In the eyes of the English Romantics, Italy was not a nation but Italia, a place inhabited by the ancients. Theirs was a view shaped by the eighteenth century, the age of the Grand Tour. The people of Italy, divided by language, region, and culture, did not share these artistic and historical ideals of Italia. After the Napoleonic wars, however, all this was to change. Nationalism began to replace local loyalties and the land 'where the lemon trees blow' now attracted tourists, not just Grand Tourists. What had seemed to Grand Tourists a museum of idealised antiquity and Renaissance art became in the eyes of Byron, Keats and Shelley and a host of other visitors a nation struggling to assert itself but not quite able to do so. Italia Romantica is a vivid history of the English Romantics' love affair with Italy and of the changing attitudes in pre-unification Italy. Roderick Cavaliero's compelling story is full of bandits, unreformed Catholicism, poets and improvvisatori, shot through with vignettes of timeless urban and pastoral life, remarkable characters and anecdote.
English Romantics and Italian Freedom