In 1900 the city of Florence decided to mark, with a series of plaques, some of the places which had a connection with the poem the Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy), the greatest work of their most famous son, the poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).
A committee (consisting of Isidoro del Lungo, Pietro Torrigiani and Giuseppe Minuti) was duly formed to choose the texts/places and the thirty or so plaques were erected in 1907.
The plaque in Via del Corso, for example, marks the spot where the house of the Portinari family once stood. Dante's first love and muse, Beatrice Portinari (1265/66-1290), was a member of this family. Bice, as she was known, was the daughter of Folco Portinari, who, in 1288, founded the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, which is still active.
According to Dante, the poet first met Beatrice when his father took him to the Portinari house on the feast of Calendimaggio (May 1st). At the time, Beatrice was eight years old, a year younger than Dante. Dante was instantly smitten and remained so, even after his marriage to Gemma Donati in 1285.
In 1287 Beatrice married the banker Simone dei Bardi, but she died three years later in June 1290, at the age of 24. For the rest of his life, Dante continued to hold an abiding love and respect for her.
The quotation on the plaque comes from the Purgatorio. It reads, in translation:
Over a white veil, crowned with olive,
A lady came to me under her green cloak,
Clothed in the colour of flame.
Having almost reached the end of his journey through Purgatory, Dante comes upon the sweetest of visions. It is Beatrice, dressed in white, green and red, the colours of the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity).
Dante was banished from Florence for political reasons in 1302. The poet never saw the city of his birth again, dying in Ravenna on September 14th, 1321. He is buried in the Basilica di San Francesco.
In the Florentine church of Santa Croce he is honoured with a grand cenotaph, which bears the words 'Onorate l'altissimo poeta'.