Bernini Palace: In the footsteps of Dante Alighieri
Fri, 05/21/2021 - 10:00
The Bernini Palace façade
Think of the city of Florence and you immediately think of Dante. Especially if you’re staying at the Bernini Palace, in the heart of the city. Beside the entrance to the hotel, there’s even a marble plaque with two lines from Canto XVI of Paradiso, the third book of the Divine Comedy. “Nel piccol cerchio s’entrava per porta che si nomava da que’ della Pera”: “One entered the small circuit by a gate/Which from the Della Pera took its name!” In the 15th century, in fact, the building belonged to the ancient Della Pera family, ancestors of the powerful bankers, the Peruzzis. The plaque is our cue for a journey to the heart of Dante’s bond with the city of his birth.
The new-look Bernini, the starting point for a Dante tour of Florence
After undergoing a series of improvements, the Bernini Palace reopened its doors to guests on May 5 last. Located in the very heart of the city, behind Piazza della Signoria and a stone’s throw from the Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza Santa Croce and Piazza San Giovanni, it’s the ideal starting point for exploring Dante’s Florence. It’s only a short three-minute walk to Piazza Santa Margherita and Dante’s childhood home, now a three-storey museum that tells the story of the poet’s life and presents the Florence of his time from a political, economic and social point of view. Heading towards Via del Corso, in a side street you’ll find the Alighieri family church, where Dante married Gemma Donati. According to legend, the remains of Beatrice, the poet’s muse, are said to rest here, though some scholars claim they are in Santa Croce. It’s traditional for visitors to write letters to Beatrice and leave them in a small basket in the church. Now on to Palazzo Vecchio to see Dante’s death mask. Though it’s actually a historical fake, this cast of his face has nonetheless shaped the way we imagine how he looked. At this point, since you’re near the Uffizi Galleries, be sure to visit the recently inaugurated new rooms featuring 105 15th- and 16th-century masterpieces: they aren’t part of our Dante tour but we’re sure the poet would pardon this small transgression of ours. On the right side of the Duomo, you come to the “Sasso di Dante”, the stone on which, according to a popular urban legend, Dante used to sit deep in thought. The likeness of the statue of Dante outside the Church of Santa Croce is severe, angry almost. The statue, which dates from the 19th century, reflects the poet’s state of mind in 1302 when he was exiled to Ravenna, where he died nineteen years later.
A year of events dedicated to the sommo poeta, the “supreme poet”
The year 2021 marks the seventh centenary of the death of Dante Alighieri. To commemorate the recurrence, numerous cultural institutions have organized events and tourist itineraries. To find out more, go to danteotosco700.it, the Fondazione Sistema Toscana website.
Initiatives will continue throughout the year. The Fondazione Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino has commissioned a piece of music dedicated to Dante which will be performed at the inauguration of the new auditorium under the conductorship of Zubin Mehta, and is also organising an unabridged reading of The Divine Comedy at the Teatro Goldoni over twenty evenings, together with a season of concerts conducted by Riccardo Muti. The Opera di Santa Croce will host a lecture on Dante by the historian Alessandro Barbero and the multimedia exhibition “Dante Poeta Eterno” (Dante the Eternal Poet), curated by Felice Limosani and inspired by Gustave Dorè’s famous engravings. Other performances include: “Paradise Now”, an evening of dance staged by the Compagnia di danza Virgilio Sieni in Piazza della Signoria, the Comoedia21 project is organising a travelling unabridged reading, and the singer Simone Cristicchi will present his piece “Paradiso, dalle tenebre alla luce” (Paradise, from darkness to light) at the 75th Theatre Festival in San Miniato. The City of Florence, finally, is promoting “Nel nome di Dante” (In the Name of Dante), a season of events including an exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi by the British artist Tom Phillips and “In cammino con Dante” (On the Road with Dante), a walk from Florence to Ravenna.