How you can mark Italy’s Dante Day on March 25th

As life under quarantine continues in Italy, books and all forms of culture have been helping to keep people's spirits up, and now the Italian culture ministry hopes a nationwide online celebration of Dante will bring people together.

How you can mark Italy's Dante Day on March 25th
A placard reading "Love wins over everything" is pictured on Piazza Dante in Naples. Photo: AFP

Many of the country's cultural events have had to be cancelled or postponed, but that's not the case with Dantedì. Italy's new celebration of Dante's works, to be marked for the first time this year on 25 March.

The celebrations will be entirely online, with performances and readings tagged on social media with #Dantedì and #IoleggoDante.

The 13th-century Tuscan poet is known worldwide as the father of the Italian language, and his works remain embedded in Italian culture, studied by schoolchildren and quoted by adults in daily conversation up and down the country.

Italy's culture ministry has invited everyone to mark the day by reading and sharing the “verses of timeless charm” by Dante, as though the event was organised long before the coronavirus otbreak hit Italy, it has now become a way to unite the country and bring some cheer to people at a difficult time.

The main events will take place at midday on March 25, as this is the date identified by scholars as the start of the journey to the afterlife in Dante's Divine Comedy.


“This first edition takes place at a particularly difficult moment,” said Dario Franceschini, Italy's culture minister.

“The many initiatives already planned will move online. This is why I'm appealing to artists: on 25 March, read Dante and post your content.”

“Dante is the Italian language, he is the very idea of Italy. And it is precisely at this moment that it is even more important to remember him in order to stay united.”

Streamed readings and performances will continue throughout the day, and everyone can get involved – from any part of the world – by posting their own reading on social media using the official hashtags #Dantedì and #IoleggoDante

Tag @thelocalitaly in your #DanteDi contribution on the day, and we'll also compile the best contributions from our readers.

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Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.