Verona and its Poets: not only Shakespeare
“Amami quando meno lo merito, perché sarà quando più ne avrò bisogno.” (lit. Love me when I least deserve it, because it will be when I need it most).
If we were to find an icon of the ancient times that represents our landmark motto We stand for lovers, Gaius Valerio Catullo, poet of ancient Rome would be an excellent candidate.
Catullus was born in Verona in 84 BC from a rich, noble family that had played an important role in the city foundation. In 60 BC he moved to Rome, where he began a troubled relationship with Clodia, Lesbia in his poems. Their relationship was stormy and full of heartaches.
Catullus used to come back to his hometown frequently, especially to visit Sirmione. Here stands a villa that is one of the best preserved Roman villas in Northern Italy. It was from the Renaissance that the villa was renamed Grotte di Catullo, after the ancient poet. Find out more about it in the post Lake Garda: the most romantic spots you can’t miss.
Why then do we believe that Catullus can be a perfect ambassador of our message? Because in his verses we find a great innovation: he writes about love and feelings with an intensity that no other poet before him had ever manifested.
“Le sue magnificenze conosciute
saranno ancora, sì che ‘suoi nemici
non ne potrai tener le lingue mute.”
(lit. His magnificences will still be known, so that
you will not be able to keep his enemies’ tongues mute.)
(The Divine Comedy, Paradise, canto XVII, vv.70-93)
Dante spent seven years in Verona during his exile from Florence as a Ghibelline and, in the Paradise, he defines the city as his “first refuge and the first hostel”. He arrived in Verona for the first time in 1303 and spent about a year there as a guest of Bartolomeo della Scala. The second stay was much longer and lasted from 1312 to 1318. This time Dante was hosted by Bartolomeo’s brother, Cangrande della Scala. He will later dedicate the entire canticle of Paradise to him.
To pay homage to the great poet, first go to Piazza dei Signori, also called Piazza Dante because of the Dante statue located in the middle of the square. In the cloister of the Cathedral you will find a plaque dedicated to him too. We then suggest stopping at the Capitular Library, which we talk about in the article 3 curiosities and legends about Verona worth knowing, where Dante used to consult ancient texts.
“Voria cantar Verona, a una çerta ora / de note, quando monta su la luna:
quando i boschi che dorme el par che i cora / dentro sogni de barche a far fortuna
drio a l’aqua de l’Adese, che va / in çerca de paesi e de çità…
E alora che è finì tuto el sussurro / speciarla zò ne l’Adese, dai ponti,
e comodarla mi, muro par muro, / tuta forte nel çercolo dei monti…”
(lit. I’d like to sing of Verona, at some point / in the night, when the moon rises:
when the woods that sleep but seem to run / in the dreams of boats following their fortune
behind the waters of the Adige, which goes / seeking for countries and cities…
And when all the whisper is over / mirror it down in the Adige, from the bridges,
and fix it myself, wall by wall, / strong in the circle of the mountains…)
Roberto Tiberio Barbarani was born in Verona on December 3, 1872 and can be defined as one of the greatest Italian, dialectal poets of the 20th century.
The protagonist of his verses is the daily life of the Veronese people, their vicissitudes, loves and sufferings. Among his works, real hymns and declarations of love to the city can also be found. Nevertheless, towards the end of his life, Barbarani’s poetry suffered from the sense of instability and uncertainty inevitably brought by the Second World War.
The use of the dialect brought the poet even closer to his fellow citizens, thanks also to several collaborations with some local newspapers. Barbarani died in his beloved Verona on 27, January 1945.