Jacopo Bonfadio was born in Garda, Italy in 1508 and was educated at Verona and Padua.
Beginning in 1532, he worked as secretary for various members of the clergy in Rome and Naples. In 1540, he gained employment in Padua with the son of Cardinal-humanist Pietro Bembo. While working for Bembo’s son, he met and became friends with notable humanists of the time and was a contemporary of Annibal Caro.
In 1541, Bonfadio, among others, coined the term una terza natura, meaning ‘nature improved by art’, and subsequently, many designers utilized the concept. Large-scale views of the Medici villas, the grand vistas of Louis XIV, and the planning of 16th-century and later English country houses show how this idea was incorporated.
Bonfadio’s humanist views earned him some powerful enemies in Genoa. In 1550, after he had completed Annales Genuendis, ab anno 1528 recuperatae libertatis usque ad annum 1550 (his history of the Republic of Genoa from 1528 to 1550), his writings angered the powerful Genoese families the Dorias, the Adornos, the Spinolas, and the Fieschi, who sought revenge against him for daring to record and judge their actions. They proceeded to accuse him of sodomy, for which he was arrested, tried, and condemned to death. Bonfadio was beheaded, and his body was burnt.
The minutes of his trial have been lost forever.