Vittorio Amedeo Alfieri, count of Cortemilia, is considered the greatest tragic poet of the Italian eighteenth century. He had a rather adventurous life, a direct consequence of his tormented nature that made him, in some way, a precursor of romantic restlessness. When he was an orphan of a father less than a year old, he entered the Royal Academy of Turin at the age of nine, but, intolerant of the strict military discipline, he came out in 1766.
At the end of his studies he was appointed bishop of the royal army and assigned to the provincial regiment of Asti. From that moment, however, he traveled extensively throughout Europe, often precipitously, to give vent to an inner restlessness that hardly subsided. Maladjusted and riotous, he was deeply disgusted by the courtiers of Paris, Vienna and Petersburg, while, on the other hand, the solitudes of Scandinavian or Spanish landscapes attracted him. In the numerous journeys made at that time, on the wave of that sensitive and omnivorous sensibility, he visited important countries such as France, England, Germany, Holland and Portugal.
Although he has not yet focused precisely on the center of his interests, some of his more intense readings date back to that period, ranging in a disordered way from the French illuminists to Machiavelli up to Plutarch. Returning to Turin in 1773, he was followed by years of industrious isolation and a lucid rethinking of himself and the environment around him. Of this process of intellectual and moral growth are documented the "Giornali", written for a first part in French (years 1774-75) and resumed some time later in Italian (1777).
Meanwhile, in solitude, hundreds of pages of high literature flowed from his pen. Thus his dramaturgical talent was finally emerging. In 1775 he succeeded in making his first tragedy, "Cleopatra", represent a success and that opened the doors of the Italian theaters, confirming him in his vocation. Just think that in the following years he came to write something like twenty tragedies, among which, to name a few, "Filippo", "Polinice", "Antigone", "Virginia", "Agamemnon", "Oreste", "The conspiracy of Pazzi "," Don Garzia "," Maria Stuarda "," Rosmunda "," Alceste secondo ", as well as the" Abel ", which he defined as" tramelogedia ", that is" mixed tragedy of melody and admirable ".
Between 1775 and 1790, fleeing every worldly distraction, he gave himself to a tenacious work: he translated numerous Latin texts, he read fiercely the Italian classics from Dante to Tasso, he engaged in the study of grammar, aiming to master the Tuscan ways. In 1778, unable to be bound to a monarch by ties of subjection, he left his sister all his property and, reserved for himself a pension, he left Piedmont and went to live in Tuscany, Siena and Florence; he was also in Rome (1781-83), and later he followed in Alsace and in Paris Luisa Stolberg, Countess of Albany, whom he met in 1777, who, separated from her husband Charles Edward Stuart (pretender to the throne of England), became the companion of her life and the dedicator of most of the "Rhymes".
A relationship is born that Alfieri will keep until his death and that puts an end to his love restlessness. The following year he gave his sister all his goods, keeping for himself only an annual income and after several stays he moved to Florence and then to Siena, to learn the use of the Tuscan who, for him Piedmontese and therefore familiar to use of his dialect and of French, had been a dead language learned on books.
He retraced his formative journey in an autobiography entitled Vita, which he began to write around 1790 (autobiography was a genre of fashion in the seventeenth century, the examples of Goldoni's "Memoires" or Casanova's "Memories" are worthwhile), even if this work should not be considered as a "rewriting" a posteriori of one's existential experience, where then reality is sometimes forced to conform itself to Alfieri's thought, now a mature poet.
Back in Florence, he dedicated the last years of his life to the composition of "Satire", six comedies, the second part of "Life" and translations from Latin and Greek. In 1803, at the age of 54, he died in Florence on 8 October, assisted by Luisa Stolberg. The body is located in the church of Santa Croce in Florence.