A taste of Italy is coming to Riverviews Artspace this weekend when the Dante Alighieri Society of Virginia, a group of local enthusiasts of Italian culture, hosts the event “Viva L’Italia.”

Set to run from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, the free event will feature a variety of activities designed to celebrate Italian culture, including a cash bar with Italian wines; a food table featuring traditional antipasto dishes; a pasta demonstration and tasting led by local chef Stephanie Fees, owner of Scratch Pasta Co.; an Italian olive oil and vinegar tasting conducted by Jason Arbusto, owner of Daughters and Sons Pizza; a mock classroom that will play host to Italian trivia and games; and a continuous overhead video featuring clips of Italian films, political events and more.

Musician Barbara Coffey will be playing her accordion throughout the evening and giving a short presentation about its history and construction. Live music also will be performed by Luca and Adelaide Trombetta and guitarist Keith Cooper.

Kim Soerensen, Riverviews’ executive director, said Riverviews is excited to play host to the event and sees it aligning with its mission to be “a place where cultures and the arts are celebrated.”

“Italian culture,” she said, “is steeped in the arts, fashion, style, architecture, music and food. Home of the Roman Empire and a major center of the Renaissance, culture on the Italian peninsula has flourished for centuries.”

Gail Morrison, president of the Dante Alighieri Society, said the event is designed to be educational and entertaining, which has been the hallmark of their programming since the organization was founded here in 1998.

The group, which is supported by membership dues, holds a full season of events ranging from a film and dinner series to presentations about Italian history and culture to collaborative events with Opera on the James, usually designed around the opera company’s performances.

“We try to cover all aspects of the Italian culture in one season,” Morrison said. “We can’t do everything every time. Last year, for example, we had the costume director of Opera on the James do a section for us on Italian fashion, and that was really fun.”

They chose the date, Sept. 20, for Viva L’Italia because of its connection to Italian history: It’s the date of the capture of Rome in 1870, the final event in “the long process to unify Italy,” according to a news release. It marks “both the final defeat of the Papal States under Pope Pius IX and the unification of the Italian peninsula under King Victor of the House of Savoy.”

“We were contemplating doing a special event and we didn’t know when it would be, what the focus of it would be, and one of the members of the board said, ‘Well, Sept. 20 is a universal celebration of the reunification of Italy,” Morrison said. “… It was the perfect reason to celebrate.”

Dante Alighieri’s season continues with a screening of 1968’s “Romeo and Juliet” on Sept. 25 and a presentation delving into the 1870 reunification on Oct. 9; for their full schedule of events or more information, visit www.dantealighierisocietyofvirginia.org.

Contact Casey Gillis at (434) 385-5525 or cgillis@newsadvance.com. Find her on Twitter: @tvcouchpotato.

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