Dante’s Neighbor, but for 715 Years

Dante with mountain
Fresco showing Dante holding his book, “The Divine Comedy”. In the background we see “Mount Purgatory” and the city of Florence

When I was in Florence, I lived in Dante Alighieri’s neighborhood.  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.

Dante most familiar
Probably the most familiar image of Dante

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 onto my iPad to read while in Florence taking my beginner’s level Italian language class…

Would I Recognize Him?

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.

Dante with dico
When I see this image, I like to think that even Dante had to use a dictionary to read his book

Dante’s House and Beatrice’s Church

But, since I was several hundred years too late, I had to settle for going to the small Dante House 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.

Dante’s Stone

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.

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 neighborhood is represented.

More Dante: Read about Dante’s Stone, Rock of Inspiration

The Florentine -English language newspaper.  A great source to check before a visit to Florence.

Dante meeting Beatrice along the river Arno (on the day his red cape was at the laundry)

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BOOKS – You can find more of my curious histories in my books.

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Margo Lestz

Margo has authored four books about France. She has a BA in Liberal Studies with International Emphasis and enjoys travel, languages, history, writing, and experiencing other cultures.

4 comments

  1. Margo- Just posted this recommendation on the Expat Partner Online Coffee:

    (Margarita Gokun Silver)
    Anyone in this group in Florence, Italy? I’ll be there for two weeks in the beginning of August by myself (taking a class). Would love some company for a drink/coffee/dinner. Also – some tips. 🙂
    Like · · Unfollow Post · 25 minutes ago via mobile
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    (Jonelle Hilleary) Margarita Gokun Silver: You could reach out to Kimberly Dopke-Vanzi in the Firenze Mom 4 Moms group and Margo Lestz @margo_lestz (http://curiousrambler.com/category/italy/ )- both great resources on Florence/Firenze.

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