From Keats and Shelley in the 19th century to their dedicated present-day fans who simply wish to follow in the footsteps of the poetry idols, Rome has long been a hub for literary types. Here, we look a bit further into why Italy’s capital city has long captivated some of England’s literary greats.
The magic of Rome has inspired many a writer to put pen to paper, but the city’s connection to the English Romantic poets Lord Byron, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley is perhaps the most celebrated of all. All three poets lived (and in the case of Keats, died) in the Eternal City, and their works continue to attract well-read tourists who are keen on discovering the magic of the city for themselves. So, why is Rome so alluring to poets, writers and literary types?
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
In the case of Keats, the answer is simple: good weather. The sickly poet came to Rome in 1820, after doctors advised him that the cold London weather could be the death of him. He was suffering from tuberculosis and hoped the warm Mediterranean climate would turn his health around.
Keats’ health deteriorated and he died at his lodgings (now the Keats-Shelley Memorial House) next to the Spanish Steps, aged just 25. Though he died before he could compose any poems about Rome, we do know that he sometimes liked to take walks through the greenery of Villa Borghese and up the Pincian Hill, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo.
He was also a customer of the nearby Antico Caffè Greco, Rome’s oldest coffee shop. Opened in 1760, the café has been frequented by a whole host of historic and literary figures including Mark Twain, Orson Welles and, of course, the Romantic poets Shelley and Byron.
In fact, during the 19th century, the area around the Spanish Steps was so popular with well-heeled travellers it became known as the ‘English ghetto’, with Antico Caffè Greco serving as it’s a meeting point.
While Keats came to Rome for the sun, his contemporaries, Byron and Shelley, came to be inspired by ancient monuments and to soak up the atmosphere of a city 2,000 years in the making—much like the tourists of today do.
Lord Byron spent more time in Venice and Pisa than in Rome, but the Eternal City still captured his imagination. In his four-part narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Byron described Rome as the ‘city of the soul’ and said of its most iconic monument: ‘While stands the Colosseum, Rome shall stand; When falls the Colosseum, Rome shall fall; and when Rome falls—the world.’
In Byron’s day, travel was only for the wealthy elite so there weren’t hoards of tourists crowding Rome’s monuments like there are today. To recreate the magical atmosphere Byron must have felt upon seeing the Colosseum, try visiting at night when the crowds have died down. To really feel as though you’ve travelled back in time, some companies even offer nighttime guided tours with access to restricted areas.
Shelley too visited the Colosseum during his trips to Rome, but it was the less-frequented Baths of Caracalla that really captivated him. He spent much of his time among the ruins, which were overgrown with plants and flowers at the time, writing Prometheus Unbound, widely considered to be his masterpiece. Fortunately for literary lovers, the Baths of Caracalla are often overlooked by tourists and are the perfect place to soak up the city’s ancient atmosphere in peace.
Though Shelley left Rome after the death of his infant son in 1819, he would later instruct the world with the phrase ‘go thou to Rome’ in his work Adonaïs, an elegy to his friend John Keats.
In a tragic ending (which seems somewhat typical for Romantic poets), Shelley drowned off the coast of Liguria less than a month before his thirtieth birthday. What was left of his body was cremated and his ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.
With both Keats’ and Shelley’s final resting place being the Protestant Cemetery, Rome has developed another lure for writers and poets. The cemetery, a lush green oasis in the Testaccio neighbourhood, is now a pilgrimage site for fans of the great poets who were inspired by Rome all those years ago.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.