Poets and Brits celebrate Lord Byron at Villa Wolkonsky

Sir Ivor Roberts, former British ambassador to Italy, spoke at Villa Wolkonsky

 ROME — British Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and spoken word poet Scarlett Sabet headlined a bash at Villa Wolkonsky, residence of the British Ambassador to Italy, celebrating 200 years since Lord Byron's death. 

 British deputy ambassador to Italy Eleanor Sanders welcomed British and Italian guests to an evening which, she said, “reminds of us how strong the ties between our countries are.” 


 Sir Ivor Roberts, the British Ambassador to Rome from 2003 to 2006 and current president of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, spoke about Byron’s love for Italy — "With all its sinful doings, I just say, that Italy's a pleasant place to me," the poet wrote — and its impact on the later Romantics. 

 Sir Ivor loaned a bust of Byron by Italian sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini to the Embassy for the evening. 

  Also on display was a first edition of Byron’s 1818 Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, on loan from the Travellers Club in London to Rome, which Byron called in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage the “city of my soul.”


 The Italian actor Fabrizio Matteini performed a selection of Byron’s work dedicated to his love for the “fatal beauty” of Italian cities. 

 Armitage and Sabet read works by Byron and composed in honour of his connection to Italy.


  Sabet has published four anthologies and, most recently, a spoken word album produced by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, her partner— who, at the Villa Wolkonsky party, said that though he studied Byron in primary school, he did not appreciate his poetry until adulthood. 

 Sabet is currently the poet in residence at Piazza di Spagna’s Keats-Shelley House, which organized the celebration in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in London as part of its year long commemoration of Byron's bicentenary. 


 The full schedule of the Keats-Shelley House’s programming can be found on its website. Events include a regular series of talks around Rome and in London by critics, curators, and academics, and a Byronic-themed concert by pianist Julius Drake and tenor Ian Bostridge at Palazzo Doria Pamphilij on June 25. 


 An exhibition at the Keats-Shelley House called ‘Byron’s Italy: an Anglo-American Romance,’ which features two new acquisitions dedicated to Byron's relationship to Italy and line drawings by architect Roberto Einaudi, is open through 22 December, 2024.