City and Nation in the Italian Unification: The National by Mahnaz Yousefzadeh

By Mahnaz Yousefzadeh

This study of the 1st nationwide pageant of recent Italy traditionally reconstructs the occasion, using a mass of un-catalogued and unpublished files left by way of the organizers, which positions the Centenary as a platform upon which another definition of Italian nationwide id emerged.

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Old animosities—in the German case, between Catholics and Protestants—were recollected and politicized, used as tools for the distinct efforts to delimit the national identity. The project for nationalizing Dante may be viewed similarly. It indexes the Florentine initiative to (1) mark out a distinct Tuscan identity and (2) position that identity at the head of Italian national culture. 65 It posited the difference as between Florence as eternal museum and “emporio artistico,”66 and Turin as the quintessential “modern” city: To look for monuments of art [In Turin], erected to immortalize the deeds of ancient heroes, would be useless .

But they were eventually transformed and extended to include a national membership. The group formed to advance the idea of a monument to Dante in Florence provides an example of this shift. A cenotaph in Florence honoring Dante was first conceived in 1802–1804. 11 Later, in 1855 (but still prior to unification), several Florentine individuals pursued the idea of building another Dante monument on the basis of a model brought to Florence by the sculptor Enrico Pazzi. The province of Ravenna, having originally commissioned the model, had then rejected it for political reasons.

It relieved the event of any perceived Piedmontese association. The Festa dello Statuto has been cast as part and parcel of the “Piedmontization” of the peninsula. The festa required the particular mediation and sponsorship of both the Savoyard monarchy and military institutions. 83 The Dante Centenary, conceived by private citizens and then organized and financed at the municipal level, offered greater attraction to these localities. Of course, the Dante Centenary also required mediation. Yet its key “mediator,” in the end, was Dante himself, a figure who proved to be enormously flexible and inclusive.

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