Palazzo, the city of canals
Palazzo is the city of canals, the city of masks, the city of endless secrets.
A mercantile city on the west coast of Firenze, it is riddled with canals and narrow streets. The city is divided along the three grand canals – the Amaro canal, which divides the mercantile from the mainland and the poorer areas it contains, the Dolce canal, which separates the mercantile from the richer areas of Palazzo, along with its cathedrals and government buildings, and the Vento canal, which divides the ‘greater’ docks from the government and noble quarters, known by Palazzians as the Salato canal. The city itself juts into the waters, building on old lagoons and swampland. The ‘lesser’ dock areas are larger than their ‘greater’ counterparts – they are named for the fact that the lesser docks wrap around Palazzo from below and to the side, and the greater docks are above. The greater docks are for galleys for war, diplomacy and large trading vessels for long distance ferrying; the lesser docks are for fishermen, regular traders and less legal activities. They are busy from before sunup to just after sundown, and the taverns and inns are always full.
While it has been established that Palazzo is split by the canals, these are no clear cut divisions. The mercantile district, especially, rarely keeps to established lines and it’s well known you can buy anything in Palazzo if you’re willing to go looking, but the grandest markets and the finest wares are in the the district. Dolce means “sweet” in Firenze, and truly, the smells wafting across the canal are to die for – parfum, sweetmeats and spices are all available the closer one gets to the bridges to the nobility.
The noble district is a misnomer – the nobility, or members of the Famiglia, do not live in a small, fenced off area, but their small villa are scattered throughout Palazzo, as are the chapels, cathedrals and universities. However, if one wanted to find the best of them, the quarter between the Dolce and Vento is the place to be. The two largest cathedrals, the Cattedrale di Fortuna and Cattedrale di Molti Santi, share a plaza between them, and worshippers are always pouring in and out at every hour of day or night. The Doge’s Palace overlooks the Plaza of San Sovrano. The Doge comes onto his balcony during festa. It is considered good form to boo them – cheering and clapping is considered a sign to replace the current Doge.
The city is ostensibly ruled by the Doge and their greater Council of Peers, but in reality the Doge is naught more than a glorified secretary, whose concerns stretch no further than balancing the budget and keeping the day-to-day affairs of the city state ticking over. The real power is in the Council of Peers, which is split between the five famiglia;
The Bauta, the Colombina, the Volta Larva, the Artechinne, and the Zanni. If a business exists in Palazzo and isn’t run by a member of the Famiglia, it’s run by someone who works for a member of the Famiglia. There are many small families and independent factions, but make no mistake – the Famiglia have Palazzo’s interests at heart, because the Famiglia are Palazzo’s interests.
Society and superstition
Although magic is a real and present feature in the day to day world of Firenze, superstition is a part of life in Palazzo. It’s good luck to sweep your doorstep every morning, for instance, and to blow out a candle before the wax hits the floor. But the strangest custom of all is that of the Vizard, Moretta and the Medico. In public, it is considered polite to wear a mask when in the street. While, of course, most people cannot afford the fine, intricate porcelain or glass masks that Famiglia members can wear, but on festas, everyone takes to the street in their finest masks, and all are equal on la Notte Bilancia, the night of scales.