Northern Italian Writers of French

Speakers and Writers of French in areas around Florence, Pisa, and Genoa

From the late twelfth until the mid-fifteenth century, a large contingent of Italians from Northern Italian cites– including Florence, Genoa and Siena–were active in France, working as accomplished merchants, notaries, and lawyers. Italians initially came to France in large groups in the twelfth century, to patronize the Fairs of Champagne, and remained there even as the fairs waned in importance in the course of the thirteenth century. When the Italians eventually returned to their home cities, many of them were able to read and write in French, and some of them composed works in this adopted language.

There were four types of French-language works produced in the areas around Florence, Pisa, and Genoa:

1. Original works produced in these areas; as well as 2. works written elsewhere and copied in Northern Italy;
3. Works translated into French from other languages;
4. French-language song collections, called Chansonniers copied in Florence in the fifteenth century.

Evidence for the linguistic activities of the Northern Italian writers are more disparate than for the community of Franco-Italian writers, as there are fewer formal texts ascribed to them; but French texts, passages, themes, and writing styles appear unexpectedly in the northern-Italian vernacular literary repertoire, intertwined with personal recollections and information in the writing books (the portolane, zibladone, and ricordanze) of the merchant class. Guido di Filippo di Ghidone dell’Antella, a Florentine merchant of the late thirteenth century for example, details in his ricordanze how his early career took him to such places as Venice, France, Provence, Napoli and Acre – in precisely the same areas where French textual production flourished.Manuscripts that included French texts were also produced in the area, and attest to the literary interest of these consumers of French.

Despite the lack of an established French-language corpus, this largely invisible group is instrumental to the “French of Italy” discussion for both literary and political reasons. These readers and writers of French not only participated as consumers of French language production in the north of Italy, but were also active interlocutors with the Angevins in the south, as is attested by Dante’s attention and frequent reference to Charles of Anjou and his kingdom. The Northern Italians often served as a link between the other communities which consistently produced French language texts in Italy; the Franco-Italian Community and the Community of the Italian Angevins.

Secondary Works

“The Manuscripts.” In The Arthur of the French. The Arthurian Ledgend in Medieval French and Occitan Literature. Edited by Glyn S. Burgess and Karen Pratt (Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages), 8-92. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2006.

Battia, Lise. “La courtoisie de Francoise d’Assise. Influence de la literature épique et courtoise sur la premiere generation franciscaine.” In Mélanges de l’Ecole francaise de Rome (Moyen Age) 109 (1997): 131-160.

Barbaro, Alessandro.“Il mito angionino nella cultura italiana e provenzale fra Ducento e Trecento.”Bolletino storio-bibliografico subalpino1(1981): 110-210.

Merkel, C. “L’opinione dei contemporanei sull’impresa italiana di Carlo I d’Angio.” Atti della R. Accademia dei Lincei, classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, ser. 4, 5 (1888).

See also Florin.