Dante, Arezzo and Casentino

The 700 years since the death of Dante Alighieri occur in 2021 and like Florence and Ravenna, Arezzo is also a city of Dante. All the more reason to take a vacation around here.

It is not a coincidence that many streets and squares are named after Dante, the Florentine giant of world literature. The calendar of events in the program offers various initiatives to honor the memory of the “Ghibelline fugitive”. Exhibitions, theatre performances and meetings open to the public are a precious opportunity to learn more about the figure and the work of the father of the Italian language.

In Dante’s Footsteps in the Land of Arezzo

From the main city to the Casentino, there are many places connected to the life of Dante and the Divine Comedy. Your tour in the footsteps of the Supreme Poet can be divided into two large macro-chapters: Arezzo and the Upper Arno Valley.

Zero rhetoric: they are places where the passage of Alighieri has left an indelible imprint. Youwill find some sites that centuries later have remained almost unchanged since he saw them. Others are undeniably changed but not in negative way. The Dante aura that pervades them renews them every day with a special charm difficult to describe. 

Tour in the Land of Growlings

There is a title of which the people from Arezzo love to boast with a kind of amused complacency. It is a somewhat courtly expression which may sound incomprehensible to an ear unfamiliarwith Dante’s language.

What does “growling” mean? You can interpret at least these words with “stocky, robust and menacing little dogs” – prone to growl, precisely -. Here there is the definition that Dante, by the mouth of another character, reserved for the aretinians in song XIV of Purgatory, in which he launches into a roundup not very flattering of various Tuscan populations..

Surely the self-irony is characteristic of the character of the inhabitants of Arezzo and surroundings. After all, do you want to put a quote in one of the most famous literary works in the world? And so the people of Arezzo smile for this “dedication on the contrary” by the illustrious Florentine.

Arezzo vs Firenze: Two Cities Divided By Politics

A little bit of Fourteenth-century political history will come in handy. During the Middle Ages in many Italian cities (especially in Florence) the society was divided into two opposing factions, Guelphs and Ghibellines. The former wanted the Church to have a voice in political matters as well. The Ghibellines, on the other hand, were opposed to any intrusion of the popes regarding the government of the cities and were in favor of the exclusive authority of the emperor.

If Dante belonged to the White Guelph party – the more moderate, unlike the blacks -, Arezzo was known as a tenaciously Ghibelline city. This historical antagonism would be the basis of the literary coldness with which Dante unceremoniously portrays Arezzo in the Divine Comedy… Nothing personal, I mean.

The First shelter

“I have seen outriders in your land, O Aretines. I have seen raiding-parties,tournaments of teams, hand-to-hand jousts “. You will read these words almost at the beginning of Canto XXII of Hell. Dante’s Arezzo was already a city of horse tournaments.

Did you know that Saracino Joust 2021 was held in honor of Dante Alighieri? It is the Queen of the city, a challenge between knights and the King of the Indies held in Piazza Grande. You should have seen it coming, considering the anniversary of the death of the Florentine genius this year. 

Of courseDante was in town. In fact, sources say that Arezzo was one of the first places where the poet found shelter after the ban that forced him to leave Florence in 1302. Literate but also active politician, the basis of his exile was the will of the Black Guelphs to get rid of the most uncomfortable opponents.

As you can imagine, it was a very painful turning point for Alighieri who will change his life forever and will lead him to travel for years in Italy. This is how, after staying in the main city , Dante moved to Casentino, at the time governed by the family of the Guidi Counts.

Casentino, Dante’s Valley

A Monument In Campaldino

Before he was an exile, the young Alighieri had already been in the guise of a soldier around here. On June 11th, 1289 he was also in the ranks of the Florentine Guelphs who faced the Ghibellines from Arezzo in the famous Battle of Campaldino. The clash ended with the victory of the first and the poet evokes him as a pilgrim of the afterlife in the Divine Comedy.

In the plain where the fight took place between Ponte a Poppi and Pratovecchio, near a roundabout you will come across a white marble monument. It is Dante’s Column with the main city holding up a kind of sign. Inside that box you will find the lily and the rampant horse that are the symbols of Florence and Arezzo. A stele that like a bookmark in the Campaldino Plain preserves the memory of this historic bloody battle.

Guidi’s Castles and Casentino Forests 

Poppi, Romena and Porciano are unmissable places in your tour of Arezzo inspired by Dante. They are all located on top of the hills in a strategic position and were owned by the Counts Guidi. This noble family was indispensable to allow Alighieri years of relative tranquility in the valley as an illustrious guest.

Poppi Castle is the most famous. Model for Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, its profile has always been the symbol of Casentino. You will be amazed to see it from the outside and explore the interior.

Let yourself be carried away in the fairy-tale aura that surrounds the remains of Romena Castle. Dream of becoming a feudal lord in front of the breathtaking view that opens in front of you, when you turn your back to the tower of Porciano Castle.

And if you still have time, treat yourself to an excursion to the Casentino Forests now protected by one of the most important national parks in Italy. Even Dante has known and walked the forest paths guarded among extraordinary trees in his frequent trips to and from the Romagna.

Within this natural prodigy you will have the impression of walking alongside the Great Poet. An unforgettable walk will be your authentic tribute to his immortal genius in the land of Arezzo.