Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian scholar and poet, best remembered as the author of the earthy tales in the Decameron.

His masterpiece, “The Decameron,” a collection of 100 stories, a savory painting of morals, presents, through a wide variety of types caught in revealing aspects, a real “human comedy.”

Together with Francesco Petrarca, he laid the foundations of Renaissance humanism and raised vernacular literature to the height and status of ancient classics.

Here Are 23 Interesting Giovanni Boccaccio Facts:

#1 Giovanni Boccaccio was born in the year 1313 in Italy. His father was not married to his mother, however, Giovanni grew up with his stepmother and his father.

#2 Some researchers thought that Giovanni was the product of a relationship between his father and an unknown Parisienne.

#3 His father worked for the Compagnia dei Bardi and in the 1320s he married a member of an illustrious family – Margherita del Mardoli.

#4 In 1321, he began to study Latin. However, his father did not encourage his literary interests.

#5 In 1327, his father sent him to Naples to practice commerce, an activity he quit in order to study canon law and classical languages. During this period he began writing his first works: “La caccia di Diana” (1334), “Il filocolo” (1336), “Filostrato” (1338), “La Teseide” (1340).

Giovanni Boccaccio Italian poet and scholar

#6 During the years spent in Naples, Boccaccio fell in love with Fiammetta, whose figure dominates all his literary activity up to The Decameron, where there is also a Fiammetta, who resembles the character of Fiammetta in his first works.

#7 Attempts to use passages from Boccaccio’s writings to link Fiammetta with the allegedly historical figure of Mary, the natural daughter of King Robert and the wife of a Count of Aquino, are doubtful – especially because Mary’s existence is not documented.

#8 In 1340, the writer had to return to Florence because the family’s fortune was lost due to the bankruptcy of the Bardi bankers.

#9 Despite his family problems, he continued to write: “Il ninfale d’Ameto” (1341), “L’amorosa visione” (1342), “Elegia di Maddonna Fiammetta” (1343-1344 ), “Il Ninfale Fiesolano” (1344-1345).

The Decameron

a scene from the frame story of Boccaccio's Decameron

Image credit – https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Waterhouse_decameron.jpg

#10 During a very difficult time, he began work on The Decameron around 1349. The work was largely complete by 1352 and it was his final effort in literature and one of his last works in Italian.

#11 “The Decameron” contains a hundred novels, probably written at the request of Mary d’Aquino.

#12 These stories are told by ten people, seven ladies and three young men who met in the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence (1348) while the plague poured over the walls of the city.

#13 They retreated to a castle decided to spend a few days there in the middle of dances and pleasant conversations. Every day they choose a king or queen, and in the afternoon (except for Friday and Saturday, days dedicated to fasting), they tell a story that fits in a theme chosen by the king or queen of that day. But on the first and ninth day, everyone is free to choose any story. Here, the ten youngsters spent ten days in which each one told a story, hence the title of the work.

#14 The Decameron is believed to have influenced Geoffrey Chaucer (the Father of English literature) and his famous book of the Canterbury Tales.

#15 The Decameron begins with a flight of 10 young people from plague-stricken Florence in 1348.

It was the common practice of most of the neighbors, moved no less by fear of contamination by the putrefying bodies than by charity towards the deceased, to drag the corpses out of the houses with their own hands…”, a quote from The Decameron.

#16 No autograph copy of “The Decameron” exists, however, there are 3 manuscript copies dating from the 14th century.

#17 During the years when Boccaccio is believed to have written The Decameron, the Florentines appointed him as ambassador to the rulers of the Romagna province in 1350, and also an ambassador to Ludwig’s court, Duke of Bavaria in Tirol in 1351.

#18 In 1348, Boccaccio is in Florence, where he witnesses the black death, the bubonic plague that hit Europe (one of the most devastating pandemics in human history) and killed more than half of the population.Statue of Giovanni Boccaccio

#19 From 1355 to 1360 he composed several Latin works, such as:

  • De claris mulieribus, the biographies of more than 100 notable women;
  • De montibus, silvis, fluminibus, stagnis seu paludibus, et de nominibus maris liber (also known in abbreviated form De montibus);
  • De casibus virorum illustrium, a work of 56 biographies in Latin.

Death

#20 During his last years, he lived mainly in retirement at a town in the province of Florence – Certaldo.

#21 In 1372, he is increasingly troubled by obesity, and also by a form of dropsy (swelling of soft tissues caused by an accumulation of excess water) that impedes his movement, together with attacks of high fevers and scabies (an itchy skin condition caused by Sarcoptes scabiei).

#22 In his last years of life, he almost entered into holy orders.

#23 He passed away on December 21, 1375. According to new data, over the last 3 years of his life, Boccaccio suffered from cardiac and hepatic failure.

10 Giovanni Boccaccio Quotes

Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron

Image credit – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giovanni_Boccaccio_04.jpg

#1 ”People tend to believe the bad rather than the good.”

#2 ”A just king must be the first to observe those laws that he has himself prescribed.”

#3 ”Nothing is so indecent that it cannot be said to another person if the proper words are used to convey it.”

#4 ”Heaven would indeed be heaven if lovers were there permitted as much enjoyment as they had experienced on earth.”

#5 “You must read, you must persevere, you must sit up nights, you must inquire, and exert the utmost power of your mind.”

#6 ”While farmers generally allow one rooster for ten hens, ten men are scarcely sufficient to service one woman.”

#7 ”In the affairs of this world, poverty alone is without envy.”

#8 ”He that is Infinite has been pleased to decree immutably that all things have an end.”

#9 ”It’s better to repent what you enjoyed than to repent not having enjoyed anything.”

#10 “In this world, you only get what you grab for.”

References

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Giovanni-Boccaccio
https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/node/1761
http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195396584/