Porta Adriana and Lord Byron
Porta Adriana is one of seven surviving gates of Ravenna.
The date of its construction is approximate, though certainly parts were prior to the year 1000.
It was built on the right bank of the river Padenna on the path of the Via Cavour, was provided with a drawbridge over the moat which once surrounded the city walls.
On either side of the building rose two round towers which were later replaced by the current square bastions.
Considerable restoration affected the port in 1615, 1774, and in 1857. The last restoration was in 2006.
If you want to read a love story, then feel free to dip into the following, "In 1819 George Gordon Byron, sixth Baron Byron of Rochdale, arrived in Ravenna from Venice where he had met the very young Teresa Guiccioli, recently married to Count Guiccioli who was 37 years her senior.
It was easy for Byron to fall in love with the young lady who was struck by the charm and romantic aura which went before him.
Mario Praz, in "La casa della vita" described him thus: "... that fatal silhouette, prominent chin, curvaceous lips, eyelids slightly lowered over a proud expression, his elegantly ruffled hair and Apollo like neck emerging from the open necked shirt. Byron is still seen as he was seen by contemporary women who, some more some less, dreamt of him".
"Lord Byrons's travelling coach, drawn by four horses, was similar inside to that of Napoleon's field carriage and contained a small bed, a bookcase, a safe and a table service. The door bore the blazon of the Byron family..."
The poet arrived in the city on Corpus Domini day. He was stopped at Porta Adriana because a procession was in progress in the main streets of the city centre.
He asked for information about how to reach the centre and quickly managed to find accommodation in the Imperial Hotel which, in spite of its ambitious name, was little more than a humble inn but the best that the city could offer. There were some positive aspects since it was situated in Porta Sisi, to one side of Piazza S.Francesco and therefore very near to Dante's tomb and not far from the houses of the Polenta family, houses consecrated to the memory of the love between Paolo and Francesca.
Byron settled in Ravenna first in a hotel, then in the Guiccioli house, at the invitation of the landlord himself, Alessandro Guiccioli and in effect became the lady's escort as was the custom in those times. After the initial impact, the infatuation deflated to a kind of family menage.
When Count Ruggero Gamba, Teresa's father, obtained a divorce for her, the love had already become a quiet rapport that allowed Byron to resume his writing. In Ravenna Byron took up again his Don Juan and at the same time wrote Ravenna Diary, My Dictionary and Recollections.
He managed to get absorbed, or rather involved in the atmosphere of the city, appreciating all its positive aspects and taking every opportunity. Invited, courted, an attraction for a provincial city, he sought and found time for his horse rides and to keep fit (he was so concerned about his appearance that he had his toothpaste sent out from England). When the weather did not allow outdoor activities he went out in his elegant black carriage which he had had constructed on a Napoleonic model.
However, frivolities apart, he did not disdain to venture to Borgo San Rocco, beyond the city gate, where he spent time with the modest folk who strained to understand his Italian.
6 JANUARY 1821. Mist - thaw - slop - rain.. No stirring out on horseback. Read Spencer's anecdotes (Pope a fine fellow). ..... At eight went out to visit. ...The horses must be happy; as soon as it brightens up I'll go for a ride. This tremendously damp air - winter is a sad thing in Italy; the other seasons are charming however.
23 JANUARY. Fine day. Read - rode - fired pistols, and returned. Dined - read. Went out at eight - made the usual visit. Heard of nothing but war.
16 JANUARY 1821. Nice day. ...Went riding. ... On the way back I met an old man. Did my good deed - acquiring a shilling's worth of eternal salvation. (This seems an opportune moment to recall that Byron, although continuing to be extremely capricious in his behaviour, also knew how to appreciate simple things and simple people. In this regard it seems that on returning from one of his walks in the pinewoods of Classe, his dog ran off to the Lovatelli mill where it got caught in one of the wheels. Byron called desperately to those nearby for help. When a certain Mr. Benini had disentangled the dog he was given a farm in the Porto Fuori area as a recompense [an episode recorded by Doctor Vincenzo Rubboli]).
Returning, on the bridge near the mill, met an old woman. I asked her age - she said "Three crosses". I asked my groom (though myself in a decent Italian) what the devil her "three crosses" meant. He said ninety years and that she had five years more to boot!! ... and she was yet rather active - heard my question, for she answered it - saw me, for she advanced towards me ... Told her to come to-morrow.
29 JANUARY 1821. Yesterday the woman of ninety-five years of age, was with me. She said her eldest son (if now alive) should be seventy. She is thin, short, but active. ... Several teeth left - all in the lower jaw, and single front teeth. She is very deeply wrinkled, ... Gave her a louis - ordered her a some new clothes, and put her upon a weekly pension. Till now she had worked at gathering wood and pine-nuts in the forest - pretty work at ninety-five years old! She had a dozen children, of whom some are still alive. Her name is Maria Montanari.
Lord Byron and Teresa GuiccioliBesides walking and reading, Byron did not forego the social life which he lived to the full (dinners, visits, theatre, reading and correspondence with English publishers and friends everywhere in Italy and abroad).
Time passed slowly in Ravenna in spite of all his interests and attendance at social and political events (here too he was a romantic hero figure, a defender of the freedom of others), and yet it seemed to him that the years were flying by and that there was not enough time for him to do everything that he would have liked.
20 JANUARY 1821 Tomorrow is my birthday: or rather, in twelve minutes time, at midnight, I will be thirty-three years old!... Midnight passed three minutes ago...I'm thirty-three... I do not regret what I have done. I regret what I could have done.
Through life's road, so dim and dirty,
I have dragg'd to three and thirty.
What have these years left to me?
Nothing - except, thirty-three
After two years in Ravenna Byron decided to leave for Greece where lead by his heroic spirit. The separation was hard in spite of Teresa's promises.
Letter to Lady Hardy: "The latest news from Greece lead me to think I shall be asked to go, and most probably soon. In this case Mrs. Guiccioli will retire to a convent [...] or will go to her father [...] at least until we can find a way out, or until she is calm enough and I will be able to ask her to join me".
Teresa G.G. Notes, July 1823: " I have promised more than I am able and you have asked what is beyond my strength... Send for me, my Byron, if you want to see me alive, or I will run away and come to you whatever the risk". Just before the departure the two lovers met and exchanged very intimate and personal gifts in memory of each other: "Only after dinner could the two lovers be together for a few hours, as it had been for some years. It was on this occasion that Byron gave Teresa a tiny medallion keepsake made of ornate gold and glass containing two rings tied together with two hairs: one brown hair belonging to him and one tawny blond of hers. In return Teresa gave a similar gift. It was attached to a long thin cord made from her own plaited hair. The monogram TGG was engraved on it and inside there was a lock of her hair tied with silk" (N. Graziani: Byron e Teresa).
This great gift was sealed by Byron's death in Greece with the pendent still around his neck.
"Dawn on 29th October 1821, one of those mornings typical of the low Romagnola plains when the sunrise is blurred by the fog.
A few inhabitants of Ravenna, walking towards the gates of the town to their work in the country, along the road to Porta Adriana, stopped because of their curiosity, in front of the Guiccioli Palace. Which, contrary to the custom at that hour, was windows open. Inside the domestic servants were going busily about their work and the sounds of horses' hoves rang out in the two large courtyards.
[...] ... Lord Byron's large carriage, four carriages for the domestic servants, the trunks and strange animals [...] ... the procession moved slowly towards Porta Sisi .. [...] Lord Byron was leaving so much behind him!
During his stay in Ravenna he had written some chants of "Don Juan", "The Profecy of Dante", the tragedies "I due Foscari" and "Marin Faliero" and a draft of "Sardanapalo".
... At Porta Sisi the handsome Lord turned his head to the window to look for the last time at those domes and steeples which had welcomed him on his arrival and which he would never see again".