Sunday, June 02, 2013
Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’ Sparks Dante Fever in Florence
Who cares if Brown veers slightly off course in his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy in his latest novel, Inferno? Art historians and literary academics might be up in arms, but blurring the facts into fiction has certainly not upset the Florentine purists who know Dante’s work the best. Indeed, Brown-inspired Dante fever is gripping Florence, and the leader of pack happens to be president of the esteemed Dante Society, Eugenio Giani, who believes a little Dan Brown fairy dust is just what the city needs right now. Brown will be reading from Inferno at a literary festival in Florence on June 6, and Giani plans to thank the American writer personally for reintroducing Dante to a whole new group of readers.
“Dante is the most important figure in the history of this city,” Giani, who is also the head of the Florence City Council, told The Daily Beast on an impromptu tour of the Palazzo Vecchio’s secret passages, which feature in Inferno. “Dan Brown is simply making the introduction to Dante to people who may have never paused to appreciate his genius. It will be up to the readers to form their own opinion about Dante’s real legacy. Either way, people will be talking about him.”
More than renewing interest in the literary great, Inferno promises to breathe new life into Florence’s coffers. The city isn’t short on tourists, mind you, but like all Italian cities, it has been battered by Italy’s enduring recession as hoteliers and restaurants struggle to lure customers. Tourism was up 5 percent in the first quarter of 2013, says Giani, but people aren’t staying as long, and when they do, they tend to sleep and eat on a budget. With Brown’s blessing of the city, Giani hopes people who would normally come to Florence for a day trip from their Tuscan villas to skim the highlights or make a quick stop en route from Rome to Venice might stay longer to do some Dante digging.
There are many fabulous details in the book that will delight the average literary tourist. The simple wicker basket beside Beatrice’s tomb in the church of Santa Margherita, where tortured lovers still leave notes of amour and despair, will surely become a cult stop for Brown’s faithful. Dozens of marble placards hung on the buildings around Florence bearing Dante quotes, and the bronze plaque on the Baptistry referring to “the Black Death,” ignored by the masses for years, will suddenly become Inferno tour cornerstones. One also might envision that the somewhat costly and unpopular tour of the Vasari Corridor, connecting the Pitti Palace to Palazzo Vecchio, may suddenly top tourists’ agendas.