Bonvesin da la Riva

Bonvesin da la Riva (sometimes spelled Bonvesino or Buonvicino) (c. 1240 – c. 1313) was a well-to-do Milanese lay member of the Ordine degli Umiliati (literally, "Order of the Humble Ones"), a teacher of (Latin) grammar and a notable Lombard poet and writer of the 13th century, giving one of the first known examples of the written Western Lombard language.[1]

He taught in Legnano and in Milan. His De magnalibus urbis Mediolani ("On the Marvels of Milan"), written in the late spring of 1288, languished unknown in a single manuscript in the Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, until 1894. Its eight chapters form a monument of civic pride typical of the Italian communes, written by a man in a position to offer unrivalled statistical report of the city that he felt was exalted above all others, like the eagle among birds. In Milan he counted the belltowers (120) and the portoni, massive front doors of houses (12,500), the city's lawyers (120), physicians (28), ordinary surgeons (at least 150), butchers (440) and communal trumpeters (6). His order, the Umiliati, served as a kind of civil service in Milan, collecting taxes and controlling the communal treasury, so he was in a position to know. His long inventory of the fruits and vegetables that Milanesi were eating serve as a rare source of ordinary fare for the historian of cuisine,[2] as his verses De quinquaginta curialitatibus ad mensam ("Fifty courtesies at Table"), written in the Western Lombard language for the instruction of those not proficient in Latin, serve the historian of table manners.

Other works

In Latin except where noted.


  1. For his contemporary rivals, see G. Contini, ed. Poeti del duecento (Milan/Naples) 1960.
  2. Such as John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and Their Food (New York, 2008), pp 32-44.

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