DANTE IN MUGELLO AND ROMAGNA TOSCANA
lorence, March 10 1302: “Alighieri Dante is found guilty of barratry, fraud, falsity, wilful misconduct, malice, unjust extortion practices, illicit proceeds, and pederasty; and he is sentenced to pay a fine of 5000 florins, is permanently banned from holding office, is perpetually banished (in absentia), and if he is caught, will be sent to the stake until death cometh.”
(Libro del chiodo – Archivio di Stato di Firenze)
On that date―as Boccaccio writes, “He, thus, left his wife and small children in the hands of fate, and exited that city to which he was never to return,”―the Poet’s exile begins.
Dante traveled north of Florence. On June 8 of that same year, in fact, in the Abbey of San Godenzo the Poet and sixteen Florentines promised to compensate the Ubaldini―powerful feudal lords of Mugello who had dominated the territory for many years and controlled the two sides of the Apennines between Florence and Bologna―for any damage that might result from what was foreseen to be a long and expensive war against the Black Guelphs, who had political control over the Tuscan city. The records preserved in the Archivio di Stato di Firenze, draw up by the notary Ser Giovanni Buto of Ampinana (a locality in Vicchio) bear witness to this fact.
In those first years of his exile, Dante did not distance himself excessively from Florence, because he hoped to return to his homeland: he was, in that period, a guest of the Ordelaffi family of Forli, and most likely of their Ubaldini allies, who are cited in numerous parts of the Divine Comedy. Among the numerous fortresses and castles they possessed to control both sides of the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, the principal and most unconquerable of them was Montaccianico Castle in Sant’Agata (Scarperia), which was situated along the main communication route leading North.
As the Florentine historian, Dino Compagni, states in his Cronica: in March 1303, an expedition lead by the Ordelaffi and the White Guelphs left Montacciano for Pulicciano. The castle―once owned by the Ubaldini family―was not distant from Borgo San Lorenzo, stood on an important communications route that connected Mugello and Faenza, and, in 1260, was under Florentine rule. Another historian, Giovanni Villani, also makes mention of it in his Nuova Cronica.
Scarpetta and his allies, defeated and chased out by the Florentine Podestà, Fulcieri da Calboli (depicted in Dante’s Purgatory as a “hunter” of human flesh), “took refuge on Monte Accenico” before returning to the other side of the Apennines.
The battles between the Ubaldini, the Ghibelline allies, the Florentine exiles and the city of Florence went on continually until 1306 when the Black Florentines decided to attack the fortress at Montaccianico, which was razed to the ground by the end of August, “so that not a house or stone upon stone remained.”
We don’t know if Dante took part in the battles of Pulicciano and Montaccianico―even if, before becoming a poet, he had been a man-at-arms. What is certain is that he frequented, in the first years of his exile, the part of the territory that includes Mugello and the bordering Romagna and that he was enchanted by the beauty of the land. How can we, with regards to this, not recall Inferno Canto XVI, which has made the enchanting Acqua Cheta falls in San Benedetto Alpe famous?
The poet’s ties to this area of the Apennines, however, are dated prior to 1302: Dante, in fact, was acquainted with Maghinardo Pagani da Susinana, who fought with him in the Guelph forces in the famous battle of Campaldino on July 11, 1289.
A powerful and ambitious feudal lord of the three Apennine river valleys Lamone, Senio and Santerno, Maghinardo founded Brisighella, became the Captain of the People and Podestà of Faenza and Imola, the Captain of the People of Forlì, and had control over numerous castles in strategic places. The poet puts him in the Inferno for he “Who changes sides ’twixt summer-time and winter;” having allied with the Guelphs in Tuscany and the Ghibellines in Romagna; and in Purgatory, Dante prophesizes the death of the “devil” Pagani, which took place in August 1302.
Dante was also the contemporary and fellow citizen of Giotto (1267-1337), the great artist who was born in Mugello in Vespignano (Vicchio). Legend has it that they were friends but, although they never actually met, they surely had great respect for each other. In fact, in Purgatory Canto XI, Dante writes: “In painting Cimabue thought that he/ Should hold the field, now Giotto has the cry, / So that the other’s fame is growing dim.”
In the frescoes found in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, among the rows of saints, Dante is portrayed behind Giotto’s self-portrait.
After Dante’s death, Giotto and his school immortalised him in the fresco of The Last Judgement found in Bargello Palace in Florence.