Long before Jules Verne and J.R.R. Tolkien, the first person to write about an imaginary journey was Dante Alighieri.
This itinerary is not about taking you from Hell to Heaven, but rather is a tour that takes you back in time in the Supreme Poet’s footsteps, whose scattered traces around Ravenna are reflected in the verses of the Divine Comedy.
Over two days, you will discover three highlights of the Cammino di Dante [Dante’s Walk]: a cultural, artistic, historical, and spiritual journey to the places in Emilia-Romagna where the father of the Italian language stayed, influencing his life and his literary production: Ravenna, San Benedetto in Alpe and Brisighella.
Strangely enough, this suggested itinerary starts at the end. Your first stop is Ravenna, where the Supreme Poet died in 1321 after spending his final years here and where his remains are interred.
Dante’s Tomb is a neoclassical sepulchre built near the Basilica di San Francesco in the heart of the city. Next to Dante’s mausoleum there is a courtyard with the Quadrarco di Braccioforte, where Dante's bones were moved during World War II. These two places, along with the adjoining old Franciscan cloisters housing Dante’s Museum, are part of the Zona del Silenzio, a corner of peace and respect that surrounds the Poet’s grave.
Furthermore, in Ravenna there are plenty of references to Dante Alighieri’s traces: take some time to observe the mosaics of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Church of San Vitale and the Galla Placidia Mausoleum. The story that Dante often drew inspiration from the mosaics to describe places and characters in the Divine Comedy has been passed down for centuries.
Your second stop on this itinerary retracing Dante’s Footsteps is the town of San Benedetto in Alpe where you can find the Cascata dell'Acquacheta [Acquacheta Waterfall], with a magnificent landscape that is evoked in the 16th Canto of Hell, where Dante compares the roar of the cascading water to the noisy and deafening waterfall of Flegetonte, the river that separates the Seventh and Eighth circles of Hell.
This much-loved excursion, one of the most popular in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, is about an hour-and-a-half walk from San Benedetto in Alpe and is part of the Casentinesi Forest, Mount Falterona and Campigna National Parks.
The waterfall is found going upstream the Acquacheta watercourse to the confluence with the Lavane stream, hiking along a pleasant trail that begins at Piazza XXV Aprile, in San Benedetto, but can also be reached from different access points along the first stretch of the provincial road San Benedetto-Marradi.
Your third and final stop takes you to Brisighella. Known especially for its proverbial hospitality, panoramic landscapes, and food and wine traditions, this ancient medieval-style village dates back to 1290 when Maghinardo, lord of the area, had a defence tower built on the rocky spur, where the Clock Tower stands today, to control trade from Ghibelline Romagna to Guelph Florence. Maghinardo and Dante Alighieri’s fate became intertwined when both of them took part in the battle of Campaldino in 1289, and again, in 1302, when the Poet sojourned in the tower at the beginning of his wandering.
But that's not all: Brisighella is part of the Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso [Regional Park of the Gypsum]. When compared to the surrounding Apennines, its peculiarity can be perceived at first glance, especially regarding its vegetation. In fact, gypsum’s unusual properties have favoured the creation of many different landscapes as well as a microclimate that has given life to a unique flora. The most exciting spectacle occurs undoubtedly in Spring when the meadows are filled with wild orchids.
These are just a few examples of the places that inspired the Divine Comedy, presenting Dante “the traveller” with ideas to imagine the scenarios for the men and women and their everlasting stories to tell.