Dante (1265-1321) was not an ivory-tower intellectual: his support of the White Guelphs led to exile from his native Florence in 1302. Living in Verona and Ravenna, he composed the Divine Comedy, in which he is guided through the divinely-ordered hell, purgatory and paradise first by the poet Virgil and then by his lost love Beatrice. The Comedy was Europe’s first literary masterpiece in a vernacular language. Dante's influence has infiltrated such unlikely places as Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events, the first volume of which is dedicated "To Beatrice, darling, dearest, dead."
I've tried to read Dante, but the translations I've found so far have been uncongenial. So here are two favorite quotations found on the Net, not really representative of Dante's outlook:
The New York branch of the Dante Alighieri Society commissioned this statue for the fiftieth anniversary of Garibaldi’s unification of Italy in 1862, but the sculpture was not completed on time. It was dedicated instead in 1921 to honor the 600th anniversary of the author’s death. Ximenes, the sculptor, also did the Verrazzano monument in Battery Park.