Anne reads (and re-reads) her favorite book as we head to the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri's death. We also drink Vin Santo and walk through Florence.
Dante’s most famous work, the Divine Comedy, traces the salvific journey of the character Dante, led by the love of his life, the saintly Beatrice, through Hell, Purgatory, and finally Paradise. Referring to himself as “a Florentine by birth, not by character,” Dante wrote the poem while in permanent exile from the city, and while Florence certainly receives the greatest attention in his poem, Dante also includes stories and places from around the peninsula, encountered, perhaps, during his travels. You can find more on Dante at the Princeton Dante Project, Columbia's Digital Dante, and UT Austin’s DanteWorlds.
And in Italy, you can trace a route from Dante’s birthplace to his tomb, with many sites in between. Begin at the Casa di Dante in Florence (a reconstruction built near the site of his birth), then walk down the street to Dante’s family church, Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi. There you will find a small shrine dedicated to Beatrice where the lovelorn leave notes and requests for aid, much as they do at Juliet’s balcony in Verona. Finally, head over to the Franciscan church of Santa Croce, final resting place of some of the most famous Italians (Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo to name just a few), and look for Dante’s statue outside and his tomb inside. The tomb stands empty, however, as Dante was actually buried in Ravenna, where he lived during the last few years of his life, and the city is determined to hold onto his remains. You can even take the “Cammino di Dante,” a 400 kilometer hiking trail that goes from Ravenna to Florence and back again, with suggested stops in several small towns either mentioned in the Comedy, or else visited by the poet himself.