Doctor Antonio, The Ligurian Riviera on the other side of the channel

“On a fine sunny afternoon of early April, in the year 1840, an elegant travelling carriage pulled by four post-horses was rattling at full speed along the Cornice road, famous among elegant globetrotters, which runs along all the western Riviera from Genoa to Nice.”

Glimpses and cuttings of Liguria from the incipit of “Doctor Antonio”, the novel by Giovanni Ruffini which discloses  the unique beauty of the Riviera to the British.

The author, from Taggia in Liguria, a patriot following Mazzini, exiled in England, set his story in his beloved country.

“It is a fact –  Edmondo De Amicis , a loving guest of Bordighera – will say in 1903, that among the first English people who came here to spend the winter there was no-one who had not read “Doctor Antonio”.

In fact, if the province of Imperia and its uncontaminated and striking landscape began to be be known on the other side of the Channel after the second half of 19th century, it is certainly thanks to Ruffini and his novel. The story is based on the encounter between the two protagonists: Lucy, a delicate English patient and Doctor Antonio, exiled from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and family doctor in the city of palms. A meeting that will then symbolise  the union between England and Western Liguria.

The two of them fall deeply in love, a love so sincere, deep and strong, but  undeclared which ends tragically. In the background the struggles of the Risorgimento for the Unification of Italy. The work, written in English for the English and published in 1855,  immediately became a best-seller.

The descriptions of the marvellous landscape capture the imagination of the reader and represent an act of love by Ruffini for his country of origin.

The book has left a fundamental mark on the tourism of the Riviera, ensuring the birth of a real British colony.

Donatella Lauria

Available also in: Français (French) Deutsch (German) Русский (Russian) Italiano (Italian)