Saturday, 19 May 2012

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's grave in Florence

Yesterday I went on a kind of literary pilgrimage to look at Elizabeth Barrett Browning's house and her grave in Florence.  EBB had precarious health all her life and was addicted to the pain-killer Laudanum.  She contracted tuberculosis (probably in 1837, eight years before her marriage to Robert Browning) and died in Italy in 1861 at the age of  55 leaving one son - Pen Browning - who was only 12.  Elizabeth was buried in what's often referred to as the English Cemetery, not far from the city centre in the Piazzale Donatello.

 It's quite small - created to accommodate non-Catholic visitors - and it contains the tombs of other nationalities too - Americans, Russians, Swiss, German, French - as well as a cluster of Jewish graves.   The cemetery has been closed to burials for a long time - Elizabeth's son Pen was buried in the new cemetery outside the city  - though it's still possible to get permission to have your ashes interred there if you are famous enough!

The graveyard is quite wild and beautiful - cared for by a custodian, Julia Bolton Holloway, who employs homeless Roma to do the gardening and maintenance in return for shelter, food and education.  It's a fantastic project.  You can read more about it on Julia's blog.    In this picture, the women are working on the garden and some of the men are restoring a marble tomb.



This is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's tomb with its simple inscription, commissioned by her husband Robert.


Just behind it is the grave of Fanny Holman Hunt, who died in childbirth in Florence less than a year after her marriage.  Holman Hunt himself sculpted her tomb.



 
Walter Savage Landor is here.


 And so is Frances Trollope - mother of Anthony - and herself a very successful novelist.




The most recent tombstone I could find was of the Russian dancer, choreographer and Maitre de Ballet, Evgeny Polyakov, whose ashes are interred here among his compatriots in 1996.


After the graveyard we wandered off into the backstreets of Florence to find our favourite restaurant - La Nella - well away from the tourist track and then to spend the afternoon at Elizabeth Barrett Browning's house.  - More pics tomorrow.


2 comments:

  1. Heavenly!
    (no pun intended)

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  2. There's something abou graveyards that is so beautiful, yet so sad. Can't wait for the tour of the house.

    ReplyDelete