PERTH’S Italian community is commemorating 700 years since Dante Alighieri’s death, while using the occasion to preserve Italian culture and cuisine.
Nicolo Costantini is Consul of Italy to WA, and says Dante is a giant figure in Italian culture.
“He’s absolutely important because he’s the creator of modern day Italian language,” Mr Costantini says.
“Dante was the first one to create a common language. He took from different regions, but in particular Tuscany,” where he was from. “He thought the dialect spoken in Tuscany was the most understandable by everyone, and it is why he wrote his works in this language: the new Italian.
“Thanks to his creation and his language, we were able to spread the Italian culture worldwide”.
Dante’s masterpiece la Divina Commedia has been translated into almost every language. Last month Mr Costantini took part in a reading at UWA where extracts were recited in 10 languages, including Noongar.
“We realised this was the very first time that part of the Divine Comedy had been translated into Noongar,” Mr Costantini, adding it was not easy to find precise words for every term, but the universality of a story of a journey seems to translate in every language.
La Divina Commedia weaves broad themes like religion and science, but it also has a recurring focus on cuisine
in a range of roles from sinful gluttony, to honest nourishment, and to food as part of meaningful rituals.
It’s fitting then that the Consulate of Italy and the WA Italian Club are marking the 700 years since Dante’s death by weaving performances amid divine comedy themed food stations for revellers.
The event falls just after the World Week of Italian Cuisine, and Mr Costantini said they decided to mix the occasions to strengthen the message they’ve been trying to get out about Italian food culture.
They want to “explain that Italian food is part of the Mediterranean diet which is a nutritional model, a very balanced one, and it is also a healthy lifestyle”.
The Italian government has long opposed simplified food labelling measures like the traffic light system because they can write off many Mediterranean foods as “red” (unhealthy) without taking into account proper proportions, preparations, and the lifestyle and activities intended to go alongside those foods that result in healthy living.
“Not by chance, Italy is the healthiest country in the world together with Spain,” Mr Costantini says.
“Another goal of this celebration is to fight against the so-called ‘Italian-sounding’ phenomenon, because all around the world there are fake Italian products.”
Outside the European union a product sold as “parmesan” might be completely unrelated to the genuine “parmigiano” of Italy.
Some of these Italian-sounding imitations can cause “a double damage,” Mr Costantini says, “because it is damaging to Italy’s
true products, but it is also damaging to the people, because these are not healthy products”.
The event ‘Dante Alighieri and the Italian cuisine: A divine journey’ is on November 26 at the WA Italian Club, tickets via https://www. trybooking.com/BVILZ
by DAVID BELL