Posts Tagged With: central italy

Leopardi’s Life and Work

Leopardi’s Works

by Cali Weber

Leopardi wrote many poems and essays during his short lifetime. I have chosen a few of his most famous poems to look at and do an in depth analysis on, while examining how his world view, his environment, and struggles in life influenced his writing.

Leopardi’s first known poems were written after the Napoleonic Wars and during a time of a lot of turmoil for Italy. During the wars, Recanati was annexed as part of Napoleon’s puppet state, the Kingdom of Italy (Marino 1). After Napoleon’s defeat, the Congress of Vienna restored the power of the pope, which had been vastly decreased during Napoleon’s rule, and returned Recanati, along with most of central Italy, to the Papal States, eliminating all democratic reforms that Napoleon had brought about (Marino 1).

In his poem To Italy, Leopardi laments the weakened state Italy is in. He invokes images of Italy’s glorious past, in which it was a conqueror, but at the time this was written Italy was weak and lay in a state of “helplessness [and] shame” ( qtd in Leopardi 2). On Dante’s Monument also shows Leopardi’s dismay at Italy’s defeated state, and “he turns to Dante and asks from him pity for the pathetic state of his fatherland” (qtd in Poemhunter 5). His works were highly valued by the nationalist movement at the time because Leopardi, like many romantic poets of his time, had a strong sense of nationalism (Cultural Society 1). This can be seen in both of these poems because, even though Italy was divided up into different kingdoms, he addresses all of Italy as one nation.

Leopardi’s most famous poem is called The Infinite or L’Infinito in the original Italian. This was written in 1819 when Leopardi had still not left his hometown of Recanati. The poem reveals his longing to leave Recanati and to travel. This poem was written at a time of intellectual and personal turmoil. The poem divulges the loneliness that Leopardi feels and how it is as though everyone in life has left him behind, but he cannot follow. In the poem this is shown through the hedge that blocks his view of what lies beyond, so he must use his mind to imagine an infinite space beyond the hedge. While he gazes out past the hill, he figuratively drowns so deeply in his own prolific and unfathomable thoughts, that a shipwreck seems sweet to him.

After travelling to several cities in Italy including Rome, Florence and Milan, Leopardi returned to his hometown of Recanati in 1828 and wrote, among others, the poem To Silvia. This poem commemorates the death of a young girl named Teresa Fattorini, who was the daughter of a servant (Carrera 4). Leopardi admired her greatly and perhaps even loved her romantically (Poemhunter 9). In the poem, Silvia has taken on a figurative meaning, because Leopardi is using her as a symbol to represent the unfairness of life. Leopardi uses tuberculosis, which Silvia died of, as a symbol for the cruelty of nature and of reality. Silvia was young and had much to look forward to in life, but reality destroys Silvia’s expectations and dreams. Leopardi’s and Silvia’s lives parallel each other. Leopardi also had many hopes and reveries that were dashed by sickness just like Silvia. This poem explores the concept of the brutality of life and nature, running themes in many of Leopardi’s poems.

A reoccurring entity in Leopardi’s poems is the moon. It is seen in fourteen of the poems in the Canti (Hartley 1). For Leopardi, the moon was the only thing other than his father’s books that he could always take comfort in. In the poem To the Moon, Leopardi delineates how whenever he felt distraught, he would often cry while reflecting on his life and how unfortunate and static it was whilst staring up at the moon. In this poem, Leopardi’s desire to travel and to leave Recanati can be clearly seen. Leopardi also recalls on how he had many dreams as a young man, but he knows that he will never achieve any of them.

Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia is considered by some scholars to be Leopardi’s best and most profound poem, even though it is not the most well-known or popular. This poem also frequently mentions the moon. As a shepherd gazes up at the moon one night, he begins to ponder the meaninglessness of his own life while questioning the existence of the moon. He ponders whether the moon ever tires of its role, and if it too feels that its existence is purposeless (Cultural Society 1). Both the sheep herder and the moon are symbolic, with the shepherd representing humanity and mankind and the moon representing Nature (Poemhunter 10). Much like in To The Moon and The Infinite, a part of nature, whether it is the moon or a hill with a hedge, serves as a gateway into Leopardi’s inner thoughts and also leads him to ponder the meaning of life, analyzing the universe, and the cruel forces of nature (Cultural Society 1).

In the poem Saturday Night in the Village, Leopardi begins by describing the various citizens he sees from outside his window, such as woman carrying a bouquet of flowers and an elderly woman sitting and chatting with her friends. He expresses the excitement that the townspeople are feeling because the next day is a holiday, and how everyone is celebrating and making preparations. Then he suddenly shifts from this tone of happiness and excitement to an unpleasant one. He muses how everything will soon come to end, and alludes that happiness is fleeting and that this holiday will culminate with bitter disappointment. He also compares this celebration with life because both will end in shattered dreams and disenchantment. I think this poem showcases the loneliness that Leopardi probably often felt. He is very disconnected from anything that is going on in the town. It seems that he has distanced himself from everyone and can only watch and observe from afar.

What inspired a lot of Leopardi’s poems was the heartbreak he felt when every woman he ever loved rejected him. In 1831 he fell in love with a woman named Fanny Targioni Tozzetti, but she never loved him in return (Carrera 4). He wrote several poems about his heartache, including the poem To Himself. He talks about how Fanny’s rejection shattered his heart and destroyed his last hopes of ever being loved by woman. Leopardi reiterates how happiness is merely an illusion and he once again emphasizes the cruelty of life and of nature. Leopardi delineates that he can only find comfort in death, which will free him from the miseries he is experiencing in life.

I think it is understandable why many of Leopardi’s poems have such melancholy tones. He lived a very solitary and lonely life, because he was unable to find love due to his sickness and deformities. Poetry, for him, was a way to express these frustrations and complex emotions. His struggles and his environment contributed both to the gloomy nature of his poems, and to his musings about the meaning of life and the cruelty of nature. He developed a distinct style of intellectual yet extremely emotionally moving poetry that contributed to the flourishing Romantic Movement in Italy and his work solidified him as one of the greatest Italian poets to ever live.





Carrera, Alessandro. “Giacomo Leopardi.” The Literary Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May             2014.

“Count Giacomo Leopardi Poems.” Poem Hunter . Np, nd Web. 5 May 2014.   

“Giacomo Leopardi Essay – Leopardi, Giacomo (Poetry Criticism) -.”, nd Web. 5 May 2014.        leopardi/critical-essays/leopardi-giacomo-78912

Hartley, Heather. “Leopardi, to the Moon.” Rumpusnet The Leopardi to the Moon Comments.   Np, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 5 May 2014.

Leopardi, Giacomo, and Frederick Townsend. The poems of Giacomo Leopardi, . New York:      GP Putnam’s Sons, 1887 Print.

Marino, John. “Italy.” Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., 8 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 May 2014.          Sicily#toc27720.

“THE FUTURE OF ILLUSIONS: LEOPARDI’S CANTI.” The Cultural Society . Np, 6 Feb.      2012. Web. 5 May 2014.     illusions-leopardi%E2%80%99s-canti/


The Life of Giacomo Leopardi

Lauren O. Codina

When one thinks of famous Italian writers, painters, or thinkers, the typical names Dante Alighieri, Leonardo da Vinci, or Michelangelo come to mind. However, during the time of Italian Romanticism (1798-1848), one very important writer distinguished himself: Giacomo Leopardi. Giacomo Leopardi was born in June of 1798, in Recanati, Italy (Herdler and Menger, 1893, p. v). An incredibly smart man, Leopardi’s talents were not limited to writing. He was also a philosopher and philologist. However, Leopardi is best remembered as a writer (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). The works of Leopardi have classified him as one of the greatest Italian writers; his genius inspired a new style of poetry, challenged the capability of translators, and left valuable insight into emerging views of philosophy during the time of Romanticism and Enlightenment.

Before he earned his title as a great Italian writer, Leopardi had to live his life first. Born into a noble family in Recanati, his family consisted of him, his mother, Adelaide Antici Mattei, his father, Count Monaldo Leopardi, his sister Paolina, and brother Carlo (Casale, 1981, p. 3-25). Despite their noble status the Leopardi family had many financial issues and disputes among the family members themselves. His father had a gambling problem, which prompted Leopardi’s mother to watch over the finances of the estate. Both of his parents were strict and pushed Leopardi and his siblings to constantly study (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). In his book, “A Leopardi Reader,” Ottavio Casale compares the relationship Leopardi and his father had, “Monaldo was to Giacomo roughly what Leopold Mozart had been to Wolfgang” (page 9). Aside from the stress his father gave him, his mother was often described as severe and a religious fanatic. Casale described Adelaide as having two priorities, “to repair the family finances…[and] to make sure that the children feared God, hated earth, and looked forward to heaven” (page 9). Leopardi’s poor relations with both of his parents only amplified the abhorrence he held for Recanati. However, he could find a small amount of happiness in his siblings; but nevertheless, he remained a cynic throughout his life, finding comfort only in studying and writing.

His father owned an extensive and large personal library, which became like another home to Leopardi. Besides much of his self study in his father’s library, Leopardi was constantly taught and instructed by private tutors. However, they proved to be ineffective, seeing that by age 10 Leopardi is supposed to have translated works by Horace and Moschus (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). At age 15 he wrote “Storia della Astronomia” – the history of astronomy from the very beginning until his present day. Later, at 16 years of age, Leopardi mastered Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, and became proficient in Spanish, English, German, and French. He continued to write and study throughout his youth. He actually became so intelligent, that his tutors did not believe there was more for him to learn. Sadly, Leopardi studied so long and intensely that it damaged his health. He went blind in one eye and developed scoliosis, eventually becoming a hunchback (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). These terrible medical conditions only contributed to more anger and frustration in his life.

Leopardi often described his home as a prison, and made many attempts to “escape”. In 1822, Leopardi ventured to Rome with Pietro Giordani, another writer. Giordani and Leopardi, prior to their travel to Rome, had frequently corresponded with each other through letters. These letters were emotional, and Giordani quickly became a father figure to Leopardi, since Count Monaldo’s hostility and pressure to constantly improve and study greatly distanced him from Leopardi. However, due to his poor health, Leopardi could not find sustainable work (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). Finding dissatisfaction in Rome only brought Leopardi to a more depressed state when he returned to Recanati in 1823. However, it was in 1824 that he published “Canzoni”, which was his first collection of his poetry (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012). This is considered to be one of his greatest works. One year later, Giacomo tried to leave Recanati again and went to Milan, where he would be an editor to Cicero. The years following this led him to Bologna, Pisa, Florence, and his home of Recanati (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2012; “Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). Still, Leopardi suffered from his ill health. For him, there was always an unattainable happiness – reflected in his writing and his inability to find happiness even outside of Recanati.

Unsurprisingly, Leopardi was a pessimist, a skeptic – his illness and family/home troubles clouded his mind and disturbed him until his death. However, his pessimism stemmed further than just that. He observed death as a comfort, something to embrace, and thought of life as a joke of the Gods. When it came to love, Leopardi fancied dark loves, finding love only more beautiful when combined with tragedy and death. Perhaps this is a reflection of his personal love affairs. He had no real great loves, and never married. In his lifetime, though, he did love his cousin Gertrude Cassi, but unfortunately for Leopardi she was already married. Leopardi also loved the daughter of the family coachmen, Teresa Fattorini. She died of tuberculosis in 1818, and this devastated Leopardi. It was her death that impelled he wrote “A Silvia”, Silvia representing Teresa. The poem reflected Leopardi’s pessimism and inability to understand why nature, why life, is so cruel. During his time in Florence it is said he loved Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti (“Giacomo Leopardi,” 2014). However, his affections for her did not bear him anything more than further heartbreak.

From poor illness to heartbreak, to isolation and cynicism, it is clear Leopardi’s life was filled with loneliness and sadness. On this Casale wrote, “The poems, however, are loneliness made palpable” (page 4). Yet, what is loneliness to Leopardi? Leopardi may not have excelled at love, and his hometown may have left him feeling isolated, but he did fill this void of loneliness in his letters and friendships, of which he had many. In Florence he befriended Antonio Ranieri; in Rome and through letters, he befriended Pietro Giordani, and the list goes on. His frequent relations with these men, however, have led to assumptions that Leopardi was in fact a homosexual. In the time of Romanticism, it was not uncommon that letters were eloquently written with terms of endearment; it did not matter if two men wrote using terms of endearment. Furthermore, Leopardi himself condemned homosexuality as unnatural (Casale, 1981, p. 12). Leopardi’s reputation varied; he was often judged for his extremely dark opinions about life, and his denouncement of God and/or religion. Ultimately though, Leopardi was respected because he was so gifted and intelligent.

This is the story Giacomo Leopardi – born in Recanati in 1798 and died in Naples in 1837. His life was full of tragedy, solitude, and illness. Still, he was incredibly smart and talented in his writing; he never let blindness or scoliosis prevent him from creating more works. He used his tragedies to create incredible literary works of art that modern translators struggle to reinterpret and mimic correctly. His vast intelligence aided him but also trapped him; his mind was full of knowledge, and his body was too damaged to fully help him process and produce at his highest potential. One wonders what more Leopardi could have created, without his physical hindrances. However, these hindrances (bodily and familial) were perhaps the driving forces of his writing. Had it not been for all of Leopardi’s sorrow, he may not have been capable of balancing his role as a cynic and poet quite as well. This is precisely what Leopardi believed, that sorrow and grief were inevitable, necessary parts of life – happiness being constantly unattainable. Precisely what he lived is precisely what he believed, and he was forever trapped in his pessimistic world of writing.



Casale, O. M. (1981) A Leopardi Reader. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Kirsch, A. (2010, October 25th). Under the Volcano. Retrieved 2 May 2014 from


Carrera, A. “Giacomo Leopardi”. The Literary Encyclopedia. 7 November 2009. Retrieved 02 May, 2014, from

Ernesto, L. “Italian Romanticism”. The Literary Encyclopedia. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 02 May, 2014, from

Giacomo Leopardi. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2 May 2014, from

Giacomo Leopardi. (2012). Retrieved 04:07, 2 May 2014 from


Casa Leopardi. (2005). “Family.” Retrieved from 2 May 2014

Casa Leopardi. (2005). “The Leopardi Palace.” Retrieved from 2 May 2014

Scholarly Articles:

Herdler, A. W. Menger, L.E. (1893). “The Life and Works of Giacomo Leopardi.” Vol. 8, Appendix. Pp. v-xi. Doi: 10.2307/456320


Alyssa Wilson

Professoressa Lazzari


Composizione per il website


Tradurre o Tradire? I Problemi e Malintesi delle Traduzione Letterarie.


“Tradurre uguale tradire” è un pensiero che si vede in tutte le culture e le lingue letterarie. In Italia, questo è il proprio motivo per studiare il greco e il latino a Liceo Classico, per capire e per apprezzare le poesie che hanno costruito un nuovo modo di pensare, cioè un modo diverso di vedere il nostro mondo. Se qualcuno impari la lingua dell’opera, è più probabile che tradurrà la lingua meglio, ma se non è familiarissimo con la lingua, e non capisce il contesto, e se è troppo parziale al suo stile, allora tradirà quasi sicuramente il lavoro dello scrittore originale. In questo caso, io parlerò dello scrittore italiano Giacomo Leopardi. Studierò la sua opera L’Infinito, e cercherò di capire perché ci sono tante traduzioni, e perché è così difficile interpretare e tradurre una poesia.

Nel suo articolo, Ruth Feldman, una traduttrice che parla l’italiano e l’inglese, dice che la traduzione di una poesia è come la sorellastra della poesia;[1] la traduzione è quasi come scrivere una nuova poesia per molti traduttori, ma non lo dovrebbe essere secondo lei. Creda completamente nella fidelità, dice,che il traduttore deve mettere via il suo stile e immergersi nello spirito, nel pensiero, e nello stile dello scrittore originale, così sembrerebbe come se lo scrittore l’avesse scritto in quell’altra lingua.[2] Lei dice anche che il traduttore dovrebbe conoscere la lingua molto bene.[3] Racconta delle storie di traduttori che non conoscono bene la lingua straniera, e l’autore che non sa parlare l’inglese, quindi si fide completamente della traduzione del traduttore, e non può commentarlo e correggerlo perché non sa che qualcosa non andasse bene. Nel caso di Leopardi, lui è morto, quindi non è possibile chiedergli come vorrebbe dire le sue parole in un’altra lingua, quindi lo lasciamo fare ai nostri traduttori.

Ovviamente, sapere la lingua molto bene è necessaria. Se non conosci bene la lingua non potrai capire nemmeno il testo. Ma capire il testo, e capire il contesto è completamente diverso. Nonostante capire le parole, il traduttore deve capire la storia, la cultura della lingua. Per esempio, tante persone chiedono come si dice “I’m sorry” in italiano. È sempre difficile, perché dipende alla situazione. Loro aspettano il risposto “mi dispiace,” ma non si dice mi dispiace quando stai chiedendo perdona o scusa a qualcuno in italiano. Dunque di solito si dice, scusami. Loro chiedono perché non sia “mi dispiace” com’è scritto nel loro libro d’italiano, e quindi si deve spiegarli che “mi dispiace” si dice solo quando non c’è niente da fare nella situazione, tipo un incidente dell’auto, o una morte nella famiglia. Chiedere scusa, però, è quando hai sbagliato e vuoi che la persona ti perdoni. In inglese è la stessa frase, ma nella cultura italiana, è più complicato, tu chiederesti scusa quando non ci fosse niente da fare? No, quindi le due frasi sono diverse. Si vede questa praticità anche nel congiuntivo. Il congiuntivo non esiste proprio in inglese, perché qualcuno dice le possibilità come cose certe, ma in italiano, una lingua più romantica, le credenze e le opinioni non sono cose sicure, sono possibilità, dunque hanno una coniugazione diversa. Allora sapere la lingua non basta, conoscere la cultura e perché è fatta così è una cosa indispensabile nelle traduzioni, perché queste piccole così diventano grande nello scopo della lingua.

Ruth Feldman ha parlato anche dell’idea di non sporcare la poesia con lo stile del traduttore, e invece di immergersi nello stile dello scrittore originale. Ma questo è difficile, perché tutti noi essere umani siamo un po’ parziali, anche se cerchiamo di non esserlo. La nostra storia, le nostre esperienze nella vita ci creano la nostra identità, e questa identità è legata molto al nostro stile di scrittura. Quindi, è complicato non permettere questo stile di influenzare il nostro lavoro o traduzione. Però è essenziale che la traduzione sia il più imparziale, perché così potremmo tutti capire l’opera in un modo diverso di tutti gli altri. La nostra comprensione e la nostra traduzione non dovrebbero incontrarsi, ma come lo possiamo fare se sono indeterminati fra loro? Il traduttore dev’essere molto familiare con lo stile dell’autore originale, deve capire il suo stile, e deve cercare di comprendere perché lo scrittore avesse scelto quella parola invece di un’altra. Che cosa voleva dire? Che cosa si sentiva quando scriveva quest’opera?

Per Leopardi e la sua opera, L’Infinito, sappiamo che lui era uno scrittore molto melanconico, e che si sentiva catenato dentro le mura della sua città di Recanati. Quindi, la sua descrizione nella sua poesia dovrebbe avere le parole che illustra questa sensazione di richiusura. Parla anche della sensazione d’infinito, del tempo che non si ferma mai, quindi anche questa sensazione dev’essere descritto nelle parole scelte. Il traduttore non può neanche solo tradurre le parole, deve tradurre il sentimento, altrimenti tradirà la poesia.

Ho preso due traduzioni diverse dell’Infinito e possiamo vedere che le differenze sono immense. La prima traduzione, di Richard Jackson, del 2011 è una bellissima poesia, ma non sembra la stessa opera di Leopardi. Per esempio:

“Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati

Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani

Silenzi, e profondissima quiete…”[4]

È questa che ha scritta Leopardi, ma era tradotta così da Richard Jackson:

“Seated here and lost in an endless meditation

Which discovers a vaster space within,

Boundless silence and deep inner quiet…”[5]

È un bellissimo lavoro, ma “boundless silence” non ha la stessa emozione che ha sovrumani silenzi, che si traduce come “superhuman silence.” Ovviamente sovrumano non è lo stesso di sconfinato (cioè boundless in inglese).

Poi ho trovato un’altra traduzione da Mike Towler da 1998, quindi è più vecchia, comunque direi che le parole sono da una scelta migliore di quelle precedenti.

“But as I sit and watch, I invent in my mind

Endless spaces beyond, and superhuman

Silences, and profoundest quiet;…”[6]

Però, qualche uso di parola inglese l’ha sbagliato, oppure era disagevole. Come l’ultima riga:

“And to shipwreck is sweet for me in this sea.”[7]

Che scritta da Leopardi legge così:

“E il naufragar m’è dolce questo mare.”[8]

Che nella mia traduzione sarebbe:

“And I am shipwrecked in this sweet sea.”

Ovviamente ci sono tante differenze, ed è per varie ragioni. Quando impariamo un’altra lingua, ognuno usa delle frasi e delle parole un po’ diverse, quindi ognuno capisce le poesie e le opere artistiche in una maniera diversa, e questo è perché siamo tutti fatti diversamente in fondo, quindi niente che faremo e capiremo sarà mai uguale; dipenderà alle esperienze del lettore. Però, il traduttore deve cercare di camminare nel mezzo, catturare le emozioni dello scrittore, ma cercare di dimostrarle nel modo corretto della nuova lingua. Non è per niente facile, ecco perché ci sono i traduttori professionali, perché tradurre vuole tanto studio, non solo della lingua, ma anche della cultura, del contesto, e dello scrittore in sé.

Per concludere, scriverò la mia traduzione dell’Infinito. Non sono una traduttrice professionale, quindi magari non sarà perfetta, ma è una prova ad applicare le idee che ho trovato nella mia ricerca.

“Always dear to me was this small hill

And this barrier that excludes much

Of the terrestrial horizon from view.

But, sitting and admiring, unending

Spaces there, and a superhuman

Silence, and a profound quiet

Me in my thoughts I decieve myself, where for a little while

My heart isn’t alarmed. And like the wind

I hear storming between these plants, and I this

Voice of infinite silence

Comparing: and eternity emerges

And the dead seasons, and the present,

and life, and the sound of her. And like this in this

immensity, my thoughts drown:

and I am shipwrecked in this sweet sea.”

L’idea di tradurre e non tradire è più complicata che sembra. Il traduttore ideale dovrebbe essere innanzitutto familiarissimo con tutti i due delle lingue tradotte, e poi deve assolutamente capire il contesto di cui era scritto la poesia o l’opera in generale. Se il traduttore non capisce né la cultura, né la storia, non riuscirà mai a scrivere una buona traduzione, dunque tradirà l’autore originale. Nel caso di Leopardi, esistono tantissime traduzioni dappertutto, ma uno deve capire che lui non era felice nella sua vita, era melanconica, quindi le sue parole devono riflettere questa tristezza e disperazione che lui provava. Alla fine però, la traduzione dipenderà a chi la stia leggendo: il lettore deciderà ultimamente se l’opera tradotta, è una tradizione, o una traduzione.


Parole: 1476





















Feldman, Ruth. “Translating Italian Poetry.” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 1997. XXXIII, Issue 1. 3-16.

Gallo, Niccolò. Garboli, Cesare. “L’Infinito,” in Giacomo Leopardi: Canti. Torino: Einaudi, 1962. 105-106.

Jackson, Richard. “’The Infinite,’ a poem by Giacomo Leopardi translated by Richard Jackson.” Numéro Cinq. Ultima visita, 10/03/2011.

Towler, Mike. “L’Infinito: Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837).” Senza titolo. Ultima visita, Aprile 1998.



[1]Ruth Feldman, “On Translating Italian Poetry,” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 1997, XXXIII Issue 1, 3.

[2] Ruth Feldman, “Translating Italian Poetry,” 3.

[3] Ibid, 3.

[4] Niccolò Gallo e Cesare Garboli, “L’Infinito,” in Giacomo Leopardi: Canti, (Torino: Einaudi, 1962), 105.

[5] Richard Jackson, “’The Infinite,’ a poem by Giacomo Leopardi, translated by Richard Jackson,” Numéro Cinq. Ultima visita, 10/03/2011.

[6] Mike Towler, “L’Infinito: Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837),” Senza titolo, Aprile 1998,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Niccolò Gallo e Cesare Garboli, “L’Infinito,” 106.


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The City of Rimini Between Past and Present

Delving into Rimini’s Past: An In-Depth Discussion of the City’s Significance as an Artistic and Cultural Center in Italy

By Maura Vestal

Rimini, a cultural and artistic center located on the Adriatic Sea in the Emilia-Romagna region, was founded in 268BCE by Romans. Named Ariminum by the Romans, the city was previously occupied by the Etruscans, Umbrians, Greeks, and Gauls. Rimini’s optimal location in Italy allowed for an ideal communication link between the northern and southern sides of the Italian peninsula, which is why the city was sought after by so many clans (Adria Beach 1). During the Roman times, monuments such as the Arch of Augustus and the Tiberius Bridge were built to commemorate great Roman Emperors and emphasize the city’s significance to the Roman State. Later, during the Renaissance, Sigismondo Malatesta ordered the magnificent Malatesta Temple to be built. All of these monuments, moreover, play a major role in the city’s prominent arts and culture scene, while also emphasizing the importance of Rimini in past times.

Ancient Times: Arch of Augustus, Tiberius Bridge, House of the Surgeon, and Piazza Tre Martiri

images-4                                                   images-5

The two major monuments built during Roman times emphasize the significance and importance of Rimini as a major link between cities around Italy. Moreover, the Tiberius Bridge, built approximately two thousand years ago, “marks the beginning of the Via Emilia” (Rimini Guide 2). This bridge, commissioned by Emperor Augustus and built of white travertine, was constructed from 14AD to 21AD. After Augustus died, Emperor Tiberius continued on with the construction. The Tiberius Bridge has five full arches and, more importantly, “the piles [under the bridge] are laid obliquely in order to second the current without interfering with the Via Emilia, which passes above” (Orsini 17). The construction of the bridge emphasizes the hard work and thought put into the bridge. Yet, the most important aspect of the Tiberius Bridge was its ability to connect the city of Rimini to Rome. This allowed for different arts and cultures to be introduced to Rimini which would later on help the city become a prominent center that welcomed many artists, architects, etc.

Another major Roman monument found in Rimini is the Arch of Augustus. This arch was commissioned by the Senate to be built in honor of Emperor Augustus. Additionally, it was built in 27BCE, making it the oldest standing arch from Roman times. In all of its glory, the arch had a statue of Augustus in a chariot on the top of the arch, however, it was destroyed and the arch remains without the statue to this day (Rimini Guide 3). Most importantly though, the arch signified the importance it held to Rome. The Roman Empire wanted to thank Rimini for its cooperation and alliance, so they built this arch.

Another notable place located here is that of the Piazza Tre Martiri. It served as an ancient Roman forum in its time and would have been teeming with many citizens. Moreover, the forum would have been twice the size of the piazza today because of the forum’s great importance in Rimini (Rimini Guide 2). In addition to these notable monuments, Rimini also contains an old excavation site named the House of the Surgeon which “was a residential building of the roman period, built during the second half of the 2nd century A.D.” (The Surgeon’s House in Rimini 1). This site, moreover, contains medical tools, mosaics, and skeletons that date back to ancient times. In addition, the archeological site contains “remains of buildings dating back to the Late Republic period, traces of an Early Medieval settlement as well as a burial ground” (The Surgeon’s House in Rimini 1). The mosaics found here especially emphasize the importance of arts within Rimini because of their preservation and beauty. Moreover, the mosaics show the city’s early interest in the arts and experimenting with different scenes such as the one with Orpheus and the animals, which was located in the surgeon’s operation room. Additionally, the house was burned down during that time period and was only discovered a couple of years ago. Today, the house is enclosed by a glass encasement that protects it from various intruders. In fact, the House of the Surgeon, now a museum, is open to the public and can be viewed on weekdays, complementing Rimini’s arts and culture scene. These Roman monuments emphasize the city’s cultural significance as well as budding artistic importance during these times.


Renaissance Period: The Well-Known Malatesta Temple

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During the Renaissance in Rimini, Sigismondo Malatesta commissioned the building of the Malatesta Temple. However, before the new construction, the building was called the Church of San Francesco. Dating back to the thirteenth century, this church belonged to the Franciscans. However, in 1652, Sigismondo called upon Leon Battista Alberti to help him with the reconstruction. The Malatesta Temple was his first architectural work that he designed and abided by his own architectural rules. In fact, “the Malatesta Temple…is perhaps the only monument in the world of which it can be said that it lifted an architect to the heights of glory, immortalized the glory of a potentate, and made vivid through the ages of a woman’s smile” (Orsini 7). With the end of the reconstruction of the building, Alberti went on to design the façade of the Palazzo Rucellai, Pienza, Sant’Andrea in Mantua, and his most important work, the Santa Maria Novella (University of St. Andrew’s 1). Furthermore, the Malatesta Temple not only accelerated Alberti’s career, but helped pave the way for other Renaissance men to follow in his footsteps.

The temple itself was built in honor of Sigismondo’s last and third wife, Isotta degli Atti. The temple was to be used as a mausoleum for Sigismondo and Isotta, as well as other members of the Malatesta family. Upon first glance, the temple does not grab the visitor’s attention. Perhaps, this is because the dome, which was supposed to be similar to the Pantheon, was never constructed. This was due to Sigismondo’s excommunication in 1460, causing his wealth to decrease drastically- halting all construction on the temple (Rimini-IT 1). However, when looking further at the façade, the visitor appreciates the “lintels of greystone, and embellishments of gilt bronze” (Orsini 10). Entering the interior of the temple, chapels line the walls on each side. They contain beautiful altars and enchanting marble columns that allude to the interior architect, Matteo de Pasti’s, appreciation of subtle beauty in fine works (Rimini-Tourism 1). Moreover, the Malatesta Temple emphasizes Rimini’s importance during this time because it holds a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. This in itself highlights the city as a prominent artistic and cultural center.

The Beginning of a Remarkable Artistic and Cultural Center

All of these monuments, from Roman and Renaissance times, helped shape Rimini into a well-rounded city filled with natives, tourists, as well as immigrants. Today, Rimini is a hub for arts and cultures. This is especially noticeable when you walk through the small cobblestone streets in the Fisherman’s district and the busy Piazza Tre Martiri. Moreover, the Roman buildings draw people in from all over the world to gaze at some of the oldest monuments of Roman times helping to emphasize the cultural importance of Rimini. In addition, the Malatesta Temple, dating back to the Renaissance, even displays the influence of the buildings from ancient times because of the vast cultures and art introduced to Rimini during that time. Overall, these monuments make Rimini an important city that holds various buildings and tributary monuments ranging from ancient to medieval times which makes it one of the most important and overlooked cities in Italy.

Works Cited

“Leone Battista Alberti.” University of St. Andrew’s. Web. Last accessed on 4 May 2014.   

“Malatesta Temple.” Rimini-Tourism. Web. Last accessed on 4 May 2014. http://www.rimini-     temple.html.

Orsini, Luigi. The Malatesta Temple. Milan: 1915. Web. Last accessed on          3 May 2014.

“Rimini Guide.” Rimini Guide. Web. Last accessed on 4 May 2014.  

“The History of the Italian Riviera.” Adria Beach. Web. Last accessed on 4 May 2014.                   

“The Surgeon’s House in Rimini.” The Surgeon’s House in Rimini. Web. Last accessed on 4 May            2014.

“The Temple Malatestiano.” Rimini-IT. Web. Last accessed on 3 May 2014.           


Examining Rimini’s Cultural Evolution through the Lens of Federico Fellini’s Life and Career

By Holy Stokes

Rimini, a once peaceful and prosperous city of the Roman Empire, was plagued by strict political and religious regimes, war, and economic depression at the beginning of the modern era. However, the city and its citizens slowly overcame these social depressors to become one of the most culturally rich resort towns of Western Europe. This paper will attempt to analyze Rimini’s cultural evolution through the lens of Federico Fellini’ career – arguing that the director/scriptwriter’s life and films’ stylistic and thematic evolution can serve as a microcosm for analyzing Rimini’s cultural evolution. This paper will narrate the fascist rule, World War II, the post-war economic recession, the slow rehabilitation of society, and eventually the “Italian economic miracle” and growth of Rimini through that narration of Federico Fellini’s life.


Federico Fellini:

Federico Fellini was born January 20, 1920 in Rimini,[1] two year’s prior to Mussolini’s reign over Rimini. He grew up through fascist control, World War II, and the post-war economic recession. Once in his twenties, he began a career as a humanist director and scriptwriter, producing semi autobiographical films that dealt with the repercussions of Rimini’s turbulent past.[2] His career in Italian cinema went on to last for five decades and earned him numerous awards[3] – making him one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.[4] Though Fellini left Rimini in 1938 and produced many of his films outside of Rimini, many of his productions centered on his experiences in Rimini.[5] In fact, his colleagues often referred him to as “Rimini Fellini.”[6] And in one case, a friend described him as a small town boy that was trapped in his small town memories, only able to dream of a bigger world.[7] Due to Fellini’s experiences throughout Rimini’s hardships and his career built off of films reflecting on his experiences in Rimini, examining his life and works is a suitable way to digest the vast amount of cultural changes Rimini underwent.

Fellini and Fascism:

Fellini grew up under Benito Mussolini’s fascist government. At the end of the Great War, Italy was beleaguered by a huge debt, heavy unemployment, and high inflation.[8] This failing economy instigated political unrest and cries of revolution.[9] Rimini was tormented by these riots, with land frequently being seized by rebel groups.[10] Meanwhile, the rising fascist party was seen as a beacon of strength, promising protection and stability.[11] So, in July of 1922, Rimini openly accepted fascism, and helped the fascist party gain control of the Emilia Romagna region.[12]

Once dictator of Italy, Mussolini imposed a strict regime that sought to combine nationalism and activism – glorifying violence, idealism, and anti-materialism. [13] It was this environment that enveloped the social and political institutions of Rimini and Fellini’s childhood. Schools syllabi strictly enforced fascist and Catholic ideals, teaching children to worship God and Mussolini.[14] Fellini attended a strict Catholic school run by nuns of San Vincenzo.[15] While in school, he was forced to attend the compulsory fascist youth group Avanguardista, despite his and his family’s quiet opposition to fascism.[16] Children were taught to obey the religious and political authority figures, and never question them.[17] As Fellini showed in his movie I Vitelloni, this had the adverse effect of crippling society’s freedom and innovation. Meanwhile, Rimini’s economy was heavily hit as the fascist government applied heavy taxes to Rimini and seized the tourist industry.[18] Under fascist control, the tourist business crashed and left one third of the Rimini population relying on welfare.[19]

Fellini and World War II:

On July 10, 1940, Mussolini announced Italy would enter World War II.[20] Men were being drafted to fight ruthless battles that they could not win, accordingly Fellini was reluctant to go to war and did everything in his power to escape the draft, including going into hiding.[21] Though he was not in Rimini during the war, but in Rome, he surely had knowledge from friends and family of how heavily hit Rimini was by war. Rimini was part of the Gothic Line, a line of defense that was blocking the allied forces from seizing Rome.[22] To break the Gothic Line, the allied forces attacked Rimini – leading to the Battle of Rimini.[23] This battle, involving 1,200,000 troops, killed 607 civilians, and destroyed 900 buildings.[24] Eventually, on September 21, 1944, the allied troops liberated Rimini, but only after destroying more than 80% of the buildings in mass bombings.[25]

Fellini and the Economic Recession:

With the end of the war, Fellini returned to society.[26] However, he, just like Rimini, was hit by the post-war recession. Fellini tried to make a living as a caricaturist drawing US soldiers, but his business went under due to a lack of consumer spending.[27] Similarly, Rimini’s economy suffered from the lack of consumer spending on vacations.[28] In addition, much of the infrastructure needed for the tourist industry had been destroyed in the war. Rimini asked the new government for financial aid to restore the hotels and other resort buildings.[29] However, they were denied funding, and left to rehabilitate on their own.[30] With little investment and a city in disarray, Rimini suffered from unemployment and little income.

Federico Fellini and Rehabilitation:

After a stint of unemployment, Fellini was offered an apprenticeship with Rossellini.[31] The two began to work on neorealist movies. This style was a direct reaction to the turbulent Italian past that had left people in places like Rimini without jobs and hope. The films told stories of the lowest level of society, post-war, struggling to cope with the economic and moral conditions.[32] Fellini continued writing and directing many neorealist films. His film I Vitelloni, about a group of unemployed young men living in a small seacoast town as they tried to find a purpose in life,[33] showcased the unemployment in his hometown.[34] The film was met with success;[35] the people of Rimini wanted real movies that stopped glamorizing life and showed it for what it was. The Italian government and the life it was offering had disenchanted the people.

Fellini and the Italian Economic Miracle:

What has come to be known as the “Italian economic miracle” occurred in 1950 – 1962.[36] In this time, the Marshall Plan and the Korean War meant an influx of funding and demand for industrialization – leading to a rapidly rising standard of living.[37] As economic conditions improved, demand for holiday increased. In 1951, tourists exceeded one million stays in Rimini.[38] Consequently, Rimini had the funds to restore the city and from 1947-1961 went from having only 80 hotels to having 1466 hotels.[39] With this growing standard of living and economic hope, people became more optimistic and no longer wanted to see neorealist movies.

During this time, Fellini’s films received harsh criticism and he began to experiment with new styles.[40] Thematically Fellini’s films changed to criticizing society, he began to make movies that exposed society’s obsession with consumerism. La Dolce Vita narrates the story of a paparazzo drawn to superficial happiness,[41] a commentary of society’s growing materialism due to the media. Additionally, Fellini’s stylistic changes show the changes in Rimini’s culture. Fellini moved away from neorealism, and into surrealism – allowing himself to create nonlinear, dreamlike plots.[42] This approach was evident in Amacord, a film specifically about Rimini under fascist rule; the film consists of surreal shots pieced together to create a fluid, nonlinear, plot. This stylistic change in Fellini represents a shift throughout Rimini. Due to the fascist teachings, Fellini and other inhabitants were taught not to question life,[43] and their imaginations were stifled. The neorealist movement showed Rimini’s attempts to recover and survive the aftermath. This move to surrealism shows Rimini and Fellini’s ability to move on from the past, allowing themselves to create and imagine – for Fellini this occurred in his surrealist style and for Rimini this was allowing itself to become a whimsical resort town.

Fellini at the End and Rimini at the Present:

In 1993, after years of awards and criticisms, Fellini passed away.[44] In the days following, tens of thousands of people packed the narrow streets of Rimini to show their respect and appreciation[45] for a man who captured the hardships and transition of a city and a nation. Rimini underwent fascist regime, destructive war, and economic recession. But through slow rehabilitation, characterized by Italian neorealism, and eventual economic success and innovation, shown in Fellini’s surrealist films, Rimini managed to rise above the hardships and become a culturally rich resort town. Of course, the cultural shifts and events that led Rimini from a fascist society to its current state are numerous, and this paper does not claim to summarize all of the complex workings within Rimini’s past. It is, however, hoped that some insight may be given in Rimini’s cultural evolution through the analysis of Federico Fellini’s life and works as they pertain to Rimini.


[1] “Federico Fellini,” 1-World Festival of Foreign Films, last modified 2014,

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Home,”, last accessed on May 3, 2014,

[4] Magda Lauer, “Italy’s Treasures: Federico Fellini (1920-1993),” Italy Magazine, October 31, 2013,

[5] “Home.”

[6] Lauer, “Italy’s Treasures.”

[7] “Federico Fellini,” Mr Bongo, last accessed on May 3, 2014,

[8] Frank E. Smitha, “Mussolini and Fascism in Italy,” Macrohistory and World Timeline, last modified 2014,

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Jeffrey Thompson Scnapp et al., “Foundations,” in A Primer of Italian Fascism (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 26, retrieved from

14 Stanley G. Payne, “Italian Fascism,” Italian Life Under Fascism, last modified September 1998,

15 Chris Trueman, “Life in Fascist Italy,” History Learning Site, last accessed on May 3, 2014,

16 “Federico Fellini – Top 25 Directors,” Next Actor, last modified 2006,

17 Lauer, “Italy’s Treasures.”

18 Trueman, “Life in Fascist Italy.”

19 Peter M. Burns and Marina Novelli, ed., “Governing Tourism Monoculture: Mediterranean Mass Tourism Destinations and Governance Networks,” in Tourism and Politics: Global Frameworks and Local Realities (Oxford: Elsevier Science & Technology, 2007), 242, retrieved from

20 “Axis Alliance in World War II,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, last modified June 10, 2013,

21 Ibid.

[21] “Federico Fellini,” Mr Bongo.

[22] “Avenging the Acropolis – Greek Troops and the Liberation of Rimini, 21st of September 1944,” Visit Rimini, last modified September 21, 2009,

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

[25] Burns and Novelli, ed., “Governing Tourism Monoculture: Mediterranean Mass Tourism Destinations and Governance Networks,” 242.

[26] Lauer, “Italy’s Treasures.”

[27] Ibid.

[28] Burns and Novelli, ed., “Governing Tourism Monoculture: Mediterranean Mass Tourism Destinations and Governance Networks,” 242.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “Federico Fellini,” 1-Worl Festival of Foreign Films.

[32] “Italian Neorealism,” CineCollage, last accessed on May 3, 2014,

[33] “I Vitelloni,” The Criterion Collection, last accessed on May 3, 2014,

[34] “Federico Fellini,” Mr Bongo.

[35] Lauer, “Italy’s Treasures.”

[36] Mark F. Gilbert and K. Robert Nilsson, “Economic Miracle,” Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy, last modified 2007,

[37] Ibid.

[38] Burns and Novelli, ed., “Governing Tourism Monoculture: Mediterranean Mass Tourism Destinations and Governance Networks,” 243.

[39] Ibid., 244.

[40] “Federico Fellini,” Mr Bongo.

[41] Jeff Lewis, “La Dolce Vita (1960),” Internet Movie Database, last accessed on May 3, 2014,

[42] “Federico Fellini,” Mr Bongo.

[43] Lauer, “Italy’s Treasures.”

[44] “Federico Fellini,” 1-Worl Festival of Foreign Films.

[45] Ibid.



























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