Torquato Tasso was a famous Italian poet from the 16th-century. His most-regarded piece was Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) and his legacy inspired artists such as Goethe, Leopardi, and Byron.
In his final years, in which he suffered from a severe mental illness and poor health, Tasso’s ambition to be publicly recognized for his artistic talent by Pope Clement VIII was thwarted by his sudden death in the convent of Sant’Onofrio in April 1595. The same convent that now houses his tomb.
During his stay in Rome awaiting the pope’s promised rewards and recognition according to local lore, Tasso would often sit under a mighty oak tree and look upon the city of Rome, a view that can still be admired from the convent.
Over time, the oak came to be revered for its association with Tasso. Despite being later struck by lightning in 1843, the tree was still visited by many people, such as Leopardi and Saint San Filippo Neri.
Today, the charred remains of the oak tree, which suffered another more recent fire, are rather awkwardly cast in a small brick monument that identifies the tree as Tasso’s special spot.
Over the last few years, there have been proposals to replace the tree with another oak from the botanical gardens, but nothing has been made official.