Edited by Mauro Bucci

The last great lord of La Rocca was Niccolò di Cione di Sandro Salimbeni known as Cocco. He tried to allay himself with the powers that would enable him to defeat the Republic of Siena and take control as absolute overlord.


Among his powerful allays was one Giacomo Attendolo. He was a rough soldier, one of those called captains of fortune. Because of his short stature he was known as Giacomuzzo (Giacomo the Slight) or Muzio, while his nickname of Sforza (from force) came from his arrogant and overbearing ways.

 

In 1409, Cocco married him to his daughter Antonia, who brought in dowry the castles of Ripa d’Orcia and Vignoni. Muzio Attendolo Sforza was not a noble but he did have the power of arms, necessary to Cocco if he were to defeat Siena. The wedding was the launching pad to achieve his dream of dragging himself up from his low beginnings as the coarse soldier son of peasants to become a great and powerful lord. He took possession of his castle and became the Lord of Ripa, waited on hand and foot.


In 1411, he had a son from Antonia, but she most probably died in childbirth, as her death is also recorded in 1411. Apart from this son Bosio, he previously had had other children from various women of the people, one being Francesco who was born in 1401, and so was eight years old when he came to live in the Orcia Valley.

 

Muzio Attendolo Sforza was decidedly not ready to sit by the fire. War was his profession, and only a few years later, possibly as early as 1414, he left his father-in-law to his fate and took himself off with his soldiers to enter into paid service of the Kingdom of Naples.


After some time, in 1423, during an expedition in the Abruzzi, he found himself at the side of the river Pescara looking for a way across. They found a ford, but the river was swollen. Muzio, who was a bully but not lacking in courage, decided to cross on his own to lead by example. When he reached the middle of the river, his horse Scalzamacca - we know his name - shied and slipped on the slithery riverbed, and they both fell into the river. Sforza was thrown from his saddle and weighed down by his armour, he was carried off by the water, while his horse got away.


Apparently, his body was never found.


His son Francesco took his place at the head of the mercenaries and advanced to lofty heights, going much further than his father. Continuing along the same policy of marrying into noble families, he become Duke of Milan and founded the dynasty of the Sforza, the most illustrious scion of which was his son Ludovico il Moro (the Moor). Ludovico Sforza was famous because he was the Duke of Milan, but above all because he took the great Leonardo da Vinci into his service.