Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the author, poet and playwright, considered the “last universal man”, after a period of personal crisis, in his mid-thirties felt the “irresistible need” to travel to Italy where he sojourned for about two years (1786-1788). The pages of the journal he kept during his Italian Journey, besides the antique monuments and works of art, describe his interest for geology, mineralogy, botanic studies, plants, flowers, and gardens. Italy, the land he had dreamt of since his childhood, was for Goethe an Eden-like place. Even before crossing its borders he had an idealised image of the country, evoked in the first lines of his song Mignon “Do you know the land where the lemon trees blossom?”.

While in Italy, he admired the landscapes of the Adige Valley, the shores of Lake Garda, he visited Giardino Giusti in Verona; in the Orto Bontanico of Padua he had the intuition that all plant species originally developed from a single plant.

In Rome he encountered a synthesis of art and nature, of past and present: “I observe the ruins, the buildings, visit this and this other villa…”. In Naples and in Sicily the lights and colours of the landscape stimulated his interest for chromatic perceptions and at Villa Giulia in Palermo he further developed his idea of a “primigenial plant”.

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