THAT’S WHY BRITISH POETS HAVE ALWAYS FALLEN IN LOVE WITH OUR COUNTRY
When British people imagine Italy in a nostalgic or daydreamy moment, they may well imagine a peaceful place blessed by mild weather, dazzling natural light and endless rolling hills.
Il Bel Paese, as Dante named it, with its culture, stratified history and breath-taking natural beauty has always been idealised as the perfect destination.
In the 17th century young poets, artists, scientists, philosophers and writers from northern European countries and particularly from England, started visiting Italy as an integral part of that educational rite of passage, that intellectually shaping-experience called Grand Tour.
In search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization, they fell in love with the grace with which such restorative weather cocooned the country’s natural treasures.
The bright hot, Italian sun has always been largely appraised as one of the most significant features of the country and often depicted as the reason for the restful, sometimes sleepy, inclinations of its bon-viveurs citizens.
On the other hand, thanks to its incredible warmth and energy, it was also believed to strengthen body and soul, and to heal – or at least remarkably improve – any kind of disease, especially of the respiratory nature.
That is why, for many of history’s great personalities Italy first represented the perfect lover of youth and later, a safe haven in old age – a place to treat physical weaknesses and life’s unavoidable disappointments.
Romantic poet John Keats is probably the most famous example of this historical ‘trend’. In the late summer of 1820, after displaying serious symptoms of tuberculosis, he was ordered by his doctors to avoid the English winter and move to Italy.
In 1818, Percy Bysshe Shelley, together with his wife, the writer Mary Shelley, in moved between various Italian cities to have a break from certain familiar issues and take care of his health condition.
German writer and statesman Goethe escaped to Italy in 1786 to reinvent himself, ‘to shed his skin’ after serving the Weimar government, which, he felt, had stifled his creativity. And, to find new inspiration and stimulate the philosophical thought, what better remedy than experiencing the magnificence of Rome or the ancient fascination of Magna Grecia, under a clear and soothing Italian sky?
Between 1920 and 1930, whilst trying to escape from the First World War, English novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence went to Italy to recover from tuberculosis. During this time, he wrote his masterpiece, the scandalous Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but he also composed a collection of stories called Sotto il Sole d’Italia.
The Italian sun was particularly significant to Lawrence’s life and poetics: he craved it and would chase it his entire life as a unique source of inspiration and energy.
The playful, primordial sex element in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, if we can all agree that sexuality is one of the most human channels for emotional expression, can only be enhanced under a resplendent Tuscan sun.