Dante 700: Portraits of Dante and his places

A photographic exhibition by Massimo Sestini

Santa Maria Novella, from October 29, 2020 to January 6, 2021

Update 2020-11-06: the exhibit is closed from November 6th, as are all museums and exhibitions nationwide. Don’t worry, you can still see the virtual tour of the exhibit (while it was in Rome) on Musefirenze’s website.

In what used to be the dining hall of the monumental complex of Santa Maria Novella you can find the photography exhibition “Dante 700 – A portrait of Dante and the poet’s places in the photographs of Massimo Sestini”.

Organized by MUS.E and sponsored by the City of Florence and the Florentine Civic Museums, with support from the Ministry of Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the exhibit one of the first of a series held in the Quirinale rooms in Rome, where it ran until October 11, kicking off the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of the death of the Great Poet (in 2021).

Calling upon the artistic advice of Sergio Risaliti, art critic, curator, writer and director of the Museo Novecento in Florence, and the scientific advice of Domenico De Martino, professor at the University of Pavia and director of the Dante 2021 festival in Ravenna, “Dante 700” is an exciting journey through 23 special shots in search of the legacy left to us by the author of the Divine Comedy.

Massimo Sestini, an internationally renowned photo-reporter, pursues this theme and analyzes it with a highly original eye with experimental and unconventional photography techniques. It ranges from Florence to Ravenna, where Dante’s remains are preserved, passing the source of the Arno River on Mount Falterona. It also goes to Venice, Rome, Verona and Poppi, to discover the extent in which the poet’s countenance continues to be part of our lives.

Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio, woodenl door with incision of the Great Poet on drawing by Sandro Botticelli.

Accompanying the 23 shots is a Renaissance masterpiece: a wooden door from the Palazzo Vecchio Museum, made in 1480 by Giuliano da Maiano and Francesco di Giovanni (known as Francione), based on a drawing by Sandro Botticelli. The full figure of Dante is portrayed in wooden inlay. It is a precious work, both for its intrinsic value and the image of the poet handed down to us by him.

Sestini’s eye avoids that postcard picture affect by using innovative equipment.

For example, by mounting an ultralight camera on a telescopic pole, Sestini literally lifts us the viewer to the height of the statue of Dante in Piazza Santa Croce, in Florence, deserted due to Covid.

Firenze, piazza Santa Croce, Statue of Dante

Then with a drone he photographs the artist Enrico Mazzone as he works on his 97-meter-long Divina Commedia inside the Covered Market in Ravenna.

Among the exhibition highlights are two other photos that offer unprecedented points of view.

The first is an incredible image of the Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari that adorns the inside of the Cathedral’s dome Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. It is the first time ever that the fresco has been photographed from top to bottom, and this was achieved by lowering a radio-controlled camera with a fishing line from the top of the cathedral’s lantern, 85 meters above the ground.

Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the Last Judgement by Vasari and Zuccari inside the Cupola by Brunelleschi photographed for the first time from top to bottom.

The second is a symbolic image of Florence which – seen from above – becomes a planet: this was achieved by projecting, from a helicopter, an omni-directional 360°-camera for a spherical view tied to an eight meter-long pole.

Fiorenza dentro da la cerchia antica, ond’ ella toglie ancora e terza e nona, si stava in pace, sobria e pudica. (Paradiso XV, 97-99)

Then there are several shots from news stories, among high school students grappling with Dante’s tercets and street artworks that creatively celebrate the great genius of literature.

For the Florentine stop, the photography exhibition is enhanced by three special images which illustrate the depth of the relationship between Dante and Florence.

One photo portrays the tour guide Riccardo Starnotti during one of his spectacular tours to explore Dante’s places: dressed as Dante, he recites the Divine Comedy from Piazzale Michelangelo.

There is Dario Cecchini, the world-renown butcher in Panzano in Chianti, with a “carnivorous” version of Dante’s poem.

And finally, there is the photo in which the statue of Dante in Piazza Santa Croce is reflected in a pool of water: an evocative vision that brings the poet closer to us.

Monte Falterona (AR), source of the Arno river. “Per mezza Toscana si spazia un fiumicel che nasce in Falterona, e cento miglia di corso nol sazia“. (Purgatorio XIV 16-18)


Until November 30, from Thursday to Monday open from 11 am to 5 pm; Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm.
From December 1, from Monday to Saturday open from 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm. Last admission 4 pm.


The ticket is included in the tour of the Santa Maria Novella Complex.

Full price 7.50 euros; discounted 5 euros (11-18 years); free for children under 11 and residents of the Municipality of Florence.

Entrance permitted every 15 minutes. The visit is one-way, as required by the anti-Covid19 regulations.