Meeting the Goliardia in Padua

Goliardia4by Laura Allin

This semester while studying in Padua, Italy, I have experienced many things that seemed at the time a bit unbelievable. However, nothing has been so surreal as my encounter with the Italian Goliardi. The Goliardia system in Italy is much like the fraternity system in the United States, the major difference being that the Goliardia is hundreds of years old. This is made apparent by many of their traditions and their medieval garb.

I first encountered the members of the Goliardia because I was assigned to write an article on them for class. I arrived in Piazza del Bo’ and was greeted by a group of men dressed in full cloaks, called Montello, and hats much resembling that of Robin Hood, called feluca, of various colors and with a variety of pins and ornaments. During the interview, the first thing I was taught was that “Giliardia é un gioco”—Goliardia is a game. It became clear that the members of this group were no ordinary frat boys, but instead represented a much honored and respected institution of jokesters. This attitude is reflected in their slogan “Bacco, Tabacco, Venere,” which literally translates to mean “Bacchus, Tobacco, and Venus.” The Goliardia have a strong presence in the University dynamic and take part in many of the important ceremonies throughout the year.Goliardia1

After expressing so much interest in the group, I was informed that there can also be female members and since I am enrolled in the University this semester, I was eligible to join. Thus, I began my induction into the Goliardia. I was given a purple feluca, because my major in international relations puts me under the category of political science, and taken to the center of the Piazza where the ceremony then commenced. In between the traditional recitations, I had to do a number of things including putting salt and pepper on my tongue and drinking wine out of my own hat. The members then deconstructed the hat and beat it into a different shape, which symbolized my entry into the group, and I was given a name: Appreciable Harvard (Appreciable meaning able to be appreciated, and Harvard because I study in Boston). While my limited time here will keep me from participating as a full member of the Goliardia, it’s an honor to have been welcomed into group as much as I have during my time here in Padua.

Read other students’ testimonials on their experiences in Padua.