Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265, where he lived until his exile in 1302. Every corner of the city reminds us of his presence, but there are some specific sites where he left his footprint. Today we take a virtual stroll through Dante’s Florence, discovering the 7 places you need to visit when it comes to the greatest poet of Italy.
1. Santa Maria Novella and Dante’s Studies
Our Tour starts in Santa Maria Novella, where the Poet began his studies. This place was famous across all Europe for its studium, where Dante learnt Philosophy and Theology. He was strongly touched by Giotto’s wooden crucifix, which is still present in the central nave. Another crucial work of art that took the attention of the Poet is the Madonna Rucellai by Duccio di Buoninsegna, which is now visible at the Uffizi Gallery. A reminder to Dante’s works can be found in the Strozzi’s Chapel too, where Nardo di Cione’s frescoes take inspiration from the Divine Comedy. Last but not least, the museum inside the church hosts a famous portrait of Dante together with his peers.
2. Florence Duomo and St. John’s Baptistery
The Duomo Square has plenty of references to Dante’s life and the Divine Comedy. Let’s start from Florence’s Baptistery, which stands just in front of the Cathedral. This is where Dante, whose real name was Durante, was baptized in 1266. The Poet deals with the Baptistery in the Divine Comedy, which was partly inspired by the amazing mosaics of the roof, where Paradise and Hell are represented.
Moving on to the Cathedral, we can find a reference both inside and outside this majestic church. If you gaze at the façade, you’ll notice a series of statues that decorate the upper part of the building. On the left side, the half-bust of Dante dominates the square. Moreover, if you take a walk inside the church, you’ll be able to admire one of the more representative paintings of the Poet. Made by Domenico Michelino in 1465 to celebrate the 200th anniversary from his birth, the artist represented Dante with the Divine Comedy in the hands and the sceneries of the masterpiece in the background.
3. Torre della Castagna, Dante as a public figure
Dante was elected Prior of Florence in 1300, becoming a public and political figure of great relevance. Before the construction of Palazzo Vecchio, the Priors of Florence used to meet at Torre della Castagna (the chestnut tower). Everything has a meaning in Florence, so does the odd name of this building: when decisions had to be taken, Priors used to vote putting a chestnut inside a bag, giving their vote and planning the future of the city.
4. Casa di Dante, which is not the real house of Dante
The Casa di Dante (Dante’s house) is a museum inside a XX century building in the heart of the Medieval Florence. You may think this is the place where the Poet lived, but the truth is different. Dante probably lived in Via Dante Alighieri, in a building in front of Piazza San Martino. The construction has been refurbished, losing its Medieval aspect and charm, but you can still recognize it thanks to a small plate saying: “Io fui nato e cresciuto / Sovra ‘l bel fiume d’Arno alla gran villa”.
The Museum is still a must-see during your trip, because it helps you in getting to know Dante in every aspect of his life: as a poet, as a politician, as a soldier and as a simple man. Our favourite room is n. 7, where an amazing exhibition makes you live the Divine Comedy with a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, led by the voice of the famous dubber Francesco Pannofino. An immersive experience to get to know the Divine Comedy and its writer.
5. Palazzo Vecchio and Dante's Death Mask
Palazzo Vecchio, located in Piazza della Signoria, has been the seat of the Florentine government for centuries, and today it’s a museum, full of charm and surprises. The palace is related to the Sommo Poeta, since it hosts his funerary mask, which stands in a hallway that leads from Eleonora’s rooms to the Hall of Priors, on the second floor. Guarded in a small glass display case, the Mask appears in the movie Inferno too.
Spoiler alert: the Mask is not the authentic one. Dante's Death Masks disappeared in the past, and today an authentic Mask doesn't exist anymore. The one in Palazzo Vecchio was most probably done from a sculpture that used to be on his tomb in Ravenna, sometime in the 15th century. It’s the most famous of all, and never ceases to fascinate scholars and fans.
6. Henry Holiday's Dante and Beatrice
Henry Holiday's painting may be one of the most famous works of art that represents Dante meeting Beatrice. This painting was realized in 1883 and it's considered Holiday's most important work. The artist was anxious that the painting should be historically accurate and in 1881 travelled to Florence to carry out research. Have you ever wondered where the scene depicted is set? We are at the corner between Santa Trinita Bridge and Lungarno Acciaiuoli. If you take a walk and follow the river side, you'll find this place and live the experience of being part of a painting. Check what's changed and what's not, you may find a lot of similarities!
The most ancient Public Palace of Florence has a long story, which begins in 1250. The Bargello was born as “Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo”, becoming “Palazzo del Podestà”, prison and a museum. Today this historical building hosts an amazing exhibition of Italian sculptures, including works by Donatello, Michelangelo, Verrocchio and Cellini. If you take a walk inside the Cappella della Maddalena, you’ll be able to admire the most ancient portrait of Dante, made by Giotto between 1321 and 1337.
There are plenty of other places in Florence that deal with Dante and his life, and guess what? We organized a tour based on the Poet most important sites! Take a look at our offer and start following Dante’s footsteps with us.