot more interesting than Lucrieza's. At ten she was married to Sixtus IV's nephew, the archenemy of the Medicis Girolamo Riario. After Riarlo's assassination by the Orsi, she became the
Faith Ryan
I'll confess, I bought this book solely because of "ten more sons", but I was delighted to find a million more (and factual) reasons why Caterina is just about the most badass woman who ever lived. This was an incredibly well-written biography, packed with detail but also very easy to read. (The epilogue was a bit *too* novelistic, but the majority of the book wasn't nearly so fictionalized and fanciful, so I'll forgive that.) Overall, the author did a great job balancing the specifics of ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is biography that reads like fiction. Caterina Sforza was the most formidable woman of the Italian Renaissance -- and she was regarded by many as the most beautiful as well. She was painted by Botticelli in the most prominent panel in the Sistine Chapel. But it was her daring that set her apart from other women of the day (and most men, as well). She learned horsemanship and swordplay with her brothers in Milan, and at one point, when 8 months pregnant, she donned full armor and led a ...more
Dipa  Raditya
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another side of Catarina Sforza.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author obviously spent a lot of time researching her subject material. Sometimes to the detriment of the story. She gives the names of every solider, servant, and person that appears once in the book. Unfortunately, they all seem to be men with names that begin with G.

If you can get past that bit of confusion, this is an amazing story of a girl/woman kicking ass in a man’s Renaissance Italy.
Mar 02, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Available on Hoopla in ebook
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I have been reading about Michelangelo and Botticelli but while some of the most treasured works of art and literature were created during the renaissance there was intrigue, betrayal, savage wars, brutal torture and gruesome death were routine aspects of daily life. Elizabeth Lev writes about the Countess Caterina Sforza Riario de Medici called the Tigress of Forli. Lev writes in clear flowing prose drawing on contemporary sources preserved in state and municipal archives, much never before ...more
Dana Smith
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, if there is one thing that I learned from this book, is that it was very bad luck to be a noble person in Italy during the Renaissance. If you weren’t being poisoned, stabbed or having your house torn down, you were involved in a plot to poison, stab or tear down the house of someone else. Popes, Cardinals, and Archbishops were corrupt. Landowners spent money raised from taxing peasants to purchase clothing laden with gens and pearls to impress those same peasants that their little duchy ...more
Robin Mathews
Wow……I’m really not sure what to say about this book. It was very hard for me to digest as I have a science background so didn’t know much of the history involved in Caterina’s life. However I love learning history this way and am currently watching the HBO series, The Borgias, so knew some of the key players in her life already. The history that HBO portrays is a bit different from the actual history in this biography but still it set the stage for me and gave me a context to put the characters ...more
Margaret Sankey
The story in which Caterina Sforza defies a besieging enemy who holds her children hostage by announcing that she can always have more is one of my favorites. Most accounts of Caterina have been hatchet jobs by men who despised her (or based on them), or too fawning accounts by her own political flunkies and subsequent myth makers attached to grandson Cosimo d'Medici. Italian art historian Elizabeth Lev attempts to find a middle way of plausible narrative in a life that is more interesting than ...more
Lady Alexandrine
In "The Borgias" Caterina Sforza was a formidable force. She stood up to the Borgias and faced their fury. At that moment she was already a legend. If you want to know why she was called "the Tigress of Forli" this book is for you.

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Elizabeth Lev is an American-born art historian with the good fortune to live and work in Rome. Life in the “Eternal City” allows her the perfect environment to pursue her many passions. For on an average day, one can find Elizabeth working on her latest article or book, preparing for one of her worldwide speaking engagements, touring visitors through the treasures of Rome, or using her skills as ...more
“In the Renaissance world of arranged marriages, there were no romantic proposals on bended knee—only notaries and contracts.” 2 likes
“Stung by his misreading of the situation, he showed his shock and hurt through both his words and gestures, betraying his inexperience. Only later would Machiavelli learn to conceal his true thoughts behind a mask of wit and irony.” 1 likes
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