Attilio Brilli has studied and written about travel literature for years. With this new volume he has returned to the heart of his reflections, to that endless wealth of memoirs and chronicles written by scholars, travellers, and traveller-scholars who have visited Italian cities and the Italian countryside. This time, however, the author adopts a different vantage point: he reconstructs the travel experiences of Giacomo Leopardi. By gathering together his itineraries, his very words, and the comments of contemporary travellers, Brilli paints a concrete picture of both Romantic Italy and the private experience, related to travelling, of the nation's greatest poet. Giacomo Leopardi was not a great traveller. He left his hometown of Recanati for the first time at about the age of twenty and only visited some major cities: Rome, Bologna, Milan, Florence, Pisa, Naples. But his youthful experience of his "wild native village" charged his travels with expectations: desires of flight were met with inevitable frustration. With his usual mastery, Brilli depicts the material framework of travelling (carriages, stopovers at taverns, customs houses, accidents) and, through an analysis of Leopardi's observations, highlights the poet's acute vision, his idiosyncrasies (for instance, when he summarises the physiognomy of different sites and their inhabitants' qualities) and the combination of imagination and reality which reproduces, even in travel, the features of his aesthetic perceptiveness.
Attilio Brilli teaches American Literature at the University of Siena.