In 1786, acting on an impulse, Goethe takes a journey to Italy. He visits many Italian cities including Venice, Verona, Naples, Sicily, and Rome. Most of these Italian cities have a profound influence on improving his artistic mind, but it’s Rome on which he centers his artistic education. The journey sees growth in Goethe as an artist and a person. Both his artistic and life perspectives considerably changed which marks the beginning of his development as a mature artist who wrote magnificent works like Faust in later years.
Interestingly, Goethe takes this journey without warning and without informing his friends at a time he was at the height of his popularity. He was also employed in a highly responsible job in Weimar. However, he felt overworked and overwhelmed by his responsibilities. In short, he was in a near psychological crisis, so a journey abroad was necessary. The Italian journey proved not only one of recovery for him but also one of self-improvement. Italy was both the means of healing and inspiring. There he managed to complete some of his unfinished works.
The fascination of Goethe’s Italian Journey for readers is twofold. One is that his detailed descriptions of his observation of art, architecture, music, history, landscape, and the lives and customs of Italian people paint a first-hand accurate picture of Italy at the time. I have been to Rome, and I must say Goethe’s descriptions of the city still ring true. Nothing much has changed regarding art and historical structures. The second is that his deeper musings on his observations give an insight into Goethe’s character and perspective. This is a great way to know the insight of an artist. It also helps to understand and appreciate the works of the artist.
Overall, Italian Journey was an enjoyable read, although some of his retrospectives were lengthy and tedious. Personally, however, Goethe’s Italian Journey brought back memories of my previous travels to Italy and made me nostalgic. Maybe, it is time for me to pay another visit there. 🙂