Has there ever been anyone alive or dead that you just felt you had some strange connection with, or maybe just an unusual curiosity, and needed to get to the bottom of it?
There has been something nagging at me about Dante since I arrived. Why was he always so grumpy looking in the statues and paintings of him. Why did he seem so eccentric with the red garb and caps, etc. I don’t recall ever reading any of his works, but today I just had to go visit his house and get a better understanding of this guy.
The house is quite nice, in a funny little nook in central Firenze. I was a bit disappointed, though, as the information within was geared more to the politics, rulers, and social dynamics of ancient Firenze as opposed to Dante himself.
Of course, politics were of major interest to Dante, but I had wanted to learn more about him rather than what was going on around the city that presumably intrigued him and ignited his writings.
In regards to the political structure of Firenze, I did learn that the city was divided into six sections which were further subdivided by the families that essentially controlled or held power in one way or another. It reminded me of the Siena contrade!
The wealthy families in Firenze all had towers on their houses so they could keep track of their enemies. Depending on who had the upper hand at the moment, it was common for that family to lop off the top of the towers of their enemies so that their tower was the tallest. The game never changes, my thing has to be bigger than your thing!
Then I eventually did find one very moving piece of information about Dante. It seems that he did have a love of his life but, as often the story plays out, he didn’t seem to recognize his feelings until it was too late. She ended up marrying someone else and died at just 24 years of age! Dante went on to marry another woman, Gemma, but Beatrice was the muse in his poetry/writings.
There is also a tiny little church just around the corner from Dante’s house in which he first met Beatrice, was married to his wife, and in which both Beatrice and Gemma were buried. This church seems to have been his haven and was a central part of his life.
I feel a bit more connected now, and have compassion for him.