On Dante’s footsteps in San Godenzo

5 December 2023 | Things to do, Things to see

Everything in San Godenzo speaks of Dante Alighieri. The squares, the tablets that adorn the streets, the footpaths, the festivals, the bridges and the waterfalls all bear the name of the great poet and celebrate his passage through these lands during his exile.

It all began in June 1302, when Dante, who had been in exile for a few months, did his last political act by taking part in the “Convention of the Guelphs and Ghibellines,” held in the choir of the Abbey of San Gaudenzio.

The convention brought together the noble Black Guelph and Ghibelline families, who were expelled from Florence after fighting with the White Guelphs and wanted to plan their return to the city by meditating on revenge.

For more than 30 years, San Godenzo has commemorated this event during the “Dante Ghibellinofestival, with a historical procession through the town streets. The celebrations culminate in awarding the homonymous prize to citizens who, during the year, have distinguished themselves for their civic commitment to San Godenzo, its territory and its community.

Dante, in exile and a guest of the Conti Guidi in Casentino, traveled through these lands, certainly taking the road that crossed the Ponte del Cicaleto because it was the only one available then.

These places not only bore silent witness to his passage but also left an indelible mark on his imagination, so much so that they inspired the composition of some verses of the Divine Comedy and the creation of Dante’s Inferno. Thus, the woods around San Godenzo take on the appearance of the famous ‘dark forest’ in which the supreme poet lost his way, and the stream Acquacheta, with its homonymous waterfall, becomes the infernal river Flegetonte, in whose waters those who are violent towards their neighbors are condemned to serve eternity.

The waterfall of the Acquacheta is mentioned in Canto XVI of the Inferno (verses 94-105), where Dante compares the thunderous roar of the waterfall to the tumult caused by the rushing waters of the Flegetonte.

San Godenzo thus becomes a living heritage, still tangible today, of a cross-section of Dante’s political and literary life. To explore these places is to pass through the portals of an ancient era, to immerse oneself in the atmosphere that inspired the writing of one of the most important works of universal literature, the Divine Comedy.