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An experienced Frattegian administrator

vulgar language and fourteenth-century poetry


curated by Fabio Mariotti


Conference held in Umbertide in November 1974 by Prof. Ignazio Baldelli

of the La Sapienza University of Rome on Guiduccino della Fratta

(Transcription from the original recording)


From a paper manuscript in the State Archives of Perugia, S. Maria Valdiponte

28. (1363-67) cc.125-132-1375-76 cc.166-182


I want to start with some general considerations. In recent years, Italian culture at the highest levels has taken a strong interest in the regional aspects of its components.





An illustrious scholar, Carlo Dionisotti, recently published a fundamental book on the relationship between geography and culture (Ed: “Geography and history of Italian literature”). I am not saying that all this was unknown until recently, but it was certainly strongly overshadowed as the culture of each country is strongly related to social and political reality. In the past century, all the forces of Italian culture and reality tended to unity; it is natural that in such a perspective, the regional aspects were strongly overshadowed and the accent was placed on what united the Italians, on the common aspects and therefore on certain voices and on certain great movements that had meant linguistic unity and Italian culture. However, it is certain that only in the last decades, since 1930, in Italy has systematic attention been paid to the regional components of Italy, and there has been a growing interest in a composite unity, made up of notable regional traditions, of different aspects, even if often in the millenary history of Italy these different aspects have sometimes sought a common denominator. Undoubtedly, all this must be related to the best Italian regionalism. We know that in the Italian regions, even as a political institution, there are serious periods: at a certain moment it could happen that instead of just one mafia we could have many small mafias and this would be one of the biggest misfortunes for the Italian reality. But many men of culture have confidence. Such a perspective - our trust in the regions - looks towards the ancient and takes the right of contemporary society from the ancient. Since the pre-Roman origins there has been a composite Italian reality; literature and culture in the vernacular was not born as a unitary one but was born first in the great Benedictine abbeys of the center-south, then in the municipalities of the center-north.

If we look with a minimum of attention to the Perugian or Florentine culture of the thirteenth or fourteenth century we are faced with very different manifestations, sometimes contrasting, always very lively.

This liveliness of the literary and artistic culture of our cities and regions gives us hope for an active, lively and non-provincial future of the regions.

In a perspective of this kind, what has been maturing in the conscience of the Italians, what is the position of Umbria?

Umbria has its own unitary physiognomy albeit in this larger unit, in what the Spaniards call the small homeland, in comparison with the large homeland, or the small homeland in accordance with the large homeland.

Does our small homeland have an interesting cultural and linguistic physiognomy in that larger reality that is Italy? We are sure so, but first another consideration is needed. At first glance, some might consider the claim to the region, to regionalism absurd at a time when we are talking about Europe. Instead this is in perfect agreement. When men unite or attempt to unite in larger units each one must seek strength, his identity in the most immediate, regional roots in the truest sense of the word. In this broad, motivated and composite perspective of the kind I have said, what is the position of Umbria? I would say a position of extreme interest as the most ancient Umbrian culture, of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, is characterized by a strongly popular tone. Certainly very different from the Tuscan refinement, from the pedagogical, teaching, wisely Ambrosian tone of Lombard culture, but a popular tone in the Franciscan sense of the word.

I use the term "Franciscan" with perfect conscience.

The most revolutionary, most active movement in Umbria is Franciscanism for what it has catalysed around it political, ideal and cultural forces.

In Umbria the most interesting literary manifestation of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is the "lauda". That lauda of which today we are able to indicate various centers of active production, of different sign. A more revolutionary, Christocentric "lauda", as developed in Todi and Assisi, is contrasted by a more orthodox average "lauda".

Perugia will espouse the interests of the Church for many decades in its expansion action beyond the Tiber, where Ghibelline traditions will be created, of rebellion against the Church, of rebellion against the bourgeoisie, of a popular character. All this produces a medium-popular type of literature: the "lauda" that chooses the ballad as a musical metric scheme makes a significant choice. Choosing the ballad among all the possible metric-musical schemes that the Italian and European culture offered at that time, means choosing the meter and the music of the most popular tone.

Recalling Perugia, alongside the "lauda", we have the production of legal-administrative prose (the great municipal statute of Perugia was probably written in 1342 in the vernacular and is presented in one language, in a style that is attentive to the concrete reality of life daily); or a novel, the novel by Corciano and Perugia which offers us a medium-popular ideal.

It is quite interesting to study such documents on a social and literary level. In this period there is an effort to recover classical traditions, especially French, translated on an actively democratic and popular level.

The difficult equilibrium of Umbria, and of Perugia in particular, will tend to end rather tragically in 1370. Returning to the theme, it is of particular interest to refer to that family culture characteristic of the time. A "bastard" of accounts preserved in the State Archives of Perugia has handed down the accounting of a "gabelle" contractor, certain Guiduccino della Fratta (La Fratta was renamed, in the last century, Umbertide), which should not be seen as a naive and inexperienced minstrel. He was a man who handled considerable sums of money, having contracted out the municipalities of Montone, della Fratta, for a sum of 1000 florins, which, translated into lire, are currently 60-80 million. to be interested, with his partners, on a fairly conspicuous financial level: his actions, at a certain moment, went from Fratta to Marsciano. Guiduccino, therefore, was an important person even if he was not at the level of the great bankers of the fourteenth century. his accounting results in important payments even if we, on an anecdotal level, are more interested in the extreme care with which our Guiduccino treated his mount, the one he called his nag, which allowed him to travel between Montone, Romeggio, Fratta, Marsciano .... Here are some examples:

("Quisste sleep and the d. And the quail I Guiducino ò esspese. En prima espese a di xxx de November when I went to the Fracta wing for d. And to draw and put an iron of the ronccino and en j sheets of wine and en la provenda ii s. ").

("Item espese en lo trombadore when I el menaie to have the ordene of the dicta galbella of the casstello de Montone and dela Fracta and de Romeggio xxxii s. And vi d. Banned").

("Item expended on the twelfth day of the dicto month in the arbergo d'Armanucciuo dala Resena x f.).

(Item espese en vino to do honor to Fractegian cierte that I fommo ser Nicolò and I iiii s. "). ("Item paddles a day xviii of gienaio for the galbella de Montone won twelve gold florins of the quails had twelve of them from Sepolino de Luca and ten paddles of the d. Dele gallbelle caught xxii gold florins").

("Item espese en axis, enn agute, elglie maiesstre that aconciaro the usscia and the fenesstre and 'l mangdoio, e' n palglia for the roncino, and the quail d. Espese Vagnuolo tavernaoio, and the quail d. Him die ser Pietro xxvi ll . iiii d. ").

("Item espese a di xxiii de marco en doie ferre nuova, en chiuov for the roncino and plump to make poltrilglia en glie pieie xxii s.").

("Item paddles in tormentina, in oil, in fat de casstrone to make the onhuento for the pies of the roncino xv s. (1)").



  1. read: d. (to denare); ll (for livere); f. (for florins); s. (for solde).


As can be deduced from certain peculiarities, the language used is that typical of the territory that goes from Perugia to Fratta.

In the morphological system of ancient Perugia we note the presence of the neutral plural in "a", while the masculine plural in "i" does not exist; plural masculine and feminine, on the other hand, are united by the ending in "and".

In the accounts of Guiduccino the vernacular is used and this constitutes a rather remarkable novelty as most of the accounts of this kind, throughout the century, are still kept in Latin. This means that Guiduccino - like many others - had a strong sense of the vernacular of his country, and therefore preferred it to Latin. Guiduccino, however, knew Latin, as evidenced by the transcription of "Adoro te devote", albeit in a somewhat approximate way. The choice of the vernacular is always a positive choice: Latin is the tradition, but men who have an interest for daily activity, they turn to the vulgar.

Boccaccio's leading scholar has made a rather interesting observation; most of the codes that contain the "Decameron" have all passed through the hands of Italian bankers. We must not think of the "Decameron" as it appears to us from the cinema, but as a business book, the book that attracted bankers and the practical world of fourteenth-century Italy. Guiduccino is a small banker in the area and therefore has a very strong interest in the vulgar. But it is not only this that Guiduccino left in his account book, in his "bastardello": he also transcribed, if not composed, some poetic documents of considerable interest. Let me open a parenthesis. Many times some of the oldest documents of Italian poetry have been handed down to us through rather unusual roads. The literature in the vernacular is looked upon with a certain contempt by the university centers and by the men of the highest culture and therefore was not preserved from time with the same care given to the Latin texts. The book was a precious object, of very high cost: therefore the great ecclesiastical communities, princes, some notaries, universities could possess it. The parchment was used for important texts (St. Augustine, legal texts) while a work in vernacular written around the 11th-12th century was reported on some fragments of parchment, but in most cases it was not preserved or preserved. Then we find many of the most interesting texts of the origins of Italian culture and literature, from time to time, rather casually in certain half pages left blank.

There is a codex by Gratian, a medieval jurist, in which when a chapter is finished, you go to a new page, leaving half a page blank. In this half page we come across a man of revolutionary culture who has a sense for the vulgar and hands down a text written in those centuries. Some of the most ancient rhythms of Italian poetry - Cassinese rhythm, Laurentian rhythm, Marche rhythm of S. Alessio - are handed down rather casually in this manner. Other documents were saved, just as casually, through the "guard" of the code, a large piece of parchment placed to protect the code itself. On these "guards" there are very important ancient texts. A notary from Umbertide must have had one of these codes at hand because he made a mess of it: there are 7-8 "bastardelli" linked by pages of the same 11th century code. The ways in which this ancient literature is handed down in the vernacular are casual to exceptional. I myself was lucky enough to discover the oldest existing Tuscan text in America, written at the end of the 11th century, in the "guard" of a codex of the Philadelphia library.

There is a legal provision of the municipality of Bologna which prohibits notaries from leaving blank pages in documents to avoid tampering. And it is precisely in these blank pages that we find the most unexpected things in the study of ancient codes.

The notaries of Bologna in the 13th century were men of particularly refined culture as the many pages that remained blank in the transcription of the documents were filled by them with extremely interesting copies of vernacular texts. In these Bolognese memorials - dated 1286 - there is a sonnet by Dante who was just over 20 years old in that year, but was so famous that a notary to fill a half blank page transcribes the sonnet of the Garisenda.

And, if it was difficult for high-level vulgar texts to be saved, this was even more difficult for texts of a popular tone, considered negligible and therefore not transcribed. The Bolognese notaries have transcribed, along with songs by Jacopo da Lentini, even popular ballads.

We said that Guiduccino was a man of good taste, he too had a blank page or two in his "bastardello" and he transcribed 4 ballads and a couple of prayers in Latin. The 4 ballads are not otherwise known and they are certainly all by the same author because they are united by a thematic element: loving fidelity. The ballads were written close to Umbertide since there are linguistic elements that certainly recall the region I was talking about before; and here they are:


“You will never have pity

cruel woman of me?

and you know that 'l cur te de,

and already do not aim at the time that was gone.


If you thought about time

how much is nobel thing,

it is not yet in time

to give your servant pose?

and you are not flat

and yet me dul de te

that I brought you fe

and tu en ver me always cruelty.


Averaie tu maie pity


Flee as much as you know

that I too will follow you,

that I love you more than never,

and you do not want to suffer,

say who you mean,

and that I too will follow you

and do not hope though

that I abandone you that my heart goes away.


Averaie you




My sweet lord, take merchandise

of me who am subject to your faith.


The annema, the body and my whole person

to you donaie for the love I look at:

if absentia foie, now forgive me,

that I will obey you and never be late anymore,

but this dart that is in my heart

luie aial from me for love, faith.


And the rays of light and your kindness

I am taken to fall in love with your love,

and in memory of the Danish faith

I always contemplate in true color:

to! dear my lord, your faith

do not break it to me as others believe.


Vague ballad, go to my lord

And tell her to be firm and strong to me,

and of his beautiful eyes and pious glance

do not do my despect to no lover,

but as a diamond keep faith

to me who sees me for his love to die.




So that with close love I am for you,

the annema is the heart always fo de you.


He did not deserve, sir, so many ghuaie,

because he loved you with 'perta fe,

but I don't think he ever does that,

star gientil, proceeded from you,

but only he who never had fe

with his and deceit he betrayed you and me.


Giovene and beautiful, I don't want you to believe

that it hurts me already being here for you,

nor ancho de morir for quilla faith

which you gave to me without error:

donqua perfect love as a favor to you

keeps el cor alegro towards me.


Yes, as Arcita went down in prison

What a podia Ymilia always see,

maie huomo in the world had such a state

that it seems I didn't think I had,

but if near love were you

assaie comfort doneresste to me.




If he had been wise en ver de me,

still possess my fe.


Tu senca fe dolciecca deceived me,

me who loved you more than anything else love,

with your locenghe aie me more than robato

how tender are the keys to my heart:

I fell in the low sun for you,

nor did you ever record more than me.


But you do not look that your and deceive

sleep known by those who use you,

so that from outside what spreads within:

the time that says mecho will pass,

think for what your mala fe

many will benefit by harming you.


Sweet ballad is telling everyone

who calls others to be wise and haughty

and does not look at the pain with mocti thieves

de who for robar others is so manero

hold your purse tightly and your heart to yourself

to what is not false fe.


The elegant yet popular tone of the ballads is evident. It is an elegance that is revealed in the systematic nature of certain truncated rhymes, a usual element in poetic composition. The high cultural level is revealed in a truly amazing detail: the presence of an echo of a work by Boccaccio. This sonnet I am talking about was probably transcribed in Umbertide, in Montelabate, or in the territory between them, by Guiduccino della Fratta around 1363. Boccaccio is still alive and here there is a reference not to his major work, the "Decameron", which had already had a notable diffusion at the time, but at the "Teseida", an early work in eighth with very little diffusion in Italy. We are facing a local and regional culture, but not a provincial one. The region, however, has an active and cultural sense only if it is open to the reality of other countries and other regions. In the area we are talking about there is someone who cultivates poetry on a rather original level, even if it is not excellent poetry and is very attentive to the cultural reality of the largest centers, of the most notable poets. The reference to "Teseida" is when he says: "Sìcomme Arcita went down in prison / who can always see Ymilia see". Arcita and Palaemon are the two Theban prisoners in Athens prisons who fell in love with Emilia. I am not going to tell you about the "Teseida" but it is a story based on the love of two prisoners for a young girl who they see wandering around in the garden from a cell window.

Here Guiduccino refers to the second part of the novel when Arcita, who has been allowed to leave Athens, comes back, with grave danger for his life, in order to see Emilia again. The interesting thing about these documents is the almost first-hand experience of the culture of a certain regional sign, actively present in what are the currents of the higher centers, for example by Boccaccio.

These ballads, of notable poetic workmanship, were certainly written in the area we are talking about. What is the proof of this? The overwhelming proof is provided by the type of rhyme, which necessarily preserves the original aspect.

We find in rhyme “enganne” with “spande” (In verses 9 and 11 of the ballad “Se saggio stato en ver de me”). We know that the ancient technique required perfect rhyme, while in this case there is no perfect rhyme.

If we try to get a perfect rhyme in these two words we get "engenne", "spanne".

You know that in most of Umbria "when" is said "quanno" (Foligno, for example). So evidently the poet of these ballads wrote "enganne" in rhyme with "spanne"; the copyist then changed "spans" and broke the rhyme. One might think that the ballads were written in southern Umbria; however, we cannot refer to the current situation, we must refer to the 14th century situation. Now it turns out that the consonant group "nd" was frequently found in the form "nn" in Gubbio. This means that this form extended far north than it is in today's dialects. In conclusion, we can say that these ballads were written in Umbria in an area not far from Guiduccino's homeland. The language of the above ballads and accounts roughly coincides with that of the Perugia theaters. However, there are two peculiarities that certainly recall Umbertide. To say "we went" we use the form "gemmo" and not "gimmo". "Gimmo" is the Perugian form; “Gemmo” is the northernmost form, almost castellana (and is the form used by Guiduccino della Fratta). Towards the area of Pierantonio there is still today a linguistic border of extreme interest: in that point passes one of the most important linguistic borders not only of Umbria, but even of Italy. From this point of view, those who are "Frattegiano" - how to say Guiduccino - use very different forms from those used, for example, in Ponte Valleceppi, that is, the sonorisation of the intervocalic "s".

In the south of Italy the intervocalic "s" is always sonorous; north of the line I mentioned earlier we begin to find the sonic intervocalic "s".

In the text reported above, in two or three cases, instead of the "s" our Guiduccino uses a "c", which in ancient texts was read as "z", for example in precedent, in chiecia, in piceglie (for "peas").

This form was used alluding to a sonorous "s": it is a hypothesis formulated by me at the time of the discovery of the texts, which I still confirm today.

Even this land - I use "terra" with the medieval value of the term which means "walled land", "land surrounded by walls" - that is Umbertide had these interests towards the vulgar; interests towards a literary possibility with regional components (presence of the vulgar Perugian ) with some more local peculiarities (presence of probably "Frattegian" forms) or with a notable openness towards reality and larger centers (2).



(2) See Ignazio Baldelli “Ballads and prayers in a book of accounts of the century. XIV - in idem, Vulgar Middle Ages from Montecassino to Umbria, Bari 1971, pp. 371-383.



On 29 January 1980 the Umbertide City Council named a street in the area that was formerly called "Terziere Inferiore" or "Porta Nuova" (the current area of Piazza San Francesco and offshoots) after Guiduccino della Fratta.

Ignazio Baldelli.jpg
Carlo Dionisotti.jpg
The professor. Carlo Dionisotti
Via Guiduccino della Fratta 
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