Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265. Dante is definitely one of the most important Italian poets and one of the most outstanding writers of European medieval times. However, only little is known about his life. Presumably he attended the Franciscan school at the convent of Santa Croce and the Dominican school of Santa Maria Novella. It is certain that he was taught in Florence by Brunetto Latini, an important philosopher and orator.
Dante stayed in Bologna in 1285 and probably studied law at the university there. During this time, he produced his first important work, "La vita nuova" ("New Life"), which is the finest example of Dolce Stil Nuovo, a contemporary Florentine poetic style written in Volgare, the colloquial dialect. Due to the force of his language and his lyrical intensity, it is an important example of European poetry.
From 1285 until 1301, Dante is documented to have held various political offices in his hometown of Florence, though he was banned in 1302. He spent the rest of his life in exile, staying with Bartolomeo della Scala in Verona, among others. In 1304-05, Dante composed "De vulgari eloquentia libri duo," two volumes on the advantages of the use of the Italian language. From 1303 until 1308, he worked on the fragment "Il convivio," which was to contain 15 essays giving a comprehensive overview of the knowledge of that time period - and therewith the knowledge of its author.
Around 1307, Dante began work on his epic masterpiece "La divina Commedia" ("The Divine Comedy"), which he finished in 1321, shortly before his death. With images of high density, the poem describes the journey of the first person narrator through hell (L'inferno), purgatory (Il purgatorio), and paradise (Il paradiso), during which he meets the souls of long dead mythological and historical figures.
This amazing work, which can only be read and understood with extensive knowledge of the political, scientific, and philosophical discours of Dante's time, can be interpreted in accordance with the medieval teaching of the fourfold exegesis, the literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogic (mystical allusions to heaven and the afterlife).