Home of Giacomo Leopardi
(1798 - 1837)
Any visitor to Montefiore with an interest in European literature must visit the Leopardi museum (the Casa Leopardi) in Recanati. The town itself is interesting, with a fine castle and many palaces and churches, and also a fine theatre, but it’s main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Leopardi in 1798.
Giacomo Taldegardo Francesco di Sales Saverio Pietro Leopardi is commonly viewed as one of the most important thinkers of his period. He was an essayist, a philosopher, a philologist, and most importantly, a poet. He was familiar with the ideas of the enlightenment and he provided the link between this and the Romantic era with his unique brand of lyrical poetry.
He was born into a noble family in Recanati, son of Count Monaldo Leopardi, who was unfortunately addicted to gambling. His mother, the Marquise Adelaide Antici Mattei, made it her business to bring up the children with a rigorous discipline of religion and parsimony. He wrote a great deal about his childhood in the book of poems called ‘Le Ricordanze’ (Memories).
He was a sickly child and immersed himself in reading rather than other simple youthful pleasures. He was profoundly influenced by the classicist Pietro Giordani who came to stay with the family when he was 19, and they remained lifelong friends. He was desperate to escape the restrictions of living with his family in Recanati, but a brief stay in Rome only disappointed him. He was upset by the decadence and hypocrisy of Roman society and the church.
He wrote an enormous number of books, but one most worthy of mention was his ‘opus magnum’, the Zibaldone. This is a compendium of personal impressions, aphorisms, profound philosophical observations, philological analyses, literary criticism and various types of notes which was published posthumously in seven volumes in 1898 with the original title of Pensieri di varia filosofia e bella letteratura (‘Various thoughts on philosophy and literature’).
He fell desperately in love with his cousin, Geltrude Cassi, but this was unrequited and he remained single until his untimely death in 1837.
He was extremely successful as a writer and thinker in his own time, and travelled quite widely, but was forced always to return to Recanati because of ill health. He died during the cholera epidemic in Naples. He was buried in the church of San Vitale, but many years later his body was moved to its current resting place, next to Virgil’s tomb in the Parco Virgiliano in Naples.
The museum is situated in the Palazzo Leopardi, which does not strike one as being a very grandiose building. It’s simple, classical lines are due to renovations which took place in the 18th century. The entire first floor is taken up with the Leopardi family’s famous library. This is the only part of the building open to the public, as the rest of the Palazzo is still occupied by the ancestors of Leopardi himself.
For lovers of his work it is an extremely emotive experience to spend time in the places that he loved and wrote about with such passion and beauty.