I was introduced to Dante Alighieri in Ms. Duncan’s fifth grade English class. I still remember the sweet smell of her beautiful, exotic perfume lingering in the room when I walked in. As she was always prepared, Ms. Duncan had a wall projection of a sketch of a cross section of what looked like layers of the earth, and it seemed like I was walking into a Geography class. When class started, she introduced us to Dante, specifically, Dante’s INFERNO, and the projection on the screen turned out to be a sketch of Dante’s concept of hell revealing all the layers of the underworld. I clearly remember her telling the class that the worst sinners of the world, according to Dante, were “Liars, Cheaters, and Flatterers.” Although I’m not sure if Ms. Duncan’s interpretation was correct, I was intrigued, and although we never read the INFERNO as a class (thank goodness, as it would have been way too difficult at that age), Dante intrigued me.
So two decades later when I saw a copy of the INFERNO at a bookstore, I had to bring Dante home with me. Because I was going through a depression (I broke up with a boyfriend), my doom and gloom mood was befitting Dante’s concept of hell, and I was mesmerized by his lyrical poetry. Since my copy was a dual translation, I couldn’t help but try to read out loud the Italian version even though I couldn’t speak a word of Italian. And that is when my fascination of the Italian language, as well as all things Italy, began. I dreamed of one day being able to read Dante in Italian, so I took a class and hired a private instructor, albeit a few years apart. As with many of life’s dreams, my dream of being fluent in Italian didn’t materialize, although there is always hope for the future (I can still dream, can’t I?).
But it wasn’t just the genius of Dante’s work that fascinated me. It was also the person, the man, who had an unrequited love with Beatrice Portinari since he saw her when he was nine years old, and she, eight. As he only admired her from afar, she was left untouched and became his life-long Muse. It didn’t take long before I fell in love with Dante, as well as for all things Italy. Of course, I dreamed of one day traveling to Florence, his birth place, in addition to exploring the rest of the country. Since “All roads lead to Rome,” I will have the greatest pleasure of flying there on March 3rd! I will spend some time in Rome, then take a train to Florence to pay my respects to Dante, and then, if I’m lucky enough to have have time left, I will take another train to Venice, and then back to Rome to fly back home. I will certainly have enough time to fulfilI my Bucket List wish of tasting the world’s best pistachio gelato and drink an intoxicating glass of wine all in the same day. I very much look forward to La Dolce Vita!