Friday, July 19, 2013

Casa di Goethe

Located at 18 via del Corso, just steps away from the Piazza del Popolo, is the Casa di Goethe, the house where Goethe spent his time in Rome during 1786-1788. Here, he lived with the German painter, Tischbein. Though most of the displays are facsimiles (originals being located in German museums and other places), it is still a moving experience to wander through his old rooms. One can just imagine Goethe, in his stockinged feet, leaning out the window to look at the street below, as depicted in Tischbein's 1787 drawing! And, they have posters of that for sale (had to buy a copy). In one corner of the largest room, which was Tischbein's studio, an easel holds a copy of the artist's most famous work, Goethe in the Campagna (also 1787), which is very striking, and surrounded by excerpts of Goethe's Italian Journey printed on the walls. There's even a copy of the huge Jupiter bust Goethe purchased while living here. What was perhaps most interesting, however, was to view Goethe's actual books, excerpts from his letters, and his drawings and sketches. Another highlight: Andy Warhol's rendering of Goethe in the Campagna, a visual delight! Here are some photos:

Copy of Tischbein's Goethe in the Campagna (1787), in the studio

Italian Journey excerpt, printed on the wall

Copy of Tischbein's drawing of his friend, Goethe, at the window (1787)

A deep and abiding friendship

Facsimile bust of Jupiter, which Goethe used to pray to each night


Goethe research materials in the library

Warhol's painting, Goethe (1982)

Me, in front of Casa di Goethe, Roma

While I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Keats-Shelley House the other day, I admit that Goethe had more of an impact on me than the Romantics ever did, so visiting the Casa di Goethe was important to me. I was largely self-educated in literature before going back to school, and Goethe's work was some of the first serious lit I ever read--to be standing in his rooms, surrounded by his things (and copies of them), had a bit of a celebratory feel. Now, to hunt down his statue in the Borghese Gardens. Ah, Roma! Ah, Goethe!

So much for hiatus...

I wasn't planning on spending much time blogging while on holiday, yet here I am...posting away! I've seen so many points of literary interest though, that I wanted to share.

While in Edinburgh, I visited the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, a pub named the Conan Doyle (near Arthur Conan Doyle's house) and saw a statue of Sherlock Holmes. Also saw the grave of philosopher David Hume up on Calton Hill. And fun fun fun was the Frankenstein Bar, a themed restaurant/pub located in a renovated church. Then, there was the Jekyll and Hyde pub. And the Sir Walter Scott monument in Princes Street Gardens. Wonderful and magical! I love Edinburgh, and want to move there.

In Rome, I've visited the Keats-Shelley House, the graves of Keats, Shelley, and Corso, and the Casa di Goethe. I also found this cool statue of Victor Hugo in the Borghese Gardens, below. Saw the Stendhal Hotel, and the Dante Cafe, and apparently, there's a Lord Byron Hotel somewhere. Still looking for the Lord Byron and Goethe statues up in the Borghese Gardens (no fear, I'll find 'em!), and the Gogol House on via Sistina. Went to Babington's Tea Room, near the Spanish Steps, but I'm still looking for Antico Caffe Greco (an old haunt of writers). 

Whew! So many things to see and do...and I've still 10 days left in Rome, before heading on to Turkey for a couple of weeks, where I've already scouted out more literary highlights. What a summer!

Statue of Victor Hugo, Borghese Gardens, Rome

Acceptance at The Verse

Coming soon, in the debut issue of The Verse, a monthly online poetry journal set to begin publication in August, will be my poem, "Neverland". I'm also honored to have been asked to be their Poet of the Month for September, which will include a bio and photo, and showcase three of my poems. The Verse will also begin offering a print version in October. I love debut issues! Wishing editor Dan Navarrete the best with this new venture. You can visit the magazine (first issue isn't up yet, though) at the link below, and I'll post more information once it goes live. 

A Visit to Rome's Protestant Cemetery

Set in the peaceful, shady, and beautiful Protestant Cemetery located at 6 via Caio Cestius (officially, Cimitero acattolico, sometimes referred to as Cimitero degli Inglesi), are the graves of poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here you will also find the grave of Beat Generation poet, Gregory Corso, the final resting place of Wordsworth's grandson, and a memorial to Goethe's son. It's a lovely place to spend an afternoon, away from the hectic city center. We even packed a lunch and ate at one of the benches overlooking the Pyramid of Cestius. There were chirping birds, a gentle breeze, lots of flowers, stunning statuary, and none of Rome's summer crowds. Oh, and there were lots of cats to make friends with. :)

Take Rome's Metro Line B to the Pyramide station, and walk across the street towards the Pyramid. Follow the road to the right about a block, along the cemetery wall, and you will come to Caio Cestius on the left. It's just a short walk down to the entrance on the left from there. Note: just after you turn onto Caio Cestius, look through the little screened window in the cemetery wall--it looks right onto the grave of John Keats! There is no entrance fee to the cemetery, but they do suggest a donation of 3 Euros. Be sure to stop by the visitor's center, and grab a map (for a small fee). Coming out of the visitor's center, turn left, and go through the arched door toward the pyramid. If you follow the path to the corner of the cemetery, you'll find Keats' grave, along with Severn's and Severn's infant son. There's also a memorial plaque on the wall, and a bench where you can sit and visit.

John Keats' grave

Keats memorial plaque

From there, continue following the path, past the pyramid, and toward the back of the cemetery. If you stay on that path, up to the rise of the small hill, you will find Shelley's grave at the top along the wall, and that of his friend, Edward Trelawny.

Shelley's grave. Cor Cordium: "Heart of Hearts"

Was Shelley's heart really saved by Trelawny during the cremation on the beach, and sent to Mary Shelley in England, to be later buried with their son? Or is that just a romantic legend? It's something lovely to ponder, at any rate, as you pay your respects. Note also the lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest at the bottom of the headstone, as well. Directly in front of/below Shelley's grave, you will find the grave of Gregory Corso, a Beat Generation poet:

Gregory Corso's grave

Corso died in Minnesota, but his ashes were brought all the way to Rome, to be buried at the feet of his beloved Shelley. And though Corso was Catholic, an exception was made to allow his ashes to be laid to rest in the Protestant-only cemetery.

Other special tombstones include Wordsworth's grandson's; the memorial stone to Goethe's son; the famous "Angel of Grief" of William Wetmore Story; and those of various artists, writers, and musicians. In particular, I loved all the angel statuary everywhere--there are some very striking ones. In fact, I found this to be one of the loveliest cemeteries, if not THE loveliest cemetery, I've ever visited (and I've been in a lot of cemeteries around the world!). So, if you're not into the Romantics or the Beat Generation, or poetry and literature, or heck, even cemeteries, you will still find this to be a worthy excursion, just for the sheer beauty of the place, and a quieter, gentler experience of Rome.

Keats-Shelley House

Visited the Keats-Shelley House in Rome the other day. Here are some photos--Keats' death mask, the room where he died (overlooking the Spanish Steps), a bust of Shelley, and shots of the library. It was an amazing place, one which I've wanted to visit for a long time. Viewing Keats' death mask, especially, was a powerful experience. I've a separate post with photos of their graves in the Protestant Cemetery coming in the next post.

Keats' death mask

Room where Keats died

Bust of Shelley

Library of the Keats-Shelley House

Library of the Keats-Shelley House