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Dantesque Tuscany: in the footsteps of the great poet between Siena and Pisa

  • 11/05/2022

​Between places, memory and collective imagination there is a powerful alchemy made up of pages and words, a magic triggered and made eternal by those who, like Dante, have dedicated their lives to the written word and over the centuries have contributed to handing down the narration of regions and territories which today are also rediscovered and visited in a literary key. In this perspective, Tuscany lends itself to being explored following the map that the Poet has shaped between the lines of his works, the Comedy in particular. Landscapes and characters stand out among the pages and suggest many itineraries to follow between the different Tuscan provinces: our journey through Dante's places in Tuscany starts from Siena and leads us to Pisa, follow us in this literary walk between the written page and contemporaneity.

Dante in Siena

Let's start from Siena, a city very present in the poet's works, perhaps second only to Florence, the beloved hometown. Siena is the city where Dante lived for a few months, here he followed a course of studies and like him also his son Pietro. To inform us about this stay is Giovanni Boccaccio: from his "Trattatello in laude di Dante" it is possible to obtain, in fact, also interesting details and anecdotes related to his life. We also know that Dante had correspondence with exponents of the Sienese cultural scene, such as the poet Cecco Angiolieri, with whom he started a biting literary tenzon.

Apart from documents and biographical features, that Dante was in some way linked to the city of Siena is evident above all from the direct knowledge of numerous city events that he reported in his Comedy and that lead us back to very specific places and characters.

 

Fontebranda and Mastro Adamo da Brescia

The first stop on our itinerary in Dante's places takes us to Fontebranda. This imposing medieval fountain located in the territory of the Nobile Contrada dell'Oca is characterized by three Gothic ogival arches surmounted by battlements and a row of blind arches with triangular motifs. The four lion gushes that decorate the front bear the ancient coat of arms of Siena. In addition to its historical and artistic interest, Fontebranda owes its fame above all to the mention that Dante makes of it in the thirtieth canto of Inferno, in the bedlam of counterfeiters. Here we meet Mastro Adamo da Brescia who, condemned to suffer from thirst forever, says he is willing to give up the Fontebranda water, just to see the Counts Guidi of Romena in hell as well. The three brothers, Guido II, mayor of Siena in 1283, Alessandro and Aghinolfo, would have pushed Mastro Adamo to forge the Sienese florins by replacing three carats of gold with other metals. Although some Danteists believe that the Fontebranda to which the text refers is that of Romena, in the Casentino Valley, in the province of Arezzo, the Sienese source is traditionally linked to Mastro Adamo and to the citation of Hell.

 

Sovicille and the “Ponte della Pia"

Here we meet one of Dante's best-known characters: Pia De 'Tolomei. Her tragic story leads us from Siena, the woman's birthplace, to Sovicille, where the medieval bridge that surmounts the Rosia stream and connects Siena to the Maremma still stands today. The ancient structure is traditionally considered the scene of the murder of the Sienese noblewoman who, unjustly accused of infidelity by her husband, Nello d'Inghiramo dei Pannocchieschi, was pushed off the bridge. The woman, whom Dante places in Purgatory, among the souls of those who died a violent death, asks him to pray so that the duration of her pains will be shorter. The "Ponte della Pia" remains today surrounded by the mysterious and romantic charm that cloaks the story recalled by Dante and which over the centuries has become a legend: it is said that on moonless nights the soul of poor Pia continues to wander around the ancient stone bridge manifesting itself as a woman dressed in white with a veiled face and wrapped in a slight glow.

 

The Poet in the Pisan land

The thirty-third canto of Hell takes us to Pisa. Dante stayed in this city for four years, starting from 1312, after spending a period in Genoa. Furthermore, it was in Pisa that the poet composed "De Monarchia", a work in Latin intended for a circle of erudite readers.

Among the references that punctuate Dante's text, in particular, verses 28 - 30, indicate to the reader a very specific place: Monte Pisano, the one that separates Pisa and Lucca. It is here that, not surprisingly, the "Passo di Dante" is located. The verses of the “Divina Commedia" that geographically define this locality are shown on a marble stele next to the bust of the Poet and still mark the path of tourists and walkers who arrive there crossing those paths that once represented the only way of connection between the two cities. A destination for trekking and hiking lovers, the "Passo di Dante" offers a spectacular view of Pisa and the sea and perpetuates the memory of Dante's work.

 

In the city of Count Ugolino

Pisa is also the city of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, Dante meets him in the thirty-third canto of Hell, in the circle of traitors.

At the end of the thirteenth century, Count Ugolino, Ghibelline, held important noble offices, he was a leading exponent of city politics and naval commander. His figure is historically linked to the betrayal he committed against Pisa: the Count, in fact, gave some strategic city castles to the enemy Lucca to favor peace agreements. This solution, in reality, only exacerbated the situation between the two cities and the Count was pointed out as a traitor to his homeland. To worsen his position were the friction with Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, archbishop of Pisa and Ghibelline leader, who locked Count Ugolino with his children in a city tower.

With what is considered one of the most famous verses of the Divine Comedy Dante evokes the tragic end of the Count and his sons who in March 1289 were left to starve in the Torre della Muda. Standing in Piazza dei Cavalieri, in Pisa, this tower still remembers the dramatic story today.

 

Monterufoli: in the land of Count Ugolino

The story of Count Ugolino leads us to the fascinating Monterufoli Natural Park: this suggestive naturalistic area located in the southern part of the province of Pisa, between Val di Cornia and the Val di Cecina, includes the Monterufoli Estate. Surrounded by a thousand hectares of uncontaminated nature, secular trees, mining outcrops and vineyards, the estate has its beating heart in the place where the railway station of the lignite mine once stood and belonged to the Della Gherardesca family, a direct descendant of the Count Ugolino, who has always been linked to these lands.

The property, now an important accommodation facility surrounded by nature, has three buildings, the “Miniera", the “Scuderie" and the “Casa delle Guardie" for a total of nine rooms, one suite and seven apartments.

Those who choose to stay here for a weekend or maybe for a quick stop have the opportunity to make a full immersion in the world of wine and to discover the prestigious productions of the area: to do so just plan a visit to the winery of the estate where you can taste award-winning and appreciated labels such as the “Vermentino di Toscana IGT" and the “Poggio Miniera Val di Cornia red DOCG", which for the 2013 vintage received 95 points in the Doctor Wine 2022 wine guide.

The Estate is also the ideal starting point for an itinerary to discover the Natural Park: lovers of nature and outdoor activities can visit the vineyards riding an e-bike, while lovers of minerals and geology can reach the lignite and magnesite mines and the chalcedony quarries aboard an off-road vehicle

 

Also celebrated by Dante's verses, Tuscany is a land of iconic places: for centuries it has disclosed its wonders and never ceases to fascinate readers and visitors. Have you already chosen your place of the heart?​​​

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