A Maltese traveller in Belgium 350 years ago

Giovan Francesco Buonamico (1639-1680)Giovan Francesco Buonamico (1639-1680)

The Belgian Memoirs of a Maltese Intellectual – Giovan Francesco Buonamico (1639-1680) – is the latest book by Arnold Cassola.

It is being launched on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of Buonamico’s travels in Belgium and other parts of Europe on Tuesday at the University of Malta under the auspices of the Department of Maltese, coordinated by Olvin Vella.

The speakers at the book launch will be Belgian Ambassador Jean François Delahaut, Judge Giovanni Bonello, Carmel Cassar, Bernard Micallef and Arnold Cassola.

Giovan Francesco Buonamico was a man of great culture and wide-ranging interests, one of the greatest living Maltese intellectuals of the period.

This medical doctor had an excellent command of the Latin language and, apart from his one poem written in the Maltese language, Mejju ġie bil-ward u ż-żahar, he wrote most of his poetic works in Latin (such as the Laureae Cottonerae, Gratulatorii Plausus and Gaudia Melitensia).

His unpublished work of greater prestige, his Memorie di viaggi di Giovan Francesco Buonamico nella Francia, Germania, Olanda, Fiandra, Lorena, Svizzera, Italia, Sicilia, spiaggie e varie isole della Grecia. Dall’Anno 1657 sin’ al’ 1666, is written in Italian.

Around 350 years ago, Buonamico visited some of the most beautiful European cities.  Between 1660 and 1663 he spent a considerable amount of time in Belgium and, after visiting Bouillon, The Ardenne, Liege, Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Malines and Antwerp, he arrived at the conclusion that the latter town was the most beautiful and complete city of the old continent.

In the foreword to the book, Ambassador Delahaut writes that Buonamico – who for the first time in his life discovered beer in Belgium – “was a great pioneer, a bold raveller and an astute observer, a man who was curious about everything around him and concerned about the well-being of his peers.  In short, he was a great Maltese man and a great European”.

Indeed, it is certainly most fitting to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Buonamico’s visit to Belgiumsince it has definitely contributed to the enhancement of Belgo-Maltese relations, which have since thrived and flourished.

This book by Prof. Cassola has been published by Bank of Valletta, which has just opened its Brussels branch.

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