The Dan Brown Economy

How a book became a business

Suzi Jenkins
September 26, 2013

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 8, 2013: The Florentine has just released its Inferno Florence Guide app. Written by TF editors, the guide takes you through the places of Inferno, giving you historical and visitor information about the locations experienced by the book's protagonists to get to know Florence in depth. Download the app here.

 

Take a tour through hell! It is far too tempting an opportunity to pass over: Inferno is a blockbuster book set mostly in Florence, based on Dante’s literary masterpiece and written by a popular, internationally famous author. How could there not be a spin-off industry? Florentine businesses have been quick to take advantage of the opportunities. Indeed, they would have been foolish not to have done  so: Dante was a Florentine. Although he became embittered by his exile—he chose the wrong side during the Guelph infighting of the early fourteenth century, supporting the White Guelphs against the Black Guelphs who eventually seized power—and ended his days in Ravenna (where his tomb is still found today) pining for his beloved Beatrice, he is still an intrinsic and important part of Florentine life, culture and history.

 

Predictably, virtually all of the Inferno-related tourist services (see box) offered are in English. Italians have less need of tours or websites to further their knowledge of Dante and Florence. Any Italian who spent his or her formative years at an Italian state school will have read Dante’s Divine Comedy from start to finish, and while it would be an exaggeration to say that all Italians paid attention to every single stanza, there is certainly a general understanding of the epic journey through hell, to purgatory and finally to heaven, and most Italians have a grasp of many of the historical references. Thus L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican publication, defines Dan Brown’s Inferno as a great beach read and unintentionally very, very funny. Indeed, to many Italians it is indeed terribly amusing (who knew there was a new ocean lying just off Venice?).

 

It is true that the name ‘Dan Brown’ does not inspire enthusiasm in all of us, and historical inaccuracies, poetic licence and sheer invention will probably always be part of such largely commercial historical novels (there are plenty of other historical novelists equally guilty as Brown in this regard). However, checking up on factual inaccuracies can often become as interesting as reading the book in the first place. Those leading tours related to Brown’s Inferno in Florence aim to point out historical inaccuracies and supply correct information.

 

One final reflection: Brown makes mention of several businesses and associations operating in the modern city of Florence, including the Società Canottieri Firenze (canoe club on the banks of the river Arno), The Florentine and the Paperback Exchange (English bookshop). Whether accurate or not, it seems Inferno is boosting not only tourism but awareness (and, one hopes, appreciation) of some important local businesses, too.

 

 

Here are some of the best tours, websites (and soon-to-be released app!) available to further your knowledge of both Inferno (Dante’s as well as Brown’s) and the city of Florence. Already taken an Inferno-related tour? Please let us know ([email protected]) what you thought and whether you would recommend it to other TF readers. Whether you participate in an organised or do-it-yourself tour, wear sensible, comfortable footwear and appropriate clothing for entering places of worship: flip-flops, shorts and a tank top will not cut it!

 

FLORENCE INFERNO

 

(www.florenceinferno.com), a website with lots of posts about many of the cultural, culinary and social references contained in the book, is an interesting read in itself. You can also book a tour with the company that runs the page and or follow its Inferno-themed Facebook page (www.facebook.com/florenceinferno)! The tour (full day, 75 euro per person) ends with a glass of wine and a chat about the book.

 

FLORENCE FOR FREE

(http://tinyurl.com/q33qou8) outlines a great self-guided tour that requires absolutely nothing except a little energy and some good walking shoes. Simply print or download the amusing article packed with facts, observations and useful tips on how to go about your tour and set off.

 

FLORENCE TOWN

(http://tinyurl.com/qyjj2ab) offers a three-hour tour (65 euro) or a full-day tour (135 euro) that includes the Vasari Corridor and the Uffizi Gallery. Museum and gallery entrances are included in the price of the ticket.

 

PALAZZO VECCHIO

(http://www.musefirenze.com) offers a 75-minute tour for 12 euro.

 

ARTVIVA

(www.italy.artviva.com/tours/241) offers a three-hour tour (price varies according the number in your group).

 

TF is hard at work on a smartphone app due for release in October 2013. With the app, follow in the footsteps of Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks through the streets of the historic center of Florence, learning about not only the references in Brown’s book, but also the history and culture associated with each reference.

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