If we raise our gaze in Corso Fogazzaro, at the height of the Galleria del Pozzo Rosso, we can clearly distinguish the plaque placed on the site of the birthplace of Giangiorgio Trissino, better known for the villa outside the city, the Cricoli villa that he designed. Trissino is a great humanist figure, a man of multiform intellect: poet, playwright, architect, friend of the main literary figures of the time, from Bembo to Ariosto and Machiavelli. And it was while frequenting the Florentine environment that he fell in love with Dante, his poetry and political and linguistic reflections.
In the first decades of the 16th century, a strong debate on language was taking place in Italian courts and cities. Thanks to the greatness of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, Florentine had already become the literary language. But what kind of Florentine? The elegant one of Petrarch, the spoken one by Machiavelli, the one open to the best voices of other dialects of Dante? In his writings, Giangiorgio Trissino from Vicenza supports Dante’s thesis, proposing it as an unsurpassable linguistic model to aspire to.

“This discussion of languages seems to me to have been done by Dante with great judgement, because, just as the Greeks, from their four languages, that is, from Attic, Ionic, Doric and Aeolian, formed another language which is called a common language, so we too, from the Tuscan, Roman, Sicilian, Venetian and other languages of Italy, have formed a common language, which is called the Italian language. Therefore the above mentioned reasons will suffice to resolve the doubt, that is, that the language in which Dante and Petrarch and Cino and Guido wrote is to be called Italian and not Tuscan and this I say is that language which we should also choose for our poems.”.

from “Poetics”

Thanks to Gian Giorgio Trissino, we have the first italian version of the treatise De vulgari eloquentia, edited in Vicenza in 1529. The scholar has the chance to study and discuss Dante’s treatise, leaving a lot of reading notes on one of the most important manuscripts of it. The edition produced in Ferrara in 1583 contains both the translation of De vulgari eloquentia and Trissino’s work Il Castellano, in the form of a dialogue. In the latter, the author exposes his linguistic theories, based on Dante’s treatise.


“This is our true and first talk; I don’t say “our”, to distinguish it from other talks besides the human one. In fact, just human beings got the chance of talking, because only them needed it. Surely neither angels nor lower animals needed to talk; so that it would have been useless, cause it wasn’t necessary for them. And nature of course hates making things in vain.”.

Trad. del “De vulgari eloquentia”, libro I, cap.2

Another exciting detail is found in the line 63 of the XXVI Cantica, the Ulysses’ one. Virgilio talkes to Dante about Ulysses and the pain he shares with Diomede, his companion of lies. They are also punished for stealing the simulacrum of the goddes Athena from Troy, able to protect the city againts destruction.

He answered me: “Within there are tormented

Ulysses and Diomed, and thus together

They unto vengeance run as unto wrath.

And there within their flame do they lament


Therein is wept the craft, for which being dead

Deidamia still deplores Achilles,

Inf. 26^, vv. 55 – 57 e 61 – 63


We are impressed reading the name of Palladio, Trissino’s pupil, gifted with great genius and introduced by the mentor to Classical studies. In his poem “L’Italia liberata dai Goti”, the humanist Trissino names “Palladio” the vengeance angel who protects Italy from barbarians, the Goti. A long journey, which was recovered from the myth by Dante and put into poetry by Trissino, set to become universal as the name of the great architect of Vicenza.           

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