Journalist and writer Antonio Gallenga [pseudonym: Luigi Mariotti] was born on 4 November 1810 in the Duchy of Parma, the son of a Piedmontese soldier in the Napoleonic army. While reading classics at the University of Parma, Gallenga came into contact with the radical groups who were plotting for national independence in the wake of the French Revolution of 1830. In January 1831 he headed a political student protest which forced him to flee the city.
After an adventurous escape, related in his fictional autobiography Castellamonte (1855), he led a precarious life under the name of Luigi Mariotti, earning his living as a private tutor in southern Europe and northern Africa. In the autumn of 1836 he left for America where he taught Italian at Harvard Young Ladies’ Academy. Three years later he returned to Europe and landed in Portsmouth in June 1839.
He was well received by fellow exiles. Lodging in Cheyne Walk, Enfield, he worked as a freelance writer and teacher (of among others Charles Dickens). In 1846 his Italy, Past and Present established him as a scholar. The following year he was appointed to the Chair of Italian at University College London, which he held until 1858. His History of Piedmont (1855) introduced English readers to the largely unknown history of the kingdom. When the second Italian war of liberation broke out in 1859, Gallenga was appointed by The Times as war correspondent.
Later he specialised in travel writing, notably on South America and Russia. He died in December 1895. Gallenga’s reputation rests on his writings on the Italian question. His bitter account of Italy Revisited contains gripping pages on the carnage of the Battle of Solferino in 1859 and on the social conflict in the South after reunification. His account was at odds with the heroic myth of national unity.