Verona has been Dante Alighieri’s ‘first refuge and first hostel’ after having been hounded from Florence in 1302 (Paradise, canto XVII, v.70). Verona was perfect for him as an exile and as a poet, in fact it was a primary cultural attraction in Italy, famed for being a city-of-refuge for the numerous exiles from the struggles between the varying factions.
Dante spent seven years in Verona: from 1303 to 1304, guest of Bartolomeo della Scala, Cangrande’s brother, and from 1312 to 1318 as Cangrande’s own guest.
In Verona, Dante wrote his ‘De Monarchia’, many letters and a good part of ‘Paradise’, the canticle which the distinguished poet dedicated to Cangrande himself, awarding him a place of honor in the prophesy of the XVII canto.
It was here that his ‘Comedy’ became known; here where he studied the ancient texts conserved in the cathedral’s Capitular Library; here he contemplated the Roman ruins, dreaming of a new Emperor who would bring peace and justice.
Now you are ready to start the tour. Follow our tips to discover Verona on Dante’s footsteps!
1st Stop – San Fermo: When Dante arrived in Verona, the Franciscan friars were re-modernizing the church of San Fermo. Dante loved Saint Francis and for this reason he went there often to watch and appreciate the Master craftsmen at their work. The new Gothic church, with its single wide and luminous chamber, would have expressed the essentially joyful lifestyle of the mendicant order.
2nd Stop – Porta dei Leoni: San Fermo lies at the beginning of the ‘cardine massimo’ (now Via Leoni and Via Cappello), the old Roman road, which, together with the ‘decumano massimo’ had divided the ancient city into quarters. Walking along this road you will reach the Porta dei Leoni, an ancient Roman gate. Here in Verona, you will find many other Roman remains.
3rd Stop – Juliet’s House: “Come see the Capulets and Montagues, /The Philippeschi and Monaldi! Man /Who car’st for nought! those sunk in grief, and these / With dire suspicion rack’d.”: In this triplet from Purgatory (canto VI, v106 – 108), Dante invites Alberto, the Austrian Emperor to come and see the disheartening condition into which Italy had sunk. And it is the city of Verona that he describes, destroyed by the constant battles between the Montagues and their opponents.
4th Stop – The Montague Quarter: to get there, cross Piazza delle Poste and admire its beautiful botanical gardens, which were once part of the Scaligero palace. Dante considered these houses as the symbol of his present – that terrible reality to which he himself had fallen victim when his own opponent faction had hounded him from Florence (we can say that the same thing happened to Romeo who was exiled from Verona after having killed Tibault).
5th Stop – Cangrande’s Palace and the Scaligeran Sarcophaghi: the streets lined by the Scaligeran palaces could be considered as the places that represented Dante’s hope in the future. Dante visited Cangrande’s palace as many other artists, scientists and political refugees. Dante lived in this palace because the Prince kept rooms for every category of guests. So, the poet undoubtedly prayed in the church of Santa Maria Antica which was the Scaliger as’ private temple.
6th Stop – Piazza dei Signori and the Tribunal Courtyard: In the center of the square overlooked by the Scaligeran palaces you will see Dante’s statue. Inside the “International Photographic Centre at the Scaligeran Excavations”, you will have the chance to travel through 1300 years of history ranging from the mosaics from Roman villas, the foundations of medieval towers, Vth century A.D. houses and VIII century Longobard tombs!
7th Stop – Piazza Erbe: in Piazza delle Erbe you will find the oldest market of Verona. Here you will also see a lot of medieval houses and the splendidly painted house-fronts (also known as the Mazzanti ‘Case’). The covering of the ancient Palazzo del Comune was realized during Renaissance; while Palazzo Maffei is Baroque.
The fountain that you will find in this square is called Madonna Verona and it has a twin soul: the head was sculpted in Medieval times while its Roman body is the one of a pagan goddess. She symbolizes of the union between the classical world and modern Christian age. And this union was exactly the union Dante was dreaming of.
8th Stop – Church of Saint Anastasia: Dante did not see this church because it was under construction. Dominican monks wanted to dedicate this church to their founder, Saint Dominic, the saint venerated by Dante. Sant’Anastasia was realized in Gothic style. Inside of t you can see a lot of beautiful paintings, such as the famous fresco “Saint George and the Princess” by Pisanello. It also seems that near this church there was the very first tomb containing Dante’s descendants.
9th Stop – Brà Molinari Square, behind Sant’Anastasia: Piazza Bra is the main square of Verona. Here you can admire the majestic Arena as well as many other monuments and palaces: the XVII century Palazzo della Gran Guardia, which now houses exhibitions and conferences, the nineteenth-century Palazzo Barbieri, seat of the City Hall, and the Maffeiano Lapidary Museum.
10th Stop – Guglielmo Guarienti of Pastrengo’s House in Vicolo Verità: even Francesco Petrarca took refuge here in Verona. He was friends with Pietro Alighieri, Dante’s son. Petrarch’s father was also a friend of Dante’s and had been exiled from Florence for the same political reasons
11th Stop – Saint Helen’s Church next to the Cathedral: on 20th January 1320, Dante illustrated his dissertation on a much-discussed topic of those times (the problem of the level of waters with regard to land), in the hope of being awarded and of becoming professor at the university… But unfortunately, the conference was boycotted.
12th Stop – The Canonical Cloister: Petrarch and other intellectuals got closer to the Classics through the Capitular Library: in this ancient place they discovered Latin texts, which revealed a new world, and were to form the basis of the Renaissance. Dante came here often, because he was attracted to the place which housed Justinian’s Codes, the texts of Roman law which form the foundation of Western Civilization’s legal system.