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Dante Alighieri

All the places in Ravenna linked to the Supreme Poet’s memory

Ravenna, the last refuge of the “Ghibellin fuggiasco” (Ghibellin fugitive), must have been for Dante Alighieri a destination he had long aspired to. A favourable context, at last, for himself and the members of his family. Proof of this is the relationship he maintained with the city, the familiarity he showed with the territory and with the family of the Counts da Polenta, as confirmed by several of his writings.

One of the positive factors of his exile in Ravenna was also that of having a possible source of income, thanks to the assignment of representation conferred on him by Guido Novello da Polenta as his ambassador in Venice to the doge, Giovanni Soranzo. Historiographic sources tell us that the acceptance of these appointments, with the consequent transfer of Dante to Ravenna, was preceded by many requests and agreements of a financial nature. This was made possible also thanks to the common ties with his cousins, the Counts Guidi, already protectors of Dante, in 1311, as we read in a heartfelt letter from Dante to Emperor Arrigo VII of Luxembourg.

The period that Dante spent in Ravenna with his sons Pietro and Jacopo, who were preparing to write the Commentaries to the Commedia, and Antonia, who became a nun in Ravenna with the significant name of Suor (Sister) Beatrice, is crucial for his work. It was here that he found tranquillity and inspiration, here that he completed the composition of the cycle of the Commedia, here that he died of malaria contracted during one of his missions to Venice, and here that his remains are still kept today.

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Palaces, streets, basilicas, libraries, monuments and the entire area around the city were, without a shadow of a doubt, the visual and cultural horizon that most influenced the images recounted in some of the cantos of the Commedia. Even today, his traces and verses echo in many places in the city, evoking an itinerary of memories and insights dedicated to him. From today’s Palazzo Rasponi, probably the palace of the da Polenta family where he stayed from 1313 to 1321, to the convent of Santo Stefano degli Ulivi, which welcomed his daughter Antonia – Sister Beatrice, to the Casa dei Polentani, in Via Zagarelli alle Mura, where Dante imagined meeting Francesca da Polenta (Inferno V Canto). There are numerous houses of old friends and Florentine exiles, such as Fiduccio de’ Milotti, originally from Cortona, who had studied medicine in Bologna and was a close friend of Dante’s, or the Traversari family, the first family in Ravenna to be mentioned with regret in the Commedia, or Pietro Giardini, whom Boccaccio describes as Dante’s closest friend in Ravenna and who was the first to be informed of the discovery of the 13 missing manuscripts of the Commedia. The lush Adriatic coastline and centuries-old monuments are also fundamental.

From the Lido and the Pineta di Classe with its famous oak grove, which Dante lives and brings back to life as the “Divine Forest”; or, again, the majestic basilicas of Sant’Apollinare or San Vitale, where the Poet Vate gathers faces and stories to include in his Paradise, or the mosaics of the vault of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, with that warm and soft light, which will accompany him to the last heaven to meet Beatrice. And finally, the Basilica of San Francesco where his funeral was celebrated and which commemorates him every day with mournful chimes.

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