Dante, who knew Rome well at the time of the papacy of Pope Boniface VIII and during the First Great Jubilee of 1300, tells us that the eternal city had serious traffic problems. This was particularly true throughout the Jubilee year when huge numbers of pilgrims would every day cram onto Ponte Sant’Angelo wanting to reach the Saint Peter Basilica or cross the Tiber to go towards Mount Giordano.
But Roman citizens, or most probably the precursors of today’s pizzardoni (Roman jargon expression for traffic cops), devised a more efficient way of marshalling the arriving and departing pilgrims (“hanno a passar la gente modo colto”) in two separate lanes. Dante compares the two swarms of pilgrims crossing the Sant’Angelo Bridge to the two long rows of sinners – pimps and seducers – that he met in the first bolgia of the eighth circle who go round in opposite directions, while being supervised and whipped by horned devils.
- Giovanni Stradano, Malebolge
Follows the subject passage (Hell, XVIII, 25-33) in original form and the Romanesque version by Aurelio Ranieri.
Nel fondo erano ignudi i peccatori;
dal mezzo in qua ci venien verso ’l volto,
di là con noi, ma con passi maggiori,
come i Roman per l’essercito molto,
l’anno del giubileo, su per lo ponte
hanno a passar la gente modo colto,
che da l’un lato tutti hanno la fronte
verso ’l castello e vanno a Santo Pietro;
da l’altra sponda vanno verso ’l monte.
In quela prima borgia, a destra c’era
‘na mucchia de persone: un campionario
de gente ‘gnuda e cruda e che coreva
un po’ in d’un senso e l’antra all’incontrario…
Come nell’Anno Santo der Trecento
a Roma, su quer ponte de Castello,
nun c’era intoppo pe’ l’affollamento,
così l’annà e venì de quela gente
nun tarava nemmanco d’un capello.
Here are the same lines in the English version of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Along its bottom, naked sinners moved,
to our side of the middle, facing us;
beyond that, they moved with us, but more quickly-
as, in the year of Jubilee, the Romans,
confronted by great crowds, contrived a plan
that let the people pass across the bridge,
for to one side went all who had their eyes
upon the Castle, heading toward St. Peter’s,
and to the other, those who faced the Mount.
We have no evidence of any other translation of the Divine Comedy published in the Roman dialect apart from the one, rather free, done by Aurelio Ranieri. However, a fine translation in terza rima of the episode of Paolo and Francesca (Inferno, V, 79-142) – unpublished – deserves to be mentioned: in order to see this translation, made recently by the contemporary Roman poet Maddalena Capalbi, click here.