Ancient streets of Florence: HELL, PURGATORY and LIMBO, the PARADISE in the suburbs

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2021 is the year of the seven hundredth anniversary of Dante Alighieri‘s death, which took place in Ravenna, his place of exile, on the night between 13 and 14 September 1321. No homage to Dante, however, due to the origin of the street names dedicated to Hell, Heaven and Purgatory.

Although modern Florence loves the great poet more than his contemporaries loved him, the names of the streets don’t belong to the Divine Comedy, but mostly depend on the name of ancient and popular taverns or worse. Walking through these alleys centuries ago, we would have noticed that these streets were full of drunks who went from one tavern to another.

VIA DELLINFERNO (HELL STREET), from via del Purgatorio (Purgatory Road) to via della Vigna Nuova. There was the Osteria dellInferno (Hell Tavern), with the sign of a devil who turned the roast over the flames of the kitchen.

VIA DEL PURGATORIO (Purgatory Road) (formerly called Parion Vecchio) starts from via della Vigna Nuova, and is now a blind road. Originally it started from via Tornabuoni up to Piazzetta de ‘Rucellai. The name is often associated with the name of a tavern in the place, and linked the nearby via dell’Inferno and the Chiasso del Limbo. In the Crusca dictionary, “chiasso” indicates a narrow alley, and “andar per chiasso”, go to the brothel. In other dictionaries it indicates a narrow, short, dirty and badly attended road.

PIAZZA DEL LIMBO (Limbo Square) from Borgo Santi Apostoli to Lungarno Acciaiuoli.

The name derives from a small cemetery present until the year 1000, in which children who died without receiving Baptism were buried and which, according to the Catholic religion, would have ended up in Limbo. In its place the Church of the Holy Apostles was built.

SALITA DEI MOCCOLI (ASCENT OF THE MOCCOLI) to VIA DEL PARADISO (PARADISE ROAD), from via di Ripoli to via Fortini. A peripheral road that has no particular history except that of starting from the “Salita dei Moccoli”, which from via Benedetto Fortini arrives at via del Paradiso.

The moccoli (cursing, in Florentine) were pulled by the peasants who brought fruit and vegetables from Grassina to Florence, pushing the cart overcoming the fatigue of the steep slope to the sound of cursing … and then finally arriving in via del Paradiso!

But there is also another version on the reason for this name: for the Corpus Domini procession the inhabitants of the area put the shells of the snails filled with oil with a wick, lit them like “candle ends” (moccoli di candele) and put them on top the walls of the whole climb.

Finally, there is another curiosity: it is said that the great Gino Bartali, in training, faced it so easily that he even walked it without keeping his hands on the handlebars. Yes, but he was Gino Bartali, the famous tuscan champion road cyclist!!