29. A Deadly Mother and Daughter Duo
Giulia Tofana reportedly invented the infamous poison that bore her name, Aqua Tofana. However, some sources indicate that the deadly substance might have been invented by her mother, who passed the recipe on to her daughter. Either way, Giulia Tofana perfected that toxin, and began selling it, discreetly, under the cover of cosmetics, or in small vials known as “Manna of Saint Nicholas of Bari” – a devotional object. Her chief clientele were married women interested in speedy widowhood.
Giulia Tofana was a young widow when she first began peddling her poison, and she might have tested and perfected the recipe for Aqua Tofana on her own husband. She had a daughter, Girolama Sperla, who followed in her mother’s footsteps and joined what became a family business of concocting and selling poison. Mother and daughter kept it low key for decades, as they moved throughout Italy, first from Palermo to Naples, and eventually, from Naples to Rome.