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The Citrus Charm of Sicily: Goethe in Palermo

In 1787, the celebrated German poet and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe embarked on a journey to Italy, to discover the beauty and culture of the Bel Paese. Among the stops on his journey, one of the most memorable was undoubtedly Palermo, the capital of Sicily.

Goethe was enchanted by the Sicilian city, calling it “an earthly paradise.” The writer admired its Baroque architecture, its lively markets, and its unique atmosphere, rich in history and culture. But what struck him most was the beauty of Sicilian nature, particularly the lush vegetation and the abundance of citrus fruits.

Nature in Palermo:

One aspect that particularly struck Goethe was the centrality of nature in the life of Palermo. In fact, he himself writes, “Words are not enough to describe how it welcomed us: with fresh greenery of mulberry trees, evergreens, lemon trees,” the city was in fact rich in gardens and orchards, which offered a refuge from the summer heat and a place for meeting and socializing.

Goethe loved to walk in the public gardens, such as the English Garden and Villa Giulia, where he could admire the beauty of exotic flowers and plants.

Goethe’s Legacy:

Goethe’s journey to Sicily has left an important legacy. His descriptions of the island’s beauty and culture helped to introduce Sicily to the rest of Europe, inspiring many other travelers and artists. In fact, the writer himself invites everyone – in a bittersweet way – to discover the place he called the “key to everything”, that is, a place of splendor, beauty, and harmony, but at the same time a place of poverty, suffering, misery, and social injustice.

Today, the gardens of Palermo, with their flowering trees and evocative atmosphere, are still a testament to the fascination that Sicily exerted on Goethe and so many other visitors.


Historical Roots and Agricultural Traditions