The poem isn’t exactly an easy read with some translations making
it much harder than others. I found Mark Musa’s The Portable Dante (Penguin Classics) to be the clearest, not least
thanks to the very helpful introduction. What also helped was discovering the
book The Dante Plaques: A Florentine
itinerary from the Divine Comedy, which is a guide to the 34 Dante plaques
put up by the Commune of Florence in 1907 (after a decision to do so was made
in 1900). Written by Foresto Niccolai and translated by Mark Roberts, the book
was invaluable as I tracked down the plaques that are scattered around central
Florence. The plaques show lines from the poem that refer to real places or
Florentines, with the latter being a mix of famous families, men and women that
Dante either condemned or saluted.
I tried to post a picture on my Instagram of each plaque as I
reached the part of the poem the plaque displays a quote from. For each plaque
I quoted the English translation of the lines as shown in the Niccolai/Roberts
book. With each photo I provided a short text giving details of the plaque’s
location, and providing some context to explain what was going on in the canto
from which the lines shown are taken. While the Niccolai/Roberts book provided
invaluable material about who is being referred to in the plaques, I did find
myself wanting more information about the cantos from which the lines are
taken. I’ve tried to provide a little more context to each quote. I soon gave
up trying to post pictures of the plaques as I read the poem because the lines
quoted on the plaques are not evenly distributed through the poem.
I've put the complete set of photos and text into a single document which you can find below. I hope it helps others understand the Divine Comedy, Dante, and his beloved Florence.
can find the photos on my Instagram.