This small church may not have the grandeur of Florence’s other architectural gems, but what it lacks in size and extravagance it makes up for in story. According to some, it was within its walls where the famed poet Dante met both his wife and the love of his life, earning it the nickname “Dante’s Church.”
Built in the Middle Ages, the Church of Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi sits in a small alley just down from the purported house of poet Dante Alighieri. Ever since he was a boy, Dante’s family attended mass at Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi, as did many of Italy’s wealthy families.
According to one legend, as fate would have it, their dedicated attendance paid off. Some say it was at this church where nine-year-old Dante met Beatrice Portinari, his muse and the woman who would inspire his Divine Comedy. At first glance, the young boy was in love.
But just three years after falling in love with Beatrice for the first time, Dante was betrothed to Gemma Di Manetto Donati, the daughter of another wealthy and powerful family, when he was just 12 years old. At age 20, around the year 1285, he married her—some believe within the walls of this parish church.
Many members of both the Donati and Portinari families are now laid to rest within the old church’s walls. Visitors can still pay homage to Beatrice at what is reported to be her tomb inside. Legend says she fixes the love lives of those who leave letters in a basket for her.
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