Above: One of my favorite places in the world, a scene from Petrarch’s house in the hilltop town of Arquà in the heart of the Colli Eugenei (the Euganean Hills) in the province of Padua. One of my mentors, Professor Vittore Branca, believed that Petrarch spoke with a northern cadence, even though he was born to Tuscan parents in Arezzo. Petrarch spent most of his life in southern France, Milan, and Arquà. (Photo courtesy Padova Cultura.)
Nearly every Italian who’s ever heard me speak Italian will remark that I speak Italian with a simpatico Veneto accent. Some will place it in Padua, others (when I’ve got a belly full of wine) in Treviso (non è vero, Briciole?). But the many years I spent of study and touring with my Italian-based band in the Veneto profoundly informed and shaped my “Italian” identity.
When I saw that Franco had posted about what must be a truly wonderful orange, natural wine from my beloved Euganean Hills outside Padua, I couldn’t resist the mimetic desire it stirred in me.
Were they not the site of countless Sunday evenings spent with friends eating roast pollastro and patatine fritte, accompanied by side-splitting joke-telling in Veneto dialect and carafes of Malvasia and Cabernet Franc! Were they not the home to some of the most unique, distinct, and distinctive wines produced in the Veneto! Did they not abound with a dolce aura, a sweet air, and immense beauty!
The Euganean Hills would still hold a special place in my heart for it is there that my beloved Petrarch spent the last years of his life, under the protection of the Carraresi family, the lords of medieval Padua, and it is there he finished the final notes of the transcription of his autograph and idiograph version of the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (Fragments of Vernacular Things), his song book, his 366 poems devoted to the blond-haired and fair Laura (a laical breviary, with a poem for every day of the year and a proemium). Today, that beautiful book — singular also for its humanist script and the unusual binding format — resides in the Vatican Library (Codex Vaticanus 3195). It was the subject of my doctoral thesis: I have examined it myself, I have held it in my hands and run my fingers across its vellum leaves and scrutinized their pores, and I have felt its aura.
O to see those hills again! Someday, I’ll take Tracie B to visit them and and breath in their dolce aura, to see Petrarch’s house, and to taste the wines.
And I will tell my sweet Tracie B (my Laura and my dolce aura, with her fair skin as white as ivory, her eyes as blue as the fresh, clear water that flows in the streams of trans-Alpine lands)… I will tell her the same thing the vecchiette, the little old ladies, in Monselice at the foot of the Colli Euganei say as you begin your ascent to Arquà: non dimenticare di salutare la gatta del Petrarca… don’t forget to say hello to Petrarch’s cat…
Above: The famous “gatta del Petrarca,” Petrarch’s female feline, who, as Modenese poet Alessandro Tassoni wrote in the 17th-century epic poem, The Rape of the Bucket, still bars the tops from crossing the dotta soglia, the erudite threshold. (Photo by Arquà Petrarca.)
Someday Tracie B will see it, too. In the meantime we can only dream of natural skin-contact Garganega and roast poissons.
Buona domenica a tutti!