Dante’s ‘Hood

When I visited Italy last month, I had the special treat of a few days in Florence. I mostly spent time visiting the important cathedrals and basilicas in that city. But I also took a little self-guided tour of Dante Alighieri’s neighborhood. Pretty trippy to walk the streets and see the buildings that he saw and lived among in important parts of his life. I want to share some of my photographs of these places with you so you can experience a bit of it with me.

First, his house. This is it and it now houses a small privately owned art studio. The Dante museum is housed in the tower beside it. Right under that small, lit arched window is the well his family drew their water from everyday.

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Here are his writing desk and bed.

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The following is the church he attended in his adulthood, a few doors down from his house on a very narrow street that wouldn’t otherwise get your attention.

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To the left is an important place not marked for tourists; it takes some deeper research to find…but that’s what I do. Those arches mark the doors of the church where the Alighieri family attended when Dante was a child. It is now a random shop, but it’s cool that the corner still exists as it did in the day and the young Dante no doubt ran his little fingers against the door frame as his family entered church each Sunday.

Below is the interior of Dante’s own church: Santa Margherita dei CerchiExtremely humble, more of a small chapel.

venice 2014 330And if you look to the extreme left in this photo, the shelf to the left of the candles, you find a remarkably special burial site in the Dante story. She rests here.

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The young, beautiful Beatrice who so entranced Dante since he first set eyes on her at a young age came from a very well-to-do family, one of five daughters. She attended the same humble chapel that Dante did. Below is the house where she grew up. It’s not marked as such nor on the tourist trail, but a professor from the near-by university showed me its location, as well as the hospital around the corner in which Beatrice’s father was a major financial contributor.

venice 2014 334 Nearby Dante’s small neighborhood, in the massive piazza of the stunning Basilica of Santa Croce, is the primary tribute to Dante most tourists see.

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And below is the church where Dante’s academic master – his teacher – attended. I was able to catch Mass there the Sunday morning I was departing Florence for Rome. It was a special treat because the archbishop of Florence – Cardinal Giuseppe Betori – happened to be saying the Mass that morning.

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And finally, in another cathedral in the city – I did not make note of which one – is this wonderful painting noting the fame of Dante and his Divine Comedy.  As well, below is the oldest copy of the work in existence which sits in the Dante museum.

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It was a wonderful experience to see all these important sites in the life of Italy’s – as well as Christendom’s – greatest poet.

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