Today’s visitor enjoys the relaxed atmosphere of the streets, alleyways and squares that wind through the old centre of Suvereto. In the main, their modern names reflect the period of the Risorgimento
and the twentieth century (Magenta, Cavour, Garibaldi, Piave, D’Annunzio, Matteotti, Gramsci and so on). Only in a few cases have the names remained those of a more distant past (via San Leonardo, via Della Rocca, via dei Difficili, vicolo dei Frati (“Friars Alley”),….). In the period prior to the unification of Italy, the street names were not precisely defined, reflecting more often than not particular urban, functional, topographical or morphological peculiarities.
The main road linking the two gateways (the Porta Piombinese and the Porta Sassetana) was known as the via Grande, its two parts being the via di Mezzo and the via della Porticciola. Others were the via Campigliese (today’s via Roma), the via di San Francesco (now via del Crocefisso), via del Rotaio, strada dei Palazzi (the modern via Cavour), via di Castello (via Piave) which passed under Castle Arch to link up with via della Rocca.
Then there was the steep climb of “Difficult Street” – the via dei Difficili, which was in those days without the steps we see now. Beyond these, there were many minor streets such as the via della Chiesa della Madonna (linking the main street with via San Leonardo), the vicolo dei Romagnoli, the strada dei Granai (or “Granary Street”) and vicolo dei Calzolari (“Shoemakers Street”), these last two leading up to the bell-tower of the convent of San Francesco.
In yet earlier times the streets bore different names such as via della Concia (“Tanners Street”), Ruga del Pozzo (“the long drag to the well” would be a free translation!), and so on.Today the streets in the centre of the village are paved with local stone, but until the last century this was not the case. Before then, the streets in the village were of beaten earth or at most crudely cobbled. A report of 1840 described these last as being “largely riven and broken up”, and thus dangerous for passing livestock, carts and coaches. This state of affairs was made worse through the habit of throwing rubbish and human waste directly from the houses into the streets below – “the refuse that many inhabitants freely dispose of from their relative houses” as the council engineer commented in 1839. This widespread habit was to alter drastically in the course of the nineteenth century. As regards Suvereto, in 1836 a project was drawn up for “repairs to the street known as ‘della Porticciola’” which incorporated renovation of the gateway itself – the demolition of its parapet and piers – along with a lowering of the street level by some two yards. This was just the beginning of a more ambitious scheme for urban renewal. Around 1840, in fact, a “project regarding the streets of Suvereto” was put in hand. This aimed at the provision of “paved or otherwise dressed streets” through the use of sandstone in the central parts of the streets, with cobbling in smaller stones at the flanks. Today it is still possible to see such work in various short stretches (for example in via Magenta). At the same time, covered drains were constructed which led to significant improvements in the hygienic conditions of the village.
The stone for these works was extracted locally in the nearby quarries of Montepitti on the land of Luigi Maruzzi towards Campiglia, whilst the smaller stone for rough cobbling was brought in from the surrounding countryside and came also from the reuse of those stones already present in the old streets.