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The Passato Remoto in Basilicata

The following passage was inscribed on a stone plaque in the city of Valsinni, in the Basilicata region. The plaque introduces a video about Basilicata, and merits a few words.


Questo castello che vide nascere,

This castle, which saw the birth,

vivere e morire la poetessa Isabella Morra,

life, and death of the poet Isabella Morra,

dal De Gubernatis tolta dall'oblio,

by De Gubernatis lifted from oblivion,

fu visitato nel 1928 da Benedetto Croce che ne illustrò la storia.

was visited in 1928 by Benedetto Croce who illustrated its history.

Captions 1-4, Basilicata Turistica - Non me ne voglio andare

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Grammatically speaking, and despite its archaic language, the plaque is a good example of when to use the passato remoto (remote past tense), and indeed describes events that took place well in the past.


We have the verb vedere (to see), whose third person passato remoto is vide.


Next, we have an example of the passive voice made up of the verb essere (to be) in the third person singular remote past: fu, plus visitato (past participle of the verb visitare [to visit]). It's visitato, not visitata or visitati, because we are talking about un castello (a castle), a masculine noun. It was visited by Benedetto Croce who has given his name to streets in many Italian cities.

The last verb in the inscription is illustrò, passato remoto of illustrare (to illustrate, to depict). Croce was a philosopher and historian, and sometimes a politician, but he was not an artist, so we can infer that he described with words, rather than with design, the history of the city he visited in 1928.


On the other hand it must have been Angelo de Gubernatis who saved, or took away (tolto) Isabella Morra from oblivion, since he was responsible for publishing some reference works about Italian literature and poetry, and evidently included her name among poets.

The verb togliere is used here in its past participle tolto. Once again, this is an example of the passive voice, but the verb essere (to be) is omitted, and this time the past participle has a feminine ending, tolta, because it refers to Isabella. For more on participles and their agreement in gender and number with the subject of a passive sentence, see this article.


Tragic stories aside, this three-part video about the Basilicata region of Italy has sparked the interest of many who would love to be able to visit this beautiful region. See more Yabla videos about Basilicata here.  



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