FIORENTINO, SALOMONE (1743–1815), Italian poet. Fiorentino was born at Monte San Savino, a village in Tuscany where the Jewish presence went back at least to 1421. Son of amerchant, he studied traditional Jewish subjects in Siena, attending at the same time – as an external student – a Catholic school, where he distinguished himself. He had a shop selling cloth in Cortona and read Italian poetry and works of philosophy intensively. Starting to compose verse, he kept up a correspondence with outstanding Italian poets like Metastasio, Cesarotti, Monti, and Alfieri. The premature death of his beloved wife in 1789 was a turning point both in his private life and in his literary career; the three elegies he composed on this occasion won him a certain celebrity, so that Fiorentino was admitted to the important Accademia Fiorentina and named by the Grand Duke of Tuscany "poet laureate." In 1799, during the French occupation, the violence of the populace against the Jews (seen as Allies of the "heretic" French) forced Fiorentino, like many of his coreligionists, to leave his small villages and live in Siena, then in Florence; as a consequence of the riots, he lost all his property in Cortona and Monte San Savino. From 1800 to 1815, with the return of the French army, he could devote himself to literary activity and wrote moral poems, epithalamiums, poems in praise of the Habsburg emperors, as well as an Italian translation of the Sephardi prayer book of Livorno (Leghorn). His collected poems were printed several times. From 1801 to 1808, Fiorentino lived in Livorno, earning his living as a teacher of Italian in the local Jewish community; from 1808 to 1815, stricken by paralysis, he lived again in Florence, where he died. His poetry, though belonging to the Italian literary tradition, shows many Jewish elements: biblical references, a deep religiosity drawn from Jewish sources, even the centrality of family affection that had no poetical importance at the time. Fiorentino probably influenced the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, who inserted two of his elegies in his important anthology Crestomazia italiana.
O. De Montel, Sulla vita e sulle opere di Salomone Fiorentino (1852); A.S. Toaff, in rmi, 15 (1949), 195–215; R.G. Salvadori, in: Gli ebrei a Monte San Savino (1994), 93–101; G. Milan, in: Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 48 (1997), 160–62.
[Alessandro Guetta (2nd ed.)]