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Welcome to criminalize a production of scandal and audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to Criminal Court. I'm Holly Fahri. And I'm Richard Aedy. And this week we are going to look at the life of Julietta Fana, an Italian apothecary known for her beauty, her secrecy and her poisonous proclivities. If the numbers are all to be believed, she might be the most successful serial killer. But you have never heard of.


But unlike many of the women we've talked about and will talk about on this show, Julia wasn't in it for a personal power grab.


She's best known as having invented a famous poison called Aqua to Fana. And that perhaps sounds more like a light submarine fragrance rather than what it really was, because it was a deadly potion laced with arsenic, belladonna and lead that she sold to hundreds of women. Those are primarily women who wanted to escape dangerous marriages. And when we say dangerous, we are talking about abuse.


So let's set her scene. This was during the Italian renaissance, which was an era of enlightenment and achievement between the 14th and 17th centuries, but not for women, for women.


This was still really a dark time of arranged marriage, and that was marriage that did not have a possibility of divorce. No matter what the situation, women found themselves with no financial or social power, and they really only had a few available options.


So one they could get married to. They could stay single and rely on something like sex work to survive. Or three, they could become a well-off widow, which naturally required option one to happen first.


Often, marriages at this time were decided based on how the family's financial or political interests aligned. Love was really not part of the equation at all. Not only did women not have a say regarding who they were married to, they were also considered legally subject to their husbands, and a husband could beat his wife without any fear of punishment. So the only way out was to become a widow.


Although many women at this time were skilled in making some common medicinal home, remedies are. Julia spent a lot of time in and out of apothecaries, watching and learning as they made their medicines and potions. So by this time, for instance, in an apothecary with no remedies like how to treat heartburn with Chalke, which is really similar to how we treat it with Tums, it doesn't just taste like chalk because of coincidence. Eventually, Julia ran her own apothecary and developed her own potions.


So up until roughly the 19th century, apothecaries were kind of like the common ancestor to our modern day pharmacies, hospitals and perhaps surprisingly, our modern day liquor stores. Unlike today's pharmacists, though, Apothecaries would also Destil mix and prescribe both medications and alcohol right there in house. And when tobacco was commonly used in medical treatment, it too was sold through an apothecary. So an apothecary had to have a combination of talents and skills, including being a general, physician, surgeon, dentist, obstetrician, optometrist.


The list just keeps going. But in this role they were available to provide medical advice and treatments to the general public who wouldn't normally have access to such a thing. In addition to preparing treatments, they also typically sold the ingredients you'd need to make up a home remedy, as well as prepared goods and herbal medicines.


And they often took on apprentices and they trained both men and women in the field.


So if you're indulgence, we'd like to go down a quick rabbit hole on apothecary history because the actual origins of this particular service go way back and you could debate where exactly on the time line it starts.


Yeah, we know that as early as 2000 B.C. Emperor Qanoon of China was prioritizing the examination and the cataloguing of hundreds of samples from nature. So think of herbs, Bachs roots in order to develop a database of how such things could be used medicinally. Mesopotamia similarly had Proteau Apothecaries figuring out how to extract and combine and dose natural elements to address countless issues. And they were recording all of this.


And in the mid 1400's DCE, an estimated 800 different prescriptions were inscribed on the papyrus in Egypt. At that time, formulas for compounding medications were recorded, serving as the ancestors to our modern day medicine.


Ancient Egypt also established and codified a hierarchy of professionals in the apothecary field. So one class of job was defined for gathering another four compounding. And then there was a third category that was the chief pharmacist. So I think it's fairly safe to consider that an apothecary at this point. Right, right. By the year one hundred, see the idea of a pharmacist botanist existed in the form of Greece's Padania discoveries, who wrote five volumes of books outlining the compounding and uses of ointments, the uses of animal derived products in medicine, and a fairly comprehensive guide to botanicals and their uses for treating maladies of almost every imaginable type, as well as what sorts of vessels and containers were best for holding all of these things.


Because that's important, too.


Yeah, yeah. He made notes about like things will go bad if you store them in this kind of container store.


This only in this kind of can always use a lid, you know.


Well, Saran Wrap, but it'll be great. And the first establishments that you would probably consider a drugstore actually popped up in Baghdad in the late 18th century where both medicines and confections of various kinds, including everything you would need to make cocktails. So they weren't called that at the time, would be found.


That's fantastic. The pharmacological field in Europe really got a boost in the 13th century when Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Second introduced a series of regulations into the field. And that started in the kingdom of two Sicily's, which is what we would point to today as Italy and Sicily.


And at this point, pharmacists there started to be governed not only by regulations that were put into effect by Frederick the Second, but they also had to take an oath that they would not exploit patients and that the drugs that they prepared were both uniform and reliable. Well, the concept of a public pharmacy spread rapidly throughout Europe from that point in the kingdom of to Sicily. So it's not surprising that 15th century Italy, especially in forward thinking, Florence specifically was where the first Pharmacopeia was written, called Nueva Recip Torrio.


And during the Renaissance as well, nuns were learning and practicing apothecary medicine in Italian convents, and they had a pretty decent reputation among the medical community. So all of this is to say that Julee was part of a long standing tradition of offering apothecary and pharmacology in history and specifically in Italian history. And we're going to get a whole lot deeper into her story. But before we do, we're going to take a quick break. Welcome back to Criminal. So after becoming a widower herself and we don't actually know if it was through poison or other circumstance, Julia and her daughter Girolamo moved from Sicily to Naples and eventually settled in Rome.


References to the elixir that she's credited with inventing Aqua to Fana have always been closely associated with Rome and Naples, but not necessarily Sicily.


So it's in Rome when we first encounter her in her work and the first recorded mention of Awkward to Fona, which actually translates simply to Tufano water can be traced to either 16 thirty two or sixteen thirty three. And while the ingredients of arsenic, lead and Belladonna were well known at this time, exactly how those things were blended into a clear, tasteless liquid has been lost to the ages. And I would say that's probably a good thing. Probably probably as Julia was an apothecary, she probably wasn't running a public pharmacy.


She was known to be discreet and worked mostly by referrals. And though the information about her background is pretty sparse, we do know that she was born in Sicily, in the city of Palermo in 16 20.


So if you do that math, those 16 30s references to Aqua Tufano, she would have been still a young teenager when she was starting to develop and peddle that.


Yeah, she was probably the daughter of California, the Adelmo, an apothecary who made and sold herbal medicines, cosmetics, perfumes and other potions and poisons.


Now, it's a little bit hard to know for sure, but it is not unheard of for a poison to be sold as a perfume. And in fact, in Sanskrit, the word for red arsenic is the same word that is used for perfume. So those two words have a history of being linked and they may well have been used to cover the trade of toxic substances. In sixteen thirty three, Julia's mother, Tiffany, was accused of murdering her husband and she was ultimately executed.


If the cause of his death was poisoned, though, that's not recorded anywhere.


So at this point, Julia was on her own and orphan, her father was killed, presumably by her mother based on what the courts found and her mother had been put to death. But Julia was armed with the knowledge of an apothecary and eventually also armed with the help of her daughter and a small group of trusted associates. And with all of that backing her up, Julia built her own reputation in Rome as a friend to abused women, all under the cloak of being a perfectly benign apothecary, selling the usual assortment of tinctures, medicines and beauty products.


And it's really nothing to see here, right? Bottles all have lids on them.


It was brilliant, really what she was doing. If anyone questioned the nature of Julia's business, she could just point to bottles of her popular face creams and powders. It appeared she sold cosmetics and Aqua to Fona was packaged in such a way that it could be easily blended in on a woman's vanity beside her makeup and creams and perfumes and a true bit of genius design.


I feel like on my vanity, no one could find anything. Nothing.


No, it's a mess, right? It all blends. I guarantee you that the Italian women felt the same way. They're like, yeah, find the poison, you know?


And like, we should be super clear. There was plenty of toxic stuff in use in Rome at this time that was just considered normal to have in your household. Right. This was a period of time when arsenic and lead were commonly used in facial powders as skin light mirrors and belladonna, which if you even have rudimentary Italian skills, you know, means beautiful woman was used in eye drops as a way to dilate a person's pupils and make a woman's eyes look more doe like and therefore more alluring.


Of course, this all had to do with careful dosage, dosage and intention, right?


Julia's cleverly packaged poisoned products could be disguised in one of two ways. It could either be made to look like a cosmetic powder or it could be sold in vials as a devotional object called Mana of Saint Nicholas of Bahri, which was actually a very popular healing oil for blemishes at the time.


Aquata Fona itself was a slow acting mixture that was easily mixed into water wine. I mean, it didn't have to be a liquid. It could be anything that you wanted to put it into for small doses was what Julia recommended to kill her husband. And she wanted you to spread them apart slowly, as if to plan the victims time of death or just give him time to write his will. Probably also it looked less suspicious if it was like, I don't know, he's been ailing for a while.


So with the first dose, the way this worked was that the victim would likely develop some cold like symptoms, such as fatigue or weakness, and then the second dose would intensify those symptoms.


By the third dose, the person would be quite ill with symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, which we see a lot with arsenic, dehydration and an a burning sensation throughout the digestive system, which would be similar to heartburn, but much, much worse than heartburn.


The fourth dose would be, of course, the lethal dose.


Although Julia and her associates were really good at keeping a low profile. You can't, of course, trust all your clients will do so as well. This is, you know, common knowledge, right? The more people that know a secret, the more likely it is that it will get out. And the way Julia was caught goes something like this.


So in the end, Julia's business practices were revealed to the authorities by one of her own customers. This was a woman who had lost her husband's dinner with a drop of Ottawa to Fona, but then she had a change of heart about things so there would be poison, begged her husband not to eat the tainted soup she had prepared.


Now, once she had confessed to her husband that his soup was in fact poisoned, he understandably turned her into the authorities. Listen, nobody knows what a relationship is like from the outside. Exactly, but then the authorities took her in and she confessed to the authorities under extreme torture that she had bought her bottle of Aqua to Fana from Julia. So keep in mind here that Julia was well liked. I mean, she had helped a lot of women in their situations.


It was probably also in her clients best interests to keep Julia off of the authorities torture table. So when word got out that her apothecary had been exposed for selling poison, locals were quick to help Julia escape to a church. There's an alternate story that she fled to a convent, which is totally plausible on either way, she was granted sanctuary while authorities searched for her. Yeah, Maria made an astute comment as we were talking about this case, that that connection of nuns being associated with apothecary and respected by the medical community kind of ties in like, of course, they might take in someone like Julia.


Right. But as is often the case, this story kind of exploded and rumors started to flare up and those rumors got bigger and bigger. And then after a rumor claiming that she had poisoned Rome's water supply cordon throughout the city, the police force their way into the church and detained Julia.


It's said that under accounts of extreme torture, she confessed to providing the poison to kill as many as 600 men in Rome between the years. Sixteen, thirty three in sixteen fifty one.


But considering it was a confession given under torture, she probably would have also confessed to the future assassination of Abraham Lincoln or maybe to being a duck. I mean, it's hard to know exactly what her truth was.


Yeah, confessions extracted through torture are not really trustworthy. While we are pretty sure she was not innocent and also that she was not a duck, there could be a version of this story where Julia could have been selling harmless cosmetics and face creams at her apothecary when she was wrongfully accused of murderous intentions. There's also part of me that wonders if she isn't like, hey, I'm not mixing it, but do you know that the stuff in your face cream is actually poisonous and maybe you could use it for that reason?


I wondered the same thing right where she was like it comes in oil and it comes in powder. But if you put the two together again, you've got to pressure Wakeling. But in 16 hundred's Italy, those torture confessions were good enough evidence to convict on Julia and her daughter, along with her accomplices that worked at her store.


So they may have just been employees were all executed in Rome in the Campo DiFiore, or they were strangled by a mob.


The specifics differ among the story accounts.


And because Julia's story is so sensational, there was a lot of variation in the accounts about her and some of Julia's clientele who had used Aquata Fono were also arrested. Some, perhaps as many as 40 were executed, just like Julia herself. Others were, it is told again. So this is unsubstantiated, bricked into the dungeons of the Palazzo Puchi. But considering that that is in Florence and not Rome, that particular version of the story is highly unlikely.


What's interesting is it comes up a lot, but like there wouldn't have been like a really good reason for them to be bricked in in Florence. It seems so strange an account, but OK, you know, maybe it was I don't know.


Upper class women, however, who were accused of using her product were said to have escaped punishment, at least mostly, mainly by virtue of being an upper class woman. But many feigned shock upon learning their, quote unquote, cosmetics were actually poisonous.


And that's actually a plausible excuse because as we talked about earlier, in 17th century Italy, a lot of cosmetics did have arsenic in Belladonna as just a regular ingredient.


We are going to talk more about why Julietta funny story still resonates. But first, we have a little bit of a pause here from my sponsor. Welcome back to Criminalist. What's interesting is that more than 100 years after her death, Julia, to find his legacy, has still survived and by brand name to that is the kind of reach most companies today would kill for, no pun intended.


And there is even a high profile story about the use of Aquata Fona a century after Julia's death. And while almost all historians since the 18th century have dismissed this as pure gossip and rumor, according to some accounts at the time, Mozart feared on his deathbed in 1791 that he had been poisoned and likely by his colleague and rival Antonio Salieri, saying, quote, I feel that I will not last much longer. I am sure that I have been poisoned.


I cannot rid myself of this idea. Someone has given me Akwa Tufano.


And one of the interesting things is, like all of the instances where you read his quote, sometimes it's a little longer, sometimes it's a little shorter. It always mentions Aquata Fana like by name.


But in truth, it is so highly unlikely that Mozart was poisoned by anyone solidary or his maid.


You know, there's just no evidence to support his wild claim, although he may have really, truly believed he felt like he'd been poisoned. Today, most studies and historians point to actually a possible strep infection that had gone too far, which can lead to complications of rheumatic fever. They also point to possible trichinosis from eating undercooked pork. And he had been having really terrible headaches near his his death. And they attribute that to possibly having been a subdural hematoma.


Now, Mozart was not the only 18th century figure that was worried about Aquata Fana. Pope Clement, the 14th, lived his final year in fairly poor health with depression and also a fear of assassination. In fact, following his death in 1774, rumors circulated that he had indeed been poisoned. Ultimately, though, an autopsy determined that he had died of natural causes.


Julia's legacy is clearly kind of an interesting one.


While her life story is often billed as a tale of a woman who killed more than 600 men, when you look more closely, what emerges is the case that looks a little bit more like she she felt she had a personal calling in helping women out of abusive situations.


Yeah, I always wonder if it goes back to her mother and whatever was going on in that marriage. I wonder that, too. And we will never know what the truth was there. And certainly we don't have hard evidence regarding whether all of her clients were after Aquata Fana or they really just needed her assistance with fine lines and wrinkles. It's not as though we have some handy dandy death statistic tables regarding fatalities in Rome in the mid 17th century, categorized by sex and cause of death that we could use to compare her story against.


But we can look at some modern statistics as we look at Julia's story, like the fact that according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 20 people in the United States are physically abused by an intimate partner per minute per minute.


Stop and let that sink in for a second.


It's just in the United States and it's not a problem just in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, around the world, almost 30 percent of women. That's a third of all women globally who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.


That is literally just the tip of the iceberg when considering the modern domestic violence story. But when you think about that and all of the ramifications of it, it starts to become even clearer why Julia Tufano emerges as a sort of folk hero in some modern tellings of her story.


And that's even with so many gaps in terms of details about her life and work. You can still see where the fascination comes from and why the idea of a woman who was kind of a badass becomes even more compelling when the possibility is introduced that she was using her skills and knowledge of botany and pharmacology to offer a means of empowerment, albeit illegal to be sure to the women of the 17th century in Rome.


Yeah, Julia, and I know you love her.


I love Julia because I really she stood out to me as being one of these women who we absolutely needed to keep on our list because she wasn't in it for the politics of anything. She seemed to be truly involved in this for the benefit of other women.


And that that's just cool.


Hey, Holly, what's your poison this week? Well, this is actually I feel like it should be your poison because you pointed out this recipe to me.


Oh, yeah. The Italian Sicilian ness of it is is kind of heavy as well. Right.


Right. You pointed me at a recipe for a cocktail called a Pimp Vanilla, which because I had to click on that.


Right. And how could you not? So this particular cocktail features one point five ounces of grappa, an ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, three quarters of an ounce of Anna's syrup and one quarter of an ounce of Sangamon. So there is also a lot of a caramel in the original recipe. There's some really fancy pants, unicorn salt for the rim that you can make. That is a lemon, rosemary salt. I did not do that. I went the simple route.


I also didn't like garnish it with an A. pot and I didn't. Even though I have a beautiful rosemary bush right outside my front door, did I go out and get one to garnish it with? No, I did not. I just wanted to get it in the shaker and go to town. I expected to hate this cocktail.


I know you did like everything about this cocktail is everything that I like, and I'm not the one you drank it, right.


It's one of those things where, I mean, my my proclivities are usually towards something kind of like soft and light. I don't like a particularly fancy drink usually. Like my go to is vodka and Diet Coke. I'm a very basic person. Now, granted, if you don't like licorice flavor because the A.. Yes. It's not going to be your jam.


Right. But it was delightful.


And I love that your licorice girl as well.


Well, because the lime juice, the anus and then the sun is your main is the magic trick like it? Oh yes.


It is the the thing that holds the whole thing together and like takes all of the things, the, the characteristics of each of the spirits or ingredients that you wouldn't enjoy. And it just makes them kiss each other in a nice little of way.


Now is that that's elderflower isn't it? It is. It's love.


That's another one that's going to go into regular rotation at the frat house. Fantastic. Yeah. Yeah, it's fantastic. Yeah. The pin Pannella if you just Google that you're going to get this recipe and it's quite yummy and then.


Yeah I like that they call it a Sprint's Brant's. It's a secret. It is.


It's for, you know, to pretend that you're in Italy enjoying a beautiful, beautiful, sunny day. We hope that you like us. You're here to the end. So thank you for listening to criminality. And if you would like to subscribe to the show, we would also just think that's grand. You can do that on the I Heart radio app at Apple podcast or wherever it is you listen to shows.


Criminality is a production of Shawanda Land Audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. For more podcasts from chandeliered audio, please visit the I heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.