"Even as at Arles, where stagnant grows the Rhone, Even as at Pola near to the Quarnaro, That shuts in Italy and bathes its borders"

Alyscamps today
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAlyscamps today - Credit: ChrisO

(Canto 9, lines 112-114)

Arles is a town in southern Provence, France, where the river Rhône starts forming a delta and therefore "stagnant grows". The delta region south of Arles is known as the Camargue, where there are many remains from Roman times, especially so during the Middle Ages. Specifically, it was the site of a Roman necropolis, now known as the Alyscamps, of which a portion still remains today. The abundance of tombs there is sometimes explained by the site having served as burial place for Charlemagne's dead warriors.

Pola, or Pula, is located at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula, in what is now Croatia. It, too, was the location of a Roman burial ground, situated at the Porto Grande, of which however nothing remains today. The Quarnaro, now the Kvarner Gulf, is a name for the waters between the Istrian peninsula and Dalmatia, the area further south in present-day Croatia. In Dante's time it was considered the furthest extreme of Italy.