Goethe is one of a long line of pilgrims from the cold Germanic North to balmy Italy – ancient Goths and Cimbers followed centuries later by Albrecht Dürer, Heinrich Heine, and the brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann. “Italiensehnsucht” (the longing for Italy) is memorably expressed in Mignon’s song to Wilhelm Meister:
Knowest thou the land where lemon blossoms grow,
And oranges like gold in rich, dark foliage glow,
A gentle breeze across the landscape sighs,
The myrtle bows, and high the laurels rise?
Knowest thou it then?
‘Tis there! ‘Tis there,
With thee, my beloved, I long to go!
(after Carlyle’s translation)
“He had carried a journey to Italy around in …