In 1690 the Academy of Arcadia was instituted with the goal of "restoring" literature by imitating the simplicity of the ancient shepherds with sonnets, madrigals, canzonette and blank verse. In the 17th century, some strong and independent thinkers, such as Bernardino Telesio, Lucilio Vanini, Bruno and Campanella turned philosophical inquiry into fresh channels, and opened the way for the scientific conquests of Galileo Galilei, who is notable both for his scientific discoveries and his writing. In the 18th century, the political condition of Italy began to improve, and philosophers throughout Europe in the period known as The Enlightenment. Apostolo Zeno and Metastasio are two of the notable figures of the age. Carlo Goldoni, a Venetian, created the comedy of character. The leading figure of the literary revival of the 18th century was Giuseppe Parini.
The ideas behind the French Revolution of 1789 gave a special direction to Italian literature in the second half of the 18th century. Love of liberty and desire for equality created a literature aimed at national object. Patriotism and classicism were the two principles that inspired the literature that began with Vittorio Alfieri. Other patriots included Vincenzo Monti and Ugo Foscolo. The romantic school had as its organ the Conciliatore established in 1818 at Milan. The main instigator of the reform was Manzoni. The great poet of the age was Giacomo Leopardi. History returned to its spirit of learned research. The literary movement that preceded and was contemporary with the political revolution of 1848 may be said to be represented by four writers - Giuseppe Giusti, Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, Vincenzo Gioberti and Cesare Balbo. After the Risorgimento, political literature becomes less important. The first part of this period is characterized by two divergent trends of literature that both opposed Romanticism, the Scapigliatura and Verismo. Important early 20th century writers include Italo Svevo and Luigi Pirandello (winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature). Neorealism was developed by Alberto Moravia. Umberto Eco became internationally successful with the Medieval detective story Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose, 1980).
As the Western Roman Empire declined, the Latin tradition was kept alive by writers such as Cassiodorus, Boethius, and Symmachus. The liberal arts flourished at Ravenna under Theodoric, and the Gothic kings surrounded themselves with masters of rhetoric and of grammar. Some lay schools remained in Italy, and noted scholars included Magnus Felix Ennodius, Arator, Venantius Fortunatus, Felix the Grammarian, Peter of Pisa, Paulinus of Aquileia, and many others.
Italians who were interested in theology gravitated towards Paris. Those who remained were typically attracted by the study of Roman law. This furthered the later establishment of the medieval universities of Bologna, Padua, Vicenza, Naples, Salerno, Modena and Parma. These helped to spread culture, and prepared the ground in which the new vernacular literature developed. Classical traditions did not disappear, and affection for the memory of Rome, a preoccupation with politics, and a preference for practice over theory combined to influence the development of Italian literature.
The earliest vernacular literary tradition in Italy was in Occitan, a language spoken in parts of northwest Italy. A tradition of vernacular lyric poetry arose in Poitou in the early 12th century and spread south and east, eventually reaching Italy by the end of the 12th century. The first troubadours (trovatori in Italian), as these Occitan lyric poets were called, to practise in Italy were from elsewhere, but the high aristocracy of Lombardy was ready to patronise them. It was not long before native Italians adopted Occitan as a vehicle for poetic expression, though the term Occitan did not really appear until the year 1300, "langue d'oc" or "provenzale" being the preferred expressions.