19 July 2016

Petrarch – Renaissance poet

Writer whose work inspired the modern Italian language

Francesco Petrarca
Renaissance scholar and poet Francesco Petrarca died on this day in 1374 at Arquà near Padua.

Petrarca, known in English as Petrarch, is considered to be an important figure in the history of Italian literature.

He is often credited with initiating the 14th century Renaissance, after his rediscovery of Cicero’s letters, and also with being the founder of Humanism.

In the 16th century, the Italian poet, Pietro Bembo, created the model for the modern Italian language based on Petrarch’s works.

Petrarch was born in Arezzo in Tuscany in 1304. His father was a friend of the poet Dante Alighieri, but he insisted that Petrarch studied law.

The poet was far more interested in writing and in reading Latin literature and considered the time he studied law as wasted years.

The main square of Arezzo, Piazza Grande, where
Petrarch was born in 1304
Petrarch’s first major work, Africa, about the Roman general, Scipio Africanus, turned him into a celebrity. In 1341 he became the first poet laureate since ancient times and his sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe.

Petrarch travelled widely throughout Italy and Europe during his life and once climbed Mount Ventoux near Vaucluse in France just for pleasure, writing about the experience afterwards.

Towards the end of his life he moved with his daughter, Francesca, and her family, to live in the small town of Arquà in the Euganean Hills near Padua. He died there on 19 July 1374, the day before his 70th birthday.

Travel tip:

Arezzo, where Petrarch was born, is an interesting town in eastern Tuscany that has become famous because of the artist, Piero della Francesco. The 13th century church of San Francesco contains Piero della Francesco’s frescoes, The Legend of the True Cross, painted between 1452 and 1466 and now considered to be one of Italy’s greatest fresco cycles.

The tomb of Petrarch in Arqua Petrarca
Travel tip:

Arquà near Padua, where Petrarch spent his last few years, is considered to be one of the most beautiful, small towns in Italy and it has won awards for tourism and hospitality. In 1870 the town became known as Arquà Petrarca and the house where the poet lived now has a museum dedicated to him.


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