Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn
(Do you know the land where lemons grow?)
Past and present journeys to Italy
read by Michael Maertens
'Oh, how often I exclaim with the poet: Italiam, Italiam!“
Wilhelmine of Prussia, Margravine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth
Italy is a popular travel destination these days. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, however, it was reserved for young aristocrats on their 'Grand Tour' of Europe; then, from the late eighteenth century onwards, touring Italy became an educational must for the upper classes. They were finally joined by ordinary tourists from the 19th century onwards. For all of them, Italy was a place of longing. The world that was on the agenda of their 'Grand Tour' was not actually the canon of cultural monuments but that of 'elegant society'. The country's cultural heritage did not become obligatory for the literary journeys of poets and artists until later, according to Goethe in his Journey to Italy, which all texts of this genre that followed were modelled on. The subsequent travel journals, which could fill entire libraries, particularly in England and Germany, not only featured lengthy descriptions of the antiquities but increasingly also of the 'dolce vita', although there again, Goethe was a forerunner with his Roman Elegies. The Villa Massimo residency winners, particularly the writers and visual artists, were always expected to bear testimony to their time in Rome, as proven by the impressions put down on paper by authors from Enzensberger to Brinkmann and Durs Grünbein.
The texts from various eras are read by Michael Maertens, who – following stints at the Thalia Theatre, the Münchner Kammerspiele theatre, the Berliner Ensemble and the Schauspielhaus Zürich – has since been a long-standing member of the Burgtheater ensemble. He also regularly appears in films and on TV.