Thursday, October 24, 2013


Giovanni Boccaccio by Morghen
Image: Wikimedia Commons

This is quite a year for anniversaries and although much has been made of the Verdi bicentenary outside Italy, there has been less coverage of the 700th anniversary of the birth of Giovanni Boccaccio. There is still time, for although we know the year, 1313, no one knows the exact date of the writer's birth. The people of Certaldo believe it happened in their town and it was certainly there that Boccaccio died on 21st December 1375.

Celebrations of Boccaccio's life and work are taking place now in Tuscany and will continue until the end of this year. It was all going splendidly until, in September, some advertising posters which appeared in Certaldo, Florence and other Tuscan towns caused a storm, for they featured four young women striking suggestive poses in minimalist underwear. The result was rather more suggestive than if they had been wearing nothing at all. Anyone who has read the Decameron knows that it is not without a degree of bawdiness but the posters did not look to me as if they were trying to convey this. 

The Equal Opportunities Commission of the Province of Florence complained, saying that the posters were offensive to women and delegates to the women's conference of the Federazione Empolese Valdelse said that the Boccaccio septcentenary was not taking place in order to launch an underwear range but to celebrate the culture of a region.  The president of the cultural association which had overseen the production of the posters responded that they were not advertising posters but were urban art.  Hmmm - nice one, but it didn't work, for then the Quirinale, the President's office, got involved and the Prefect of Florence received a cordial but firm note offering town administrators the choice of removing the posters or removing the presidential seal of approval from the whole Boccaccio project. The Prefect promptly issued an "invitation" to the Mayor of Certaldo to supervise the removal of the posters, which was done.

Photos of the posters can be found online but I don't want to feature one on my blog, for the reasons given by the women's organisations mentioned above. This is another case of Italy shooting itself in the foot but this is a country where "Miss Italia" is prime-time viewing so I give up.

Incidentally, my favourite Decameron story is the tale of Madonna Oretta and my least favourite is the last, the tale of Patient Griselda [whom I had first encountered in Chaucer, where she also drove me mad]. If ever a woman was in need of a homily from the sisterhood, it was she.

To be fair, the Boccaccio celebrations include some fine initiatives. You can find out more about them here


Unknown said...

I know it's not right probably, but your post makes me smile Patrizia.

Thank you for dropping by. It is always a pleasure to feel your presence.

Bonjour a Simone!


Rosaria Williams said...

Ahhhh! So Italian!

Lee said...

I woke with a fright...I realised how long ago it was that I read "The Decameron"! 1963 to be exact!

Happy Birthday Boccaccio!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Constance. I'm very glad it made you smile. It's always a pleasure to hear from you, too. Simi dit "Bonsoir"! xx
Hi, Rosaria. Very!
Hi, Lee. I'm sure Boccaccio's spirit will be delighted to receive your greetings.


View My Stats