Showing posts with label Poets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poets. Show all posts

3 December 2023

Nino Martoglio - writer, theatre and film director

Journalist and playwright whose movies inspired post-war neorealism 

Nino Martoglio is considered by some as the founder of Sicilian theatre
Nino Martoglio is considered by some
as the founder of Sicilian theatre
The journalist, playwright and theatre and film director Nino Martoglio was born in Belpasso, a town in the foothills of volcanic Mount Etna in eastern Sicily, on this day in 1870.

Martoglio is widely considered to be Sicily’s finest dialect playwright and by some to be the founder of Sicilian theatre.  He was also an acclaimed poet, basing a good deal of his verse on the everyday conversations of working class Sicilians, written to amuse. His collection, Centona, is still sold today.

Later in a career that was ended abruptly by his death in an accident, Martoglio directed a number of silent films, the style of some of which prompted critics to describe them as forerunners of the post-war neorealism movement.

The son of a journalist and a school teacher, Martoglio studied sailing as a young man and obtained a captain’s licence. Yet he sought a career in journalism and joined the editorial staff of La Gazzetta di Catania, a daily newspaper founded by his father, Luigi.

In 1889, he launched a weekly magazine, D’Artagnan, a Sicilian language periodical devoted to art, literature and theatre, sharp political satire and the plight of the people of Civita, a poor neighbourhood in Catania which suffered particular deprivation. It also proved to be a useful vehicle for the poems that would eventually be gathered together in the Centona collection.

Theatre began to occupy most of Martoglio's attention from around the turn of the century. In 1901, he created the Sicilian Dramatic Company, which thanks to the talents of actors such as Angelo Musco, Giovanni Grasso, Virginia Balistrieri and others enjoyed success with Sicilian language productions even in Milan, where they performed at the Teatro Manzoni in 1903. The company’s productions of comedies written by a young Sicilian playwright, Pier Maria Rosso di San Secondo, were especially popular, among them San Giovanni Decapitato - Saint John the Beheaded - which he later turned into a film.

Martoglio staged the first theatrical works of Luigi Pirandello (above)
Martoglio staged the first theatrical
works of Luigi Pirandello (above)
Martoglio’s work became still more widely known after he moved to Rome in 1904, having become unhappy with the political climate in Sicily, where he had been elected a municipal councillor in Catania. In the capital, he met and married Elvira Schiavazzi, the sister of Piero Schiavazzi, a Sardinian tenor. They would go on to have four children. 

In 1910, he founded the first "Teatro Minimo" in Rome at the Teatro Metastasio. He staged one-act plays from the Italian and foreign repertoire, as well as bringing to the stage the first theatrical works of Luigi Pirandello, by then famous as a novelist and a future Nobel Prize winner. Their collaborations included A vilanza (la bilancia) and Cappidazzu pava tutu.

Martoglio’s venture into cinema spanned two years from 1913-14. He directed the actress Pina Menichelli, one of the so-called ‘three divas’ of Italian silent movies, in Il romanzo and followed it with Capitan Blanco, Sperduti nel buio, for which he wrote the screenplay and directed in collaboration with Roberto Danesi, and Teresa Raquin.  

All his screen work emphasised the gulf in Italian society between wealth and poverty and Sperduti nel buio - Lost in the Dark - which starred Grasso and Balistrieri - veterans of Martoglio’s original company in Catania - came to be regarded as a classic of the silent film era, representative of a small number of films that made up the realismo movement in Italian cinema. 

In the 1930s, the film critic and lecturer Umberto Barbaro enthusiastically showed Sperduti nel buio in his classes at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, where his students included Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti, who would go on to become leading figures in the neorealism film movement after the Second World War.

The bust of Martoglio in the Bellini Gardens
The bust of Martoglio
in the Bellini Gardens
Martoglio’s death at the age of 50 remains something of a mystery.  After visiting the Vittorio Emanuele II Hospital in Catania on the evening of 15 September, 1921, to see one of his sons, who was being treated there, Martoglio’s body was found the following morning at the bottom of an elevator shaft in part of the hospital that was under construction.  Although there were no witnesses, the assumption was that he had suffered a tragic accident, perhaps after getting lost as he tried to find the way out. 

His body was laid to rest at the Campo Verano monumental cemetery in the Tiburtino quarter in Rome, not far from the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le mura. The cemetery is notable as the burial place of hundreds of illustrious figures from the artistic, historical, literary, musical and cinematographic world.  

Although his films were lost, presumably stolen or destroyed during World War Two, Martoglio’s nieces, Vincenza and Angela, took steps to preserve their uncle’s manuscripts.  There is a monumental bust of him in the Bellini Gardens in Catania, a short distance from the Teatro Metropolitan. 

The Teatro Comunale Nino Martoglio in Belpasso
The Teatro Comunale Nino
Martoglio in Belpasso
Travel tip:

The town of Belpasso, where Martoglio was born, has a population of 28,000. Located about 10km (six miles) northwest of the city of Catania, it has something of a chequered history, having twice been destroyed by the forces of nature and repositioned in consequence. In 1669, it was buried in lava following an eruption of the Mount Etna volcano which looms over Catania. Rebuilt in another location at a lower level, it was then badly damaged by an earthquake in 1693 and abandoned. The current settlement was founded two years later at a third site. Today, it is best known as the home of Condorelli, one of Sicily’s most famous brands of confectionary, biscuits and cakes. Nino Martoglio’s name is preserved in the Teatro Comunale Nino Martoglio, the town’s municipal theatre, in Via XII Traversa.

The port city of Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, with a snow-capped Etna in the distance
The port city of Catania, the second largest city
in Sicily, with a snow-capped Etna in the distance
Travel tip:

The city of Catania, which is located on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, is one of the ten biggest cities in Italy, and the seventh largest metropolitan area in the country, with a population including the environs of 1.12 million. Twice destroyed by earthquakes, in 1169 and 1693, it can be compared in some respects with Naples, which sits in the shadow of Vesuvius, in that it lives with the constant threat of a natural catastrophe.  As such it has always been a city for living life to the full. In the Renaissance, it was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centres and enjoys a rich cultural legacy today, with numerous museums and churches, theatres and parks and many restaurants.  It is also notable for many fine examples of the Sicilian Baroque style of architecture, including the beautiful Basilica della Collegiata, with its six stone columns and the concave curve of its façade.

Also on this day:

1596: The birth of violin maker Nicolò Amati 

1779: The birth of Tuscan painter Matilde Malenchini

1911: The birth of composer Nino Rota

1917: The death in WW1 of champion cyclist Carlo Oriani

1937: The birth of actress Angela Luce

1947: The birth of controversial politician Mario Borghezio


24 September 2023

Vincenzo da Filicaja – poet

Patriotic writer was inspired by victory against the Turks

Da Filicaja earned comparisons with the great poet Petrarch
Da Filicaja earned comparisons
with the great poet Petrarch
Vincenzo da Filicaja, a writer and a politician whose poetry has been compared with that of the great Italian poet Petrarch, died on this day in 1707 in Florence.

Da Filicaja’s six celebrated odes inspired by a famous battle victory led to scholars placing him on a level with some of the greatest Italian poets.

He was also a respected politician and was named governor of Volterra and Pisa by Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who later appointed him to serve in the Tuscan Senate.

Born into an aristocratic family in Florence in 1642, Da Filicaja was educated by Jesuits before going to Pisa University to study law. In Pisa, he was inspired by the historical associations he saw that were linked with the former glory of the republic of Pisa.

The banners and emblems of the Order of St Stephen, which had its seat in Pisa, had great significance for the young student, who knew that the navy of this military order, created by Cosimo I de’ Medici, formed the main defence of his country and its commerce against Turkish, Algerian and Tunisian corsairs.

After returning to Florence, Da Filicaja married Anna Capponi in 1673, the daughter of a senator and marquis, and he went to live in the Tuscan countryside, where his main interest was writing Italian and Latin poetry.

Da Filicaja earned comparisons with the great poet Petrarch
Da Filicaja earned comparisons
with the great poet Petrarch
He became a member of the Accademia della Crusca, a society for scholars of Italian linguistics and philology, which is now the oldest linguistic academy in the world.

Other scholars and writers he met there, such as the poet Francesco Redi, helped him to gain access to Medici court patronage.

Da Filicaja’s imagination was fired by the deliverance of Vienna from the Turks in 1683 and he composed six odes to celebrate the victory.  Redi showed Da Filicaja’s verses to his own royal patron and sent them to the foreign princes whose noble deeds were praised in them. The quality of Da Filicaja’s odes celebrating the victory of John III Sobieski in the Battle of Vienna is what made many scholars consider him to be on a level with some of the greatest Italian poets.

Christina, the ex Queen of Sweden, contacted Da Filicaja from her exile in Rome, offering to pay for the education of his two sons and to keep the generous gesture a secret. And in 1691, Da Filicaja became a member of the Academy of Arcadia, a literary academy founded in Rome.

Cosimo III made the poet the commissioner of official balloting and governor of Volterra, where Da Filicaja tried to improve public morality. He was also made governor of Pisa in 1700 and he became so popular that when he left office the inhabitants of both cities petitioned to have him brought back.

Cosimo III made him a Senator in Florence, where he spent the last years of his life. After he died, at the age of 64, he was buried in the family vault of the Church of San Pietro in Florence and a monument was erected in his memory in the Basilica di Santa Croce in the city by his only surviving son, Scipione Filicaja.

The Palazzo della Carovana, which was built by Vasari for the Knights of St Stephen
The Palazzo della Carovana, which was built
by Vasari for the Knights of St Stephen

Travel tip:

Pisa’s most popular tourist attraction by a long way is the Campo dei Miracoli, site of the famous Leaning Tower, which features a beautiful Romanesque cathedral and an equally impressive baptistry. For many visitors, the Campo dei Miracoli is all they come to see, yet there is much more to Pisa than the Leaning Tower. The University of Pisa remains one of the most prestigious in Italy, while the student population ensures a vibrant cafe and bar scene. There is also much to see in the way of Romanesque buildings, Gothic churches and Renaissance piazzas. Interesting churches include Santa Maria della Spina, which sits next to the Arno river, while Piazza dei Cavalieri is notable for the Palazzo della Carovana, built by Giorgio Vasari in 1564 as the headquarters for the Knights of St Stephen.

The magnificent facade of the Basilica di Santa Croce, a Florence highlight
The magnificent facade of the Basilica di
Santa Croce, a Florence highlight
Travel tip:

The Basilica of Santa Croce, consecrated in 1442, is the main Franciscan church in Florence and the burial place among others of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Ugo Foscolo, the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, the composer Gioachino Rossini and the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi.  It houses works by some of the most illustrious names in the history of art, including Canova, Cimabue, Donatello, Giotto and Vasari. The construction of the current church, to replace an older building on what was once marshland outside the city wall, began in 1294, paid for by some of the city's wealthiest families. It is the largest Franciscan church in the world.  The floorplan is an Egyptian or Tau cross - a symbol of St Francis - 115 metres in length with a nave and two aisles separated by lines of octagonal columns, with 16 chapels. It stands proudly over the Piazza Santa Croce, one of the most famous and beautiful squares in the city.

Also on this day:

1501: The birth of doctor and mathematician Girolamo Cardano

1934: The birth of Princess Maria-Pia of Bourbon-Parma

1954: The birth of footballer Marco Tardelli

1955: The birth of businessman Ricardo Illy


25 March 2023

Giambattista Marino – poet

The colourful life of an influential literary figure

A portrait of Giambattista Marino by Caravaggio, painted in about 1600
A portrait of Giambattista Marino by
Caravaggio, painted in about 1600
Controversial poet Giambattista Marino, who founded the school of Marinism that dominated 17th century Italian poetry, died on this day in 1625 in Naples.

Marino’s poetry was translated into other languages and many other poets imitated his use of complicated wordplay, elaborate conceits and metaphors.

But although Marino’s work was praised throughout Europe, he led a chaotic life, was frequently short of money and at times arrested and imprisoned for alleged immorality.

Marino, sometimes referred to as Marini, was born in Naples in 1569. He trained for the law, under pressure from his parents, but later rebelled and refused to practise his profession.

From 1590 onwards, he spent his time travelling in Italy and France and enjoying the success of his poetry. His work was circulated in manuscript form to great acclaim and later in his life he managed to get some of it published, despite censorship.

In 1596 he wrote La Sampogna (The Syrinx), a series of sensual verses, but he was unable to publish them until 1620.

While working as secretary to a Neapolitan prince he was arrested in both 1598 and 1600 on charges of immorality, but on both occasions his admirers managed to secure his release from prison. One of his arrests was for procuring an abortion for the daughter of the Mayor of Naples and the other for forging episcopal bulls to save the life of a friend who had been involved in a duel.

Some of his defenders and some of his detractors have claimed that Marino himself had homosexual tendencies, but this practice was persecuted during the Counter Reformation and so Marino would not have been open about it.

The front cover of an edition of Marino's Adone, dated 1623
The front cover of an edition of
Marino's Adone, dated 1623
After moving to Rome, Marino attached himself to Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, a nephew of Pope Clement VIII, and they travelled round Italy together. Marino tried to get some of his poetry published while they were in Parma but was prevented by the Inquisition.

But in 1602 he was able to publish some of his early poetry as Le rime (The Rhymes) and La lira (The Lyre).

While living in Turin between 1608 and 1615, he enjoyed the patronage of the Duke of Savoy, but he was the victim of an assassination attempt by a rival poet and he was imprisoned yet again after writing satirical poems.

After friends had managed to secure his release, Marino went to Paris, where he lived until 1623 under the patronage of Marie de’ Medici and her son, Louis XIII.

While in Paris, Marino published his most important work, Adone, an epic poem of 45,000 lines that tells the love story of Venus and Adonis. This was dedicated to Louis XIII. Although critics have praised some of its brilliant passages, they have also criticised the poet’s excessive use of wordplay and metaphors in it.

Marino returned to Italy in 1623 and lived in Naples until his death. He is buried in the Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli in Naples.

Marinism, also sometimes referred to as Secentismo, 17th century style, is a reaction against classicism and uses extravagant metaphors and hyperbole to tell stories with the intention of startling the reader. Marino’s imitators carried this style to such excess that by the end of the 17th century the term marinism began to be used in a pejorative way.

However, after World War II, there was a revival of interest in this style of poetry and a reassessment of the merits of Marino and Marinism.

The Cambridge History of Italian Literature judged Marino to be one of the greatest Italian poets of all time.

The western facade of the Royal Palace, overlooking Piazza del Plebiscito
The western facade of the Royal Palace,
overlooking Piazza del Plebiscito
Travel tip:

Giambattista Marino would have been able to admire the newly built Royal Palace in Naples when he returned from France to live in the city again in 1623.  The palace, which opens on to the Piazza del Plebiscito, was completed in 1620 to designs by the architect Domenico Fontana. In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons. Additions have been made over the years, including the connecting Teatro San Carlo, which opened in 1737 and is now the oldest working opera house in the world.  The series of niche statues on the western facade, the one that faces the piazza, were added in 1888, commissioned by King Umberto I of Savoy.

The nave of the church of Santi Apostoli in Naples, where Marino is buried
The nave of the church of Santi Apostoli
in Naples, where Marino is buried
Travel tip:

Marino’s tomb is in the Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli in Via Anticaglia in Naples, not far from the historic centre of the city. The Baroque church was built on the site of a Roman temple and given to the Theatine Order in 1570. A cloister and monastery was added in 1590 and early in the 17th century, the church was reconstructed by Giacomo Conforti. Inside, visitors can admire a large fresco depicting Paradise (1684) by Giovanni Battista Benasca in the cupola and works by other painters including Marco da Siena, Luca Giordano and Francesco Solimena. 

Also on this day:

1347: The birth of Saint Catherine of Siena

1541: The birth of Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany

1546: The birth of poet and courtesan Veronica Franco

1927: The birth of politician Tina Anselmi, Italy’s first female minister

1940: The birth of pop megastar Mina


13 February 2023

Antonia Pozzi - poet

Tragic writer whose work was published only after her death

Antonia Pozzi wrote more than 300 poems in her short life
Antonia Pozzi wrote more than
300 poems in her short life
The poet Antonia Pozzi, who came to be regarded as one of the greatest Italian poets of the 20th century, was born on this day in 1912 in Milan.

Born into a wealthy family, she enjoyed a privileged lifestyle but seemingly a difficult relationship with her parents. She kept diaries and began to write poems as a teenager, although none came to light until she died in tragic circumstances at the age of just 26.

Afterwards, her notebooks were found to contain more than 300 poems, which revealed her to be one of the most original voices in 20th century Italian literature.  Most have subsequently been published, to great critical acclaim.

The daughter of Roberto Pozzi, a prominent Milan lawyer, and his aristocratic wife, Countess Lina Cavagna Sangiuliani, Antonia’s literary talent may have been inherited from her great-grandfather on her mother’s side, the 19th century poet and writer, Tommaso Grossi.

As a teenager, she had multiple interests, studying German, English and French and travelling both within Italy and further afield, to France, Austria, Germany, England, Greece and North Africa, always indulging her love of photography.

Friends said that she was never happier, though, than when she was at the family’s 18th century villa at Pasturo, a village that nestles at the foot of the Orobic Alps near Lecco, some 70km (43 miles) north of Milan. She would spend many hours cycling around local paths and her writing often made reference to the stark but beautiful mountain environment.

Pozzi pictured on the terrace of the family villa at Pasturo
Pozzi pictured on the terrace of
the family villa at Pasturo
She attended the Alessandro Manzoni High School in Milan. As a senior student there, she became romantically involved with her Latin and Greek professor, Antonio Maria Cervi. The relationship ended in 1933, apparently after her parents intervened. 

From high school, she enrolled at the University of Milan, studying modern philology. Her circle of friends there included the future poet Vittorio Sereni and the philosophers Enzo Paci and Luciano Anceschi. Her professors included Antonio Banfi, regarded as the most open and modern Italian university professor of the time, who would later become a Communist member of the Italian Senate.

Pozzi graduated in 1935, her degree awarded on the basis of her thesis on Gustave Flaubert, the French novelist.

Banfi had been a signatory to the Manifesto of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals and Pozzi herself became increasingly concerned about the political climate in Italy in the 1930s. Her father was a member of the Fascist Party, who made him mayor of a Lombardy village.

After graduating, she wrote for a magazine, Corrente, and took up a teaching position at a Milanese technical institute in 1937. She did social work as a volunteer, often assisting defendants in juvenile courts.

Sadly, the following year, her health began to decline. She had to undergo an operation to remove her appendix and her recovery was poor, causing her to develop repeated bouts of pneumonia. 

It was on December 12 that year that she was found unconscious in a ditch in the grounds of the Abbey of Chiaravalle, in a southern suburb of Milan, in freezing, snowy conditions. She was taken to hospital but died the following day.

Antonia Pozzi's writing room at the Casa Pozzi has been kept as it was in her lifetime
Antonia Pozzi's writing room at the Casa Pozzi
has been kept as it was in her lifetime
A post-mortem found that she had ingested barbiturates, which pointed towards suicide. She was said to have written a farewell note, describing how her health had left her mentally unbalanced. Nonetheless, her parents refused to accept that she had taken her own life and the official record was that she had died from pneumonia. 

The first volume of Pozzi’s poetry was published in 1939 in a private edition, selected by her father, who altered or excluded anything he deemed to be inappropriate or that reflected badly on the family, although protecting his daughter’s reputation was also a likely motivation. 

Expanded editions followed in the 1940s and again in the 1960s.  Through diligent research, some of her admirers in the literary world would later track down copies of the poems Pozzi’s father changed so that the originals could be published as they were written.

Pozzi’s poetry sought, in her own words, ‘to reduce the weight of words to the minimum’ and had a deceptive simplicity.  It perhaps reflected a mood among Italian artists, writers and even architects of her age to reject the grandiose in favour of minimalism.

One critic wrote of her work that ‘her Modernist verse is lyrical and experimental, pastoral and erotic, powerfully evoking the northern Italian landscape and her personal tragedies amid the repressive climate of Fascism’.  She is today seen as one of the most important voices in Italian poetry in the 20th century.

The village of Pasturo can be found amid the beautiful scenery of Valsassina, north of Lecco
The village of Pasturo can be found amid the
beautiful scenery of Valsassina, north of Lecco
Travel tip:

In Pasturo, a village which sits in the Valsassina basin on the eastern slopes of the Grigna massif in the province of Lecco, the memory of Antonia Pozzi is preserved in a series of 22 wall panels mounted around the streets of the village centre, each bearing verses from her poetry or photographs she took of the village and the surrounding area. The family villa, in Via Alessandro Manzoni, is kept as a museum, which can be visited by groups of 10 by arrangement. The village, which has a population of just short of 2,000, is a starting point for many walking and climbing itineraries.  The village is mentioned in Alessandro Manzoni’s classic novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed) as a place to which one of the story’s central characters flees to escape the plague.

Find places to stay in Pasturo with

The Chiostro della Ghiacciaia, which is part of the university's Ca' Granda complex
The Chiostro della Ghiacciaia, which is part
of the university's Ca' Granda complex
Travel tip:

The University of Milan, founded in 1924 with the merger of two older educational establishments, is one of the largest in Europe, with about 60,000 students and 2,000 permanent staff. Many of the university’s departments are housed in important historic buildings in the centre of Milan, including the Ca’ Granda, a monumental complex from the 15th century in Via Festa del Perdono at the heart of the historical city centre, the 18th-century Palazzo Greppi in Via Sant’Antonio, designed by the architect of Teatro alla Scala, Giuseppe Piermarini, and the 17th-century Collegio di Sant'Alessandro, commissioned by the Arcimboldi family. Ca' Granda was originally commissioned by Francesco I Sforza, the 15th century Duke of Milan, and his wife, Bianca Maria Visconti, who wanted to create a hospital for the poor.

Milan hotels by

More reading:

How Andrea Zanzotto drew inspiration from Veneto landscapes

The civil engineer who became a Nobel Prize-winning poet

Dario Fo - the outspoken genius whose work put spotlight on corruption

Also on this day:

1539: The death of influential marchioness Isabella d’Este

1571: The death of Renaissance sculptor Benvenuto Cellini

1816: Fire damages Teatro di San Carlo

1960: The birth of football referee Pierluigi Collina

(Picture credit: Antonia Pozzi's writing room by Xavier Caré; Pasturo landcape by Ago76; Chiostro della Ghiacciaia by Giovanni Dall'Orto; all via Wikimedia Commons)


26 October 2022

Trilussa - poet and journalist

Writer used humour and irony in social commentary

Trilussa became known as  "the people's poet"
Trilussa became known as 
"the people's poet"
The Roman poet who went under the name Trilussa was born on this day in 1871.

The writer, best known for his works in Romanesco dialect, was actually christened Carlo Alberto Camillo Mariano Salustri. His pseudonym was an anagram of his last name.

He was inspired to take up poetry by his admiration for Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, who satirised life in 19th century Rome in his sonnets, which were also written in Roman dialect. 

Born in a house in Via del Babuino, near the Spanish Steps, Carlo was the son of a waiter originally from Albano Laziale in the Castelli Romani area around Lago Albano south of Rome. His mother, Carlotta, was a seamstress born in Bologna.

His early years were marred by tragedy. He lost both a sister and his father before he had reached four years old.  After living for a short time in Via Ripetta, close to the Tiber river, his family were offered accommodation in a palazzo in Piazza di Pietra, a square midway between the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain.

The palazzo was owned by Carlo’s Godfather, the Marquis Ermenegildo del Cinque, who had been introduced to the family by Professor Filippo Chiappini, a disciple of Belli who for a while was Trilussa’s tutor.  

Carlo was never a committed student. Twice he was required to repeat a year at high school and left formal education entirely at the age of 15, against the advice of both his mother and Professor Chiappini.

The monument to Trilussa in the square of the same name in Rome
The monument to Trilussa in the
square of the same name in Rome
Nonetheless, his flair for humorous, satirical poetry would serve him well. In 1887, a dialect magazine entitled Rugantino published some of his verses, which were well received by readers.

The following year, he brought together a collection of poems published in Rugantino as a book, called Stelle de Roma: Versi romaneschi (Stars of Rome: Romanesco verses), a series of about 30 madrigals written in appreciation of the most beautiful young women in the city. It sold well.

Soon, Trilussa became a well known name. His work appeared in popular newspapers such as il Mesaggero and il Resto del Carlino.

In 1891, he began a collaboration with Don Chisciotte della Mancia, a newspaper with national circulation, for whom in addition to his poetry he wrote articles commenting on national government as well as life in Rome, ultimately becoming a member of the editorial board. 

His second volume of collected verses, Quaranta sonetti romaneschi (Forty Roman Sonnets), which marked the start of a long-running relationship with the publishers, Voghera, included poems he had written for Don Chisciotte della Mancia.

Trilussa was a man of striking appearance who dressed elegantly
Trilussa was a man of striking
appearance who dressed elegantly
Even as his fame grew and more collections of poetry were published, bringing him a good income, he rejected the idea that he should move in more intellectual circles, much preferring to spend his time chatting to locals in neighbourhood bars.  He was aware that the division between the rich and poor in Rome was huge and would mock the style in which the rich lived and treated the “working” class. This led to him becoming known as the people’s poet.

He developed a talent for drawing as well as verse. Some of his published work was accompanied by his own illustrations.

Trilussa managed to avoid running into trouble with the Fascist regime, who generally looked suspiciously at writers and artists, by declaring himself to be not anti-Fascist but non-Fascist. Although he satirised politics even in the turbulent 1920s and ‘30s, his relationship with Mussolini’s government remained relatively uneventful.

A tall man, he always dressed elegantly and lived in an apartment furnished according to his supposedly eclectic tastes, where he entertained fellow artists and writers. He was said to have led a rather hedonistic lifestyle, interspersed with periods of financial difficulty. When he died in December 1950, he had little money.

He never married, yet had a long relationship with Giselda Lombardi - better known as the silent movie actress Leda Gys - who he described as the love of his life. It was Trilussa who launched her career by introducing her to friends in the film business, only for her to meet and marry a producer.

In declining health, he was made a senator for life by President Luigi Einuadi in 1950 but died less than three weeks later. His body is buried at the Verano Cemetery in Rome.

A square in Trastevere, formerly called Piazza Ponte Sisto, was renamed Piazza Trilussa after his death. The beautiful square, surrounded by bars and restaurants, was in an area in which the poet spent much of his time. Nowadays, it is a popular spot with young Romans.

The square features a quirky monument, featuring a bust in bronze leaning over a marble fragment of a Roman ruin, created by the sculptor Lorenzo Ferri in 1954.

The Spanish steps is one of Rome's best known sights
The Spanish steps is one of
Rome's best known sights
Travel tip:

Trilussa was born in a house not far from the Spanish Steps - known to Romans as the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, leading to the piazza and church of the same name at the top of the steps. At the bottom is the Piazza di Spagna, which gets its name from the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See which has been there since the 17th century. The square was popular with English aristocrats on the Grand Tour who stayed there while in Rome. In 1820, the English poet John Keats spent the last few months of his life in a small room overlooking the Spanish Steps and died there of consumption in February 1821, aged just 25. The house is now a museum and library dedicated to the Romantic poets.

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is
one of the oldest churches in Rome
Travel tip:

Although formerly a working class neighbourhood, the Trastevere district, which sits alongside the Tiber, is regarded as one of Rome's most charming areas for tourists to visit. Full of winding, cobbled streets and well preserved mediaeval houses, it is fashionable with Rome's young professional class as a place to live, with an abundance of restaurants and bars and a lively student music scene.  It is also home to one of the oldest churches in Rome in the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, the floor plan and wall structure of which date back to 340AD.

Also on this day:

1685: The birth of composer Domenico Scarlatti

1797: The birth of soprano Giuditta Pasta

1906: The birth of boxer Primo Carnera

1954: Trieste became part of the Italian Republic