Giosuè Carducci (1835 – 1907), the main figure of the Italian Neo-Classical movement, remains arguably  the most recognized modern poet in Italy. In 1906 he became the first Italian author to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. Carducci’s poem “Rome,” part of  his Levia Gravia cycle,  is given here in Italian followed by G. A. Greene’s poetic translation.


Date al vento le chiome, isfavillanti
Gli occhi glauchi, del sen nuda il candore,
Salti su ’l cocchio; e l’impeto e il terrore
Van con fremito anelo a te d’avanti.

L’ombra del tuo cimier l’aure tremanti,
Come di ferrugigno astro il bagliore,
Trasvola; e de le tue ruote al fragore
Segue la polve de gl’imperi infranti.

Tale, Roma, vedean le genti dome
La imagin tua ne’ lor terrori antichi:
Oggi una mitra a le regali chiome,

Oggi un rosario che la man t’implichi
Darti vorrien per sempre. Oh ancor del nome
Spauri il mondo e i secoli affatichi!


Once with thy locks upon the wind outspread,
Breast bare, and sea-blue eyes afire for war,
Thou didst the chariot urge; – before thee far
Panic and fear with panting breath had fled:

The shadows of the helm upon thine head,
Like the fierce dazzle of an iron star,
Outran the winds; behind thy swift-wheeled car
Hovered the dust of trampled empires dead.

Great Rome! the nations vanquished by thy fame
Saw thus thine image in their ancient fears:
To-day thy regal locks a mitre’s shame

Dishonours; in thy hand bedewed with tears
The beads of prayer !—O once more with thy name
Affright the world and free the wearied years!

(Levia Gravia, ii. 28.)


See also:
What to do at the Trevi fountain. Simple rules for visitors.

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A small selection of quotes about Italy and Italians, in several languages. I will keep adding to this list once I think of or discover new quotes or proverbs. The picture on the left is that of a typical Italian village, by the way.

Caput mundi (Latin) – The head of the world (of Rome). Also, Caput rerum (the head of things)

Chi lingua ha, a Roma va (It.) – He who has a tongue goes to Rome.

Hic ver assiduum atque alienis mensibus aestas (Latin ) –
Here it is one perpetual spring, and summer extends to months not properly her own. (About the climate of Italy) (Virgil, Georgics 2, 149)

Inglese Italianizato, Diavolo incarnato – An Italianized Englishman is a devil incarnate (Italian proverb)

Italia, Italia, O tu, cui, feo la sorte
Dono infelice di bellezza, ond’ hai
Funesta dote d’infiniti guai,
Che in fronte scritti per gran doglia porte;
Deh, fossi tu men bella, o almen più forte,
Onde assai più ti paventasse, o assai
T’amasse men chi dal tuo bello a’ rai
Par che si strugga, e pur ti sfida a morte
. (It.)

(Vincenzo Filicaia, 1642-1707)
poetic translation:

Italia, oh Italia! I Thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame.
Oh God! That thou wert in thy nakedness
Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
Thy right, and awe the robbers back who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress.

Lord Byron, Ch. Harold, 4, 42.

Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blüh’n? (German)
Know’st thou the land where the lemon-trees bloom? (Goethe, Mignon)

L’Italia farà da sè (Italian)- Italy will act by herself.  Motto of the Italian Revolution of 1849, expressing sentiments common during the process of the countries’ unification

Terra antiqua potens armis atque ubere glebae (Latin) — An ancient land powerful in arms and fertile in soil. (Virgil, Aeneid 1,531)

Vede Napoli, e poi muori (Italian) – See Napes and then die (Italian proverb)

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Italian forgiveness quote from Tasso

April 30, 2011

There is an anecdote associated with one particular quote from Torquato Tasso’s epic poem Jerusalem Liberated (Gerusalemme Liberata). Carlo Goldoni (1707 – 1793), a great Italian playwright, was involved in a literary quarrel with Denis Diderot, famous French philosopher and writer. Their mutual friend Egidio Duni quoted two lines from Tasso’s poem (Diderot knew Italian […]

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