Digital mapping of Italian cultural journeys: from Montaigne to Goethe

Bolpagni, Marcello
"Palackého" University in Olomouc, Czech Republic

Giuntoli, Giacomo
Università degli Studi di Pisa

Ich schreib nicht mit der Hand allein:

Der Fuß will stets mit Schreiber sein.

Fest, frei und tapfer läuft er mir

Bald durch das Feld, bald durchs Papier.

(Nietszche 2000: 40-41)

In the period between XVII th - XIX th centuries, European learned men usually refined their educational process travelling along Europe. Italy was one of preferred destination in the so-called Grand Tour. Great European personalities such as Montaigne and Goethe, wrote diaries or novels based on this experience, describing places, meetings, impressions and sensations which derived from their visits and enrooted in their souls and in the cultural background. Therefore, this project aims to create a digital atlas which recollects and presents the descriptions of the places visited by the authors in their own works. Relationships between up-today writers and visited places have already been studied by literary geography, but there is no appropriate digital atlas that shows one of the pivotal moments of the European culture .

We plan to reach new and cross-disciplinary goals thanks to a graphic depiction of the routes and the paths of these intellectuals, that were clearly looking for inspiration in the cradle of European culture, Italy. From one side, in fact, we will have the possibility to focus on the spatial intertextuality among the visited or depicted cities and, from the other, we will offer a digital mapping website which allows us to know the relationship between place, mankind and artwork. For a writer's perspective is not the same of a common traveller.

For example, in any good edition of the Italienische Reise by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, we should find a map that illustrates the Italian travel of one of the greatest German writers. Unfortunately, this visual approach is lacking in Italian most important edition (Goethe 1983). On the contrary, we intend to provide to reader an interactive map thanks to which he can travels with Goethe himself, thus becoming protagonist of an experience. It’s clear the didactic usefulness of this atlas suitable for experts and beginners.

Therefore, we imagined that for each location chosen, a window appears with the following items:

The significance of such an atlas is a meaningful cultural instrument almost for five issues:

For what concerns the scientific results, we would like to underline the chance to recall the image of a city and the cultural trends which animated it: a geographical setting as a tourist location but also as an imaginative place, which means a social and emotional environment in constant evolution. Our goal can be summed up quoting a passage by Henri Lefebvre, which described the social space as the «encounter, assembly, simultaneity […] everything that is produced either by nature or by society […] living beings, things, objects, works, signs and symbols» (Lefebvre 1991: 101).

Therefore, the aim is to deduce the information from the texts in order to make them live again through an easy and practical framework. Thus our team intends to offer data regarding different subjects as geography, history, and literature, which cross themselves in a complex frame and a panoramic perspective.

Appendix A

  1. von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (1983): Viaggio in Italia. Milano: Mondadori.
  2. Lefebvre, Henri (1991): The production of space. Oxford / Cambridge: Blackwell.
  3. Nietszche, Friedrich (2000): “Poesie“. Torino: Einaudi.