In the center of Milan, not far away from the Duomo, there’s a small road, known as via Morone. Here, a sign has been standing from the early 19th century. It’s affixed on an elegant, honey-colored house and states that its walls have been dwelled by Alessandro Manzoni, a leading Italian novelist and poet.
The house has been closed for ages: it has recently been renovated and re-opened to the public, who can now retrace Manzoni’s life.
Giulia Beccaria was a beautiful woman, with red hair and green eyes. Raised in a convent, she fell in love with Giovanni Verri, an Italian nobleman, Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Not being rich, however, the two could never get married. In 1782, Giulia married Pietro Manzoni and, three years later, she gave birth to Alessandro, natural son of the man she has always loved, Giovanni.
Unhappy and frustrated, Giulia soon left her husband and moved to Paris.
Meanwhile, her son Alessandro was growing older. He began his studies at the College of St. Bartolomeo: Alessandro missed his mother a lot and, as he recalls, “I locked myself in a room where I used to write short poems”. His passion for writing emerged early, as well as that for gambling that found a fertile ground in the “dissolute and democratic Milan”.
In his twenties, Alessandro joined his mother in Paris. Since then, the two never parted again and the love of Manzoni for his mother grew enormously, so much that he wrote in a letter “to live only for my Giulia”.
During his stay in Paris, Manzoni attended literal clubs, soon appreciated by the intellectuals of the time and assimilating from them the first lights of the Romantic current that will permeate his writing style. In Paris, he met Enrichetta and, after converting to Catholicism by asking forgiveness from the Pope, he married her.
After a while, Manzoni wished to come back to a calmer life: he wanted to get away from Paris, to returned to Milan and dedicate his life to peaceful writing.
Therefore, in 1814, he moved to via Morone with his entire family.
“We are delighted with our new home: it looks really happy.” This is Giulia writing: in a letter, she described her house and the happy atmosphere it was plunged into.
Being unhappy in such an elegant house, in the center of Milan, seemed almost impossible: only a few steps away from the Duomo, near the Ambrosiana and the Braidense library, the house in via Morone seemed the perfect place where to spend a lifetime.
Spacious and bright, the house was dwelled by Alessandro Manzoni, his mother, his wife and their children. Alessandro had a room on its own, overlooking the garden, where he could study, read and write. It’s here that Manzoni wrote his literal masterpiece, the Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), studied in every single Italian high school and appreciated even today for its unique style. Giulia and Enrichetta educated the children and took care of the other rooms, paying attention to them being always plunged in a cheerful, welcoming atmosphere.
And even today, the visitors can breathe that atmosphere. Recently restored because of Expo, the Manzoni’s home still treasures its original double atmosphere: one silent, belonging to the writer’s peaceful rooms, and another joyous, belonging to the other rooms.
Today’s cheerful atmosphere is also due to the guides who, instead of simply explaining the events, play them.
Walking through the rooms means going from the hall to the bedroom and peek, on the way, through Manzoni’s personal objects, like his cloak, his notes and paintings. In addition, there is a multimedia installation, on which various movie adaptations of The Betrothed are screened.
Manzoni has been living in this house from 1814 to his death, occurred in May 22, 1873: the house, therefore, reflects his entire mature life and can arouse strong emotions, along with a deep sense of respect.
You’ll feel like one of Manzoni’s guests and you’ll wish to read his novels and to learn more about his life!