Back to blog

Dante and Roberto Benigni - Tutto Dante

As someone learning Italian, I feel especially fortunate that I live in a city that lets me pick up at least one Italian channel on cable. In this case it's RAI, but not the channels you would see in Italy. Instead it's a sanitized, washed out version for Italian audiences, mostly consisting of Italian game shows, soap operas, calcio (soccer/football depending on where you live), funny variety music shows and a smattering of news. Every once in awhile there is a gem, though, like the show Il Provo Del Cuoco, which is a cooking/cook-off show.
Profile of Dante Alighieri, one of the most re...

Or Tutto Dante, a reading by the famous Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful, The Tiger and the Snow). It's simply that, him reading Dante, but in the beautiful Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, to a rapt audience.  He has performed this comedy/reading many times in past years, including in English in 2009 to audiences in the US (I wish I had seen it!)

Last summer at Santa Croce they filmed his performance and I imagine it must have aired on some RAI channel in Italy at the same time or shortly thereafter.

I can't understand all of it--he talks too fast and as it's a very old text, I know many of the words are beyond my grasp. But I can understand enough to get the gist of what he's saying and since I know The Inferno well that helps  a great deal. It also helps that he speaks very clearly so I can hear each word even if I can't quite put it together in my head because of the speed.  I can understand probably 60% of what he's saying, which in my mind is a decent accomplishment. I'm beyond beginner and that's a nice feeling.

What I love most in watching Benigni is his passion and in particular how he uses his entire body to demonstrate his words. His hands never stop moving. They tell a story on their own, each gesture slicing and packaging the air into strong emotions and finer points.  Even if you don't understand the words, you understand the feeling infused into the story itself.

Here's a short snippet:

And another, with a bit more substance:

I wish that they had a clip of him performing this in English, but I couldn't find one. If anyone has insight there, do let me know!


For my newsletter readers, here are the video links:  and

Related articles