The countryside in Italy, especially in the area of Le Marche, is a tapestry of rolling green hills, olive groves and vineyards. This region for me is quintessentially Italian. In the distance the Sibillini Mountains, often snow-capped, rise high into the sky. Whilst the coastline in the east is fringed with miles of soft, white sand.
In 1798 the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi was born in Recanati, an attractive medieval town in the heart of Le Marche. The middle child of an affluent and learned family, Leopardi had the benefit of his own private library. He studied Greek and Latin, taught himself French and wrote beautiful, lyrical poetry. From a young age Giacomo suffered from ill health. He would spend many hours confined to the house, gazing out at the surrounding countryside. His most famous poem ‘L’Infinito’ was inspired by the fairy-tale countryside that he could see from his window. Here is the first stanza in Italian:
Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle,
e questa siepe, che da tanta parte
dell’ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani
silenzi, e profondissima quïete
io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco
il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
infinito silenzio a questa voce
vo comparando: e mi sovvien l’eterno,
e le morte stagioni, e la presente
e viva, e il suon di lei. Così tra questa
immensità s’annega il pensier mio:
e il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare.
And here is a very beautiful translation:
I’ve always loved this solitary hill,
I’ve always loved this hedge that hides from me
So much of what my earthly eyes can see.
For as I sit and gaze, all calm and still,
I conjure up my thoughts; my mind I fill
With distances that stretch out boundlessly
And silences that somehow cannot be
Heard by my heart, which feels a sudden chill.
It seems these rustling leaves, this silence vast
Blend into one. Eternity draws nigh.
The present sounds and seasons, those long past
Become one sea of endless lives and deaths.
My thought is drowned, and yet it does not die:
It plunges into sweet, refreshing depths.
Giacomo Leopardi – 1818
Here are some views of the spectacular Le Marche countryside that inspired and influenced Leopardi so profoundly. It really is the most idyllic rural scene.
Leopardi was a contemporary of Keats and Shelley. There is no evidence that they met. Although together they influenced the development of romantic poetry across Europe.
They say a picture paints a thousands words. In the case of the idyllic Marche countryside this is definitely true. The rolling hills are a patchwork of trees, crops and meadows. It is no wonder that Giacomo Leopardi was inspired to write his eloquent verse when confronted with this eloquence of nature. A landscape so perfect it needs a poet to describe it.
- A visit to Casa Leopardi, in the small town of Recanati is well worth the trip. The guides are very well informed and the house itself is a treasure trove of charm.
- The library is dusty and smells of old books. Casa Leopardi, Recanati
- During term time the house is often thronged with visiting school groups. Leopardi ranks with Shakespeare on the Italian school curriculum. For me this adds to the charm of the house and makes a visit even more memorable.
- Rome – There’s so much to see at the city gates including the Protestant Cemetery where Keats and Shelley were laid to rest.
The all important Marche Region Map – to enable you to visual Le Marche location just east of Tuscany.