Visiting the enchanting town with its narrow streets of Arquà Petrarca, it is not difficult to understand why the great poet Petrarca decided to retreat here in his old age.
Today the village is one of the most beautiful places in Italy and a must see in northern Italy and during a holiday in Veneto.
Arquà Petrarca is a characteristic medieval village located in the heart of the Euganean Hills, at the foot of Monte Piccolo and Monte Ventolone. The original name, Arquà, was changed to Arquà Petrarca in 1868 to homage the Poet who chose the location as his home in the last years of his life.
It is probable that Francesco Petrarca discovered Arquà for the first time in 1364 while he was at the Terme di Abano to recover from scabies. Then Francesco il Vecchio donated a plot of land to Arquà to the Poeta in 1369 and had become canon at the collegiate church of nearby Monselice in 1365. In spring 1369, the Poet went to Arquà to supervise the restoration works on the cottage where he moved in March 1370; his “buon retiro”, retirement years, began. This is how Arquà was described at the time of Petrarch in a document kept at the Civic Museum of Padua: "Vast woods of chestnuts, beech nuts, ash, oaks covered the slopes of Arquà, but it was above especially the vines, olive trees and the almond trees that contributed to creating the suggestive and typical landscapeof Arquà".
Francesco Petrarca's house
The original structure dated back to the thirteenth century and it was Petrarch in person who, starting from 1369 when it was donated to him by the Lord of Padua Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara, presided over the restoration works. The house, consisting of two bodies with a difference in height of three and a half meters from each other, was modified by the Poet who opened some windows on the façade and turned it into a single accommodation with two residential units, reserving the raised floor of the building (left side) as a home for himself and for his family, while the right-hand side of building where the main entrance was located was occupied by the services and used by the domestic staff. The Paduan nobleman Pietro Paolo Valdezocco became its owner in the sixteenth century. In this period the Renaissance-style loggia and the external staircase were built, but, above all, the walls were painted with tempera represented scenes inspired by the Songbook, the Triumphs and Africa, among the most important works of the poet. The last owner, Cardinal Pietro Silvestri, donated it to the Municipality of Padua in 1875. Currently the study where the poet died is still preserved, with what seems to be the original chair and bookcase. Also to be remembered is the niche where the cat mummy is kept and it is said it had belonged to the Poet.
The village of Arquà
The village is articulated around the central Piazza Roma, with some sumptuous fifteenth-century buildings and the Archpriestal Church of Santa Maria and in the churchyard there is an arch of red Verona marble erected in 1370 to keep the remains of Francesco Petrarca. The main road, via Roma, leads to the upper part of the town; at the end of a long climb you reach the Oratory of the Holy Trinity flanked by the bell tower and Loggia dei Vicari, once decorated with the noble coats of arms of the Paduan nobles who administered the area on behalf of the Serenissima Republic. A vegetation and peace that perhaps reminded the poet of another land so dear to him, Tuscany, so he decided to settle in the house that certainly stood out from the other very poor ones of the local peasants and artisans. In fact, these were huts with masonry or wooden perimeter, almost always covered with straw, few perhaps already had the characteristic stone fence, to protect intimacy and contain the terraces, with the vegetable garden, the viridarium or brolo, and to act as a sweet and useful frame. In the fourteenth century, the slopes around the town were dotted mainly with vineyards of delicious white, garganica and schiava grapes, but also moscata, palestra e marzemina.
Festivals and traditional events of Arquà Petrarca
The traditional Jujube Festival is held in Arquà Petrarca every year and dedicated to the celebration of the typical local product: jujubes. Among musical performances, dances, flag-wavers and walk-ons in the shadow of the house of Francesco Petrarca and his tomb, visitors can plunge into the medieval atmosphere that is so loved by the Poet. Other events in Arquà Petrarca: The Novello Oil Festival, Spring in the Village, Curtains at the Village, Concerts in Villa Centanin, Arquà Petrarca rediscovers Lavender.