The Borgias were the most scandalous family of the Italian Renaissance, allegedly committing incest, poisoning rivals, and stealing the papacy left and right. But one of its most famous members, Lucrezia Borgia, learned the game of business pretty well - perhaps from her dad, Pope Alexander VI - and made herself a whole lot of cheese.
A veteran of three marriages (one annulled, one ending with her husband murdered, perhaps by her brother Cesare), Lucrezia had been around the block. Her final hubby, Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, was her last, and Lucrezia turned into the "typical" noblewoman as a patroness of the arts and bearer of many, many children (although she still had affairs galore). But she showed her Borgia finesse by making sure her finances were cheesily taken care of by investing in mozzarella.
Lucrezia Borgia participated in a deliciously lucrative tradition. Image via The New York Times.
Lucrezia put a lot of money into agriculture over the years. She entered into business with friends and relatives. Her first enterprise was a partnership with her third husband's cousin, in which she got half of a piece of property and, in return, she paid money for improvements to the land, like drainage and canal-building. She turned swampland into farmland, growing beans, grains, and more, then moving to livestock, including water buffalo, which had been imported to Ferrara by Alfonso's mother, Eleanor.
The latter effort wasn't for the buffalo wings, but for buffalo mozzarella, produced from the the fuzzy creatures' milk. The dairy demand was high; Lucrezia so valued her lucrative cheese that, in 1514, she pawned a piece of jewelry encrusted with rubies and pearls in order to buy 200 head of buffalo. How cheesy!
Feature image via Medievalists.net.