Following in Dante’s steps, the places where the immortal Comedy was born

Following in Dante’s steps, the places where the immortal Comedy was born

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On the trail of the Divine Poet

Featuring among the 2021 Lonely Planet’s awards Best in Travel (30 best itineraries in the world), the Vie di Dante is a historical and naturalistic itinerary that retraces the wanderings of the Supreme Poet during his exile between Florence and Ravenna, when he wrote a good part of the Divine Comedy.

This itinerary begins in Ravenna at Dante’s tomb, a small neoclassical-style temple built near the Basilica of San Francesco and the cloisters that house the Dante Museum. While the Classense Library houses one of the richest collections in the world of books related to Dante, traces of the characters and places present in the Divine Comedy can also be found in the mosaics of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which inspired the poet. At the gates of the city, a stone’s throw from the sea, there is the Classe pine forest that Dante compared to an earthly Paradise.

As you pass through Faenza, you will meet various characters from the Divine Comedy. One is San Pier Damiani, a doctor of the Church and contemplative spirit who appears in Dante’s Paradise: his remains are preserved in the Cathedral. Alberigo Manfredi, “the worst spirit of Romagna” who was guilty of the terrible massacre in Castellina, was relegated to the ninth circle of hell. When he was driven out of the city, he took refuge in the Oriolo Tower, which can be visited today and from which you can enjoy wonderful views over the vineyards on the hills.

Another soul present in Dante’s hell is that of the ferocious mercenary leader Maghinardo Pagani from Susinana, lord of Faenza, Forlì and Imola in 1300, whom the poet punishes as a false counsellor. He was responsible for founding Brisighella, the last stop in Ravenna on the Dante itinerary. In 1290, he had a defence tower built on a rocky spur, where today the magnificent Clock Tower stands.  Together with those of the Manfredian fortress and the Monticino Sanctuary, this is one of the three famous hills of an enchanting medieval town, recognized as a “Slow” City and awarded an Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club for tourism and sustainability; it counts among the most beautiful villages in Italy.

Photo credits

1. The Dante’s Tomb, arch. Comune di Ravenna
2. Mosaics in Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Saliko, arch. Open Library Emilia-Romagna
3. The St. Pier Damiani’s Tomb, Luca Casadei, arch. Strada del Sangiovese
4. The Cathedral of Faenza, Luca Casadei, arch. Strada del Sangiovese
5. The Rocca and the Clock Tower in Brisighella, Amatori Brisighellesi, arch. Unione della Romagna Faentina

Food – Romagna’s meats

Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale PGI certifies beef obtained from cows and bullocks of the Chianina, Marchigiana and Romagnola pure breeds and is among the most prized in the world for its leanness, flavour, and low-cholesterol content, giving us also the world-famous “fiorentina” steak.

Agnello del Central Italia PGI, on the other hand, indicates lamb from local breeds born and raised in central Italy and obtained from a population of sheep historically present in this area and with specific aptitudes, generically called “Apennine”: the meat is clear pink with a balanced covering of fat and is very tender.

The Romagna chicken is common throughout the area and provides muscular meat that is best when stewed in recipes such as Chicken Cacciatora or “Picet cun al patet”, a recipe from the Ravenna delegation of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. In the Conselice area, frogs provide a typical dish of valley cuisine and are cooked stewed, fried or in delicate risottos.

Wine – The Tundè Grape

This native Ravenna grape variety is grown in limited quantities in the Ravenna municipality itself as well as that of Russi. The Tundè grape has been registered in the National Registry of Grape Varieties since 1998, but its origins go back further. From 1932 to 1956, in fact, Primo Tondini carried out several experimental tests of new cultivars of red grapes, through a process unknown to third parties, which led to the creation of this grape variety whose name in Romagna dialect means “Tondini’s grape”. The Tundè grape produces an intense ruby red wine with violet hues and intense aromas of black cherry, red cherry and mixed berry jam, enlivened by spicy notes of vanilla and tobacco. On the palate, it is slightly bitter and astringent with a good body and a balanced finish. It ideally accompanies mature cheeses, cured meats, game and red meats.

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