Showing posts with label 1544. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1544. Show all posts

9 December 2018

Teofilo Folengo – poet

Style of writer’s verses took its name from the dumpling


A portrait of Teofilo Folengo by Girolamo Romanino, owned by the Uffizi museum in Florence
A portrait of Teofilo Folengo by Girolamo Romanino,
owned by the Uffizi museum in Florence
Teofilo Folengo, who is remembered as one of the principal Italian ‘macaronic’ poets, died on this day in 1544 in the monastery of Santa Croce in Campese, a district of Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto.

Folengo published, under the pseudonym Merlin Cocaio, a macaronic narrative poem entitled Baldo, which was a humorous send up of ancient epic and Renaissance chivalric romance.

Writing in verse that mixed vernacular language with Latin became known as macaronic verse, the word deriving from the Latin macaronicus and the Italian maccarone, which meant dumpling, fare mixed crudely from different ingredients that at the time was regarded as a coarse, peasant food. It is presumed to be the origin of the modern Italian word maccheroni.

Folengo was a runaway Benedictine monk who satirised the monastic life using an invented, comic language that blended Latin with various Italian dialects.

Born Girolamo Folengo in 1491 in Cipada, a village near Mantua, he entered the Benedictine order as a young man taking the name Teofilo. He lived in monasteries in Brescia, Mantua and Padua, where he produced Latin verse written in the Virgilian style.

The cover of a book of macaronic verse by Folengo under his pseudonym
The cover of a book of macaronic verse
by Folengo under his pseudonym 
But he left the order to travel around the country with a young woman, Girolama Dieda. They often experienced great poverty as Folengo had no money apart from what he earned through writing.

For a few years he lived as a hermit near Sorrento, but he was readmitted to the Benedictine order in 1534 and remained in it, continuing to write, until his death.

Out of all his poetry, Baldo is considered to be his masterpiece and it has been republished five times. Full of satire and humour it describes the adventures of Baldo, who is supposed to be a descendant of the cousin of the medieval epic hero Roland. Baldo suffers imprisonment, battles with authority, pirates, witches and demons, and goes on a journey to the underworld.

The poem blended Latin with various Italian dialects in hexameter verse. The first English version, translated by Ann Mullaney, was published in 2007.

The term macaronic is still used to describe literature where the mixing of languages has a humorous or satirical effect. It is believed to have originated in Padua in the late 15th century, after the comic poem, Macaronea, by Tifi Odasi was published in about 1488, satirising the broken Latin used by doctors and officials to communicate with ordinary people.

Folengo once described his own verses as ‘a gross, rude and rustic mixture of flour, cheese and butter.’

Many modern Italian authors, including Umberto Eco and Dario Fo, have continued to use macaronic text.

The Palazzo Ducale in Mantua was the seat of the Gonzagas
The Palazzo Ducale in Mantua was the seat of the Gonzagas
Travel tip:

Cipada near Mantua, where Teofilo Folengo was born, was a village on the banks of a lake, but it no longer exists, having become part of the industrial area of Mantua. A main street, Strada Cipata, is the only reference to it that remains. On the other side of the lake is the historic area of Mantua, where the Palazzo Ducale, the seat of the Gonzaga family between 1328 and 1707, can be found.



The former monastery of Santa Croce in Campese, where Folengo died
The former monastery of Santa Croce
in Campese, where Folengo died
Travel tip:

The monastery of Santa Croce, where Teofilo Folengo died, is in Via IV Novembre in Campese, a district of Bassano del Grappa on the banks of the Brenta Canal. The monastery dates back to 1124 and for centuries was the most important religious centre in the area around the Brenta. There is a monument to Teofilo Folengo in the monastery, which is now used as a church. Close by is a square named after the poet, Piazza Teofilo Folengo.


More reading:

Giosuè Carducci - the poet who became the first Italian to win a Nobel Prize in literature

Why Torquato Tasso is known as Italy's greatest Renaissance poet

How Dario Fo's work denounced crime, corruption and racism

Also on this day:

1920: The birth of politician Carlo Azeglio Ciampi

1920: The birth of Bruno Ruffo, Italy's first motorcycling world champion

1946: The birth - near Vicenza - of Indian politician Sonia Gandhi


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11 March 2016

Torquato Tasso – poet

Troubled Renaissance writer came back to Sorrento


Torquato Tasso, as depicted by a  German magazine in 1905
Torquato Tasso, as depicted by a
German magazine in 1905
Torquato Tasso, who has come to be regarded as the greatest Italian poet of the Renaissance, was born on this day in 1544 in Sorrento.

Tasso’s most famous work was his epic poem Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) in which he gives an imaginative account of the battles between Christians and Muslims at the end of the first crusade during the siege of Jerusalem.

He was one of the most widely read poets in Europe and his work was later to prove inspirational for other writers who followed him, in particular the English poets Spencer and Byron. 

The house where Tasso was born on 11 March, 1544 is in Sorrento’s historic centre, a few streets away from the main square, Piazza Tasso, in Via Vittorio Veneto.

It now forms part of the Imperial Hotel Tramontano, where the words for the beautiful song, Torna a Surriento, were written by Giambattista De Curtis while he was sitting on its terrace in 1902.

Tasso travelled about in Italy constantly during his 51 years but came back to Sorrento towards the end of his life to visit his beloved sister Cornelia, at a time when he was deeply troubled with mental health problems.


The statue of Torquato Tasso in Bergamo's Piazza Vecchia
The statue of Torquato Tasso
in Bergamo's Piazza Vecchia
The poet is also immortalised in the northern city of Bergamo in Lombardy by a large statue that stands in front of Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza Vecchia in the upper town.

Tasso was the son of a Bergamo nobleman, Bernardo Tasso, who was also a poet. He spent two periods only in his father’s native city, but is known to have written about Bergamo with affection.

While his father was resident poet at the Ducal Palace in Urbino, Torquato studied alongside Francesco Maria della Rovere, the heir to the Duke. He was later sent to study law in Padua but chose to write poetry instead.

Tasso was to spend many years in Ferrara at the Castle owned by the Este family where he fell in love with a lady in waiting and wrote love sonnets to her.

He suffered from the jealous behaviour of the other courtiers, which led to him developing a persecution mania and suspecting he was going to be poisoned. Eventually he escaped and made his way to Sorrento to visit his sister in her house in the historic centre between the main street and the sea.

After some further difficult years during which Tasso was confined to a madhouse by his patron, the Duke of Urbino, and later wandered from city to city without settling, he was invited to Rome by the Pope.

Tasso died in Rome in 1595 when he was just about to be crowned poet laureate by Pope Clement VIII.


Piazza Tasso is Sorrento's main square
Sorrento's Piazza Tasso
Travel tip:

Although Tasso travelled all over Italy during his life, he was born in Sorrento and the main square has been named after him. Piazza Tasso is right at the hub of Sorrento, in the middle of the main shopping street, Corso Italia, and looking out over Marina Piccola, Sorrento’s port. Surrounded by bars and restaurants, the square has stops for the local buses and a taxi rank. It is also the resting place for the horses that pull the carriages that can be hired for sightseeing.




The Caffè del Tasso in Bergamo was renamed in honour of the poet
The Caffè del Tasso in Bergamo was
renamed in honour of the poet
Travel tip:

Nearly 100 years after Tasso’s death, a statue of him was erected in a corner of Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo’s historic upper town. The bar next to it subsequently changed its name to Caffè del Tasso. Dating back to at least 1476, the bar would have been known during Tasso’s life as Locanda delle Due Spade (Two Swords Inn.) In 1681 when the statue of the poet was erected, the bar’s name was changed to Al Torquato Tasso Caffè e Bottiglieria (Torquato Tasso Café and Wine Shop).