Florentine stories: Dante's rock
At the time of Dante, Piazza del Duomo was very different from how we know it today.
There was the Baptistery but there was no Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, which was built starting in 1296 on the foundations of the ancient church of Santa Reparata. Furthermore, on the right side of the apse of the current basilica, there was Piazza delle Pallottole now appearing very small after the enlargement works that Piazza San Giovanni underwent in the nineteenth century.
The square takes this name from the game of bullets, which took place here, an ancient version of the game of bowls.
Some say that in Piazza delle Pallottole, Dante loved to sit on a stone and think watching people passing by.
Here we can find a rock with a small metal plaque on it with the words "the true stone of Dante". It is clear that the opinions regarding the location of the famous "sasso di Dante" are divergent.
In fact, this stone in Piazza delle Pallottole seems to have appeared later. Originally it was believed that the place where Dante used to relax while admiring the square was further on, towards Via dello Studio. Today we can see the exact point marked by a big marble plaque on the bottom wall of a building.
What is the correct position of Dante’s rock is not very clear, but a few meters do not change much the story. We like to imagine that it was on that very stone, observing the people passing by, that the great poet created his most beautiful verses and maybe even started to imagine the world of his Commedia, written later during the years of his exile.
An amusing anecdote is connected to this stone is an amusing anecdote, which highlights the intelligence and prodigious memory of the great Florentine writer.
Legend has it that one day a man had stopped in front of Dante, sitting as always on his stone completely absorbed in his own thoughts, and he had suddenly asked him what his favorite food was.
Dante, without even looking at him, replied: “l’ovo sodo” ("hard boiled egg").
After about a year, the man passed by thee again and found Dante still sitting on the same rock lost in thought. To take him by surprise and see if he remembered the brief exchange that had taken place between them long before, he asked: "with what?"
The Poet didn’t even flinch, and immediately replied: "with salt!".