In April 1847 Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) and Robert Browning (1812-89), the 'wild poets but wise people', arrived in Florence. The couple, who had married in secret the year before, moved into a comfortable apartment in Via delle Belle Donne before transferring, a few months later, to the Casa Guidi, where they rented an apartment on the piano nobile. The couple would live in the Casa Guidi until the death of E.B.B. in 1861.
For both poets their time in Florence was a period of great creativity and much personal happiness. Their only child, a boy who was named after his father but nicknamed Pen, was born in the Casa Guidi on March 9th, 1849.
Robert Browning wrote, "We are as happy as two owls in a hole, two toads under a tree-stump; or any other two queer poking creatures that we let live after the fashion of their black hearts." While his wife noted, "When all's said and sighed, I love Italy - I love my Florence...Florence is my chimney corner, where I can sulk and be happy."
The poets were passionate supporters of the cause of Italian independence, which was (partially) achieved on March 17th, 1861 with the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. A few months later, on June 29th, Elizabeth Barrett Browning died. She is buried in the English Cemetery.
The facade of the Casa Guidi bears a plaque to its most famous resident, which both Italianises her first name and misspells her second!
The plaque reads (in translation): 'Here wrote and died Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who united in the heart of a woman the knowledge of a scholar and the spirit of a poet. She forged through her poetry a golden ring linking Italy and England. In grateful memory, Florence, 1861.'
There is another plaque on the wall facing Via Mazzetta, which quotes the first three lines of her poem Casa Guidi Windows (1851).
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