Petrarch and the places he lived

Omnes Viae Romam Ducunt

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To Francesco Petrarcha, Poet Laureate by wish of the Roman Senate,

Today I was able to visit the Eternal City, the city before all others in your estimation, although it stood as a medieval backwater during the time you visited it, forsaken even by the Pope. The empire that you pictured in your mind’s eye is still being uncovered by archaeologists, and you must rest easy in your grave, knowing that the pope is firmly seated on the cathedra of St. Peter’s.

As I wandered over the Palatine Hill six centuries after you, I was surprised to find that some excavations are still active, and the weathered tops of some landmarks silently pointed to the millenium of dirt that had concealed them from all but you, who saw with the eyes of history. I was able to find a handful of the 80-some locations you name in your letter to Cardinal Colonna, but it is clear that many places were seen only with the eyes of your inner muse. I found the Baths of Diocletian, and remembered how you described pleasant evenings spent discussing philosophy and the liberal arts with Cardinal Colonna on that very rooftop. This unique building was transformed into the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri less than a century after your death, but it still retains a melancholy vestige of its former magnificence.

Despite your fervent love of Rome, you never spent much time there out of concern for your safety, and you chose instead to settle in the unique city of Venice.

Written by my hand, in the shadow of the Castel Sant’Angello.



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