Follow Dante’s footsteps through Italy


Portrait of Dante Alighieri, Florence and the allegory of the Divine Comedy, 1465, detail. PHOTO/Dea/G. Nimatallah/DeAgostini via Getty Images

For the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death, visit his birthplace, churches and tomb

September 14, 2021, marks the 700th anniversary of poet Dante Alighieri‘s death. A year-long celebration, Viva Dante, began in Italy in September 2020, with events from public readings to concerts to church services in his honor—and still many more in the works. In addition, institutions around the world are offering both virtual and in-person exhibits, tours and discussions that people can attend to learn more about Dante’s life.

Dante was born in Florence in 1265. The Alighieri family came from a branch of the house of Elisei, founded by the wife of Cacciaguida, a warrior who died in the Second Crusade. Dante’s parents (Alighiero di Bellincione Alighieri and Bella di Abati) were minor nobility, so he grew up among the aristocracy. As a teenager, he held an apprenticeship with poet and writer Brunetto Latini. After aligning with the losing political party in 1301, he was exiled from his hometown. He traveled for a few years through Bologna, Verona, Venice, Rome, Lucca and Siena before settling down in Ravenna, in northern Italy, for the latter part of his life. One of Dante’s descendants, astrophysicist Sperello di Serego Alighieri, is working to have the poet posthumously pardoned, arguing that his sentence was motivated purely by tainted political motivations at the time.

Dante authored the Divine Comedy, an epic poem that contains three parts (Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso) and traces Dante’s journey from death to heaven. He was the first Italian writer to eschew Latin and actually work in his mother tongue. It was during his travels while he was exiled and his subsequent life in Ravenna that Dante wrote the poem; it’s estimated he started it in 1308, when he was 43, and finished it in 1321, the year he died of malaria at age 56.

“For hundreds of years, Dante has been celebrated as the father of Italian poetry,” says University of Bologna professor and Dante expert Claudia Sebastiana Nobili. “As such, he is also the father of the Italian language. In his poem, he used many words for the first time, translating them from Latin or borrowing them from other European languages, ??such as French, Provençal, Spanish and Arabic, thus creating a very rich literary language.”

Smithsonian Mag for more

Comments are closed.