At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Giacomo Leopardi – poet and philosopher

The tragic life of a brilliant Italian writer


Giacomo Leopardi, depicted in a portrait in 1820
Giacomo Leopardi, depicted in a portrait in 1820
One of Italy’s greatest 19th century writers, Giacomo Leopardi, died on this day in 1837 in Naples.

A brilliant scholar and philosopher, Leopardi led an unhappy life in Recanati in the Papal States, blighted by poor health, but he left as a legacy his superb lyric poetry.

By the age of 16, Leopardi had independently mastered Greek, Latin and several modern languages and had translated many classical works. He had also written some poems, tragedies and scholarly commentaries.

He had been born deformed and excessive study made his health worse. He became blind in one eye and developed a cerebrospinal condition that was to cause him problems for the rest of his life.

He was forced to suspend his studies and, saddened by an apparent lack of concern from his parents, he poured out his feelings in poems such as the visionary work, Appressamento della morte - Approach of Death - written in 1816 in terza rima, in imitation of Petrach and Dante.

His frustrated love for his married cousin, and the death from consumption of the young daughter of his father’s coachman, only deepened his despair. The death of the young girl inspired perhaps his greatest lyric poem, A Silvia.

The scholar and patriot Pietro Giordani visited Leopardi in 1818 and urged him to leave home. Leopardi then spent a few unhappy months in Rome, but returned to live in Recanati.

After accepting an offer to edit Cicero’s works in Milan in 1825, he left home again.

Giacomo Leopoldi on his death bed in 1837
He spent the next few years travelling between Bologna, Pisa and Florence while he wrote a collection of poems and a philosophical work.

His frustrated love for a Florentine beauty, Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti, inspired some of his saddest poetry.

Leopardi finally settled in Naples in 1833, where he wrote the long poem, Ginestra.

The death he had long regarded as the only escape from his unhappiness came to him suddenly in 1837 during a cholera epidemic.

His genius and frustrated hopes during his life had found their way into his poetry which has long been admired for its intensity and musicality.

Casa Leopardi: The poet's home in Recanati is now a museum
Casa Leopardi: The poet's home in Recanati is now a museum
Travel tip:

Leopardi was born and lived for most of his life in Recanati, a town in the province of Macerati in the Marche region of Italy.The great tenor Beniamino Gigli was born in Recanati in 1890 and sang in the choir at Recanati cathedral as a boy. The Italian paternal ancestors of the Argentine footballer Lionel Messi are also believed to have originated from Recanati. Leopardi's house is now a museum.

The monument at Leopaldi's tomb in Parco Vergiliano, Naples
Travel tip:

Leopardi was buried at first in the atrium of the church of San Vitale at Fuorigrotta but in 1898 his tomb was moved to the Parco Virgiliano in Naples and declared a national monument.


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