At the tender age of nine, a young Dante Alighieri is said to have fallen instantly in love during a lavish May Day party in Florence. The enchanting young lady in question is widely believed to have been Beatrice Portinari, the daughter of a noble Florentine family. Beatrice Portinari is considered to have been the inspiration for the poet’s greatest life works, though he only possibly met her a handful of times.
Though fleeting, these brief meetings engulfed him with such overwhelming passion and pain, that they fuelled several of Italy’s most important pieces of poetry and one of the most prominent fictionalised female figures in history. First introduced in “La Vita Nuova”, Dante describes Beatrice as “a deity stronger than I; who coming, shall rule over me.” The exploration of Dante’s feelings for Beatrice culminates in “The Divine Comedy”, where she guides him through part of his journey through hell, purgatory and finally, paradise. Read on to discover a Florentine walking tour of the locations associated with two of the most famous contributors to Italian literature, Dante and Beatrice.
Palazzo Portinari Salviati, Beatrice's House
Rumoured to have been the location of Dante’s first sighting of Beatrice all those years ago, her family home was located on Via del Corso 6, around the corner from the Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi. The striking Palazzo Portinari Salviati once belonged to Folco Portinari, Beatrice’s father and the host of the lavish party where Dante’s unrequited love was allegedly ignited. Beatrice spent her childhood here and is thought to have moved out after she married Simone de’ Bardi. It is likely that Dante would have strolled past the palazzo often, hoping to catch a glimpse of his beloved Beatrice. Today, the renowned building has been converted into a collection of luxury apartments.
Ponte Santa Trinita
Admire the setting and inspiration of Pre-Raphaelite artist Henry Holiday’s colourful depiction of Dante and Beatrice, painted in 1883. It has never been officially documented that the couple did in fact meet at the Ponte Santa Trinita, yet this is a wonderful portrayal of their ephemeral relationship, illustrating the couple crossing paths just as they might have done to inspire the works of "La Vita Nuova".
The Badia Fiorentina
A stone’s throw from the Dante Museum, the Badia Fiorentina is a 10th-century Benedictine abbey founded in 978 by Willa, Marchioness of Tuscany. Thought to have been Beatrice’s family parish, the church was a focal point for Florentines and local monks who would often congregate to craft all manner of objets d’art, religious books and manuscripts. The church is also thought to have been where Dante spent a pivotal period of his life as a prior in 1300. Undocumented rumours imagine Dante crossing paths with Beatrice at the church, and it is also famously sited as the venue where the Divine Comedy was first read publicly by Boccaccio in 1373.
The church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi
Another location rumoured to be where Dante’s first sighting of Beatrice took place, Santa Margherita dei Cerchi is one of Florence’s oldest churches and the burial site of Beatrice’s family members. The church is also thought to have been where Dante and Gemma Donati were wed. Today, fanciful messages to Dante and Beatrice are left by adoring visitors, as legend has it that Beatrice’s spirit will help aid their love lives in return for their well wishes. In reality, Beatrice’s husband was buried in Santa Croce Church, where it is much more likely that she herself was buried. The church serves as the headquarters of the Venerabile Compagnia di Quochi, an ancient collective which also forms part of Florentine Chefs’ Association.
We look forward to welcoming guests back to Hotel Savoy in Florence from spring 2021.
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