Dante Alighieri (the real first name was Durante, Dante is a sort of nickname) was born in Florence in May or June 1265, from a low-aristocracy family (not very wealthy) of the guelfo party. Dante himself will become a white guelfo. In about 1285 he married Gemma di Manetto Donati, who will give him three children (or maybe four, we don’t know exactly).
Dante’s first studies were mainly in rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, literature and theology. He was a disciple of Brunetto Latini, who strongly influenced Dante’s cultural growth. In his youth, he was a Stilnovo poet and had many friends among the other members of the Stilnovo Poetical School (especially Guido Cavalcanti). After the death of Bice di Folco Portinari (loved by Dante, who mentioned her in his work with the name of Beatrice) Dante began studying philosophy and theology in depth, also attending some sort of cultural associations in Florence (the Studia) which provided lessons mainly about Aristotle and St. Thomas.
To begin a political career, Dante joined a Medical Corporation in 1295. In the following five years, his career grew quickly, and culminated in his becoming a priore (a sort of governor) in 1300. But in Florence the contrasts between white and black guelfi became harder and serious internal struggles began. Dante had to make some hard-line political decisions: he decided to oppose pope Bonifacio VIII’s expansion policy (supported by the blacks), taking a stand against the pontiff’s temporal interference. But the blacks, with the support of Carlo di Valois (a French prince) won against the whites. Dante, defeated, was strongly accused, even of fraud. He was sentenced to pay a fine and to serve a two-years exile; but he didn’t pay the fine and so was sentenced to death.
From this moment on, Dante roamed many Italian courts never again to return to Florence: he stayed under the protection of Bartolomeo della Scala in Verona in 1303. In 1306 he moved to Lunigiana (a Tuscan region), then to Poppi and to Lucca. In 1313 he went back to Verona where he stayed till 1319. In the same year, he moved to Ravenna, to the court of Guido Novello da Polenta. He died there, in 1321. He was buried in San Pier Maggiore’s Church where his tomb is still nowadays (the Church is now called San Francesco’s). To know more about what happened to his tomb after the death, see the "Dante's Burial" page.