Italian Exile: Dante’s Inferno and Early Renaissance Justice

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Florence and Rome, Italy


  • April 9-16, 2014
  • April 18-25, 2014
  • April 28-May 5, 2014
  • September 3-10, 2014
  • September 12-19, 2014
  • September 22-29, 2014

For more information on this trip please contact Literary Traveler



The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

Poetic Justice, Martha Nussbaum

The starting point of each of our tours is a text and an idea. Books have recorded and shaped the human experience for centuries, and the best ones are read over and over again by each successive generation. By using these literary masterpieces, our tours have a base from which to involve our clients not only in the past literature associated with a city, but also that city’s present and the ongoing influence these works have on Italian life.


An Italian traveling to Tuscany can hardly set foot in Florence without thinking of the city’s most famous exile, Dante, and Italy’s most famous work of literature, his Commedia. This work stands at the base of not only Italian literary history but also much of the modern Italian language, as it would serve as a standardizing model that also introduced new words and phrases, much like Shakespeare did with English. Memorable tales such as that of Pope Boniface VIII, condemned to Hell in Inferno 19, and the treacherous Ugolino’s anguish at being imprisoned to starve to death along with his children in Inferno 33 are still touchstones of Italian culture.

Throughout the Inferno, the reader is struck by the precision with which Dante saw his world and its inhabitants, and how this translated into a poetic structure that is eminently uniform and regulated. During our tour, we focus on the characters presented in the poem as well as the logic that determines their punishment in the afterlife. By doing so, we continue a long tradition of considering Dante’s ideas on justice, filtered through his portrayal of God’s will, a tradition that has given centuries of readers an entertaining vision of late medieval Italian and European culture.

This is the vision that Scolastica Tours’ 2014 offering, “Italian Exile: Dante’s Commedia and Early Renaissance Justice,” seeks to highlight in order to provide our clients with an understanding of Dante’s concept of divine judgment, exemplified in his attitudes toward those whom he consigns to Hell and his native city of Florence, which had banished him in 1302. In traveling first to Florence and then to Rome, our group has the opportunity to debate the entirety of the Dantesque voyage into Hell while observing and enjoying the modern state of the two cities that were central to Dante’s spiritual and artistic projects. At the end of our tour we hope that Dante’s masterpiece will have enabled our guests to see Florence and Rome in a manner that goes beyond the surface level of streets and buildings, bringing them toward a more profound understanding of the cultural foundations underpinning Italian life in both Dante’s time and our own.


The Inferno: A Poetics of Judgment

Dante’s voyage into Hell puts him in the position of acting as both observer and judge of famous and not-so-famous names from world history. Florence, the longed-for home that had cast him into exile, faces a similar literary wrath.

Despite Dante’s exile from Florence, the city takes center stage in the first book of his masterpiece, the Commedia. The merchant economy was developing in a manner that would influence European and world history for centuries, and the populace had a strong sense of community that earned Florence a status of great importance in the Italian political life of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. During decades of wandering throughout the peninsula, Dante would not forget his hometown or his fellow citizens, many of whom became characters in the Inferno. We will discuss his theory of justice, often times explained with the term
“contrappasso,” as well as the structure of Hell, Dante’s linguistic novelty, and its relevance to Italy today.

While in Florence, you will have the opportunity to relax, come to understand the city and its geography, and discuss the references that Dante makes to his native city and its inhabitants in the first half of the Inferno. The secondary work that we use for this tour, Martha Nussbuam’s Poetic Justice, gives us a rigorous yet entertaining and clearly written source to consider while confronting Dante’s text. These books, combined with Scolastica Tours’ exclusive literary packet, reading guide and city guides, means that you have an unparalleled basis from which to prepare for your trip.

Onward to Rome

After a quick journey by high-speed train, you will visit the home of some of Dante’s most memorable sinners.

When Dante began the Inferno in the early 1300s, Rome and the Vatican were not the touristic draw that they are today. Although an important destination for pilgrims, the city was still dramatically marked by centuries of neglect and ruin following the fall of the Roman Empire. You will have the opportunity to see not only Rome as it stands today, but also Rome as Dante viewed it, as a haven for sinners up to and even including the pope.

Here you will again find yourself in luxurious surroundings that allow you to contemplate and discuss the characters found as we descend further into Hell. This will take us from Pope Boniface VIII to the great Ulysses before finally arriving at a vision of Satan himself, trapped in the frozen depths and gnawing away at history’s most famous traitors. These episodes will further illustrate Dante’s reliance on contrappasso, as each character suffers punishment related to yet opposite his sin.


Kyle Hall, Founder and Tour Manager

“I began traveling to Italy over a decade ago, and since my first trip in 2002 have been immersed in studying the Italian language, history and culture. I received my M.A. in Italian Studies from Florida State University in 2006 and that fall began my doctoral program, always in Italian Studies, at Harvard University…Upon leaving the world of iron-gated campuses, I wanted a way to take this academic experience and replicate it for others, focusing on the places where these books and histories came into being. Scolastica Tours represents this attempt of striving to provide each of our clients with a better brand of tourism. As both the founder of the company and your tour manager, this is always in the forefront of my mind.”


2014 tour dates, with prices from $5,185

All tours include fine lodging, many meals, books and other materials, qualified guides, and more.

Each 7 night tour includes:

  • Guaranteed group size of no more than 8 participants
  • 4 nights’ lodgings in Florence
  • 3 nights’ lodgings in Rome
  • Daily continental breakfast
  • 4 dinners and 2 lunches focused on the regional food and wine of Tuscany and Lazio
  • Daily cultural and book discussions, led by your tour guide
  • Walking tours and museum visits incorporating your readings
  • Pre-departure materials including relevant books, exclusive Scolastica Tours literary packet and city guides
  • First class high-speed train reservations and tickets for travel between Florence and Rome
  • Car transfers as highlighted on the tour itinerary

About Scolastica Tours:

Scolastica Tours is founded on the idea that tourism can be more informative, more engaging, and more rewarding than it is currently. We want to provide opportunities to interact with information that go beyond blandly listening to facts that could be just as easily found during a session in front of the computer screen. We want you to return home with more than beautiful pictures. We want to use our expertise to create a comprehensive and relaxing experience that is like no other.

Our tours are not the standard “get on the bus, ride through town, now you’ve seen Bologna, onward, off the bus, follow the umbrella…” offered by so many companies. We focus on thinking about a city and its way of life, rather than passing through in order to say that we have seen it. Our goal is to provide our clients with a rewardingly contemplative experience that allows them to take home more than just a set of photographs and postcards.

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