Italians have been sleeping tight for centuries
“So full was I of slumber” sings Dante in Inferno Canto I of the Divine Comedy. Through dreaming, he enters the dark wood, an eerie start to his ride to Paradise. Dante will later be carried to the mountain of Purgatory by an eagle. No doubt he was an excellent sleeper. Though the poet doesn’t provide us with enough elements to make a definitive assessment of his bedding, we can only assume he was used to resting on Italian-made, 300 thread count satin-finish cotton. After all, it’s no secret that Italians love to lose their thundering selves in slumber as much as they love to indulge in fine dining.
In Antonio Canova’s last statue, Sleeping Nymph, a naked lady reclines on a pedestal, her face slightly tilted upwards, butt exposed to the stranger’s eye. The makeshift pillow matching the gleaming white marble of her skin doesn’t make Canova a natural-born maximalist.
Nearly a century ago, a sleeping Diana was born from Giorgio De Chirico’s canvas. Head propped up with her left hand, the Goddess of the Hunt and Moon looks like she dozed off during a thought too uncomfortable to bear. Young Diana is pensive and yet at ease in her short, one-shouldered dress. A breast has slipped out, but she doesn’t care! There is no sight of a king size duvet with matching pillow shams.
In many small Italian towns and remote villages, between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m., a historic collective rebellion takes place: all shops close. Rambling through solitary alleys, one is left with the feeling that everyone has fled town at the prospect of an unsayable threat. Shop owners are glimpsed heading home to their home-cooked meals and mandatory afternoon pisolino, the short and light sleep identified as a postprandial power nap. A little wander through the woods and they’re off to the bottega. Round two can finally commence.
Andy Kate tweets @itsandykate and curates the Fucking Poetry newsletter. Image: Detail from Diana Asleep in the Woods, Giorgio de Chirico, 1933.