It is time, dear reader, to tell you about the deep bond that unites my fair city with the great poet and the father of the Italian language. Dante Alighieri spent seven years of his life in Verona, during his lengthy exile from Florence.
Dante and the Scaligera family
At the end of the 1200s, the city was at the peak of its power under the ruling Della Scala family. It was a leading cultural centre, one of the most important in the land, the preferred haven for many people who had been sent into exiled during the factional power struggles between the different ruling dynasties. Dante first visited Verona in 1303, staying until the following year as a guest of Bartolomeo della Scala. He returned in 1312, staying until 1318, this time hosted by Bartolomeo’s brother Cangrande della Scala to whom he dedicated the entirety of his Paradiso epic poem.
Your first refuge and your first inn shall be the courtesy of the great Lombard, he who on the ladder bears the sacred bird; and so benign will be his care for you that, with you two, in giving and in asking, that shall be first which is, with others, last. (Paradiso, canto XVII, verse 70).
Dante wrote the De Monarchia and a good chunk of Paradiso whilst here in Verona. In the city he was free to spread his ideas and his works, to study the ancient texts held in the Capitolare library, admire the Roman ruins and breathe the air, hoping for news of a bright and peaceful future. Hopes which were also shared by the enlightened prince of Verona, a man ahead of his times: Cangrande. He appears in the 17th canto of the Divine Comedy.
So recognised shall his magnificence
Become hereafter, that his enemies
Will not have power to keep mute tongues about it.
(Paradiso, canto XVII, verses 70-93).
Where to find Dante in Verona
Dante spent a lot of time in Verona and there are numerous locations where he is remembered, such as the places where he spoke, popularising his ideas, like the cathedral cloisters where there is a plaque dedicated to him in front of the Sant’Elena chapel. Or the church of Santa Maria della Scala, which was attended by the rulers of the city, and in Piazza dei Signori, also known as Piazza Dante, where there stands a statue of the great poet, who dominates the surrounding area. This statue, created by Ugo Zannoni from Carrara marble, standing on a three-metre high pedestal, was unveiled in 1865.
Dante’s love for Verona and the city’s love for the great poet still burn brightly: to mark the seven hundredth anniversary of his death in 2021, the city is organising a series of events to celebrate this deep bond, in honour of one of the most important people in Italy’s history, who found Verona a welcoming and peaceful city to live in.
Do not miss the Silent Dante travelling show, organised by the Teatro Nuovo di Verona.Have you already seen the website devoted to the cultural acitvities to celebrate 700 years since the death of Dante?
In the meantime, what do you say to raising a glass of Valpolicella wine in his memory? One of these wines bears his surname: Serego Alighieri. This vineyard was created through the union of two important families and founded by the son of the great poet, Pietro Alighieri. He was the man who purchased the Casal dei Ronchi estate in Gargagnano, creating one of the leading wine producers in Valpolicella.