Historical Guests

Portofino, a World apart
25
February 2008

Francesco Petrarca, illustrious guest in Portofino.

To quote the words of the supreme Italian lyric poet who enthusiastically speaks of Cervara and of the coast of Portofino seems a bit too erudite, but it is absolutely not possible to forget Francesco Petrarca among the illustrious guests on the Portofino Bay. Guido Scetten, the archbishop of Genoa had invited him.

This humanist & scholar who as I have already noted had the spirit of a poet and had decided to spend most of his time in this wonderful place (cara requies mea) and had even elected to be buried there. Petrarca and Scetten had both studied in Avignone. So when the archbishop invited the poet to the abbey the invitation was accepted and it was here that Petrarca may have found the inspiration for some verses of his poem in Latin “Africa“.

The great friendship between the grand poet and the archbishop Scetten is documented by the affectionate expression Petrarca used when referring to him. He called him “My Guido” (it should be noted that in Italian “Guido” also means “guide”). Together they would converse or recite poetry while strolling through the monastery or on the balcony that overlooked the sea with a beautiful view of the peninsula of Portofino.

Surely Scetten must have brought him to the adjacent villas and to the beautiful church of San Martino as well as to San Giorgio which overlooks the bay and the vast sea. And it was certainly here that Petrarca was inspired to write the fol- lowing verses in Latin: Hinc del phinus ad est, luco con tectus aprico obice qui montis violentos protinus austros reicit- immotoque silens statione quiescit.

We offer here the liberal translation of Mrs. Pearle Rita Deecke great lover of PortofinoNear here appears Portofino enclosed by luminous greenery; with a mountain barrier that repels the violence of the winds a silent respite in ecstatic quietness.

Africa VI 845-847

Reading this excerpt one can realize the truth of what we have said of Petrarca’s visit to Portofino.

Francesco Petrarca
1304 -1374

Portofinoa World apart.