Premium

The English can learn from the inspirational beauty of Italy

The 'Carta della Catena' showing a panorama of Florence, 1490 by Italian School, (15th century); Museo de Firenze Com'era, Florence, Italy.
The 'Carta della Catena' showing a panorama of Florence, 1490 by Italian School, (15th century); Museo de Firenze Com'era, Florence, Italy. Credit: ALI109446 

“The pernicious charm of Italy”, EM Forster called it in his comedy of manners, A Room with a View. He came, he saw; Florence conquered. It’s a familiar tale for English people down the ages. Keats, Shelley, Byron, Browning: the romantics all went to the land of lemon trees (Goethe, vielen Dank) before buttoned-up Forster, and they were also spellbound.

A beaker full of the warm south. Keats’s line has become a cliché. Yet we recognise it for a good reason. The attraction of opposites, if you like. Not all English people are buttoned-up. Not all Italians put pepper on their strawberries. But there’s something in the difference, and that’s a good place to start.

You mean you haven’t had pepper on your strawberries? Until this week, in a trattoria a stone’s throw from the Arno, neither had I. Now you feel such a fool if you don’t. Taken with pineapple and lemon ice cream there’s really nothing...

To continue reading this Premium article

Register for free and access one Premium article per week

Enjoy unlimited access to Premium articles with a subscription

  • Subscriber-only events and experiences
  • Access Premium articles on our mobile app

30-day free trial

then only £2 per week

Unlock all Premium articles for 24 hours. Only £1.

Free £50 gift card when you subscribe
Enjoy a free £50 gift card* for one of your favourite brands when you take out an annual subscription
*Gift cards will be sent out by email within 21 days of the subscription start date. Available in the UK Only.