Anyone who has visited Florence during the winter months will know just how Shelley felt when he wrote, 'Tuscany is delightful eight months of the year. But nothing reconciles me to…such infernal cold as my nerves have been racked upon for the last ten days'.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) arrived in Florence at the beginning of October, 1819. He and his heavily pregnant wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, stayed at the pensione of Madame Merveilleux du Plantis in Palazzo Marini on Via Valfonda. On November 12th Mary gave birth to a boy, who was named Percy Florence Shelley.
The pensione was located near the Parco delle Cascine, where Shelley would go walking. One day he was in the park when a storm broke out. While he was waiting for the storm to lift, he began to write Ode to the West Wind. Shelley added a note to the ode when it was published as part of the collection Prometheus Unbound (1820):
"This poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence, and on a day when that tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once mild and animating, was collecting the vapours which pour down the autumnal rains. They began, as I foresaw, at sunset with a violent tempest of hail and rain, attended by that magnificent thunder and lightning peculiar to the Cisalpine regions."
At the end of the month of January 1820, the poet and his family left Florence and went to live in Pisa. The Palazzo Marini no longer exists, but a plaque in Piazza della Stazione marks the spot where it once stood.