With last weekend’s equinox ushering in the autumn, it’s a great time to turn your thoughts to the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” and channel your inner Romantic poet. Keats wrote his famous ode ‘to Autumn’ on September 19th 1819 after a Sunday walk in the English village of Winchester, but here are four ideas for getting in the mood for fall right here in Rome…
1. Visit the grave of Keats in the Non-Catholic Cemetery at Piramide
John Keats (1795-1821) loved the autumn weather in England so much that he wrote about it, prefacing the ode ‘to Autumn’ in a letter to his friend John Hamilton Reynolds: “How beautiful the season is now – How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it… I never lik’d stubble fields so much as now… Somehow a stubble plain looks warm – in the same way that some pictures look warm – this struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.” Keats was nearing the end of the incredibly prolific year in which he had written much of his finest poetry and was never more in love with his native soil. But the English winters never agreed with him; after the symptoms of tuberculosis appeared early in 1820, he set off to Rome in search of more temperate climes, making last revisions to ‘Bright Star’ en route, a poem which would be his last. The journey was wrought with problems and Keats and his friend Joseph Severn didn’t reach the city until November 14th, by which time the weather was already turning chilly. He illness grew steadily worse until his death on February 23rd 1861 aged just 25 in the villa he had taken on the Spanish Steps, now the Keats-Shelley House.
The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome
Via Caio Cestio 6, 00153 Roma
Monday-Saturday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (last entrance: 4.30 pm)
Sundays and public holidays 9.00 am to 1.00 pm (last entrance: 12.30 pm
2. Go foraging in the woods around Rome
Lake Bracciano is just a hour’s train ride from Rome, but home to some wonderful flora and fauna which evoke the seasons. Blackberries are ripening on thick brambles along the lake at this time, while you’ll still find green figs on some of the roadside trees. On the slopes above Trevignano Romano, chestnuts have started to fall in their bright green, spiky jackets – wonderful for roasting at home in the oven. A little further afield, towards Lake Vico, hazelnut groves flank the winding lanes. Most of these are on private property but plenty of nuts still fall along the roadside on the way from Capranica to Ronciglione – use your discretion and don’t trespass. Meanwhile, green and black fig trees populate the old Appia Antica and are home to a rich crop (if you beat the birds and the locals who keep a keen eye on things). If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, take a good spotting guide and don’t eat anything you don’t recognise.
3. Get in the harvest spirit with a local sagra
If you don’t want to gather your own taste of autumn, try a local food festival or sagra celebrating the season of fruitfulness. Up in the Castelli Romani, there is a rich programme of chestnut and porchetta sagre, while next weekend the traditional grape festival in Colonna is being amplified to also include the local crops of kiwi-fruit, peaches and Castelli wine. Raise a glass to someone else’s hard work whilst admiring the reddening trees up in the Alban Hills.
4. Uncover the secrets of Mary Shelley with a special exhibition at the Keats-Shelley House
Visitors to the Keats-Shelley House often wonder what Mary Shelley’s life was really like, especially following the death of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. A new temporary exhibition at the museum is examining fragments of her life, and of other female figures connected with her in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Eight manuscripts on loan from the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford will also be on show as well as some other little-seen treasures from England. Entrance to the exhibition is included in the price of the admission ticket to the museum. From September 9th to November 22nd.
Piazza di Spagna, 26 00187 Rome
Monday to Saturday 10.00-13.00 and 14.00-18.00; Sunday: closed.
Entrance: Adults €5.00; under 18s and over 65s €4.00