RAVEN NA AND VERONA
In 1965, the Giro d’Italia marked the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s birth by finishing the race in his native Florence. In 2021, the corsa rosa commemorates the 700th anniversary of his death by linking the cities of his exile, Ravenna and Verona. Stage 13 is one of hundreds of events across Italy this year to honour the national poet, whose decision to write the Divine Comedy in the vernacular rather than in Latin was a watershed in the development of the Italian language and of European literature at large.
In Italy, claiming a piece of Dante’s legacy is a serious business. Florence has been requesting the return of his remains since at least the 1500s, even going so far as to build a cenotaph to house them in the 19th century, but Ravenna has resisted all attempts at repatriation. His tomb stands prominently next to the Basilica of San Francesco in the centre of Ravenna, a couple of hundred metres from the stage start on Piazza del Popolo.
While Ravenna was the city of Dante’s death, he gave life to a sizeable part of the Commedia while exiled in Verona under the patronage of the ruling Della Scala family, whose heraldic symbol of the ladder (scala in Italian) is visible across the city to this day. Dante’s descendants remain prominent in the locality, too. The Serego Alighieri family, producers of wine in the Valpolicella hills north of the city, trace their lineage back to the poet. One of their number, Sperello di Serego
Alighieri, this year even launched a symbolic appeal against the corruption charges that led to Dante’s exile to coincide with the septcentenary of his death.
The Giro’s commemoration ties in with the 90th anniversary of the maglia rosa, which this year will bear an inscription from the last line of Dante’s Purgatory – ‘disposto a salir a le stelle’ (‘prepared to climb to the stars’) – and stage 13 will pass through San Nicolò Po, home of the first man to wear the jersey, Learco Guerra.
The stage finish, meanwhile, will take place amid the fittingly rosy-hued limestone of Verona. The city hosted the race finish two years ago, but it will be forever associated with the tumultuous finale of 1984, when Francesco Moser divested Laurent Fignon of pink in the concluding time trial, an afternoon when the Arena di Verona was both heaven and hell.