Arquà Petrarca: the enchanted “Borgo”
One of the most beautiful Italian “borgo” (typical villages generally fortified and dating back to the period from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance), nestled along the Euganean Hills in the province of Padua, Arquà Petrarca is definitely worth a visit (at least!) for three reasons. The first one is perhaps the least known, yet loved by photographers and Instagrammers. The hills, and in particular the plain of Mottolone, a hilly clearing just 2 minutes by car from the center of the village, are one of the most suggestive places in Italy from which to witness the phenomenon of thermal inversion. From October to April, in the presence of fog above 200 meters above sea level, when in the plain there are lower temperatures than in the sunny hills, real “rivers” of fog move, like soft whipped cream, towards the sea, giving life to a truly a wonderful natural phenomenon! If, on the other hand, you have chosen a beautiful sunny day for your visit, you will have to content yourself with going up to Mottolone to witness a simply breathtaking sunset where nature and the particular light of the Euganean Hills melt together into a scenario of poignant beauty.
The second reason to visit the Borgo is the house chosen by Francesco Petrarca, writer, poet, philologist, first humanist in history, in 1369 after a life as an ante litteram jet-setter among the most influential cities and courts in Europe, to retire in tranquility in his last years of life. A place that arouses a magnetic charm as soon as you cross the gate that leads to the magnificent garden. Still part of his original home are the decorations on the walls with frescoed bands with floral motifs on the ground floor, where the poet lived with the family, and on the first floor the Moorish bookcase and chair, on which according to history, in the night between 18 and 19 July 1374, the poet “reclined his head”. The admirable frescoes are from the 16th century, a work commissioned by the Paduan nobleman Pietro Paolo Valdezocco to pay homage to the poet’s most famous works, such as the poem Africa, from which the fascinating depictions of Cleopatra’s Room are taken.
Especially fond of ancient Latin authors, Petrarca’s activity of research and analysis of ancient works was enormous, including in particular Cicero and Virgil, so much so that he came to gather a precious amount of books. During his stay in Venice in 1362, Petrarch asked the government of the Serenissima of the time to accept the donation of his private collection with the visionary intent to create the first public library. Even if the project never saw any light, it was on this idea that the current Marciana Library was founded.
The third reason to visit the Borgo is to try two legendary drinks, the Brodo di Giuggiule and the Estregone, made famous by a modern alchemist: the historic artisan company Scarpon, today the custodian of these two extraordinary local products as well as of many other local delicacies. The Jujube (Giuggolo in Italian) is a plant of Asian origin imported into Italy by the Romans and very much loved for its distinctive sweet taste. The Estregone is instead a liqueur made from an infusion of a medicinal herb, estregone, plant of the Artemisia family, the same as absinthe. The name, which means “Little Dragon”, seems to date back to the time of Charlemagne when this herb was used to treat snake bites. Today the Estregone is loved by bartenders always looking for the perfect ingredient for their cocktails.
How about a fourth reason? Half an hour from Arquà Petrarca, in Sant’Urbano there is the Balobino restaurant, a gourmet oasis where you can taste dishes created around excellent raw materials and cooked on the wood-burning fireplace, including bread, whilst tasting the best wines of the Euganean Hills !