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Arquà Petrarca

The charm and the fascination of one of the most beautiful
villages in Italy

That’s the remark written on a road sign at the gates of this medieval hamlet, as that’s how the experts have described it: one of Italy’s thirty most beautiful villages

And so it has always been: it was not by chance that the poet Francesco Petrarca decided to spend here the last years of his life. Unlike other villages of the same age, Arquà was built with stone.
Its ancient core, belonging to the thirteenth-century, is made of original scaglia, while the other buildings are made of trachyte, a stone which comes from the quarries in the Euganean Hills.
A walk through the village reveals ancient buildings (many of them are private houses nowadays) which date from 1200/1600 AC.

 
 

Francesco Petrarca

Fuggo la città come ergastolo e scelgo di abitare
in un solitario piccolo villaggio, in una graziosa casetta,
circondata da un uliveto e da una vigna,
dove trascorro i giorni pienamente tranquillo,
lontano dai tumulti, dai rumori, dalle faccende,
leggendo continuamente e scrivendo

 
 

Petrarch’s Tomb

Petrarch’s Tomb is an imposing coffin made of red Verona marble. It is placed in Petrarch’s square, in front of the church of Santa Maria Assunta (2). Since 1380, six years after Petrarca’s death, it has housed the poet’s remains. On the back of the tomb there is a diagonal mark cut into the stone:

it was made in 1630 by the archpriest of the period who stole the bones of the poet’s right arm to confer upon himself the “vis poetica”. The tomb was opened more than once for restoration and in order to protect the poet’s remains from bombing during the Second World War. It is a fact that on each occasion the tomb has been opened some body parts have been taken away.

 

If you wish to visit the village of Arquà

here are a few suggestions about some of the places you shouldn’t miss.
Don’t forget to take your camera and…enough puff to make it up there!

 

Jujube trees: a tree's roots rich in fruit

Jujube trees are a kind of symbol of Arquà Petrarca.
They’re the evidence of a far away time, when families of farmers used to pick jujubes and put them, with other fruit, in a vase where they brewed

and settled becoming a very sweet liqueur called “brodo di giuggiole” (jujube broot).
A sentence that has become a saying meaning
“to be in raptures”. And there are also the pomegranates that decorate Arquà’s gardens.
They’re a bright red flash amidst the warm colours of the surrounding autumnal landscape.

 


 

Casa Strozzi

Strozzi House, which used to belong to the Florentine Strozzi family, is now an art gallery. On the façade you can see the yellow and red family coat of arms and the ‘lily of Florence’. Strozzi house is also known as ‘Casa del Pestrin’ and there used to be an olive oil mill there.

 
 

Madonna Hospital

Built in 1320, it used to host pilgrims travelling from north to south or vice versa. Those wayfarers could usually only stay in the building one night, but in case of bad weather they would be given shelter for up to three days. Nowadays, the fresco painting on the façade of the building still bears witness to its former purpose.

 
 

Villa Alessi

In the eighteenth century this was the summer holiday residence of the bishops of Padua (like Gregorio Barbarigo and Benedetto XIII).

 
 

Piazza alta di Arquà

Unlike the Piazza bassa which is known as the religious part of the village, the piazza alta has always been given over to the village’s administrative activities. The loggia dei Vicari (the former main office of the Vicar), San Marco’s column (13) (symbol of the dominion of the Republic of Venice in the seventeenth century) and the current town hall, all look out on to this square, just as they did in the past. (14).

 
 

Loggia dei Vicari

The Loggia dei Vicari is a thirteenth century lodge where vicars and the heads of each family would discuss problems and take decisions. When, at the end of the meetings, the final decision was taken, the bell was rung and the vicars and citizens would take part in a ceremony in front of the Oratorio (oratory) della SS Trinità- (12) Vicars’ coats of arms are still displayed inside the lodge.

 
 

Petrarch’s Fountain

Petrarch’s fountain is so named because the poet used to draw his water from it, although, in fact, the fountain predates the poet. The fountain collects the water which comes down from the surrounding hills, where it springs up naturally from the ground. The nearby drinking troughs where, in the past, people took their animals to drink or went to wash their clothes are also filled with this same natural water. This fountain is symbolic of the bond between Petrach and water.

 
 

Villa Rova

This fifteenth-century villa once belonged to the Pisani family and resembles the architectural style of Villa Pisani in Strà. It is a typical example of the Venetian villas which, from 1400, were beginning to be built by the noble families of Arquà, thanks to the fame brought by Petrarch. The Venetian villas were, in fact, predominantly built around his tomb. Like Villa Pisani, Villa Rova is a tall building, encompassing several floors.

 
 

Osteria del Guerriero (Guerriero’s inn)

Look out for the grape-vine plant growing out from the inn’s walls, it’s so unique! It’s a local variety which, traditionally, has no cross-breeds and survives thanks to a limited exposure to the sun.

 
 

Villa Contarini

Villa Contarini is the most imposing building in Arquà Petrarca. It is a medieval palace formerly belonging to the Contarini family and its structure resembles that of the Villa Contarini in Piazzola. This building, influenced by both the distinctive houses of Venice as well as the typical villas of the Veneto region, is low built, but spreads out over a wide area: on the ground floor there is a portico, while on the first floor there are rooms for storing grain mill products and flour.

 

The “brolo”

This is a typical Arquà garden: a mix between an ornamental garden and a vegetable plot. Here you can find jujube, olive and pomegranate trees: the plants aren’t just there to look pretty, but are chosen because they actually bear fruit.

 

 




 

15. Castello Hill

Nowadays, Castello Hill has become a park, which provides a perfect observation point over the village and the surrounding valley. Around 1000 AC, a castle stood on the top of the hill, which became the original medieval centre from which Arquà was developed. The castle was later destroyed so that the stones could be re-used in the construction of the first buildings, which today look out onto the piazza alta.

 

16. Petrarch’s House

You really should visit it! How could you miss the chance to have a walk through the places the poet loved so much and which inspired him to write such beautiful verses in the last years of his life?

 
 
 
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