top of page
Logo Great Sicily
  • Writer's pictureThe Sicilian Wanderer

Journey to Sicily: The marvel of Mount Etna and the traces of history. How Goethe discovered Sicily


Journey to Sicily: The marvel of Mount Etna and the traces of history. How Goethe discovered Sicily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous poet, writer, and German philosopher, visited Sicily between the fall of 1786 and the spring of 1787. His journey lasted about three months and led him to explore the island from cultural, artistic, naturalistic, and geological perspectives.

Goethe began his journey to Sicily on November 3, 1786, when he arrived in Palermo, the island's capital. Here he visited various places of cultural interest, such as the Teatro Massimo, the Ballarò market, and the Palermo Cathedral. Goethe was particularly struck by the architectural and artistic features of the city, especially the Arabic influence present in many buildings.

From Palermo, Goethe headed west to visit the cities of Segesta and Selinunte, where he explored the remains of ancient Greek ruins. He then moved eastward, visiting the city of Catania and Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. Goethe was very interested in natural phenomena and studied the geological and volcanological features of Etna closely. During his visit, the volcano was active, and Goethe had the opportunity to observe eruptions and lava flows.

After leaving Catania, Goethe went to Syracuse, where he visited the famous Greek theater and the island of Ortigia, the historical core of the city. Here he also met Swiss botanist Nicolas-Théodore de Saussure, with whom he discussed botany and geology.

Later, Goethe ventured into the interior of the island, visiting the cities of Enna and Caltanissetta, where he had the chance to explore the mountains and valleys of the island. This part of the trip allowed him to observe the wild nature and rural life of the island, as well as discovering the ancient city of Morgantina, famous for its archaeological remains.

Lastly, Goethe returned to Palermo to conclude his journey in Sicily on February 22, 1787. During his stay in Palermo, he wrote several poems and detailed descriptions of his journey in Sicily. His most famous work on this experience is the book "Italian Journey," where Goethe describes his journey through Sicily and the rest of Italy. This book is considered one of the most important works of travel literature and has influenced many other writers and travelers.


The book Italian Journey

The book "Italian Journey" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is a collection of notes, descriptions, impressions, and reflections on his journey through Italy, including Sicily, which he undertook in 1786-1787. The book is divided into three parts: "Journey through Italy", "Journey in Sicily", and "Venetian Diary".

The first part of the book describes Goethe's journey through northern Italy, including the city of Rome. In this section, Goethe provides a detailed analysis of the history, art, culture, and daily life of Italy. Goethe particularly dwells on his passion for art and architecture, providing detailed descriptions of artworks and historical monuments.

In general, "Italian Journey" is an important work of 18th-century travel literature, not only for the accurate description of monuments, places, and landscapes, but also for its approach to Italian art and culture. Goethe approaches the travel experiences very personally, infusing his personal impressions and opinions on the world, nature, and the society of the time. The book had a tremendous influence on many subsequent writers and travelers, and is still considered a classic of travel literature today.


The book Italian Journey

The section "Journey in Sicily" of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's book is a detailed narration of his experience on the island, from its landscapes to its culture and history. Goethe visits various cities and archaeological sites, describing them meticulously and in-depth.

Goethe begins the section on Sicily with a description of Palermo, the city where he lands. He is struck by the architectural features of the city and its vibrant street life.

Subsequently, Goethe goes to Segesta and Selinunte, where he explores the remains of ancient Greek ruins. Here, Goethe details the architectural and artistic aspects of the temples and ruins, emphasizing the contrast between the beauty of the remains and their state of abandonment.

After visiting the western coast of the island, Goethe heads towards Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. Goethe is struck by the geological features of Etna and describes his hike to the summit of the volcano in great detail, highlighting his impressions on the natural beauty of the island.

Later, Goethe goes to Syracuse, where he visits the famous Greek theater and the island of Ortigia. Here, Goethe dwells on the Greek influence on Sicilian culture, describing the architectural features of the island and its cultural heritage.

Lastly, Goethe ventures into the interior of the island, visiting the cities of Enna and Caltanissetta. Here, Goethe dwells on the island's rural life and the beauty of its mountainous landscapes, which inspire his literary creativity.

Overall, the section on the journey in Sicily of Goethe's book is an accurate and passionate description of the island, highlighting the beauty of its landscapes, the richness of its history, and the diversity of its culture. Goethe, through his descriptions, manages to convey his passion for the art, nature, and culture of the island, leaving the reader with a vivid and complete vision of Sicily.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in his book "Italian Journey," talks about Sicily as a place of extraordinary natural and cultural beauty, where Greek, Roman, Arabic, and Spanish influences have left indelible traces.

Goethe is very fascinated by the history and culture of the island, describing with great care the monuments and archaeological sites visited, such as the ancient ruins of Segesta, Selinunte, and Syracuse. Moreover, he emphasizes the importance of the island for art and architecture, highlighting the beauty of many buildings and monuments, like the Palermo Cathedral and the Greek theater of Syracuse.

In addition, Goethe shows a great interest in the island's nature, especially Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. He dedicates many pages to the description of the geological and volcanological features of Etna, as well as his experience of hiking to the summit of the volcano.

In general, Goethe conveys the impression of an island very different from the rest of Italy, rich in charm and contradictions. He is struck by the variety of landscapes, the beauty of the coasts and mountains, and the hospitality of its inhabitants. Furthermore, Goethe shows great sensitivity for the culture and history of the island, trying to deeply understand its peculiarities and nuances.


The book "Italian Journey" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe contains numerous famous quotes regarding his travel experience in Sicily and Italy. Here are some of the most celebrated quotes:

  • "Whoever has not seen Sicily cannot imagine Italy." This quote by Goethe underlines the importance and beauty of the Sicilian island, which he considers a fundamental part of Italian culture and history.

  • "It was marvelous to see how the forces of nature, in their spontaneity, had produced so many inimitable things." Goethe, passionate about natural sciences, was very impressed by the geological and volcanological features of Etna, which he defines as "an incomparable work of nature."

  • "There is nothing more interesting than meeting people who live and think differently from us." Goethe, always very open to cultural diversity and knowledge of other cultures, emphasizes the importance of encountering people and cultures during his journey in Sicily and Italy.

  • "In this country, everything is so vast, great, ancient, and unusual, that one cannot tire of trying to understand it." Goethe, fascinated by the beauty and variety of Italy, highlights the difficulty of deeply understanding its culture and history, but also the beauty of the discovery experience.

These are just some of the numerous famous quotes present in Goethe's book "Italian Journey." They represent a testimony of the sensitivity and intelligence of the great German writer, who was able to grasp the deepest nuances and hidden beauties of Italian and Sicilian culture.


Comments


Stay up to Date!

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and exclusive offers reserved only for our subscribers. You will have access to special promotions, exclusive content, and advantageous offers.

An exceptional post today as well!

bottom of page