28 October 2016 Susannah

My Visit to Northern Italy

Living Room, Casa Guidi museum in Florence, Italy.

I got home recently from leading my Literary Tour of Northern Italy and one of the highlights of that tour was staying in the Casa Guidi. This is the Florence home of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It is today owned by Eton College, but cared for by the Landmark Trust and anyone interested can book to stay in the wonderful rooms. There is a beautiful drawing room, still filled with many pieces of furniture that belonged to the two poets, a grand dining room, their bedroom complete with grand piano (Robert was very musical) and then the various rooms that were used by servants.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's couch

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s couch from Wimpole Street was bequeathed to the Casa Guidi. Photo courtesy of Heather Parker

Have you read the novel Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster (who also wrote an excellent biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning)? The novel tells the story of poor Wilson who had the very dubious privilege of being maid to Elizabeth.

One very special piece of furniture in the apartment was the couch on which Elizabeth was lying in Wimpole Street, London, when Robert first came to call. The couple had been corresponding for some months and he often begged to be allowed to visit. Elizabeth, who was an invalid, kept putting him off, but one memorable day in May 1845 he finally got to meet her and he fell instantly in love. They married in September, 1846, and went to Italy. The home in Florence was where Elizabeth died in 1861. The couch from Wimpole Street was bequeathed to the Casa Guidi a few years ago and it was wonderful to actually sit on it and imagine Elizabeth, neatly arranged by Wilson, lying on it when her visitor arrived.

My literary tour was a great success and included many memorable visits. If you are interested in doing the tour in 2017, there are two double rooms available. For more details about this tour click here.

Have you been to the Casa Guidi? Or read the Margaret Foster novel, Lady’s Maid? Share your comments below.

  Susannah Fullerton: Poem of the Month, November 2017 – ‘How Do I Love Thee?’

   Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster
   Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
   Project Gutenberg: Robert Browning
   Project Gutenberg: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Featured image credit- Living Room, Casa Guidi museum in Florence, Italy. By Sailko – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=870092
Body image credit- Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s couch from Wimpole Street was bequeathed to the Casa Guidi. Photo courtesy of Heather Parker
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