Giosuè Carducci was born on 27 July 1835 in Valdicastello, province of Lucca to Michele Carducci, a doctor and revolutionary, and Ildegonda Celli from Volterra.
On 25 October 1838 the Carducci family, due to a competition won by his father to become the local doctor, moved to Bolgheri, a remote village in Tuscany that, thanks to the poet, would become famous all over the world.
Their stay in Maremma is witnessed and recalled with nostalgic affection in the sonnet “Traversando la Maremma toscana” (1885) and in many of his other poems.
The famous Nonna Lucia, also part of the family, was a crucial figure in the education and training of little Giosue’ so that the poet remembers her with great affection in the poem “Davanti San Guido”. A few years later, however (precisely in 1842) she died throwing Giosue’ into despair.
Meanwhile, the revolutionary movements took hold of Italy: Michele Carducci, always passionate and “stubborn”, became involved in these political upheavals. The situation escalated once shots were fired at the family house when there was a confrontation between Michele and a more conservative part of population of Bolgheri; because of this, the Carducci family had to move to nearby Castagneto (today known as Castagneto Carducci), where they remained for almost a year.
On April 28, 1849 the Carduccis arrived in Florence. Giosuè attended the Piarist Institute and met his future wife Elvira Menicucci, daughter of Francesco Menicucci, military tailor. On 11 November 1853 the future poet entered the Scuola Normale di Pisa. The requirements for admission did not perfectly match, but a declaration by Father Geremia, his master, was decisive. He said about Carducci: “… he is endowed with beautiful ingenuity and a very rich imagination; he is educated and possesses excellent knowledge; he has distinguished himself among the best. Good by nature he has always led himself as a young civilly educated Christian.” Giosuè took the exams brilliantly carrying out the theme “Dante and his century” and won the competition. In the same year together with other three fellow students, he formed the group of “pedantic friends”, engaged in the defense of classicism against the Manzonians. After graduating with honors, he taught rhetoric at San Miniato al Tedesco High School.
It is 1857, the year in which he composed the “Rime di San Miniato” whose success was almost nil, except for a quote in a contemporary magazine by Guerrazzi. On the evening of Wednesday, November 4, brother Dante was killed by ripping his chest with a very sharp scalpel from his father; there were a thousand conjectures. It was said because he was tired of his father’s scoldings, who had become intolerant and hard even with his children. The following year, however, the poet’s father died.
After a year of mourning, the poet eventually married Elvira. Later, after the birth of their daughters Beatrice and Laura, he moved to Bologna, a highly cultured and stimulating environment, where he taught Italian eloquence at the University. Thus, began a very long teaching period (which lasted until 1904), characterized by a lively and passionate philological and critical activity. His son Dante was also born but died at a very young age. Carducci was severely affected by his death; he became grim, staring into the void, he carried his pain everywhere, at home, at the university, on a walk. In June 1871, thinking about his lost son, he composed “Pianto Antico”.
In the 1860s, the discontent provoked by the weakness the post-unification government (the Roman question, the arrest of Garibaldi) resulted in a pro-republican and even Jacobin attitude: in this period his poetry is characterized by rich social and political themes.
In the following years, with the change of the Italian historical reality, Carducci went from a violently polemical and revolutionary attitude to a much more peaceful relationship with the state and the monarchy, which ended up appearing to him the best guarantor of the secular spirit of the Risorgimento and a non-subversive social progress (against socialist thought).