From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Italian is a Romance language spoken by about 63 million people, most of whom live in Italy. Standard Italian is based on Tuscan dialects and is somewhat intermediate between the languages of Southern Italy and the Gallo-Romance languages of the North. Italian has double (or long) consonants, like Latin (but unlike most modern Romance languages, e.g. French and Spanish). What would come to be thought of as Italian was first formalized in the early fourteenth century through the works of Tuscan writer Dante Alighieri, written in his native Florentine. Dante's epic poems, known collectively as the Commedia, to which another Tuscan poet Giovanni Boccaccio later affixed the title Divina, were read throughout Italy and his written dialect became the "canonical standard" that all educated Italians could understand. Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language, and thus the dialect of Florence became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy.