Who was Caterina Cornaro, queen of Cyprus? She used to spend her vacation on Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Europe, situated in the middle of the Lake Iseo. Titian and Giovanni Bellini painted her portraits, Lorenzo Lotto, Giorgione and Pietro Bembo attended her court, Donizetti wrote the namesake opera. Caterina belonged to one of the most powerful families of Venice, the Corner. Born in 1454, at the age of 14 she was chosen to become the wife of the king of Cyprus, James the Second of Lusignan, even though she hadn't ever known him.
Wen she was eighteenth, got merried with the king but he died one year later, because of a fatal hunting accident. Then, a group of Spanish nobles killed her oncle and his son and kidnapped the little crown prince. The Venice Republic released the child, who died one year later of malaria. Because the high number of conspirancies, the queen was forced to give up the kingdom on behalf of the Republic, but in return she became Lady of Asolo and came back to Venice, greeted by the multitude on the Bucintoro, the State galley, beside the Doge, the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. She had often to excape and hide; almost twice she came to Iseo Lake, hosted in the Elder Tower, in the city of Iseo, near the medieval walls, and during the autumn 1497, in the major stately homes owned by the influent Martinengo family, in Sensole, Peschiera Maraglio and Carzano.
Caterina died in Venice at the age of 56 and the Doge had to arrange a bridge made with boats from Rialto to Santa Sophia's Church to let the crowd attend to her funeral. The tomb of the queen of Cyprus is in the San Salvador's Church; her memory still lies on the shores of Iseo Lake.
Portrait of Caterina Cornaro, Titian (1542)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence