Florence has had a new and coloured spotlight directed upon it. Dan Brown’s new Robert Langdon adventure through history, art and literature is boosting worldwide book sales but is also set to boost tourism in the Renaissance city. Readers seem to have an insatiable appetite to visit real places associated with fictional events and perhaps sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between the two. “Inferno” takes its cue from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and gives it the same treatment of science, riddles, codes and symbols use in “The Da Vinci Code” all using the powerful backdrop of Florence to flavour the tale.
Dante himself was exiled from the city and threatened with execution at a time of fourteenth century political intrigue. He exacted literary revenge on his enemies by banishing them to an eternity of ghastly torture in rings of his apocalyptic Inferno. Here on earth and in the centre of the Piazza Signoria, real torture and execution took place with great frequency, particularly in the fifteenth century. Members of the Templar plot were executed here and many of the Pazzi conspirators were summarily hanged from the windows of the Palazzo Vecchio in 1478. In 1497 Savonarola and his followers carried out the famous Bonfire of the Vanities only to be hanged and burned on the same spot the following year. But perhaps these events were too long ago to impinge on the visitor’s imagination whereas fictional events seem more immediate.