Every September, in Ravenna, a series of events celebrate Dante Alighieri, who died and was buried in this city in 1321.
In 1921, for the celebrations of the sixth centenary of his death, the adjacent Basilica of San Francesco, where the poet’s funeral had taken place, was inaugurated after a three-year restoration process that removed its late Baroque features. The idea was promoted, in particular, by Don Giovanni Mesini, a passionate Dante scholar, with the intention of rediscovering the appearance the church would have had in the 14th century.
This was the beginning of a series of interventions in the area we now know as the Dantean or Silent Zone, involving some of the places and buildings that symbolically embrace the tomb of Dante Alighieri.
Among these, for example, there was the Provincial Palace, which was built in the 1920s, replacing the eighteenth-century palace that belonged to the Rasponi counts. In the late nineteenth century, the building housed a hotel, the luxurious Hotel Byron. Then, in 1918, it was purchased by the Socialist Party and became the headquarters of the Federation of Cooperatives. The palace was attacked by a fascist squad in 1922, set on fire, and destroyed.
Immediately, the question of its reconstruction arose. The project was commissioned to the architect Giulio Ulisse Arata from Piacenza, who embraced a neo-medieval style, continuing to evoke, through architecture, Dante’s Ravenna.
The idea also emerged to turn the entire area into a “zone of respect“. At the inauguration of the works, Corrado Ricci, the first Superintendent of Monuments in Ravenna, intellectual, and art historian, delivered the following speech: “Today, finally […] the works destined to distance the noises of traffic from the tomb where Dante rests are inaugurated; not works of useless pomp but of reverent devotion; […] never, ladies and gentlemen, did the words ‘zone of respect’ have a more precise meaning and application because ‘zone of respect’ simultaneously conveys ‘zone of silence,’ and silence is the deepest expression of veneration.”