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Digital Subscriptions > Italia! > Sep-18 > A Rainy Day in Sorrento

A Rainy Day in Sorrento

Discovering a Renaissance poet whose life was nearly as fascinating as his work

FAST CULTURE

When the sun is warm and the scent of lemons lingers along the streets, and Vesuvius seems filled with benevolence rather than brimstone across the bay, and the excursion boats leave long silver wakes on the way to Capri, it is easy to be dazzled by beauty and dreamily miss some of Sorrento’s important landmarks. But on a dark, wet and blustery day, you might find yourself in the town’s main square, as I did, struggling to keep your umbrella from turning inside-out, in the lee of a sizeable marble statue.

The subject is a gentleman dressed in fashionable 16th-century garb: doublet and cape, pumpkin breeches, snug hose accentuating shapely legs. He gazes thoughtfully into the distance, unperturbed by the bird perched on his head. I knew who he was, of course, because, after all, I was standing in the piazza bearing his name, and the statue’s plinth announced it too: Torquato Tasso. Torquato Tasso… Along with Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto and others, the name seemed to belong to a sort of Italian poetic pantheon, but I realized I didn’t quite know why. Dante followed Virgil to Hell and Beatrice to Paradise in the Commedia, of course; Petrarch lamented loving the untouchable Laura in his sonnets; Ariosto sang the story of Orlando furiously waging war with the Saracens. But what was Tasso’s claim to fame?

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About Italia!

The Dolomites are a popular summer retreat for many Italians. We’ll show you how walking takes precedence over the winter activities we usually associate with this beautiful region. We also visit the secret green spaces of Italy’s cities, perfect oases if you are taking a summer city break. And we visit Matera, a city once known as ‘the shame of Italy’ but now set to become the European Capital of Culture.