Keats-Shelley House, Rome

inside Keats’ last bedroom

In 1820 at the age of 25, the poet John Keats left for Rome. He had tuberculosis and his doctors hoped that the Italian sun would provide a cure. But Keats, in love with Fanny Brawne, kept postponing the trip. Soon he started coughing up blood and knew it was time to go. But not before exchanging locks of hair with Fanny. A true romantic.

Keats was accompanied by his close friend, portrait painter, Joseph Severn. They rented lodgings in a tiny room facing Piazza di Spagna. Here Severn nursed his friend devotedly. It was a heart-breaking experience, he wrote home. Keats was in so much pain that he would often cry when he’d wake up still alive.

Keats at his death

Keats died in his Roman room on 23 February 1821. His last request was to be placed under a tombstone with no date or date. All he wanted written on his tomb was "Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water."

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Keats is buried at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.

Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Rome

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Squawkers

Book buying binges generally occur at the Feltrinelli’s bordering Piazza della Repubblica. And when we pass the statues of Quattro Fontane, I sigh.

These stone tableaux, one for each corner of the intersection of via dell Quattro Fontane and via del Quirinale, represent an eulogy to rivers.

Intriguing is the statue of Juno, the Roman goddess of love and marriage thus a vital force. She was known as a divinity who sent you omens and warnings if things were going to get bad –like a goose that loudly squawks when danger is near.

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Related: Goose symbolism and meaning + Piazza Quattro Fontane de Roma

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Reading in Bed

She never said “Let Them Eat Cake.”

Marie-Antoinette, history has been so unfair to you.

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Spoglia at Trastevere

“Spoglia”* from the Latin “spoils” is the repurposing of architectural elements. And Rome is full of them.

Here is a small house that looks as if it’s been “excavated” from a wall at Trastevere.

Next to a column inserted in the wall is a small marble plaque that reads “Casa di Belardino Ercoli, libera di canone, anno 1838”.

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Related: Spoils and Spolia

  • “spolia” is sometimes written as “spoglia”
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Ruptures

On June 8, 1783, Iceland’s Laki Volcano erupted. For eight months, the volcano spewed lava and poisonous gases devastating the local agriculture. As a result, nearly one fourth of the island’s population died from hunger. Not content with the damage already done, the volcanic ash formed a “dry fog” that, thanks to the winds, crept into Europe and landed on French soil provoking weather instability, withered crops, and freaked out citizens.

The poor grain harvest caused a shortage of the main staple, bread. Enraged mothers gathered in the market places of Paris to come up with a plan of action. Believing that the royal couple’s lavish and frivolous lifestyle was the reason for their hunger, the women decided to march to Versailles to gut its pantries and to demand that the King and Queen return to Paris. Four years later, Marie Antoinette was taken to the Place de la Révolution where she was beheaded in front of a jeering crowd.

Although Marie-Antoinette did flour her wigs while the French went without bread, she never said “qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (let them eat cake).

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Related: The Art and History Shaped By Volcanic Winters + Marie-Antoinette: the Journey by Antonio Fraser on archive.org + Queen of Fashion by Caroline Weber on archive.org

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