Every Russian-speaking student has heard about Gogol at least once, but not many know that the great writer used to live in the heart of Italy for several years. Two years ago the Cultural Center and Museum Nikolai Gogol was going to open its doors but, unfortunately, the project was closed due to lack of the finance.
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was a Russian dramatist, novelist and short story writer of Ukrainian ethnicity that became one the most influential writers of his time. Rome was one of his favorite places in the world. Let’s discover the Eternal City from his point of view.
Gogol moved to Rome to restore his health after a failed staging of “The Government Inspector” in St. Petersburg. At first, the writer lived near the monastery of St. Isidore, at the number 16 of St. Isidore Street. Few years later he moved to Via Sistina, which was previously known as “Via Felice,” meaning “happy street” in Italian, and lived in the via Sistina house between 1838 and 1842. Now this house has a memorial plaque. If you stand facing the church of Trinità dei Monti, the writer’s house will be on your right. It is believed that Gogol wrote the first volume of “Dead Souls” in this house.
Gogol’s contemporaries mentioned that every morning the writer used to drink coffee with cream in the cafe “Greco,” which still exists today. On the wall of the cafe, almost hidden among other things, you can see a miniature portrait of Nikolai Gogol, and next to it, under glass, a copy of his famous letter about Rome to his friend Pletnev, dated March 17, 1842.
Gogol’s favorite thing to do in Rome was to sit in the park of Villa Borghese, where you can now see his monument made by Zurab Tsereteli. Gogol also enjoyed walking to the Vatican and the Roman Forum. He would always bring his guests from Russia to the Colosseum and make them lay on the ground to look up at the sky.
Not far from the hotel on the Via delle Colonette street you can find a very interesting building whose walls are decorated with different marble figures. It is the Antonio Canova art gallery. The famous Italian sculptor lived and worked in the house in the early XIX century. If you turn to the alley and walk to the entrance at number 27, you will find yourself in front of a library named after Gogol, funded by the Russian community in Rome. Unfortunately, the library is now closed.
During his five years in the Eternal City, Gogol wrote “The Overcoat,” “Portrait,” and the first part of his masterpiece “Dead Souls.” He then returned to Russia in order to publish the novel, which faced some difficulties with censorship. Gogol spoke a really good Italian, and he even created a handbook for Russian travelers visiting Rome. Nikolai Gogol very accurately expressed his feelings about Rome in one of his letters to Danilevsky, “you fall in love with Rome very slowly, gradually – but for a lifetime.”
Fall in love with the great beauty of Rome while studying in John Cabot University!
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Class of 2018
Hometown: Moscow, Russia