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Biographical notes on War Captains and Mercenary Leaders operating in Italy between 1330 and 1550

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Pietro Brunoro: The Condottiere’s Untold Story

Italian CondottieriPietro Brunoro: The Condottiere’s Untold Story

A skilled condottiero. One of the most experienced in the central decade of the 15th century. Young, during a hunting party, he falls in love with a peasant girl named Bona. Their love lasts more than 35 years. He marries her, and his wife travels to all the Italian courts to secure his release from the prison in Satabia, near Valencia, where he was incarcerated by the King of Naples, Alfonso the Magnanimous. Freed after 10 years, he enters the service of the Venetians. He dies fighting against the Turks in defense of the island of Negroponte (Euboea). Bona dies shortly after, from grief, in Modon (Methoni, municipality of Pylos-Nestorias) while she is embarking to return to Venice.

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

The remarkable life and deeds of Pietro Brunoro and his wife Bona Lombarda.

Pietro Brunoro (Pietro Brunoro di San Vitale) of Parma. From the counts of San Vitale of Fontanellato.

Death: 1468

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
1426MilanVeniceLombardyHe fought against the Venetians led by Carmagnola in the Cremonese area.
1431MilanVeniceLombardyHe commands the ducal galleons that sail on the Po River. He is captured in Casalmaggiore.
General Captain of the InfantryLombardyHe follows Niccolò Piccinino; enters Valtellina via a bridge over the Adda near Sorico. He opposes the advance of the overseer Giorgio Corner. With an assault, he manages to cross the river on a pontoon bridge and surprise the garrison of an entrenched camp. The Venetians rush to help, and the ducal forces are repelled with the loss of 300 men. Meanwhile, a strong contingent of soldiers from Valtellina, led by Stefano Quadrio of Ponte, arrives. The troops of the Serenissima are caught off guard by Piccinino‘s new attack at Delebio and are defeated with the loss of 1,800 cavalry (1,200 taken prisoner) and 3,500 infantry (1,500 prisoners).
…………LombardyHe remains to guard Valtellina; his residence is in Morbegno. He is tasked with monitoring the area from the Gerola valley to Campione di Sacco in the current municipality of Cosio Valtellina. It is here that he falls in love, during a hunting party, with a young peasant girl named Bona Lombarda who is grazing a flock; he kidnaps her, takes her with him, and will marry her several years later. The woman will always follow him dressed as a soldier and always fighting with a bow at her side.
Dec.SforzaChurchMarcheIn the service of Francesco Sforza. He opposes the troops of Pope Eugenio IV near Jesi.
Sept.EmiliaNatural son of a member of the noble San Vitale family, he goes to Ferrara to be legitimized with his brother Alessandro by the Emperor Sigismund of Hungary.
…………ChurchFortebraccioLazioHe follows Francesco Sforza to the siege of Montefiascone. He positions his camp with his men near the gate of the fortress.
JulyLazioA truce is made with Niccolò Piccinino: before it comes into effect, he is suddenly attacked by Niccolò Fortebraccio who captures 16 horses, many infantrymen, and takes away money and weapons. Piccinino intervenes and has everything returned to him.
Apr. – May400 infantrymenLazio, MarcheIn Viterbo. He returns to besiege Montefiascone; he is preparing to attack a gate when he is in turn attacked by Giovanni da Crema. After ten days, he is recalled to the Marche by Sforza.
MaySforzaChiavelliMarcheTogether with Manno Barile, he is tasked with dislodging Nolfo Chiavelli from the castle of San Donato, who is ravaging the territory of Fabriano with his raids.
JuneMarcheHe forces Nolfo Chiavelli into an agreement.
Sept.SforzaChurchEmiliaHe arrives at Riccardina with Sarpellione; he bursts into the camp of the papal governor Baldassarre da Offida, an enemy of Sforza; Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and Domenico Malatesta prefer to disengage from the matter. Pietro Giampaolo Orsini, on the contrary, tries to resist and is put to flight.
Jan.FlorenceMilan, LuccaTuscanyHe is sent to Tuscany by Francesco Sforza with the purpose of defending the Florentines from Niccolò Piccinino, who rushed in defense of the people of Lucca.
Feb.TuscanyWith Sarpellione and Niccolò da Pisa (2,500 armed men), he captures the castle of Barga and forces Piccinino to take refuge in Lunigiana; Sacramoro da Parma remains in charge of guarding Lucca.
JuneTuscanyHe secures Montecarlo after a siege of 15 days: he captures the castellan under the pretext of a meeting and threatens to have him killed with crossbow bolts if the defenders do not agree to his demand for surrender. Seeing this, the castellan’s brother loses courage and surrenders.
Aug.MarcheHe is again engaged in the siege of the castle of San Donato with Manno Barile, Giovanni Sforza, and Niccolò da Pisa.
Oct.EmiliaHe is by the side of Francesco Sforza in Reggio Emilia when the latter quarrels with the Venetian allies. At the end of the month, Brunoro is reported in Parma where he lodges at the Osteria del Cavalletto (of which he becomes the owner).
Nov.Tuscany, MarcheHe besieges Lucca. He returns to Fabriano.
Dec.SforzaCamerinoMarcheHe moves against Camerino, which had rebelled against Sforza’s rule.
June – JulySforzaNorcia1000 infantrymenUmbriaTogether with Niccolò da Pisa, he aids the inhabitants of Cerreto against Norcia; he frees the city from siege, attacks the enemy camp, and takes many prisoners (among the opponents, more than 1,000 men die, most drowned in the Nera). He besieges Norcia with Alessandro and Giovanni Sforza. In July, he obtains the surrender of the place.
Sept.SforzaTolentinoMarcheHe besieges Tolentino.
Oct.MarcheTolentino surrenders to him at discretion. Pietro Brunoro remains in the city to oversee with the engineer Giovanni Sodo the construction works of a new fortress. He requests to live in San Severino Marche in the houses formerly owned by Antonio da San Severino that had been granted to him previously.
Dec.VeniceMilanLombardyHe moves to Lombardy to oppose the Visconteans. He attempts to aid the defenders of Brescia and subdues the castle of Bagnolo Mella.
Jan.MarcheIn Tolentino. The expenses he incurred for the purchase of a house in Gagliole are recognized and reimbursed to him.
MayRomagna, VenetoNear Forlì with his infantry. He moves to the Veneto region where he supports Sforza against the militias of Piccinino.
SummerVenetoHe besieges Lonigo. He is severely wounded in the shoulder by a harquebus shot.
Nov.Trentino, VenetoOnce healed, he moves to the siege of Castel Penede. Upon learning that Verona has fallen into the hands of Piccinino, he supports Sforza; with a difficult march, he reaches La Chiusa. He is sent on a reconnaissance mission with Troilo da Rossano and enters the fortresses of Verona still under Venetian control. From there, he penetrates the city and begins a conflict that ends with the expulsion of the ducal forces.
Jan.TrentinoThe Visconti confiscate his assets in the Parma area. Brunoro repels some attacks made on Torbole by Piccinino and Gian Francesco Gonzaga.
Feb.700 infantrymenTrentinoHe approaches Tenno. The defenders surrender on terms, and the fortress is set ablaze.
Apr.TrentinoHe takes control of a bastion near Riva del Garda. Tasked with guarding a bridge with 50 men, he is suddenly attacked by the opponents. He is put to flight with numerous losses.
MayTrentinoHe embarks in the fleet of Stefano Contarini and routs at Torbole the ducal army led by Taliano Furlano and Biagio Assereto, which had moved with the goal of breaking the flow of supplies from the Serenissima to Brescia. He occupies Riva del Garda and begins to bombard its castle. The Venetians suffer numerous losses: Stefano Contarini, during the clash, is struck on the head so violently that the helmet gets stuck on his head. The helmet can only be removed from the admiral at the price of much pain. The defenders surrender on terms after recognizing a bounty of 5,000 ducats to Brunoro‘s men. Solemn processions take place in Brescia to celebrate the victory; the enemy’s standard is carried to Venice by Pietro Brunoro‘s companion, Bona.
JuneVeneto, LombardyHe moves to Peschiera del Garda and takes control of all the castles along the lake shore. He recovers Salò with Scariotto da Faenza.
Aug.LombardyHe takes possession of the fortress of Asola.
Sept.MarcheHe reaches Tolentino and from there moves to San Severino Marche.
JuneLombardyHe participates in the battle of Cignano where he is wounded again. Together with Troilo da Rossano, he attacks the right flank of the enemy camp; he faces the rearguard and is lured by the Visconteans into marshy terrain. Wounded, he is forced to retreat due to the joint action of Piccinino and Sarpellione (now fighting for the Visconti). At the conclusion of the conflict, his possessions are returned to him.
Oct.LombardyIn Cremona at the marriage of Sforza to Bianca Maria Visconti: during the ceremony, he has command of the honor guard of 2,000 cavalry and an equal number of infantry.
MayFlorenceMilan800 infantrymenRomagnaTogether with the Florentine commissioner Banco Banchi, he is sent by Sforza to defend Forlì at the head of 600 cavalry and 800 infantry. Initially, he lodges at the Osteria della Luna in the large borough. Mid-month, he requests Antonio Ordelaffi to hand over the fortress of Ravaldino and his son Pino as a hostage to Florence. The following day, the castle is delivered to him and the Florentine commissioner Andrea di Lerro. Mid-month, some uprisings against Ordelaffi occur in the city, triggered by the killing of Niccolò di Bartolino: Brunoro, at first, organizes a demonstration in favor of Francesco Sforza (which is aborted due to lack of attendance) and Ordelaffi himself; he rides with him in the square and forcefully prevents any upheaval. He alerts his infantrymen due to Piccinino‘s presence in the Forlì area; he changes the constables guarding the gates and takes possession of the keys. Some of Piccinino‘s squad leaders come to the city to spy on the situation; when they ask him for fruit for their captain, he sends them baskets full of cherries and early pears. At the same time, he strengthens surveillance and places armed men even inside the Church of San Mercuriale. Brunoro moves his lodgings to the Ordelaffi palace; in the evening, anticipating some tumult, he barricades the corners of the square with all the streets, placing barrels, vats, large beams, and many guards at their entrances; he orders that lights be lit in the windows of houses and a curfew imposed even during the day. Alessandro Sforza also arrives in Forlì to reinforce the city’s garrison. At the end of the month, he heads towards the Marche, called there by Sforza; upon reaching the Ronco, he meets a chancellor of Sforza and returns to Forlì. Antonio Ordelaffi is suspected of treason, so he is summoned to Jesi; Brunoro escorts him to Forlimpopoli, while Stefano di Nardo accompanies him to Savignano on the Rubicone.
JuneSforzaChurchNaplesRomagna, MarcheHe definitively leaves Forlì with the infantry, lodges at Ronco, and continues his march: his men do not plunder the territory during their transfer. He crosses the Rimini area with 1,500/1,800 infantry and reaches the March of Ancona to oppose the Papal and Aragonese forces. With Sforza in Jesi.
Aug.MarcheHe defeats Niccolò Piccinino at Amandola: the battle lasts almost two days and ends with the death of many men, mostly among the opponents, especially due to the fire from his harquebusiers.
Sept.MarcheHe besieges Ripatransone. He encamps near the monastery of Santa Maria Maddalena.
Oct.MarcheHe takes part in the defense of Fabriano with Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and Troilo da Rossano; he prevents the opponents from penetrating from Umbria into the Marche. Together with Malatesta, he puts to flight Roberto da Montalboddo, who had recently won in a clash against Troilo da Rossano.
Nov.MarcheTogether with Troilo da Rossano, he is tasked with seizing the fortress of Tolentino, which had come under Papal control. Brunoro sends from Montolmo (Corridonia) a man originally from Tolentino who informs his fellow citizens that the garrison of that center wants to defect to the ecclesiastical side. From Tolentino, therefore, 100 cavalry and 200 infantry come out, who are easily captured by the two Sforza captains: however, despite the loss, the city does not desist from its defensive intentions.
JuneUmbria, MarcheAt the head of 500 cavalry and 1,500 infantry, he raids the territory of Norcia with Stefano da Riva, makes 400 prisoners, and seizes 500 head of livestock. In the Macerata area, he occupies Sant’ Anatolia (Esanatoglia) and Castelraimondo.
JulyMarcheHe is surprised by the men of Pazzaglia, killed in Esanatoglia, who massacre his infantry. He stops near Tolentino; when Piccinino positions himself near Visso, Brunoro leaves San Severino Marche with Malatesta; with numerous cavalry and infantry (3,000/4,000), he assaults the enemy camp at night; he forces Piccinino to abandon the siege and retreat to Umbria.
Aug.NaplesSforza800 cavalryMarcheHe is assigned to guard Fabriano with 800 infantry and 200 cavalry. Contacted by Ignazio d’Avalos, he obtains a safe-conduct and defects to the Neapolitan side: the reasons for his betrayal are to be found in the promise of a larger command, as well as in the safeguarding of his treasure of 50,000 ducats amassed in San Severino Marche. He immediately joins Piccinino with 800 cavalry, stops between Montelauro and Monticello, and within a few days captures the fortress of Jesi. In Cremona, he is depicted in the Torrazzo and in the Public Palace as a traitor along with da Rossano.
Sept. – Oct.MarcheHe besieges Rocca Contrada (Arcevia); at the end of the month, he moves against Fermo, plunders the countryside of Petriolo, Torchiaro, and Moregnano (which is sacked), capturing men and seizing a large amount of livestock. At Torchiaro, he is attacked by peasants who kill more than fifteen soldiers from his companies, recover the loot, and free the captured men: 300 of his troops surprise the attackers, capture 86 of them, and ruin the castle. Sforza takes revenge for his betrayal; he constructs false evidence against him through the use of a confidential letter to his brother Alessandro. This letter deliberately falls into the hands of the Aragonese. Brunoro, along with Troilo da Rossano, is summoned by King Alfonso of Aragon to his pavilion and is captured there while his troops are pillaged by the Catalans.
…………CampaniaHe is first imprisoned in the castle of Marano in Naples and then in Castelnuovo in Naples.
…………SpainHe is imprisoned for ten years in the fortress of Satabia near Valencia. Even the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, unsuccessfully intervenes on his behalf. His companion Bona commits herself to his liberation; the woman wanders from city to city in search of captains, magistrates, princes for whom Brunoro has fought in the past and asks them for testimonies on behalf of her husband. The woman also travels to France, where she obtains the assistance of some transalpine nobles.
…………VeniceMilan1500 infantrymenLombardyHe is freed by Alfonso of Aragon due to the zeal and perseverance shown by his companion Bona, whom Brunoro marries shortly thereafter. He is taken by the Venetians who give him command of 1,500 infantry and recognize him a salary of 20,000 ducats. He is sent to Lombardy to confront the militias of Sforza, who has in the meantime become the Duke of Milan. With the loss of Romanengo, he heads towards the Riviera of Salò.
Sept.LombardyHe moves to the defense of Brescia; he relocates to the camp at Ghedi and meets Jacopo Piccinino, who greets him with pleasure. He transfers to Val Camonica and, with Marone Ronchi, tries to assist Breno: he realizes that the Sforza forces have set an ambush from the dust raised by their cavalry. He exits the valley and stops at Darfo.
Oct.LombardyHe plunders the territory of Pavone with his infantry and 300 cavalry and lays siege to the locality. Attacked by the Sforza forces, he is about to be captured when his wife intervenes: the woman rallies the remaining troops and frees him from the dire situation he is in. He then positions himself between Porzano and Manerbio along with Carlo Gonzaga (800 infantry and 100 cavalry); he attacks Pavone again, always with negative outcomes.
Nov.LombardyHe defeats the French militias of Renato d’Angiò, an ally of Sforza, at Monticelli Brusati.
Dec.LombardyHe returns to Val Camonica at the head of 3,000 men. He lays siege to Breno.
Jan.LombardyHe captures Breno: among the defenders, 350 men are killed; there are also significant losses for the Serenissima. He captures the Sforza commissioner; Jacopo Piccinino hands over to him as war booty the artillery pieces that have come into his possession.
…………LombardyBartolomeo Colleoni turns to the reconquest of Breno; Brunoro prefers to abandon Val Camonica for some time.
Sept.SienaPitigliano1000 infantrymenTuscanyWith the permission of the Venetians, he moves to the payrolls of the Sienese with the purpose of opposing Count Aldobrandino Orsini of Pitigliano.
Nov.TuscanyAt the siege of Sorano. He camps towards the mountain with Carlo Gonzaga and bombards the fortress with three pieces of artillery; with Giberto da Correggio, he digs some tunnels to get under the walls, but the rocky nature of the terrain hinders the continuation of such operations.
Dec.TuscanyThe general captain of the Sienese, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, signs a truce with the opponents that comes into effect even though it has not been authorized by the authorities of the republic.
Jan.TuscanyHe winters in Orbetello. When Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta is suspected of treason by the Sienese, Pietro Brunoro turns towards Sovana and Magliano in Toscana with the commissioner Antonio Petrucci; from there, he continues to Grosseto and meets Giulio Cesare da Varano. Malatesta wins at Giuncarico; upon his return, the opponents seize thirteen loads of provisions he had sent to the camp. Upon hearing this news, he heads to Sorano to complain to Orsini about the incident. On his return to Sovana, he is handed a letter in which the Count of Pitigliano notifies him of the breaking of the truce: Brunoro is immediately captured with a son by 300 infantry while he is reading the message. He is chained and imprisoned in Sorano: the Sienese attack the countryside, but are forced to desist due to threats of death against him.
SpringSienaTuscanyHe is freed also due to an intervention by Francesco Sforza. The Count of Pitigliano arranges for an Orsini to marry the son of the condottiero Francesco and gives him the mandate to negotiate an agreement with the Republic of Siena through the Venetian provveditor. At the conclusion of the negotiations, he returns to the pay of the Sienese.
JuneSienaComp. venturaTuscanyWith Giberto da Correggio and Carlo Gonzaga, he impedes the advance of Jacopo Piccinino at Magliano in Toscana, who, in his march, is devastating the Sienese territory at the head of his company.
Aug.VeniceTuscany, RomagnaHe departs from the Sienese territory. For the Forlì area, he reaches Ravenna. He returns to the pay of the Venetians.
MayVenetoHe is present in Venice at a tournament organized in honor of the new Doge Pasquale Malipiero, consisting of the conquest of a wooden castle. His wife Bona also participates and manages to overcome the defenses of the besieged. Pietro Brunoro, among all the combatants, is chosen by the Doge as deserving of the first prize.
…………VeniceOttoman Empire800 infantrymenGreece and VenetoHe reaches Negroponte after embarking on 2 galleys with eighteen horses and 800 infantry. He routs the Turks, who suffer the loss of 12,000 men and the capture of 18 high dignitaries. They offer him a sum of 150,000 doubloons for their release. To decide whether to accept, he chooses to consult the opinion of the Serenissima. He then goes to Venice, where he is received with great honors; he is also gifted a suit of golden cloth worth 200 ducats.
…………He returns to Negroponte to oppose the Turks.
1468He dies defending Negroponte. He is buried in Chalkis. His wife dies shortly after in Modon from grief while she is embarking for Venice. His portrait is in the Sanvitale Castle of Fontanellato (ancestors’ gallery).


-Il Porcellio, che lo vede nel 1453, lo descrive vecchio, losco ed offeso in un fianco da paralisi; Bona, invece, che lo accompagna, porta il turcasso in spalla, l’arco in mano, i calzari da soldato e l’elmetto in capo “Ella è una donna piccola, vecchia, gialla e magrissima; ma sincera, fedele al suo amico, ed ha più volte valicato l’oceano per vederlo e procurargli la libertà.” COLLENUCCIO

-“Ab omnibus ordo Brunorii, et diligentia laudabatur, quod sub optimo et peritissimo imperatore Annibale (Francesco Sforza) militaris rei scientiam didicerat.” PORCELLIO

-“Homo molto experto.” CAGNOLA

-“Si li risurto fuse pur Burnoro,/ el quel te custodì con grande afano,/ Forse che non saristi in tal martoro.” Da un sonetto composto dal CAGNOLA in occasione della caduta di Negroponte nel 1470.

-“Famosissimo Capitano.” DE’ CRESCENZI

“Vir sane fortis et rei militaris peritissimus.” SIMONETTA

-“Valorosissimo Capitano.” SANSOVINO

-“Impigro homini et praestantis virtutis.” F. CONTARINI

-“Condottier di molto valore.” LITTA

-Con Scariotto da Faenza “Confermarono con l’opere l’espettatione e’ l concetto.” VERDIZZOTTI

-“Valoroso et nell’arte della guerra peritissimo…Brunoro sin da quello tempo (nel 1453) apparisse vecchio e fosse cieco d’un occulo et attracto da uno lato; e come la Bona, avvegnadicché non oltrepassasse il trentesimosesto anno, avesse anch’ella aspetto di vecchia, fosca la pelle et molto maghera la persona. Un elmo coprivale allora il capo, il turcasso che pendea da li omeri, alcune saette tenea nella mano destra, il corno nella manca, brevi calzari le vestivano le spolpate gambe.” Da una relazione coeva riportata dal PEZZANA

-“Eccellente soldato.” COLUCCI

-“Uomo molto forte ed in guerra peritissimo.” PEZZANA

-“Nobile capitano di fanti e di genti d’arme e ‘l valente.” BROGLIO

-“Venne a Lunigo et quello à campegiato/ ladove a Piero Brunoro uno scopiecto/ da quei de dentro uno occhio fu cavato/ onde vedente illui si gran difecto/ Francesco Sforza dissi a Piero Brunoro/ Vendecta di ciò fare io ti promecto/ e avuto il castello senza dimoro/ tucti li scoppithiere senza sogiorno/ per darli pena dei peccati loro/ tucti li fece mettere in un forno/ e da suoi scoppithiere furo bersagliate/ et morete tucte in quel presente giorno.” SPIRITO

-“Era ben noto a Sanseverino per avervi preso parte non piccola nelle imprese militari di Francesco Sforza ed il suo nome compare ripetutamente nei volumi delle Riformanze consiliari ed in altri documenti dell’Archivio comunale. Sembra che avesse ferma intenzione di insediarsi stabilmente nella città dove aveva ricevuto in dono dal conte (lo Sforza), per benemerenza dei sevizi prestati, alcuni beni del deposto tiranno Antonio Smeducci, da parte sua aveva provveduto ad acquistare altri terreni nel contado sanseverinate…Oltre alla pratica militare Pierbrunoro doveva avere anche una spiccata predisposizione per gli affari. Sappiamo infatti che poco fuori la porta del Mercato, principale ingresso alla città di Sanseverino, egli aveva fatto impiantare un albergo dove si faceva un grande spaccio di ogni genere di merci e in particolare di carne, vino e farina.” PACIARONI

-Con Andrea Trevisan “Due Capitani di chiarissimo nome.” D. CALVI

-“Si distinse nei decenni centrali del XV secolo come condottiero al servizio delle principali compagini statali della penisola.” SALOMONI

-A ricordo di Bona Lombarda, in località Campione di Sacco nel comune di Cosio Valtellino, è stata eretta una cappella votiva dove è murata una lapide con epigrafe di ANTONIO MAFFEI. “Bona Lombarda, a cui unanimi le storie tributano omaggi e lodi, necque nel 1417 fra il gruppo degli umili casolari qui tuttora sorgenti. Virtuosa e bella mentre tra queste selve guidava il gregge, istantaneamente richiesta dal visconteo capitano Pietro Brunoro, lo seguiva fida moglie nei generosi propositi irremovibile. Sfidò i perigli, difese e salvò il marito, conseguì vittorie e palme. Ammirata da tutti, reduce dalle turchesche pugne di Negriponte, moriva a Modone nel 1468. Altro esempio che anche in poveri tuguri e sotto ruvide spoglie nascondono talvolta magnanimi spiriti capaci di ardire e nobilissime imprese.”

Featured image: pescegallovalgerola

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Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani è l'autore del sito Condottieri di ventura.