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The Dante’s Route, where the “sì” doth sound

The year of the celebrations for the 7th centenary of Dante Alighieri's death is now behind us, but the top remains a fascinating guide to discovering the peninsula. Here is our idea for a Dante itinerary in Italy

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The Dante’s path designed between Emilia and Tuscany to raise awareness of the most important stages in Dante’s history and other initiatives by associations and museums throughout Italy are important historical and artistic research on Dante.
Our proposal for a Dante itinerary is for us a way to start talking about experiential activities in Italy after a long period of reflection and preparation in the forced wait for Covid, and to start as always from our home – the Lungiana that hosted Dante as a peacemaker – to join other Italian territories united by Dante’s traces.

The statue of Dante in Mulazzo, a work by Arturo Dazzi

“Dante’s footprint cannot be erased”: so says an epigraph in the city of Sarzana, dating back to 1906, the year of the celebrations for the sixth centenary of Dante’s arrival in Lunigiana.

Why did Dante come to Lunigiana to leave the indelible mark of his presence so decisive?
It was his work as a diplomat that brought him here in 1306, to be precise in Castelnuovo, to prepare and then sign the long awaited peace between the Bishop Count of the city of Luni and the Malaspina marquises he represented on 6 October of that year. A work considered noble, theorized later in the De Monarchia treatise and which Dante perhaps conceived in Lunigiana as his “work”, housed in the fiefdoms of the families that supported it and that Dante considered deserving.

Castelnuovo Castle, place of Peace of 6 October 1306

Lunigiana is, after Florence and Ravenna which are its places of birth and death, the only region in which Dante’s presence is proven by numerous official documents. The State Archive of La Spezia preserves the notarial documents drawn up in 1306 by the notary Giovanni Parente di Stupio, on the occasion of the passage of the Supreme Poet in Val di Magra.

Lunigiana was governed by the Malaspina family who, in fact, formed it with the fortification of numerous villages derived from the Roman city of Luni between the sea and the Cisa pass. The progenitor of the prestigious family, celebrated with exceptional praise by Dante at the end of Canto VIII of Purgatory, was the “Ancient”, Corrado Malaspina, son-in-law of Frederick II – he married his daughter Costanza – Ghibelline and faithful servant of the Emperor who worked the splitting of the two branches of the Malaspina family, the dry branch and the flowered branch, which strategically divided both political positions.

However, it was his son Franceschino di Mulazzo, representative of the Dry Branch, who most often hosted Dante, it was he who delegated the prestigious witness for peace with the Bishop of Luni. And it is precisely Mulazzo that we recommend as a Lunigiana stop on our small Dante itinerary in Italy. Here you can visit the polygonal base of the Obertenghi Tower from the Dante era, near which there is a building probably erroneously identified as Dante’s House. Nearby there is a beautiful statue dedicated to the poet, while in an ancient tower house of the thirteenth century there is the Lunigianese Center of Dante Studies, to which we owe, among other things, the creation of the Via Dantis that unfolds in the historic center, a itinerary in nine Stations marked by marble slabs, for eight Songs of the Divine Comedy. The tour can be done with the guidance of a scholar from the center and some musicians, for a truly interesting Dante experience.

But if Mulazzo is certainly a very important Dante historical center, the whole Malaspinian Lunigiana is a journey into Dante’s Italy, and in the streets of its ancient villages, in its magnificent castles, it is easy to imagine yourself in Dante’s shoes, and look like him peace, even if less historic, in the tranquility of its valleys.

Dante in Casentino, soldier on the front line in the most important battle

The Florentines move their banners on the day ordered, to go to the land of enemies: and they passed through Casentino by bad roads; where, if they had found the enemies, they would have received much damage: but God did not want this. And they came near Bibbiena, to a place called Campaldino, where the enemies were: and there they stopped, and formed a host. The war captains put the feditors at the front of the line; and the Palvesi, with the white field and vermilion lily, were attelati in front of it. Then the Bishop, who had a short sight, asked: “What walls are those?”. Fugli replied: “The palvesi de’ enemies

It is the chronicle of Dino Compagni of the Battle of Campaldino, a key event in medieval Italian history for the affirmation of the power of Florence over Tuscany. It was 11 June 1289 and on the field of the Casentino plain the Guelph ideal and the Ghibelline one were facing each other in a broader sense, in a clash that was actually difficult to frame in a geographic sense, which flared up exacerbatingly throughout Europe. In the words of Compagni, we can also see described the actions of 24-year-old Dante, who was right among the “feditori”. Citizen soldiers still fought, and not professionals or mercenaries, and Dante Alighieri, 24 years old, will later describe the battle as a traumatizing event. Dante fought in the front line among the winning ranks of the Guelphs led by Corso Donati, with the feditori and protagonists of the most direct and violent clash with the Ghibelline line-up.

Among the rolling hills of the Casentino, so rich in history and beauty, where the Campaldino plain opens at the foot of the village of Poppi, the battle described in the words of the Supreme in the Fifth Canto of Purgatory, and in the many artistic representations you can easily imagine in all its impressive grandeur. The plain is in fact free to the eye from constructions, at its center is the Dante’s Column in memory of the event, and a series of iron silhouettes of knights running on their horses make the whole scene truly suggestive.

But in Casentino Dante returned from exile several times, as a guest of the Guidi family who took his fate to heart. Almost certainly he was hosted in the castles of Romena, Porciano and Poppi. Overall, the Casentino is truly rich in Dante’s suggestions. In the castle of Romena, for example, one can recall the story of Mastro Adamo di Brescia, forger on behalf of the Guidi family right within the walls of the fortress and for this condemned to the stake by the Florentines. He is remembered in one of the most tragicomic passages of the Comedy.

Dante to Ravenna, where the Po River descends to have peace with the followers on.

Ravenna is a very important city in the biography of Dante and for the composition of the Comedia. The city has many places that evoke its presence and celebrate its greatness, above all the tomb and the ancient Basilica of San Francesco behind it, where the funeral took place, because it was in the city of Romagna that Dante died in the night between on 13 and 14 September 1321, probably due to malarial fevers contracted some time before in Venice.

The adjacent Quadrarco di Braccioforte is a small oasis of peace in the so-called Zona del Silnezio, an area of ​​the city inextricably linked to the memory of the Supreme Poet. In this corner that tradition wants to take its name from two faithful who took an oath here invoking the “strong arm” of Christ, in various historical moments the remains of the Supreme were moved by the friars to be preserved from possible suitors, the Florentines above all . Dante Museum and Dante House complete the itinerary and the city’s tribute to the poet.

Dante’s grave in Ravenna

Francesca is from Ravenna, a very important character in the Comedy, her words are the first heard by Dante on his pilgrimage to the underworld, and poetically evoke his hometown.

The land, that gave me birth,
Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.

Dante’s Inferno V Canto

In Ravenna Dante was the guest of Guido Novello Da Polenta, who ruled the city from 1316 to 1322 who gave him a house whose exact location is unknown, allowing him to spend a happy period with his sons Pietro, Jacopo and Antonia, of study and writing at the end of the painful exile. Here he composed the Eclogues, which mention the devoted followers who surrounded him in Ravenna, and finished the drafting of the Comedia.
Boccaccio, Dante’s first biographer, narrates the discovery by his son Pietro of the last 13 Canti della Comedia, in a niche of the house, as revealed to him in his sleep by his father.

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