Flavours know, February is now synonymous with St Valentine’s Day and we have already waxed lyrical about all things sensuous and ‘chocolatey’. Yet there is another important day to remember in February which anyone with a passionate bone in their body and red hot blood in their veins will know; that is the date of John Keats’ death in Rome during 1821.
It was the 23rd of February 1821 when news left the city that Keats had finally succumbed to the disease that had plagued him and members of his family for years: consumption.
It is at this point that anyone who has watched Jane Campion’s beautiful film Bright Star reaches for a handkerchief.
The Keats- Shelley Memorial house at 26 Piazza di Spagna has gained renown by being the property where John Keats breathed his last, having written some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language and all before he reached his 26th birthday.
Keats left England, as we still do now, in search of a better climate but sadly was never to return to his beloved London.
The bedroom where he died has been preserved as a shrine and many tourists visit Italy and also the Piazza di Spagna to pay homage to his amazing craft and talent.
You may even wish to combine a Flavoursholiday with a stop off in Rome and pay your own respects to this great Romantic poet and the house itself in which you will see various memorial objects. Mementos such as a lock of hair taken from Keats, the death mask that was cast and correspondence belonging to the poet. In fact you can actually stand at the same window where Keats would have looked out onto the square in the early years of the 19th century.
Like those intent on enjoying a Flavours cooking, painting or Pilates holiday travellers have always flocked to this district of Rome and it was known for its hotels as far back as the 18th century.
Now this area is feted as one of the most beautiful in all Rome which is an extraordinary tribute in itself considering how splendid the city is in every way.
You will find the Keats-Shelley Memorial house just by the Spanish Steps and only a very short distance from the Spagna metro. Your pilgrimage will be rewarded by the sight of 8000 volumes of Romantic Literature and you will delight in the knowledge that you will be following in the footsteps of many who have gone before to pay their respects.
In fact, if you visit this year you will be travelling in the wake of the UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy who is actually launching ‘Lo splendore del tempio’ which is a new Italian translation of her own love poetry and this will have taken place on Valentine’s Day itself.
Keats’ poetry was always about passion, warmth and the intensity of the moment. It has an hypnotic appeal to the senses and anyone who has read St Agnes Eve will know it reads like a film script. The eroticism and slow reveal reminds me very much of making Italian food on a Flavourscookery course and that is all I am saying!
If you want to discover the delights of this I suggest you book yourself an Italian sojourn but first, pause for a moment and raise a glass on the 23rd to John Keats.