Council for Ligurian Linguistic Heritage

Ligurian Council

Anthology of Ligurian literature

By Alessandro Guasoni

The Council has compiled an anthology of Ligurian literature edited by Alessandro Guasoni.

Readers will get a glimpse of the gradual evolution of Genoese and Ligurian literature over the centuries, both in terms of language and content. From the civic-epic poetry of the Genoese Anonym and Foglietta, to the Baroque and Gongorist inspiration of Cavalli; from the comic poetry of Piaggio, to the intimate, pastoral lyricism of Firpo – all literary movements are presented and together comprise a rich corpus that remains enjoyable to read today.

This work is released under the CC BY-ND 4.0 free license. The excerpts are the property of their respective authors and are published for educational and literary criticism purposes, strictly for non-commercial purposes.

In many cases there are audio files of the passages. It should be noted that in the case of the earliest texts, up to the 18th century, one will hear a pronunciation of Genoese that is quite different from the present one, as an attempt has been made to reproduce as faithfully as possible the language spoken at the time, and the resulting effect may seem unusual.

12th–13th century

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the educated elite still wrote literary and official texts in Latin. The Annals by Caffaro, an account of the thwarted threat posed by Frederick Barbarossa, were written in Latin, as was the Chronica civitatis ianuensis by Iacopo da Varagine, which recounts the victories of Meloria (1284) against the Pisans and Laiazzo (1294), against the Venetians. The Legenda aurea, also by da Varagine, depicts the lives of saints, often wondrous and filled with miracles. The poets of Provençal expression are also important, as this language was used by troubadours in Genoa and other parts of Italy, and was second only to Latin in terms of cultural importance. Among them, we remember Lanfranco Cigala, Bonifacio Calvo, Luchetto Gattilusio. Towards the end of the 12th century, it was a Provençal, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, who first used Genoese in a literary context – albeit in jest – in his Altercation with a Genoese woman. The first inscription in Genoese on a tombstone dates from 1259, while a Crusade song, which exhibits the first evidence of independent literary use, dates from 1269. The Genoese vernacular only fully asserted itself with the work of the Genoese Anonym, perhaps a monk, who lived at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries. The Genoese Anonym is considered the first among our poets, animated by great political, patriotic, and religious passion.

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Origins of the Ligurian language
The Genoese Anonym

14th–15th century

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Genoa frequently struggled with internal strife and was at times subjected to foreign domination by France or Milan. However, Genoese was increasingly used in private writings and official documents. Genoese religious texts, often translated from French (originally translated from Latin), proliferated. The Questioim de Boecio was a Genoese version of De consolatione philosophiae originating from the French translation by Jean de Meung. An encomiastic style also developed from Central Italian models, at times diverging from the norm. We can count among this edificatory literature the Tratao de li VII pecai mortali by Jerome of Bavaria. These hagiographical texts also include the works of Luca Paterio, and other anonymous writers such as the author of the Istoria de lo complimento de lo mondo and Croniche e overe de papi e imperaoi. The texts recount the stories of the magician Merlin and King Arthur, adapted from the “materia di Bretagna” and the life of Charlemagne from the “Carolingian cycle”. Other chronicles of saintly deeds include the Miraculi de la biâ vergem sancta Maria, which stands out for the anonymous author’s digressions that occasionally develop into tales of mystery and horror. De Barllam et Jossaffà, a Christianised version of the life of Buddha, is also noteworthy. Other hagiographic and moral treatises include Lo libero de frai Gillio, a translation of the Dicta Beati Aegidii, attributed to a companion of St Francis, and the Via de lo Paraiso with advice to women on how to be “good” wives. The first known author from Savona appears: Alerame Traversagni, with his vernacularisation of the Legenda de Sancta Elizabeth of 1455. Biagio Assereto’s letter and report on the battle of Ponza (1435) was written in Genoese at a time when Genoa was under Milanese rule. In the second half of the 15th century, Genoese writing showed a progressive decline as it was gradually influenced by Tuscan due to the rising fame of Italian literature. In 1473 the first calendar in Genoese appeared, titled La raxone de la Pasca, which was also the first printed text published in Liguria.

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Official uses of the Genoese language in the 14th and 15th centuries
Instructions to Sigurano
Questions from Boethius
Fiction in the 1300s
Religious lauds
Early writers of the Riviera
Alerame Traversagni
La raxone de la Pasca

16th century

The 16th century was dominated politically by the figure of Andrea Doria, and in literary terms, by Foglietta’s “reform” against the prevailing Tuscanization of the time. This is evinced in various songs extolling one lordship or another as Liguria experienced constant turnover of power, with consequent revolts, massacres and invasions. The Opera e lamento de Zena che tracta de la guerra et del saccho dato per gli Spagnoli (1522) is exemplary of this trend. In the end, Doria emerged victorious from the upheaval, with his astute tactics of alliances and his reform of the state, while in literature, Foglietta restored a relatively archaic language, seeking to give the Genoese language back its relative autonomy and political significance. Noteworthy poets in 16th century Genoese have been handed down to us through the collection Rime diverse in lengua zeneize, reprinted several times throughout the century. After Foglietta, a poet of both lyrical and social and political inspiration, come Barnaba Cigala Casero, Benedetto Schenone, and a poet of uncertain identity. All were to varying degrees Petrarchists, but Cigala was also the initiator of the custom of encomiums in verse for the election of Doges. The works of Vincenzo Dartona – translator of the first canto of Orlando Furioso – and of Bernardo Castelletto are also notable. In the face of the expansion of the Tuscan language, certain official prose traditions continued, such as the speeches of Doge Matteo Senarega, on the occasion of the end of his term of office and to greet Prince Gio. Andrea Doria on his return with the fleet.

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Paolo Foglietta
Barnaba Cigala Casero
Benedetto Schenone
Opera and lament of Genoa concerning the war and the sack by the Spaniards in the year 1522
Anonymous tercets

17th century

During the so-called “Century of the Genoese”, named for the spectacular wealth accumulated by Genoa’s patrician families and the splendor of their palaces, Ligurian literature saw the triumph of conceptualism and the Baroque style. Names to remember include Giuliano Rossi, Pantaleo Grimaldi Murassana, Gio. Francesco Baffico, Fulgenzio Baldani, Pier Giuseppe Giustiniani and others, but above all Gian Giacomo Cavalli. It is Cavalli who acclimatized Liguria to the contemporary European experiences of culteranismo, supported by an exceptional patron in the upper echelons of Italian literature, Savona-born Gabriello Chiabrera. Theater underwent great development in 17th-century Genoa; the meeting of the Commedia dell’Arte with that of academic theater led to scripts written fully or partially in Genoese (in essence, multilingual comedies). However, lack of outside comprehension of the Ligurian language made it necessary to translate the Genoese parts, or suppress them, for productions outside Liguria. Prominent playwrights included Anton Giulio Brignole Sale, Francesco Maria Marini, Giovanni Andrea Spinola, Pier Giovanni Capriata and Giovanni Agostino Pollinari. In the second half of the century, a slow political and economic decline began. Between Piedmontese plots to seize the Republic, the increased influence of France, and various other factors, the independent Genoese cultural identity was gradually diminished. Carlo Andrea Castagnola’s work, which deals with the bombardment of Genoa by the French fleet and the city’s proud, stoic perseverance, constitutes a momentary revival of patriotic and civic themes. The first poets in Ligurian appear along the Riviera, Stefano Rossi of Taggia and Paolo Agostino Orengo of Ventimiglia – albeit with only burlesque intentions.

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Gian Giacomo Cavalli
Gabriello Chiabrera
Giuliano Rossi
Anton Giulio Brignole Sale
Francesco Maria Marini
Giovanni Andrea Spinola
Pier Giovanni Capriata
Giovanni Agostino Pollinari
Carlo Andrea Castagnola
Stefano Rossi

18th century

The events of 1746 were followed by a strong revival of civic and patriotic poetry, with a large part of Stefano De Franchi’s work dedicated to the uprising against the Austrians and Balilla’s deed. Other notable authors who dealt with the subject include the anonymous authors of Trionfo dro popolo zeneise and Libeaçion de Zena, and above all Gaetano Gallino, with his Cadeña Zeneise. In the meantime, since the beginning of the century, a number of poets in the Rivieras and hinterland had begun expressing themselves in the local dialects, such as Luca Maria Capponi of Triora, Gian Lorenzo Federico Gavotti of Sassello, and Luciano Rossi of Campoligure. The 18th century was also the century in which scholars directed by De Franchi translated Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered. Other noteworthy poets, after De Franchi, are Ambrogio Conti and other unknown writers responsible for the Canto Unico, a manuscript preserved in the library of the Società Economica of Chiavari, or the flyers that frequently celebrated current events. On one such flyer was Toralbo Armonico’s poem on Captain Maglione, which celebrated the victories of the Ligurian navy. With the arrival of Napoleon and the end of the Oligarchic Republic, we see the appearance of (supposedly) popular poets who, under pseudonyms, sing the praises of the new political direction; we recall “Cittadino Piceda” and “Baciccia Degradao”, and a Dialogue imagined by a certain Antonio Durazzo between two patricians, temporarily imprisoned in the Hall of the Minor Council, who cannot fathom that their rule has ended. On the other hand, there was the poet Antonio Pescetto, of Genoese origin but a resident of Savona: initially he sang of the city’s nobility. After the Revolution, he devoted himself to celebrating the Democratic Republic and patriotic festivities, only to then sing the praises of the Savoyard governor after the annexation by Piedmont.

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Stefano De Franchi
Ra Gerusalemme deliverà
Gaetano Gallino
Anonymous authors of 1746
Ambrogio Conti
Toralbo Armonico

19th century

The 19th Century was that of the annexation of Liguria by Piedmont, after the Congress of Vienna (1815), which was not very agreeable to the Ligurians. It was also the century of the Italian Risorgimento. It began with the work of Martino Piaggio, the famous author of the Lunario del Signor Regina, a moderate and prudish cantor of the bourgeoisie, who did not, however, lack a little social satire and a naive faith in progress. After Genoa lost political autonomy, its literature gradually descended into folklorism, comic poetry, a certain populism; only fleeting traces of its more substantial tradition remained. In 1835, unknown anti-monarchists revived and updated a theatrical parody from Metastasio, Achilles in Sciro, which had previously been performed at the turn of the previous century in protest against the oligarchy. Among the authors of lunar almanacs, Stefano Parodi, who was even more reactionary than Piaggio, should be remembered. Among the torchbearers of the Reginian almanac, but with liberal ideas, were Luigi Doria, Luigi Domenico Farina, Giambattista Vigo, Andrea Pollano, and Giovanni Casaccia, who authored a famous Genoese-Italian dictionary. Another noteworthy almanac author was the liberal priest Luigi Pedevilla, who for many years carried on the Lunäio do Sciô Tocca. Playwrights included Federico Alizeri and Luigi Persoglio. Works on celestial themes were published in Savona, too, with O Canocciale de Savoña and O microscopio e telescopio. Among its poets were Francesco Rocchino, Francesco Pizzorno, Andrea Rocca, Agostino Bruno, Filippo Noberasco (father and son), Francesco Marengo. Among the authors of the Risorgimento, we then recall Luigi Stallo in Genoa, who in 1853 wrote Vixon d’un emigrou italian (vision of an Italian emigrant), ardently patriotic and with a Mazzinian spirit; among the comic poets who found themselves in the columns of the magazine O Successo, on the other hand, we recall Pietro Galliano and Aurelio Capponi. In the second half of the century, a vast production of journalistic prose also proliferated, and periodicals such as O Balilla and O Stafî published investigations and reports. Furthermore, historical novels and pieces on current events were written by Edoardo Michele Chiozza and Giuseppe Poggi. However, the poet commonly considered the most representative of the second half of the 19th century is Nicolò Bacigalupo, with whom literature in the Genoese language turns decisively towards comedy and parody. It is relegated to a subordinate role to Italian literature, including in the theatrical sphere: Bacigalupo is in fact the author of the first and most famous of Govi’s comedies.

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Martino Piaggio
Achille in Sciro
Luigi Michele Pedevilla
Agostino Bruno
Genoese newspapers and journalists of the 19th century
Nicolò Bacigalupo

20th century

The 20th century saw an even more exaggerated production of poetry in Ligurian. The mixture of customs, people and mentalities due to the two World Wars, the unpredictable development of the means of communication and transport, the expansion of trade and the economy on a global scale – these factors caused local languages such as Ligurian to regress as never before. The recession of local languages provoked a resistance against the feeling of cultural erasure felt by many people. Philological studies of local languages, as well as surveys of prose and poetry, resulted as a reaction. Among the Novecento authors, but still linked in many respects to the 19th century, mention must be made of Carlo Malinverni, Federico Gazzo, Alessandro Monti; comic and sketch production continues with Aldo Acquarone, G. B. Rapallo (Baciccia); somewhere in between were the Savona anarchist printer Giuseppe Cava, the Genoese Ettore Chiappe, Augusto Tessada, Filippo Angelo Castello, Marino Merello, Nora Massa; towards a partial renewal – Italo Mario Angeloni, Francesco Puppo, Alfredo Gismondi, Carlo Domingo Adamoli, Alberto Boccaleone, Pietro Lombardo and G. B. Costa, Luigi Poggi. In 1930, the journalist Arturo Salucci published an anthology of sonnets in Genoese, where one can find traces of the production of often unknown, occasionally interesting authors. Authors linked, in one way or another, to Govian theater were Emerico Valentinetti, Ugo Palmerini, Sabatino Lopez, while others remained strangers to it, such as Emilio Del Maestro, Luigi Anselmi, Oliviero Olivari, Emilio Tixi, Norberto Sopranzi. A singular experiment is the lyrical work Scheuggio Campaña, with verses by Aldo Martinelli, Emanuele Canesi and Giovanni Monleone. The most significant poet of the first half of the 20th century remains Edoardo Firpo, although his primacy is sometimes questioned. In the meantime, production in the other Ligurian dialects has expanded somewhat, with the works of Filippo Rostan, from Ventimiglia, Marcel Firpo, from Menton, Gin De Stefani and Vincenzo Jacono, from San Remo, all presented in the pages of the neo-Felibrist magazine A Barma Grande. Among the La Spezia poets we must name Ubaldo Mazzini, among the Oltregiogo poets Ettore Zunino and Angelo Daglio, and among the Alassio poets, Ettore Morteo, in Ovada Colombo Gajone. In the post-World War II period, a revival of civic themes, attested in the booklets relating to the Lauro d’Oro competition, was accompanied by the movement of Firpo’s imitators, who were inclined to think that he was the only lyric poet in Genoese poetic history. Some even had interesting results, almost superior to those of the master himself, such as Sandro Patrone and Vito Elio Petrucci; along the same lines were Roberto Della Vedova, Antonio Canepa, Flora Mancini, Luigi Cornetto. Other lyric poets outside the Firpo line were Guido Nilsen, Silvio Opisso, Rita Cuneo, Rosita Del Buono from Savona, Mario Lertora and Piero Bozzo. In the 1970s, with the increased interest at a national level for literature in “dialect”, a flourishing of poets of various inspirations can also be observed in Liguria, such as Giuliano Balestreri, Sergio Sileri, Angelo De Ferrari, Ernesto Pisani, Emma Midolo, Jean Aicardi, Pia Bandini, Giovanni Ghione, Giorgio Grassi, Rodolfo Badarello, Mario Accornero, Armando Giorgi, Luciano Caprile; Among the most significant names that emerged between the 1960s and 1980s were Plinio Guidoni, who was also active as a playwright, and Roberto Giannoni, both of whom were involved in a profound transformation of literature in the Genoese language and became known nationally. As far as Riviera poetry is concerned, mention must be made of Cesare Vivaldi, from Imperia, who started out from post-World War II neo-realism to arrive at a modern lyricism; Giuseppe Cassinelli from Dolcedo, Pietro Baccino from Giusvalla, Renzo Villa, Andrea Capano and Dionisio Bono from Ventimiglia, Franco D’Imporzano from Sanremo, Eugenio Giovando, Eugenio Lubrano and Renzo Fregoso from La Spezia, Paolo Bertolani from Serra di Lerici, Livio Gianolla from Arcola, Bruno Rombi from Calasetta, Maria Pia Viale from Vallebona, Natalino Trincheri. Prose, too, has undergone a certain development, starting with the tales and anecdotes of Guido Pastor from Buggio, to the Sestresi tales and fables of Elsa Pastorino Alloisio, and the other anecdotes with an everyday theme collected by Maria Terrile Vietz. The theater has had its share of new authors as well, recognized by the Anna Caroli prize; among them are the aforementioned Plinio Guidoni, and others such as Enrico Scaravelli, Gianni Poli, Enrico Berio.

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Carlo Malinverni
Federico Gazzo
Giuseppe Cava
Aldo Acquarone
Marino Merello
Italo Mario Angeloni
Edoardo Firpo
Vito Elio Petrucci
Flora Mancini
Guido Nilsen
Rita Cuneo Narizzano Murialdi
Rosita Del Buono
Giuliano Balestreri
Sergio Sileri
Angelo De Ferrari
Plinio Guidoni
Fabrizio De André

21st century

One quarter of the new century has already gone by, and it has begun with the disappearance of some of the most significant names of the previous century, such as Petrucci, Patrone and Giannoni. Other authors, who had emerged shortly after, took the premises of their poetry to new depths, and they are Fiorenzo Toso, Alessandro Guasoni and Daniele D. Caviglia. In recent years, Bruna Pedemonte, Andreina Solari, Danila Olivieri, Anselmo Roveda, Enrica Arvigo, reggae singer and “street poet” Marco Carbone and Maria Pia Viale of Vallebona have also gained prominence. The spread of computer technology has also seen the emergence of attempts and experiments to foster knowledge of the Ligurian language on the Wweb, but the ever-increasing decline in the living practice of the language has led to doubts, discussions and disputes over issues of lexicon and spelling, which once would not have been imaginable, but which in any case testify to the survival of a certain public interest in these issues. A resurgence of interest is also evidenced by attempts to disseminate prose publicity, such as the Parlo Ciæo page of the newspaper Secolo XIX, directed by Andrea Acquarone, and his magazine O Stafî, which was inspired by the periodicals in Genoese of the second half of the nineteenth century.

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Fiorenzo Toso
Alessandro Guasoni
Bruna Pedemonte
Andreina Solari
Danila Olivieri
Enrico Granara

Essential bibliography

The first anthology of Ligurian poets is the same one that has given us the works of sixteenth-century authors: Rime diverse in lingua genovese (Bartoli, Pavia, 1583), reprinted several times up to the beginning of the following century.

Another, smaller anthology accompanies the 1745 edition of Cavalli’s A Cittara Zeneise (Franchelli, Genoa).

The next another anthology of Ligurian literature is C. Randaccio’s Dell’idioma e della letteratura genovese (Forzani, Rome, 1894).

Soon after comes F. Donaver, Antologia della poesia dialettale genovese (Libreria Editrice Moderna, Genoa, 1910).

In 1930, A. Salucci published Çento sunetti zeneixi (Libreria Editrice Moderna), an anthology reserved, as per its title, to sonnets; the same year we also have O Cicciollâ – Antologia dialettale savonese, edited by F. Noberasco and I. Scovazzi (Lodola, Savona).

Between 1950 and 1951 a series of articles by E. Firpo appeared in the newspaper L’Unità, later collected in a volume by the title La poesia dialettale genovese (S. Marco dei Giustiniani, Genoa, 1981).

In 1960 it was the turn of M. Boselli, La poesia ligure dalle origini a Edoardo Firpo (Di Stefano, Genoa).

In 1963 we have Priamâ – Antologia della poesia dialettale savonese, edited by R. Del Buono Boero, A. Barile and I. Scovazzi (A Campanassa, Savona).

Between 1986 and 1989 four volumes of the anthology Semmo gente de Liguria came out, edited by M. Delpino, (Edizioni Tigullio–Bacherontius, S. Margherita Ligure).

Later on, the extremely comprehensive Literatura genovese e ligure by F. Toso (Marietti, Genoa, 1989–1991) was published, in six volumes, and then reprinted, with changes, in 2000 and 2010, for the published “Le Mani” (Genoa–Recco). At the same time, the same author published a historical synthesis of literature in Liguria entitled Profilo storico della letteratura ligure in the bulletin of the association “A Compagna”.

In 1997, P. Guidoni published Saggi sulla letteratura genovese, edited by L. Coveri, F. Toso, R. Trovato (A Compagna, Genoa), a collection of essays and articles already published by the author on various occasions.

In 1999 we have Emigranti do rie, an anthology of poets in twentieth-century Ligurian, edited by F. Toso, for the publisher «In forma di parola» (Bologna), as the second issue of the 19th year of the magazine In forma di parola.

In 2019 Poets in Ligurian between the Twentieth Century and the Year Two Thousand was published, edited by A. Guasoni (Edizioni Cofine, Rome).