In the above image we see Dante holding his book, “The Divine Comedy”, with “Mount Purgatory” and the city of Florence in the background.
When I was in Florence, I lived in Dante Alighieri’s neighbourhood. For those of you who might be a little rusty on your Italian poetic history, Dante is regarded as one of the greatest early Italian poets and is known as “the Supreme Poet” (il Sommo Poeta). He lived in Florence in the late 13th century, before he was exiled from the city for political reasons. It was during his exile that he wrote what is considered to be one of the most important poetic works in the Italian language, “The Divine Comedy,” which tells of his imaginary voyage through hell, purgatory, and finally heaven. I guess I was a bit optimistic when I downloaded this medieval masterpiece to my ipad so that I could read it while in Florence taking my beginner’s level Italian language class…
Anyway, If I had been in Florence just about 715 years earlier, I would surely have bumped into Dante wandering around the neighbourhood (our neighbourhood – his and mine). I wondered if I would recognize him. Did he always wear that long red cape and hat that he is so often pictured in? Did everyone wear red, or just him? I pondered these things as I wandered along the streets near my apartment. But, since I was several hundred years too late, I had to settle for going to the small Dante museum and the little atmospheric church where Beatrice, his muse, attended and which is preserved almost as a shrine to their love. Of course there are other Dante symbols scattered around the city, but they are surprisingly few and for the most part quite modest.
One of these unassuming Dante memorials is “Dante’s Stone” (il Sasso di Dante) which is in the main piazza by the cathedral. It is rarely noticed now, but it was an important site for the English Victorian poets and while I was in Florence, I wrote a short article about it for “The Florentine”, an English language newspaper. If you are interested, you can find it HERE.
I expect that we will be hearing much more about Dante in the months to come as Dan Brown has written a new book which is based on Dante’s “Inferno” (the “hell” portion of his great poem) which will be released in May. I will be anxious to see if and how my little neighbourhood is represented.
Click for: The Florentine -English language newspaper. A great source to check before a visit to Florence.
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