The Florentine exile Dante Alighieri at Fratta

From the book "UMBERTIDE from the origins to the sixteenth century"

by Roberto Sciurpa - Petruzzi Editore - March 2007






edited by

Fabio Mariotti    
















The news is contained in the eleventh chapter of the first book of De vulgari eloquentia , the work that Dante wrote between 1302 and 1305. It is in Latin because it is intended for the learned of his time, opposed to any type of vernacular, and weaves the apology for a noble and elevated vulgar that, in the intentions of the poet, should have replaced the Latin by now more and more disused. Therefore he reviews the various "talks" known not as a result of casual encounters, but for having had more or less lasting contacts with the locals.






















In the cited work, Dante states: Cumque hiis montaninas omnes et rusticanas loquelas eicimus, quae semper mediastinis civibus accentus enormitate dissonare videntur, ut Casentinenses et Fractenses.

(I expel with them all the tales of the mountains and fields, as of those of the Casentino and Fratta, which due to the ugly irregularity of the accent appear discordant from those who live in the middle of the city).

The expression “I expel with them” refers to the other dialects previously treated (Roman, “Spoleto”, Ancona, Milanese and Bergamo) that the poet dismisses as an example of bad vulgarity. In the same way he is opposed to the use of the two rustic mountain (Casentino) and plain (Fratta) dialects due to the irregularity of the accent and the distortion of the words.

















Dante was convinced that the illustrious vulgar was on

mouth of the inhabitants of the central area of the peninsula

(mediastinum) which to be in continuous contact with

culture and business with the peoples of the south and north

they could represent the best synthesis of the various

dialects. In this sense, the translation of the passage reported,

taken up by Aristide Marigo , she is not entirely happy; would be

it was better to say “... by those who live in the cities of the center

(of the peninsula) ”and not“ in the middle of the cities ”. With the wise

on the vernacular, Dante proposed the Florentine vernacular of the learned to become

the official language of the peninsula.

What interests us in this work is not a scholar

discussion on the fourteenth-century language, but the quotation, although in

negative, from the dialect of the inhabitants of Fratta. The vernacular of a small castle that did not have cultural or commercial relations with Florence, must have been known by the poet for reasons other than the needs of exchange or political relations which occurred when he was one of the Priors of the Florentine municipality. Therefore it is almost certain that the poet, in his first wanderings as an exile, coming down from the Casentino mountains, came to Fratta and stayed for some time at the guesthouse of the Camaldolese monastery, experiencing the prophecy of the great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida :


You will try it as it tastes of salt

other people's bread and how hard it is calle

going down and going up another's stairs.


On the other hand, immediately after the flight from Florence, Dante was the persecuted politician and not yet the appreciated poet; his obligatory refuges were hermitages and monasteries and not noble families who opened their doors to him only at a later time.

Of the same opinion is Aristide Marigo, who in the commentary on this passage from De vulgari eloquentia writes:

“There are two examples, one of montanina , the other of rusticana loquela. The inhabitants of the upper valley of the Arno (Casentino) are associated with those of the middle valley of the Tiber, which spreads out in fertile plains. Fratta, today Umbertide, was a large village, where the Camaldolese monastery, then famous, of Monte Corona was located. It seems to hear, in the mention of the two valleys, the memory of the first wanderings made in those places by the exiled poet ”.

























All Dante commentators agree that Fractenses refers to the inhabitants of Fratta. Rajna was also of this opinion who in the first two editions of De vulgari eloquentia maintained this opinion and then changed it in the third with Pratenses, aligning himself with the opinion of Trissino and Corbinelli. But Pratenses certainly cannot be taken as an example of rusticana loquela. Therefore today the thesis that Dante was referring to the inhabitants of our castle is commonly accepted.

It is strange that an oasis of peace such as the Camaldolese abbey of Monte Corona is not mentioned in the Divine Comedy. In any case Dante's knowledge of the Fratta dialect could only have occurred after his stay in the place from where he could also visit the surrounding places mentioned in the third cantica and in particular Porta Sole, in Perugia. It is difficult to find different explanations.



- Photographic archive of the Municipality of Umbertide

- The photo of Dante and Virgil (Orvieto Cathedral) and taken from the book by R. Sciurpa

- Fabio Mariotti photographic archive

De vulgari.jpg
I canto.jpg
Divina Commedia di Dante.jpg
Duomo di Orvieto.jpg
Abbazia Montecorona.jpg