Writers in love with Genoa and the Bristol Palace
Fri, 06/18/2021 - 09:00
The Hall of our hotel
Genoa has always enchanted artists, literati, philosophers and poets. Some simply passed through – often staying at the Hotel Bristol Palace – others moved to the city for longer stays. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche lived for years at Salita delle Battistine 8, where he wrote part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, while the French novelist Stendhal stopped off in the city on the Grand Tour. Charles Dickens stayed in Genoa, as did Mark Twain, who enjoyed describing the modes and mores of the local middle classes. For Chekhov, Genoa was quite simply the most beautiful city in the world, whereas Joseph Conrad set his last novel Suspense (published posthumously) in the city after living in it for a brief spell in 1914. A decade or so later, Francis Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda also visited Genoa.
The “almost Genoese” Edmondo De Amicis
One of the Bristol Palace’s illustrious guests was the writer Edmondo De Amicis, remembered above all for Cuore (Heart), a children’s novel written in the late 19th century. For him Genoa was virtually a second home: born in Oneglia, now part of Imperia, in 1846, he developed his political ideas during the Third War of Independence, in which he served as an infantry officer. It was in those years that he began to write the sketches for La vita militare (Military Life, 1868), which earned him a certain fame and allowed him to live off his writing as a journalist, socialist essayist and novelist. Like any Ligurian worth his salt, he regarded travel as essential, spending long periods abroad and writing many diaries about his experiences. His narrative works include Romanzo di un maestro (A Schoolmaster’s Novel, 1890), Fra scuola e casa (Between School and Home, 1892), Ricordi d'infanzia e di scuola (Memories of Childhood and School, 1901) and Pagine allegre (Happy Pages, 1906). But he owes his fame most of all to Cuore, published in 1886. After the Unification of Italy, the Italian patriot, politician, painter and writer Massimo D'Azeglio said that, “Italy has been made; now it remains to make Italians”, and this is what Cuore set out to do: to transmit national sentiment and teach young people the civil virtues needed to grow up as citizens of the new Kingdom. It’s no coincidence that it was from Quarto Genova – today a suburb of Genoa – that Garibaldi’s Thousand set out to fight the national cause. After living in Turin, De Amicis moved to the Ligurian Riviera and died in Bordighera in 1908.
The writer in the memory of Genoa and the Bristol Palace
Ever since it opened in 1905, the Bristol Palace has always been considered one of the most prestigious hotels in Genoa. Housed in an impressive art-nouveau palazzo, it was famous internationally for the quality of its service and for its memorable parties and dinners for the nobility of the time. A great many guests chose it as their Genoese home from home. Among them were the poet Eugenio Montale and the playwright Luigi Pirandello, who used to attend the weekly meetings of the Rotary Club that were held here. One of the place’s greatest fans was Edmondo De Amicis, the author of the novel Cuore who memorable described one of his stays as follows: “I left the Bristol under the illusion that I’d been a great gentleman for five days.” He was moved by the welcome he received. Genoa has never forgotten the writer and to pay homage to him and continue his educational work, the Biblioteca Edmondo De Amicis, a large library dedicated to children’s and young adults’ literature, has been opened in the area of the Porto Antico, not far from the Bristol.