Beatrice "Bice" di Folco Portinari (1266–1290) was born in Florence, Italy, and became the principal inspiration for Dante Alighieri's Vita Nuova. Portinari also appears as his guide in Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia) in the last book, Paradise, and in the last four canti of Purgatory. There Beatrice takes over as guide from the Latin poet Virgil because, as a pagan, Virgil cannot enter Paradise and because, being the incarnation of beatific love, as her name implies, it is she who leads into the Beatific vision.
Her birth name is Beatrice Portinari, the daughter of Folco di Ricovero Portinari, and she was known among intimates as Bice. Dante met her when his father took him to the Portinari house for a May Day party at the age of nine. Beatrice, at the time, was a year younger than Dante. Dante was instantly taken with her and remained so throughout her life even though she married a banker, Simone dei Bardi, in 1287. She died three years later in June of 1290 at the age of 24. But Dante continued to hold an abiding love and respect for the woman after her death, even though Dante himself married Gemma Donati in 1285 and had his own children. After Beatrice's death, Dante withdrew into intense study and began composing poems dedicated to her memory. The collection of these poems along with others he had previously written in his journal in awe of Beatrice became La Vita Nuova.
Beatrice Portinari has been immortalized not only in Dante's poems but in paintings by Pre-Raphaelite masters and poets. According to the autobiographic La Vita Nuova, Beatrice and Dante met only twice during their lives. This statement, however, is highly questionable, considering that they both lived in Florence the entire time Beatrice was alive. Even less credible is the numerology behind these encounters; marking out Dante's life in periods of nine years. This amount of time falls in line with...(?)