One hell of a trip

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Dante Alighieri died 700 years ago. What can his great poem The Divine Comedy still teach us about travel? WILL YEOMAN investigates

This year sees the 700th anniversary of the death of the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri, who was born in Florence in 1265. His most famous work is La divina commedia, or The Divine Comedy, a sprawling epic poem in three parts — Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise — which took Dante about 12 years to write. He finished it in 1320, the year before his death.

It’s called a comedy. However this account of Dante’s journey through hell and purgatory to get to heaven is anything but funny (the word had a slightly different meaning in Dante’s time; in this case, it simply denotes a work with a happy ending). Unless you’re talking about Dan Brown’s Dante-inspired 2013 novel Inferno. Now that’s pretty funny.

Most people never get past the spectacularly gory, scary and hugely entertaining first part, the Inferno — the present writer included. You could say it’s the ultimate trip from hell. The ultimate buddy road trip. The ultimate revenge comedy. Maybe even the ultimate bad trip. After all, there’s always the danger of getting too high on Dante’s hypnotic medieval Italian terza rima, a stanza and rhyme scheme which he actually invented.

Read the full story here.


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