This episode is not exactly a sonnet, but today Anne and Jim have fun / suffer the passion of reading Francesco Petrarca, more commonly known as Petrarch in the English-speaking world. Also, they pine to see Arezzo again (or Avignon for the first time!). So much longing, such intensity of feeling. Plus, memories of Arqua Petrarca and Padua. Who's buried in Petrarch's tomb (trick question!)? And what's up with the cat mummy?
Referred to sometimes as the father of humanism and the Renaissance, Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch in English) is best known for his lyric poetry, which established a model in Europe for centuries. Petrarch was born in the city of Arezzo, about an hour southeast of Florence, where his father had fled after, like Dante, he was exiled from the city of Florence. Petrarch was a prolific traveler, and spent much of his adult life in many of the major courts in both Italy and France. This may have contributed to his vision of Italy as a cohesive political entity, rather than a fragmented collection of warring factions, as it had been for centuries. A renowned scholar and advocated for a study of the classics, Petrarch is best known for his book of poems, the Canzoniere, or Rime Sparse (Scattered Rhymes), a collection of 366 poems, most of which are love poems dedicated to Laura, his beloved.
Petrarch spent the latter part of his life in a small town called Arquà (now called Arquà Petrarca in the poet’s honor), about a half-hour southwest of the city of Padua. Literary tourism to Arquà Petrarca has existed for centuries, one of the earliest examples of a museum dedicated to a writer. Here you can visit Petrarch’s final home and his tomb. Unlike Dante’s tomb in Florence, the tomb in Arquà does indeed hold his body, however when it was exhumed in 2003 in anticipation of the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the poet’s birth, it was discovered that skull contained inside was not Petrarch’s at all, but that of an unknown woman. Presumably at some point in history Petrarch’s skull, along with several other bone fragments, was stolen, probably to be sold. The museum also includes the mummified remains of a cat, reputed to be Petrarch’s favorite pet, with a Latin inscription that proclaims: “The Etruscan poet burned with twin loves, I am the greater fire, Laura was the second.” Although there is no evidence the cat belonged to Petrarch at all, it makes a fun diversion, and has led tourists to this spot since the 16th century.