Poetry Food Wine and Eroticism
Dante Alighieri was a statesman, poet and father of the modern Italian language. May 29th2015 was the 750th anniversary of his birth in Florence. As a literary figure, Dante is placed alongside Homer and Shakespeare, creators of larger than life characters.
The Divine Comedy, his defining work, is, among other things, a first for the Italian language and a representation of the spiritual, personal and political circumstances of his time. The latter led Dante into exile from Florence, including in Marche, where he provided profound inspiration to the local culture.
Urbino is remembered by Dante in the 27th canto of the Inferno in a dialogue with Guido of Montefeltro, the local lord. Fiorenzuola di Focara owes its notoriety for having hosted Dante Alighieri in a baker’s house where the poet experienced the emotion of strong wind gusts lashing the promontory on which stands a castle by the sea creating the most incredible and dangerous currents.
The Gradara Castle and rocks live in the hearts of lovers all over the world; here, the love story between Paolo de Malatesta and Francesca da Polenta – better known as Francesca da Rimini – blossomed, came to a tragic end and was eternalized by Dante in the V canto of the Inferno. You can view the altarpiece by Giovanni Santi, father of Raffaello Sanzio – Raphael.
Pesaro is not directly cited however it maintains strong connotations to Dante because Gianciotto de’ Malatesti, nicknamed the Cripple, was mayor of this seaside town and is buried here. Dante consigned him to Hell.
Fonte Avellana Dante spent much of his life in the footsteps of Pier Damiani, to whom he dedicated the 21st canto of Paradise in the Divine Comedy. He also visited Mount Catria in search of a peace and tranquility denied him in his native Florence.
Dante and the Gastronomical Traditions of Marche
There is a rich presence of food in the Divine Comedy and his other works, including lentil soup laced with wine, figs, apples, honey and vin santo; in all, 14 courses are cited in the Convivio. Also well-known are the cantos dedicated to the gluttons in both Hell and Purgatory that accompany his constant hunger; he even coined the neologism scuffare – to eat avidly and noisily. There is a rapport between diet and eroticism: the gluttons come right after the lustful in Inferno’s 6th canto and, in Purgatory, those that fall to temptations of the senses are presented in the last of the seven frames.
Some Dishes inspired by Dante
Tartare of Madonna Bellaccoglienza these are the classic waffles from Abruzzo wrapped with aged cheese, making them into cannoli. Madonna Bellaccoglienza is the sensual protagonist of the novel in verse The Flower which Dante wrote translating from the French Roman de la rose.
Glauco Omelette a cheese omelette, served hot and in wedges, with algae or herbs that make it gently magical. Glauco, the legendary fisherman of Boeotia, places his catch on a bed of herbs, then sees them take heart and jump back into the sea. He ate the algae, turned into a fish and became a marine deity.
Suppa alla Beatrice a barley soup of barley with tricolor vegetables sprinkled with grated aged cheese.
Beatrice, dressed in white, red and green, announces that God’s righteousness is not afraid soup, referring to the curious Florentine custom of forgiving even the most serious crimes if the perpetrator could eat a soup dish at least 7 times at the crime’s site without getting arrested. (“Paradise” 33rd).
Mense alla Virgilio the Piadina of Romagna. Virgil, acting as a guide to Dante in the Divine Comedy, tells him from the Aeneid that the Trojans acquired the custom of eating piadine with their food during a stopover in Africa; a culinary tradition they introduce in Rome and later in Romagna (Inferno 1st).
Salse alla Ciacco a spicy Bolognese mustard. Ciacco is a Florentine character know for the prodigious appetite, and placed among the gluttons in Hell by Dante. The colors of the sauce – white, red and green – symbolize the Christian Faith, Hope and Charity.
Anguille alla Vernaccia the famous eels from Bolsena and Cornacchio are marinated in Sardinian or Ligurian vernaccia and roasted over olive wood coals. For Dante, a condemnation of Pope Martino IV to Purgatory (24th) who spent more time on food and less as St Peter’s Vicar.
Honey and Fossa Cheese from Monte Diana a classic accompaniment and an aphrodisiac which in theological terms unite knowledge (milk) and justice (honey). The reference to Diana – goddess of the moon and of night – is the ancient etymology of Mondaino, a town now famous for its fossa cheese (Paradise 18th).
Torta di Frutti Misti a pie made of apples, pears, figs and plums, present in all religions.
Vini dei Colli di Romagna famous area wines – sangiovese, albana, rebola, vini di sabbia.
Acqua Lete available commercially today. When Dante reached Earthly Paradise, he was immersed by a beautiful woman named Matelda in the Lete River, so named because capable of removing one’s sins – a baptism. Emerging from these waters, one could continue the journey to Celestial Paradise (Purgatory 28th).