My A to Z theme this year is The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio’s classic work from Medieval Italy and one of my favouritest books ever. There are so many awesome names to mine from, easily enough material for at least several years’ worth of the Challenge. This book consists of 100 stories told over 10 days, by a brigata consisting of seven women and three men. These young people have left Plague-riddled Florence in 1348 for the safety of the countryside, and pass their time telling stories.
Each day features both a female and male name, in the interest of fairness. Some letters will be wildcards, since there are certain letters which don’t typically appear in Italian names. Other letters will be half and half, since I could only find one but not the other. You’ll learn about these names’ etymologies (when I could find them), as well as the stories in which these characters appear.
An interesting thing to keep in mind is that many of these characters, particularly the young lovers, are very young by modern standards, the women in particular. A number of these wives and lovers are specified as all of fourteen or fifteen, and no one thinks it’s at all abnormal for them to already be married or trying to find husbands.
Arrighetto appears to be a pet form of Arrigo, the Italian form of Henry, which ultimately derives from the Germanic name Heimirich and means “home ruler.” In The Decameron, Arrighetto appears in the sixth story of the second day.
Arrighetto Capece, a gentleman from Naples, is married to Beritola Caracciola and a high-ranking court official to King Manfred of Sicily. Alas, King Manfred is defeated and killed by the soon-to-be King Charles I of Sicily at Benevento. Refusing to come under the heel of his master’s enemies, Arighetto prepares to flee. As he’s making preparations to escape, he’s taken prisoner and given over to King Charles, along with many other friends and servants of King Manfred.
Madame Beritola, in fear of her life and honour, escapes to Lipari with her almost-eight-year-old son Giufredi. In Lipari, she gives birth to another boy (typically), whom she calls the Outcast. While they’re heading to her parents in Naples, a strong wind forces them to take shelter on the island of Ponza. While they’re waiting for better weather, and Madame Beritola is privately mourning Arrighetto, her sons and everyone else in her party are abducted by pirates. After many years and many adventures, there’s a family reunion and happy ever after.
Ambruogia is the Italian form of Ambrosia, a Greek name meaning “immortal.” The meaning most people are familiar with, though, is that of the nectar of the deities. This nectar conferred immortality on all who imbibed it.
In The Decameron, Ambruogia appears in the first story of the eighth day, whose theme is tricks people play on one another. Gulfardo, a soldier of fortune in Milan, falls in love with Madonna Ambruogia, the wife of Guasparruol Cagastraccio, a rich merchant and a good friend of Gulfardo’s. Ambruogia agrees to become lovers if he never reveals the secret to anyone, and if he gives her two hundred golden florins.
The latter part of the bargain horrifies Gulfardo, and he conspires to play a trick on her. A few days before Guasparruol leaves for Genoa, Gulfardo asks him for the money, and the request is happily granted. Gulfardo then goes to see Ambruogia and asks her to give Guasparruol the money when he returns. While Guasparruol is away, Gulfardo and Ambruogia sleep together many times. But when Guasparruol returns, Gulfardo says he no longer needs the money and the debt should be cancelled.