Seven centuries now separate us from Dante Alighieri’s death, occurring on September 13th 1321 in Ravenna, where he spent his last years and found inspiration for his last works.
Follow this itinerary through the historical centre of the former Byzantine capital and look for the marks left by the Supreme Poet and his family.
Let’s begin from the end, from his final resting place.
Dante’s tomb was designed by architect Camillo Morigia at the end of the 18th century and hosted the remains of the poet until they were smuggled by the Franciscan friars, who didn’t want them to be taken away from the Florentines or the Napoleonics.
They stayed hidden until 1865 – 6th centenary of Dante’s birth – and then were found and relocated in the marble sarcophagus that still preserves them today.
Since 1908, a votive lamp within the little room continuously burns with the oil of the Tuscan hills, which is brought to Ravenna by a delegation from Florence every year on the second Sunday of September, in order to celebrate the relationship between the two cities in the name of Dante.
Next to the Tomb, it is possible to admire Quadrarco of Braccioforte, the structure that hosted the display of Dante’s bones during the celebrations of 1865.
It is also the place where a bell donated by the Italian municipalities chimes 13 times every evening to commemorate the death of the poet, occurring in the night between September 13th and 14th, 1321.
Presumably built in the 5th century AD and restored several times over the centuries, this basilica is one of the most ancient ones in Ravenna.
Home to the Franciscan friars since 1261, it also hosted Dante’s solemn funeral.
Under the apse, you will be able to see a naturally flooded crypt – underground due to subsidence, a phenomenon that caused many other buildings in the city to lower.
With its nine exhibition halls full of artefacts and multimedia contents, Dante Museum is an innovative and emotional journey through history and images that will lead you to discover the adventure and inspiration of the Divine Comedy and the consequent fortune of Dante.
In the museum, you will be able to admire portraits and illustrations, the crystal and nut wooden urn that contained the bones of the poet displayed in June 1865, as well as the box in which the friars hid his remains for years.
In the Zone of Silence, a small cultural area dedicated to Dante, you will also find Casa Dante, inaugurated in September 2021 in partnership with the Uffizi Museum in Florence. Inside, it is possible to learn more about the city’s adoration for the poet over the centuries through exhibition halls and multifunctional spaces, including a learning laboratory and a meditation court.
Just outside the car-free zone, in Piazza Mameli, you will have the possibility to see the remains of the monastery of Santo Stefano degli Ulivi (that today hosts the traffic police station) – that is the 18th century façade of its church.
As remembered by a commemorative stone affixed in 2019 beside the entrance, Antonia Alighieri, Dante’s daughter, took the vows and lived as Sister Beatrice right here.
Eldest son of Dante and Gemma Donati, Pietro lived in exile with his father and his brother Jacopo first in Verona and then in Ravenna, where he received ecclesiastical benefices in two churches, not existent anymore, that were located around the street that is named after him – Santa Maria in Zanzanigola and San Simone del Muro.
Thanks to the intercession of the local lord – Guido Novello da Polenta – Pietro Alighieri had the possibility to collect the taxes related to the activities of these two churches.
In the 5th canto of the Inferno, Dante talks about libidinous love through the tragic story of Francesca da Polenta and Paolo Malatesta.
According to the tradition, this house built by Guido Minore da Polenta in the 13th century was the birthplace of Francesca, given in marriage to Gianciotto Malatesta – a warlord from Rimini who fought alongside the da Polenta family against the Traversari family for the domination of Ravenna.