Giuseppe Giusti was born on May 12, 1809, in Monsummano, near Pescia in the Val di Nievole, of a well-to-do family. Giusti began his studies with a local priest, whose coarse and aggressive manners had a considerable influence on the boy’s aversion for school. Reacting against his father’s ambitious plans for him, the young Giusti continued to be a reluctant pupil in his brief residencies in boarding schools in Florence and in Lucca, and in a Pistoia seminary. When his father sent him to study law at the University of Pisa in 1826, the greatest attraction for the recalcitrant scholar was the Café of the Hussar along the Lungarno, where students gathered in informal merrymaking. It was in that carefree atmosphere that the poet began to be formed, as among his peers Giusti observed the various types and characters he was to make universal in his verse. The satirist in him did not fail to note with humor the hypocrisy that infiltrated even that joyful circle of student gatherings; it was from those early experiences, for example, that he later drew one of his most famous poems, “Gingillino” (1844-1845; “The Trifler”).
Because of difficulties with his family, as well as a brief incident with the police, Giusti did not obtain his law degree until 1834, when he was twenty-five years old. His legal career, nevertheless, proved to be quite perfunctory; indeed, he gave it up before he had even started, lacking interest in the profession altogether. In 1836, he met Gino Capponi, who became his best friend and whose serenity was a positive influence on Giusti. Nevertheless,...
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