Over the years, Rome's city council has erected a number of plaques to mark the presence of the many foreign writers, who, for longer or shorter periods, made the Eternal City their home.
A plaque that is particularly close to my heart is to be found on the Hotel Minerva, which lies in the piazza of the same name. It pays tribute to the great French writer Marie-Henri Beyle (1783-1842), better known by his nom-de-plume Stendhal, who lived there from 1834 until 1836 when it was the Palazzo Conti. Stendhal is hailed as the author of LesPromenades Dans Rome (Walks in Rome), a guide that rendered him worthy of being called a Roman ('RENDONO DEGNO DEL NOME DI ROMANO'). He published the book in 1828 and it soon became the standard guide for French visitors to the city.
In addition to Stendhal, there are plaques in Rome to such writers as Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Nikolai Gogol (1809-52), Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Hans Christian Anderson (1805-75), James Joyce (1882-1941), Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), John Keats (1795-1821), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), Robert Browning (1812-89) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61).
Plaque to Goethe, Via del Corso 18
IN QUESTA CASA / IMMAGINO E SCRISSE COSE IMMORTALI / WOLFGANG GOETHE / IL COMUNE DI ROMA / A MEMORIA DEL GRANDE OSPITE / POSE / 1872 (In this house Wolfgang Goethe imagined and wrote about immortal matters. The city council of Rome placed this plaque in memory of its grand guest in 1872).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) arrived in Rome on November 1st 1786, declaring: 'Now at last, I have arrived in the first city of the world!'. Until April 1788, Goethe lived at Via del Corso 18, in rooms which he shared with his friend the painter Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1829). The rooms now make up the Casa del Goethe, a museum devoted to the writer's residence in Rome.
Plaque to Sir Walter Scott, Via della Mercede 11
L' ANNO MDCCCXXXII / VLTIMO DI SVA VITA / QVESTA CASA ABITO / L' ILLVSTRE ROMANZIERE SCOZZESE / WALTER SCOTT / DA EDIMBVRGO / MDCCCLXXXII (In 1832, the last year of his life, Walter Scott the illustrious Scottish novelist from Edinburgh lived in this house, 1882).
The palazzo in Via della Mercede, in which Scott stayed, was once the property and residence of the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680).
Plaque to Thomas Mann, Via del Pantheon
IL POETA TEDESCO / THOMAS MANN / 1875 - 1955 / E VISSUTO IN QUESTO PALAZZO / DAL NOVEMBRE 1896 / AL LUGLIO 1897 (The German poet Thomas Mann lived in this palazzo from November 1896 to July 1897).
Plaque to Percy Bysshe Shelley, Palazzo Verospi, Via del Corso 372-6
A / PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY / CHE NELLA PRIMAVERA DEL 1819 / SCRISSE IN QVESTA CASA / IL PROMETEO E LIA CENCI / IL COMVNE DI ROMA / CENTO ANNI DOPO LA NASCITA DEL POETA / SOSTENITORE INVITTO DI LIBERTA POPOLARI / AVVERSATE AI SVOI TEMPI / DA TVTTA EVROPA / POSE QUESTO RICORDO / 1892.
To Percy Bysshe Shelley, who in the spring of 1819, wrote in this house The Prometheus and The Cenci. 100 years after the birth of the poet, an unconquered supporter of popular liberty, opposed in his time by all of Europe, the city council of Rome placed this in his memory, 1892.
Plaque to the poet John Keats, Keats-Shelley House
The plaque to Keats, which is in Italian and English, italianises the poet's first name, which was once a common practise. It also records the date of his death as February 24th when, in fact, Keats died on February 23rd. This was not an error. When Keats died in 1821 a new day in Rome officially started at sunset. As Keats died after dark in the evening of February 23rd, his death was recorded as having taken place on February 24th.
Plaque to James Joyce, 52 Via Frattina
IN QVESTA CASA ROMANA / DOVE ABITO DALL' AGOSTO AL DICEMBRE 1906 / JAMES JOYCE / ESVLE VOLONTARIO / EVOCÒ LA STORIA DI VLISSE / FACENDO DELLA SVA DVBLINO / IL NOSTRO VNIVERSO / NEL CENTENARIO DELLA NASCITA / 2 FEBBRAIO 1882 - 2 FEBBRAIO 1982 / IL COMVNE DI ROMA.
In this Roman house, where he lived from August to December 1906, James Joyce, in voluntary exile, evoked the story of Ulysses making of his Dublin our universe. In the centenary of his birth February 2nd 1882. February 2nd 1982, the City Council of Rome.
Plaque to Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Via Bocca di Leone 43
QVESTA CASA OSPITO / ROBERTO E ELISABETTA BROWNING / CHE L' ITALIA EBBERO PATRIA IDEALE / E IN CARMI IMPERITURI / NE PROFETERANO I NUOVI DESTINI / COMPIENDOSI IL PRIMO CENTENARIO / DELLA NASCITA DEL POETA / IL MUNICIPIO DI ROMA / POSE / VII MAGGIO MCMXII / 'LE SUE MEMORIE ETERNE / ATTESTANO CHE L' ITALIA E IMMORTALE' / E. BARRETT BROWNING / 'APRENDO IL MIO CUORE / VI TROVERETE INCISO ITALIA' / R. BROWNING.
This house hosted Robert and Elizabeth Browning. In everlasting poems they prophesied its new destinies, that Italy had the ideal homeland. As the first centenary of the poet is taking place, the city council of Rome erected this plaque, May 7th 1912. 'Its eternal memories attest that Italy is immortal', Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 'Open my heart and you will see Graved inside of it, "Italy"', Robert Browning.
The two poets lived in Florence from 1846 until the death of E.B.B. in June 1861, but would often spend the winter in Rome.
Plaque to Hans Christian Anderson, Via Sistina
IN QUESTA CASA / VISSE NEGLI ANNI 1833 - 1834 / LO SCRITTORE DANESE / HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN / IL SOGGIORNO ROMANO / GLI ISPIRO IL ROMANZO / “L’ IMPROVVISATORE” / S. P. Q. R. / MCMLXXIII (The Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen lived In this house between 1833 and 1834. His stay in Rome inspired his novel "The Improvisatore", 1973).
The Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), who is most famous for his collections of fairy tales, published his first novel, The Improvisatore, a fictionalised autobiography based on his travels in Italy, in 1835.
Plaque to Henrik Ibsen, Via Francesco Crispi 55
MDCCCXXVIII - MDCCCCVI / HENRIK IBSEN / ESULE VOLONTARIO DELLA NATIA NORVEGIA / QUESTA CASA / OVE SCRISSE BRAND / E MEDITÒ PEER GYNT / ABITÒ LUNGAMENTE / A NUOVE VERITÀ PROFONDE / A NUOVE AUDACI BELLEZZE / DISCHIUDENDO IL GENIO PRODIGIOSO / INDAGATORE DEL DESTINO DEGLI UOMINI / CREATORE / DI PENSIERI E DI FIGURE IMMORTALI / AL POETA / ALLA MIRABILE ARTE SUA NORDICA / RIFIORITA SOTTO IL CIELO LATINO / LA SOCIETÀ ITALO SCANDINAVA IN ROMA / VII LUGLIO MCMX.
1828-1906. Henrik Ibsen, in voluntary exile from his native Norway, lived for a long time in this house, where he wrote Brand and plotted Peer Gynt. To deep new truths, to bold new beauties, disclosing his prodigious genius. Creator of immortal thoughts and figures. Investigator of the destiny of men. To the poet, to his wonderful Nordic art, blooming again under the Latin sky. The Italian-Scandinavian society of Rome, July 7th 1910.
The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) lived in Rome, with his wife and young son, from 1864 until 1868, first in a palazzo that has since been demolished and then in nearby Via Francesco Crispi.
Plaque to Nicolai Gogol, Via Sistina
IL GRANDE SCRITTORE RUSSO / NICOLA GOGOL / IN QUESTA CASA / DOVE ABITO DAL 1838 AL 1842 / PENSO E SCRISSE / IL SUO CAPOLAVORO / LA COLONIA RUSSA DI ROMA 1901 ( The great Russian writer Nicolai Gogol conceived and wrote his masterpiece in this house, where he lived from 1838 to 1842. The Russian colony of Rome 1901).
The inscription on the plaque is in both Russian and Italian. For some reason, the Italian inscription only refers to Gogol's masterpiece, while the Russian inscription states the work to be Dead Souls.