Divine Comedy Goes Underground

Visitors to Italy’s Salerno Province are getting a new take on classic literature By: Monica Poling
The Pertosa Caves set the scene for Dante's "Inferno" // (c) 2010 Tappeto Volante
The Pertosa Caves set the scene for Dante's "Inferno" // (c) 2010 Tappeto Volante

The Details

Tappeto Volante
Visitors who are not afraid to descend into the earth’s depths can see an all-new interpretation of Dante’s “Inferno” in Italy’s Salerno Province by the Tappeto Volante production company. During the weekend performances, the Pertosa Caves, located in Cliento National Park, set the scene for Dante’s nine circles of “Inferno” — often considered to be Italy’s greatest work of literature.

At the beginning of the performance, audience members are organized into groups of 30 to 35 and escorted into the Pertosa Caves by “Dante” himself. Once inside, the group boards a boat that crosses the cave’s Negro River (representing the Achenon River). The natural underground river propagates a pond and a waterfall, which create wavelets along the shore where visitors disembark to begin their journey into the nine circles of hell, making the setting feel all the more realistic.

On the banks of the first circle of hell, the character of Dante summarizes the function of that circle and introduces the characters within, including Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan. At every circle, Dante must overcome some roadblock before he and the group are allowed to pass into the next circle. In total, visitors walk for a little less than a mile through cave tunnels, with each turn revealing a new scenario or circle, before they finally come face to face with “Lucifer.”

Although some props and costumes are used to further the retelling of Dante’s masterpiece, the natural backdrop of the caves are primarily used to set the stage. Contemporary art and video installations, as well as an unpublished, original score round out the program.

Performances are 90 minutes in length and are held in Italian only. The program runs for one weekend in November, December and February 2011, and then every weekend beginning in March 2011. The show is only scheduled through June 2011. Tickets are approximately $35 for adults, and reservations are mandatory.
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