You could spend weeks exploring the city of Florence and never see all of the sights. Crowds of tourists visit the most famous ones – from the statue of David to the Duomo, the Baptistery, Ponte Vecchio and countless others. But, as you probably know, my preference is to also find the most beautiful and interesting spots that are away from the mainstream and out of the crush of tour bus throngs.
That’s almost impossible to do in Florence, but one spot that comes close is a place that was near and dear to one of the city’s greatest poets, Dante Alighieri -known simply as Dante. This wonderful spot is now known as Dante’s Church, but the church itself preceeded the great poet by many years. It is, in fact, one of the oldest churches in the city and is first mentioned in writing in the year 1032.
More importantly, this is where Dante came to worhip and where, in 1274, he first saw Beatrice Portinari, the woman that would become the love of his life. Dante was only nine years old at the time and Beatrice was eight.
They continued to see each other regularly at the church where they both came to worship. As was often the case at the time, Beatrice was married off at the young age of 17 to the son of a wealthy banker. And despite his outspoken love for Beatrice, Dante married another woman, possibly here in the same church. But the young Beatrice remained the subject of Dante’s early passion as the embodiment of perfection in many of his poems.
Dante often spoke and wrote about Beatrice as his divine inspiration. She was the heroine of his magnificent Divine Comedy in which Dante called her the ‘True glory of God.’ When you visit this small, dark church today (located at spot #148 of our Discovery Walk in Florence).you’ll find the burial spot of Beatrice and her faithful nurse on the left side of the church. And often, next to the 14th century tomb slab, you’ll see flowers and hand written notes with messages for Beatrice written by lovers, who like Beatrice and Dante, are unable to live their lives together.
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