Dante and Virgil climb over the broken bridge deeper into Hell. Since Virgil has no physical body, climbing is only tiring and difficult for Dante. As they descend, Dante sees a sight that makes his “blood run cold”. It is a ditch filled with snakes tormenting another group of the damned. These are the souls of the thieves being punished. The serpents wrap themselves around the hands of the souls and coil themselves all around the bodies of these sinners. There is nowhere for these souls to hide from the eternal torment of the snakes.
Dante then sees a snake dart out and bite the neck of one of the sinners. The sinner immediately flares up and turns into a pile of ashes, only to quickly re-form into his original “body”, confused and in terror. Dante compares this metamorphoses to a Phoenix rising from the ashes. This sinner, Vanni Fucci, then explains to Dante that he was from Tuscany and was guilty of stealing the treasury from the church. He then gives Dante a prophecy about what will happen to Dante’s political party (and life) in Florence.