Acqua Tofana

Rome, 1600s: Giulia Tofana, a Sicilian orphan fleeing a life of poverty and prostitution, arrives in the Vatican State, determined to change her destiny. In an era when women are often silenced, used in political schemes, and pawned in often abusive marriages, Giulia possesses unique skills as an apothecary, astronomer, and healer, fueled by a strong sense of revenge. She inherits—or perhaps invents—the formula for Acqua Tofana, a colourless, odourless poison. This lethal blend, discreetly sold through a network of women, is hidden in beauty products and allows for subtle manipulation by mimicking fatal diseases over several weeks.

While building her underground business, Giulia seeks legitimate societal influence by endeavouring to enter the aristocracy and join the Apothecary Guild in Rome, challenging the norms that exclude women from such professions. Her life intertwines public ambition with covert operations as she navigates the complex societal tapestry of Rome.

Giulia’s rise is marked by her dual role as both benefactor and exploiter. She provides clandestine aid to—mostly—abused women while also leveraging these networks for personal gain. This intricate dance of empowerment and self-interest showcases Giulia as a figure of immense intrigue and formidable power, intricately bound to both the light and shadows of her era. Her story, rooted in both fact and folklore, reveals the complex dynamics of ambition, morality, and influence in a time dominated by intricate power structures.