Heaven & Hell

As we've seen, Venice was sometimes a rough place in its past, and so it's not surprising that it has its share of sinister streetnames. But who'd have thought that it could have gotten this bad? Here, in fact, we have the ninzioletto for "Hell Bridge."

While there are streetnames in Venice taken from stories of legendary encounters with devils (more about that later...) this isn't one of them! It's near the Arsenal, the famous shipyard of the vast Venetian fleet, which Dante had seen and used to describe his version of Hell, in Canto XXI of the Inferno (as you can see in this translation by Longfellow...)

But the city was also devout, and still carries the mark of this religious heritage. In a city of just a few square miles, there were over 70 parishes, and countless monasteries, convents, and devotional confraternities of lay people. Here is in fact just one of four "Calli del Paradiso," or alleys "of Heaven." This one in the sestiere of Castello has a particularly sweet history... Story goes that this fifteenth-century Gothic arch was built when the daughter of the owner of the house on one corner married the son of the other, and they commissioned this archway showing the Madonna sheltering both the newlyweds under her cloak to celebrate the occasion, not to mention to link their two properties together!

(And this image shows the other side of the arch which faces the "Bridge of Heaven.")

As for its name, it may come from the fact that apparently this calle would traditionally go all out to deck its walls with lanterns and decorations for all the major religious holidays.

(Last, but not least, being a good Catholic city... there's Purgatory too!)


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