It is hard to understand how someone can be “Matta e disperatissima” in the beauty of Le Marche. Until you read Leopardi – the poet of Recanati.
Recanati near Macerata is a pretty postcard town with a medieval tower, 17 churches and monasteries, a Palazzo Vescovile and surrounding wine fields on beautiful rolling hills. It is hard to understand how someone can be “Matta e disperatissima” in such a beautiful setting.
Yet Recanati is most famous as a place from which people run away. Italy’s great romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi – cf. eg Canti: Poems / A Bilingual Edition– was born in this town, but its mediocrity drove him to madness and despair. Racanati had experienced a great revival in the 16th and 17 century, leading to wide streets and grand houses, but its prosperity faded before Giacomo Leopardi was born in 1798, and even the Leopardi family, who had lived in a fine palazzo facing the piazza for 500 years, was on the verge of bankruptcy.
His father spent his last money on young Giacomo’s education that took place in the house library among 20,000 books and isolated from other children. When Giacomo Leopardi was 18 years old, he mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and several modern languages, he had written a history of astronomy and a treatise on scientific errors in antiquity, authored two tragedies, poems and numerous translations of the verse. Yet he was deeply unhappy. He suffered from a bad back, asthma and poor eyesight, and he earnestly longed to escape Recanati, which he called “my uncivilized hometown” and “Questo albergo dove abitai fanciullo, / E gioie delle mie vidi la fine”.
Giacomo Leopardi escaped from Racanati in 1818, but was brought back by his estranged father, and Giacomo kept living in the city on and off until 1832, when he finally had the opportunity to leave and stay gone. He died in Napoli before his fortieth birthday five years later, but the family palacein Recanati still remains, and it is even open to the public, so you can see the library and the locations for a severe case of youthful “Weltschmerz”.
Strolling through town afterwards or sitting in a café you cannot help but wonder how anyone can stay blue amid so much golden yellow sunlight.