Dantedì: March 25 Kickoff to Dante Celebrations


A portrait of Dante by Andrea del Castagno at the Uffizi Gallery has been recently restored and will be on loan to a Dante commemoration exhibition in Forli, the to the artist’s birthplace, Castagno d’Andrea, in Tuscany

This year Italians commemorate the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, known in Italy as Il Sommo Poeta, the Supreme Poet.  Numerous events, exhibitions and activities, organized in the cities of Florence, Ravenna, Rome and Verona, are open to the public to learn more about Dante.


The Council of Ministers has established Thursday, March 25 officially as “Dantedi’,” or Dante Day, kicking off on Dantedi’ with events planned to celebrate the poet’s life.  According to scholars, March 25 is the day Dante began his literary journey into the afterlife with writing the Divine Comedy.

To initiate Dantedi’ actor Roberto Benigni recited the Divine Comedy in Rome’s Quirinale in the presence of Prime Minister Mario Draghi and President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella.  The Oscar winning actor, well known for his recitations of Dante in piazzas around the country, also toured the world with his play “Tutto Dante” (Everything Dante), a satirical and comedic take on the writings of Dante.  The oration was broadcast live March 25 on RAI 1 at 7:15 pm.

The city is offering a series of free guided tours, both physical and virtual, beginning March 25.  The itinerary, organized to evoke Florence as it was in the end of the 13th century, visits many of the small plaques placed around the city on which are inscribed quotes from the Divine Comedy.  Beginning in the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio, which was being built in 1300, the spot contains three plaques.  Participants next will visit the Apartments of the Priori, lodging where  members of the body governing the city were required to reside during their two-month tenure.  Dante himself served in the Priori from June 15 – August 15, 1300.  Continuing through the narrow alleyways in the neighborhood where he lived, the tour then visits the Baptistery of San Giovanni, where he was baptized in 1265.

The guided tours last one hour and 15 minutes and begin Thursday, March 25 at 3 and 4:30 pm and continue every Sunday all year at 10 and 11:30 am with 10 am tours reserved for Unicoop members.  Reservations are required to participate at info@muse.comune.fi.it  Booking begins the week preceding the chosen day.  Please include full name, phone number, chosen day and wait for confirmation by email.

In addition, for this year of Dante commemoration plans have been announced of an investment of 20 million euro to create a new cultural, artistic center in the Santa Maria Novella complex.  In addition to hosting a brand-new Italian Language Museum, the project will include housing, artists’ studios, cafes and exhibition spaces in the former Dominican monastery.

Florence, the birthplace of the poet, plans other special events in his honor.   A 22m (72 foot) sculpture created by Giuseppe Penone will be installed in his honor on March 25 in Piazza Signoria, where it will remain until September 12. the Uffizi is currently hosting a virtual show of drawings of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Italian Mannerist artist, Federico Zuccari.

The poet, writer and philosopher, born in Florence and baptized in the Baptistery adjacent to the Duomo, spent most of his adult life in exile after getting embroiled in political struggles between the White Guelphs and the Black Guelphs who battled over control of the Republic of Florence.   Yet he considered Florence his home city and spoke of it in the Divine Comedy.

“I was born and raised over the beautiful Arno River at the Grand Villa.”

Inferno, XXIII, 94-95.

After his sentence in 1302, with a death penalty for reentering Florence, Dante wandered around the region, from Lucca, to the Casentino to Sarzana in Liguria, seeking refuge for himself and his family and finally dying of malaria in Ravenna.


Since museums are currently closed until Florence and Tuscany are granted “yellow zone” status, indicating limited Covid-19 contagions, much of the program will take place later in the Dante year. Due to the pandemic and the uncertainty around it, these events are anticipated, but some may be postponed or replaced with virtual events.  For current information, visit the website www.700dantefirenze.it.

The Municipality of Florence presents “Bronzino and the Supreme Poet:  An Allegorical Portrait of Dante in Palazzo Vecchio.”  The exhibition focuses on Agnolo Bronzino’s portrait of Dante.  Executed in 1532, the iconic portrayal of the poet depicts him wearing a crimson robe and the laurel wreath which traditionally symbolize a poet.  Dante, depicted looking away towards the Garden of Eden with a somber expression, stretches out his right hand appearing to be protecting the symbol of Florence, the Duomo.  He is holding the Divine Comedy open to Canto 25, Paradise.

Bronzino, himself a poet as well as an artist, created this portrait as an homage to Dante.  He somehow sensed, more than 200 years later, Dante’s pain with his exile from Florence.  Now the portrait, set in a place of honor in the Salone dei Cinquecento, fulfills Dante’s dream of returning to his home.  This dream he conveys in Canto 25, regarded as the Canto of Hope, as the poet voiced his wish to return again to the baptismal font in his beloved Florence.

“If it should happen… if this sacred poem—
this work so shared by heaven and by earth
that it has made me lean through these long years—
can ever overcome the cruelty
that bars me from the fair fold where I slept…
by then with other voice, with other fleece,
I shall return as poet and put on,
at my baptismal font, the laurel crown;
for there I first found entry to that faith
which makes souls welcome unto God.
(Paradiso, Canto XXV)

The show runs through May 21, 2021 in the Palazzo Vecchio Museum.  Hours Monday to Friday at the following times:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9 am to 7 pm, Thursday from 9 am to 2 pm.  Tickets can be ordered on the website:  http://bigliettimusei.comune.fi.it

The complex of Santa Maria Novella hosts an extraordinary exhibit of photographs by photo-reporter Massimo Sestini.  Set up in the former dining hall of the church, the 23 shots exploring Dante’s legacy in Italy include the source of the Arno on Mount Falterona and a bird’s eye view of Florence from high above.  Sestini donned mask and fins and used an underwater camera to photograph Dante’s Boat in a Venice canal and attached a lightweight camera to a telescopic pole to give observers a view of the grand statue of Dante in front of Santa Croce.  Another shot in the Baptistery of San Giovanni gives an up-close view of the horned devil in gold mosaic.  The exhibit continues through March 31 and tickets include access to the entire Santa Maria Novella complex.

A display at the Bargello, “Honorable and Ancient Citizen of Florence:  The Bargello for Dante,” features manuscripts and art and is dedicated to the reconstruction of the relationship between Dante and Florence from the years following his death in 1321 until the mid-14th century.  Formerly a prison, the museum now houses some of the greatest sculptures from the Renaissance.  Inside the Chapel of the Podesta, hangs Giotto’s portrait of Dante, thought to be the oldest portrait of him, wearing a red robe and holding the Divine Comedy in his hand.  The artist, a contemporary of Dante’s, portrays the poet in the ranks of the Blessed and therefore in Paradise.  The chapel was where prisoners condemned to death spent their last night in prayer and coincidentally where Dante’s exile was proclaimed in 1302.  (The Bargello exhibit is now postponed, and is slated open April 21 and run through July 31.  See website for current information, hours and entrance fees: www.bargellomusei.beniculturali.it).

In front of the church of Santa Croce, the steps hold a large statue of Dante sculpted by Enrico Pazzi in 1865.  The statue, given to Florence by the Ravenna based sculptor to mark the 600th anniversary of Dante’s birth, could perhaps be considered a consolation prize.  A tomb was erected in the Basilica of Santa Croce in 1829 for the father of the Italian language and, even though the city of Florence made numerous requests for his remains, Ravenna refused.  The tomb remains empty.

In June of 2008, almost seven centuries after his death, the Florentine city council passed a motion rescinding his sentence.  (rita kungel)