Italian trip

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Goethe's travel route

Die Italienische Reise is a travel report in which Johann Wolfgang von Goethe describes his stay in Italy between September 1786 and May 1788. The two-part work is based on his travel diaries, but was created much later, between 1813 and 1817. In addition to Poetry and Truth and Campaign in France, it is one of his autobiographical writings.

Chronologically, the depiction of the trip, which Goethe undertook largely incognito, agrees with his diary entries, but in contrast to these is stylized and cleared of all too personal comments. Despite the intensive subsequent revision, the Italian trip has retained the diary form. In the course of the work, addressees begin to crystallize: the first parts are not addressed to a specific reader, later he explicitly addresses his “friends”, and finally to specific people.


Goethe-Herme in the courtyard of the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine

Goethe began his trip to Italy in 1786 after breaking off three attempts on such a trip. He traveled (mostly by stagecoach and almost always alone) from Karlsbad via Eger , Regensburg , Munich , Mittenwald , Scharnitz , Seefeld , Zirl , Innsbruck and the Brenner , Bozen , Trient to Lake Garda ( Torbole and Malcesine ), then on to Verona , Vicenza , Padua , Venice , Ferrara , Cento , Bologna , Loiano , Perugia , Terni and Città Castellana to Rome , where he stayed for four months. Then he drove, together with the painter Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein , via Velletri and Fondi to Naples . He stayed there for almost five weeks, undertook two excursions to the currently active Vesuvius and visited Pompeii , Caserta , Capua , Herculaneum and Paestum . Then he sailed by ship to Sicily , where he visited Palermo , Alcamo , Castelvetrano , Sciacca , Girgenti , Caltanissetta , Catania , Taormina and Messina . His way back led him, again via Naples, to Rome again. He stayed here for almost a whole year, visited the surrounding area and, in addition to studying antiquity, devoted himself primarily to practical painting and drawing exercises and continuing his literary work, before heading home to Weimar after Easter . He came via Siena , Florence (which he had only touched on on the outward journey out of impatience to finally get to Rome), Bologna, Modena , Parma , Piacenza and Milan - stations that are no longer commented on in his Italian trip .

The focus of his descriptions changes. Often, scientific, especially mineralogical , but also meteorological , geological , geographical and, last but not least, botanical observations dominate. In the “public garden right next to the roadstead” of Palermo , he was looking for B. after the " Urpflanze " and believes there, as he later wrote to Herder, to have come very close to the "secret of plant production and organization" that he had been looking for for a long time. Early on, that is, at the latest from his two-week stay in Venice in October 1786, which is characterized by numerous theater visits, cultural topics also come to the fore in his report.

His main artistic and architectural interest is antiquity , in which he finds the identity of natural and artistic law most fully realized. He shows less interest in medieval and modern art. In Assisi, for example, he did not visit the famous Church of the Holy Sepulcher of St. Francis of Assisi with the frescoes by Giotto , but rather the temple of Santa Maria sopra Minerva , which has been converted into a church, in the main square of the city. Although he admires works by Michelangelo and Raphael , he expressly describes them only from an aesthetic point of view and ignoring the religious background.

Every now and then, Goethe also goes into his own drawings, with which he tries to capture many of his travel impressions, as it were, photographically. He also frequented artistic circles, learned from them and even toyed with the idea of ​​going from a writer to a painter. However, he recognized his limits right from the start and instead engaged the young landscape painter Christoph Heinrich Kniep , recommended by Tischbein , who had accompanied him since Naples and made a plethora of drawings to document his trip . During his time in Italy he completed and published Iphigenie on Tauris and work on Tasso , but also on Egmont and Faust .

Contacts with locals are only occasionally mentioned in the Italian trip . Goethe talks about the differences between the Italian and the German mentality, but seldom relates this to concrete acquaintances; instead, he describes his impression of the population as a whole. Basically he has a positive attitude towards the Italian mentality and the art of living and hopes to be able to take over some of it for himself and his future life in Weimar. Even the Roman carnival, which he witnessed both during his first and second stay in Rome and which he initially felt repulsed by its noisy aggressiveness and primitiveness, after intensive considerations, which he analyzed in detail in several chapters of his travelogue, ultimately a universal one Importance to.

Goethe presented the Italian journey with the motto I too in Arcadia! ahead, an indication that he saw Italy as a real Arcadia . For him Italy was the landscape that generations of writers before him sought and wrote in the wave of idyllic and Arcadia literature of the 18th century and which he believed he had found in reality.


The DEFA documentary film Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Italian Journey by Werner Kohlert was made in 1982.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Italian Journey - Volume 1 . November 1, 2000 ( [accessed August 16, 2016]).