On 31 October 1820 the brilliant young English poet, John Keats, disembarked in Naples after an extremely hazardous journey by sea from England. It was his 25th birthday and he only had another four months to live.
Keats was on his way to Rome for the winter with his friend the painter Joseph Severn, in order to recover his health. He was pretty sure that he had consumption, then a popular term for pulmonary tuberculosis, and was not going to recover. Others were slightly more hopeful that a winter in Rome would do him good, certain anyway that another winter in England would kill him. So he had agreed to leave for Italy where he had never been before, saying goodbye to his young love, Fanny Brawne, who he would never see again.
The arrival in Naples was dramatic; after three weeks at sea the ship was immediately placed in quarantine because there had been an outbreak of typhus in London. After 10 days in very cramped conditions on board, the passengers were finally allowed ashore. Keats and Severn set out to explore a city neither of them knew.
A week later the young men hired a small carriage to take them to Rome. It must have been small because Severn often got out to walk alongside in order to give Keats more room. The journey took eight days across difficult terrain, with the two eating and lodging as cheaply as they could. On 15 November they were met in Rome by the 32-year-old Scottish doctor, James Clark, who had arranged rooms for them at Piazza di Spagna 26. He would care for Keats until he died on 23 February after almost uninterrupted suffering in the small room on the second floor.
Even today Keats and Severn would undoubtedly recognise the house where they stayed for those three months. While the rest of the city has changed almost beyond recognition the fa