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Florence and Dante: 700 years of memories

Florence and Dante: 700 years of memories

In preparation for the big day of Dantedì

Last year, the Italian Government designated 25 March as the National Dante Day (Dantedì) in honour of perhaps the most famous medieval poet in the world. This was occasioned due to the upcoming 700th anniversary of his demise and this year, his birth-town of Florence has prepared a slew of activities in memory of its famous son and his literary and cultural impact. In fact, this whole year is dedicated to celebrating Dante, with the cities of Verona and Ravenna also joining in, to remind us about their connections to the poet’s life.

Why 25 March though?

We are marking the anniversary of Dante’s death, yet he died on 14 September 1321. So, what is the significance of 25 March? The answer apparently lies in his famous work The Divine Comedy, as literary scholars believe that this was the day when he, as a protagonist, descended to the afterworld and began his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.

In a day full of so much symbolism then it will not be so strange to launch the cultural festivities with another highly symbolic act – the restoration of his cenotaph in the Santa Croce Basilica. This monument, the work of Stefano Ricci, was inaugurated in 1830 but has suffered damage in flooding during the 1960s.

What is interesting is that the cenotaph does not actually contain Dante’s remains, (those are still kept by Ravenna, which was a source of conflict between the two cities) but is more of a metaphor for Florence making peace with its exiled son after so many centuries. As is now clear, the anniversary of his death can also serve as a cause for the cities to join hands in commemoration.

In the afternoon, the tourism authorities of the Tuscany Region will present the In Toscana con Dante app, which seeks to integrate tourism activities with cultural legacy, thus offering visitors a chance to create their own route based on the poet’s life and works.

Furthermore, in the evening, the celebration will have a global reach with the inclusion of a virtual event called Call to Action, organized in collaboration with the Dante Society of America and New York University. People from all over the world will get the chance to recite their favourite parts of The Divine Comedy and it will be broadcast from Piazza Santa Croce in Florence and from Dante Park in New York City.

As for the rest of the year and the 60 or so events that are on offer, Dante enthusiasts can consult the calendar on www.700dantefirenze.it.

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