The best of Italy thrives in the cultural heart of Coral Gables
Recently relocated one block from Miracle Mile in the heart of Coral Gables is the South Florida branch of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious cultural center: the Societa Dante Alighieri.
Since coming to Coral Gables in 1997, the Societa Dante Alighieri has been dedicated to three main goals: promoting Italian culture and language throughout South Florida; helping members of the community build bridges to each other and their Italian roots; and maintaining Italy’s leading role in the international community.
The goals are achieved through language programs, cooking and wine classes, art exhibits, academic lectures, concerts and new art courses coinciding with “2013 — The Year of Italian Culture,” a project coming to 70 U.S. locations under the auspices by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
Italian language classes, which begin Jan. 7, are held for all ages and skill levels; students have ranged in age from 4 to 87. Class sizes are small, generally five to seven students, despite there being more than 2,000 society members and students in Miami. People come from their workplaces around South Florida to expand their language skills and pursue career goals.
Italian cooking classes and wine-tasting events are also popular at Societa Dante Alighieri Miami. Almost all classes and events are held in the brand new location on 300 Aragon Ave.
People can join an individual class, such as language, or they can couple it with a wine-tasting or cooking class as well. While enrolled, student-members are invited and encouraged to attend other events at Societa Dante Alighieri such as art exhibits and academic lectures.
The new art courses, which begin Jan. 16, at the center, incorporate demonstrations, slide lectures and hands-on studio art sessions to introduce participants to the aesthetics and traditions of the Italian masters.
Residents already fluent in Italian can also be members of Societa Dante Miami by paying a membership fee and gaining access to all events for a full year.
The Societa Dante Alighieri Miami mirrors the diversity of Miami, appealing to Italians in the area but also to Cubans, Argentines and anyone from a mixed cultural background.
“We are Italian-Americans,” says Claudio Pastor, executive director. “There are Cuban-Italians, Argentine-Italians and Dominican-Italians, too, but they might not know much of their Italian heritage yet, or may not have a place to express that part of their culture.”
Societa Dante Alighieri has a rich history that dates to 1889 in Rome, its headquarters, and it constantly seeks to expand. Italy’s consulates create new branches across the United States and around the world, each with its own distinct feel.
“The local institutions, even though they are international organizations, mirror the image of the city they are in,” explains Mr. Pastor.
With the General Consul of Italy in Miami as its principal partner, Societa Dante Alighieri Miami has opened a branch in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which Mr. Pastor directs. He is also working on opening a branch in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to further spread Italian culture in the Caribbean.
Societa Dante Alighieri Miami is also expanding its Key Biscayne and Brickell offices, keeping the Coral Gables office as the base.
A statement from Societa Dante Alighieri directors explains the organization’s goals: “As our institution continues to grow, our goal is that it will continue to be a beacon where people of all ages, nationalities, and religions can gather to share their love for Italy and for the beauty and traditions that are synonymous with that country.”
And as for the society’s namesake: Dante Alighieri was most illustrious poet and author of the Divine Comedy. Born in Florence in 1265, he chose not to write his famous work in Latin, but used a new language, Italian, based on the regional dialect of Tuscany with some elements of Latin and other regional dialects.
For more information, visit www.dantemiami.org or call 305-336-3566.
Morgan Chicchelly is a sophomore at the University of Miami studying public relations in the School of Communication.