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Celebrated Italian architect Italo Calvino considered Savannah America’s most beautiful city

August 6, 2015

I have recently learned about the Italian writer Italo Calvino’s travels in the United States in 1959-60 in which he kept a journal, translated and published in the book Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings.  Calvino (1923-1985) is most famous for his book Invisible Cities (1972).  In his journal entry of March 8, 1960, he had this to say about Savannah:

“Consequently, my impressions of the South would be very dark if I had not discovered

Savannah

I stopped at Savannah, Georgia, to sleep and have a look at it, attracted only by its beautiful name and by some historical, literary or musical memory, but no one said I should go there, no one in any State of the United States.  AND IT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CITY IN THE UNITED STATES.  Absolutely, there is nothing to compare with it.  I don’t know yet what Charleston, South Carolina, is like, where I will be going tomorrow and which is more famous.  This is a town where nobody ever comes (despite having a top-class tourist infrastructure and knowing how to present its attractions — relating to both history and town planning — with a sophistication unknown elsewhere; but this is perhaps the secret of its charm, that internal American tourism, which is always so phoney, has not touched it).  It is a town which has remained practically unchanged, just as it was in the prosperous days of the South at the start of the nineteenth century, in the heyday of cotton; and it is one of the only American cities to have been built with unique urban planning, of extreme rational regularity and variety and harmony: at every second intersection there is a small tree-lined square, all identical, but always different, because the pleasantness of the buildings which range from the colonial period to that of the Civil War.  I stayed there spending the whole day going round from street to street, enjoying the forgotten pleasure of feeling a city, a city in which the expression of a civilization, and it is only in this way by seeing Savannah that you can understand what type of civilization the South was. …”

Calvino is one of numerous visitors during the city’s history that have written glowingly about Savannah and admired its urban plan.  To read what others’ have said, visit our collection of praise for Savannah (or click the link above).

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