Original title: Virdimura

Publication Date:

February 2023



Original language and publisher

Italian | Guanda

Territories Handled

English (North America), Netherlands

Territories Sold

Germany (under option)
Romania (under option)
Netherlands (under option)


Original title: Virdimura


“Simona Lo Iacono: a writer of spells and charms.” –Avvenire

The true story of the first female doctor in the world: a story of bravery, love and freedom against the backdrop of the 14th century Sicily.

7 November 1376, Catania. In front of the Royal Commission, there is a woman. Her name is Virdimura and she is the first woman in Sicily, and perhaps in the entire world, who is asking to be officially authorized to practice the surgical medical profession. She speaks to the judges, to the “august doctors”, to plead her case. And before them and before us she unfolds the story of her life.

Since childhood, Virdimura has showed a great interest in medicine. She decides to follow the footsteps of her father Urìa, a passionate and persecuted man, the only one among the Jewish doctors who does not ask for compensation for his work. When Urìa is accused of spreading a typhus epidemic, he is forced to flee Catania. Before leaving, he knows he has taught his daughter all he knows about medicine, leaving her not only with a vocation, but also a condemnation.

Indeed, Virdimura will have to make her way through a tangle of prejudices and obstacles. She, the only woman in Catania capable of handling forceps, straightening bones, curing internal diseases. She, who knows the dead and the secrets of the flesh, and who mends the hymens of violated women and girls. She, who opens a hospital of-sorts for the poor and marginalized and runs it with the help of her beloved husband Pasquale, who has always believed in her. She, strong and fragile at once, who will make her life a battle for the freedom of all women.

With a gaze that crosses time and space, Simona Lo Iacono returns to enchant readers with the story of an extraordinary and forgotten woman. A story so unique that it has become legendary, spreading through the centuries to get to our days. Virdimura is a majestically written and utterly captivating novel, lush in its prose and searing in its social critique, a testimony to the memory of all women who did not have a front row seat in history but were able to carve out a place for themselves in the world.