In a continuing series based on articles from the informative audio magazine TUTTO ITALIANO, this post highlights a phenomenon close to the hearts of lovers of la bella lingua: Dantemania:

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Evviva la Dantemania!

Hurrah for Dantemania!

Dante Alighieri is considered il più grande poeta della lingua italiana e padre dell’italiano stesso (the greatest poet of the Italian language and father of Italian itself). The overwhelming majority (la stragrande maggioranza) of the words used today in Italian appear in the verses of the Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia).

In some cases their meaning has changed—but not drastically. Dante, for example, uses the word gentile to indicate “una persona nobile di sentimenti” (noble in feelings or sentiments). Today gentile indicates una persona cortese e ben educata (a courteous, well-mannered person).

The celebration of Dante’s 750th birthday has launched una miriade di iniziative (a myriad of initiatives). Florence is seeing an increase in visite nel luogo dove è nato nel 1265 (visits to the place where he was born in 1265), la casa-museo (the house-museum) dedicated to Dante, and la chiesetta dove incontrò Beatrice (and the little church where he met Beatrice).

Verona, città dove Dante visse in esilio (city where Dante lived in exile), and Ravenna, dove è sepolto (where he is buried), are sponsoring lezioni e conferenze internazionali (lessons and international conferences) in his honor).

Other initiatives include un viaggio in treno (a train ride), organizzato per fine settembre (organized for the end of September) that traces la via dell’esilio del poeta (the poets’ exile route) and a “Maratona infernale” (infernal or hellish marathon), una video-lettura prodotta dalla Società Dante Alighieri (a video lecture produced by the Society Dante Alighieri) per rileggere L’Italia di oggi attraverso i trentaquattro canti dell’Inferno (for a new reading (or a new interpretation?) of today’s Italy through the 34 cantos of the Inferno).

Fundamental to the enthusiasm for the poet and his works is a simple fact: Dante è, ancora oggi, un piacere da leggere (Dante is, still today, a pleasure to read). La Divina Commedia is un testo obbligatorio anche in tutte le scuole superiori italiane (a required text in all Italian high schools). But, al contrario di molti altri testi “imposti” (in contrast to many other mandatory texts), it is molto amato dai giovani (much loved by young people).

Why? Sono rapiti dalla folla di personaggi fantastici (They are enchanted by the crowd of fantastic characters), alcuni celestiali altri bestiali (some celestial and some beastly), che abitano i canti danteschi (who inhabit Dante’s cantos). They also vivono quell viaggio di assoluta bellezza (live that journey of absolute beauty) che Dante compie, alla ricerca di sé (that Dante completed in search of himself).

This  post is based on an article that first appeared in issue 7, maggio-giugno 2015 of TUTTO ITALIANO.  To subscribe, go to TUTTO ITALIANO, the audio magazine for learners of Italian.

Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language