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Despite Latin being the main language of the courts and the Church in the Middle Ages, writers such as Dante Alighieri and many others used their own language, the Florentine vernacular descended from Latin, in composing their greatest works. The oldest literary pieces written in Florentine go as far back as the 13th century. Florence's literature fully blossomed in the 14th century, when not only Dante with his Divine Comedy (13061321) and Petrarch, but also poets such as Guido Cavalcanti and Lapo Gianni composed their most important works. Dante's masterpiece is the Divine Comedy, which mainly deals with the poet himself taking an allegoric and moral tour of Hell, Purgatory and finally Heaven, during which he meets numerous mythological or real characters of his age or before. He is first guided by the Roman poet Virgil, whose non-Christian beliefs damned him to Hell. Later on he is joined by Beatrice, who guides him through Heaven. In the 14th century, Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio led the literary scene in Florence after Dante's death in 1321. Petrarch was an all-rounder writer, author and poet, but was particularly known for his Canzoniere, or the Book of Songs, where he conveyed his unremitting love for Laura. His style of writing has since become known as Petrarchism. Boccaccio was better known for his Decameron, a slightly grim story of Florence during the 1350s bubonic plague, known as the Black Death, when some people fled the ravaged city to an isolated country mansion, and spent their time there recounting stories and novellas taken from the medieval and contemporary tradition. All of this is written in a series of 100 distinct novellas. In the 16th century, during the Renaissance, Florence was the home town of political writer and philosopher Niccol Machiavelli, whose ideas on how rulers should govern the land, detailed in The Prince, spread across European courts and enjoyed enduring popularity for centuries. These principles became known as Machiavellianism.

The Scoppio del Carro ("Explosion of the Cart") is a celebration of the First Crusade. During the day of Easter, a cart, which the Florentines call the Brindellone and which is led by four white oxen, is taken to the Piazza del Duomo between the Baptistery of St. John the Baptist (Battistero di San Giovanni) and the Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore). The cart is connected by a rope to the interior of the church. Near the cart there is a model of a dove, which, according to legend, is a symbol of good luck for the city: at the end of the Easter mass, the dove emerges from the nave of the Duomo and ignites the fireworks on the cart.

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