Edward Lear.

Journals of a landscape painter in southern Calabria, &c online

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alone. I set off by the road to Melito, and reach that town by Ave-
Maria. Wonderful views of the crags and town of Pentedatilo. The
discomforts of the house of Don P. Tropsea. Agitation and distress of
his family. The supper. Revelations of revolution. Announcement of
disturbances. The supper party breaks up. The bed-room. The
midnight adventure. I leave Melito. Ciccio's foreboding silence. The
River Alice. Amazing views of Pentedatilo its ravine and rocks its
strange form. I "ascend to the town ; surprise and alarm of its inha-
bitants. Proceed to Montebello. Indian figs. The revolution and

its shadows. "The Pentedatilo Tragedy," a tale of horrors Ascent

to Motta S. Giovanni and return to Reggio. Commencement of the
revolutionary movements of 1847-8. Appearance of Reggio. Absurd
waiter at Giordano's hotel. Interview with Consigliere da Nava. Expla-
nation of various doubts and circumstances throughout our tour.
Processions of the insurgents, &c. An anxious morning. I escape from

Reggio, and reach Messina. P and I embark for Naples in a

Malta steamer. Farewell to Calabria Ulteriore Prima !

August 29. A day of arrangements for past
and future. Ciccio received his thirty-one
dollars and a half, with four more as Buona-



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 181

mano ; * whereon the ancient guide burst into
tears, and said he should have thought it quite
enough to have worked for such nice people as
we two for his stipulated pay only : he more-
over declared that we appeared to him in the
light of sons and nephews, and that he would
live or die for us, as, how, and when we
pleased. Dighi-d6ghi-da was indeed a most
meritorious fellow.

To-morrow, having one spare day, we agree
to go to Melanicd, where there are said to be
fine forests, and after that the programme for
the next five days is as follows: we cross to

Messina, and while P remains there for

three days, I intend to return here and go to
Capo d'Armi and Pentedatilo ; after which I
then rejoin my friend at Keggio on the 4th of
September so as to start on the 5th for
Monteleone, commencing thence our giro in
Calabria Ulteriore II.

Visits to Reggio acquaintances occupied
greater part of this day : in the evening we



Extra money given iu token of satisfactory service.



182 JOURNALS OF

took part in the usual carriage-drive along the
Marina and high street of Keggio a mode of
passing two hours, and of seeing the neighbours
or strangers as much in use in the capital of
Calabria Ulteriore II., as in the Chiaja of
Naples, the Corso of Rome, or Hyde Park.

August 30. We set out for our day's expe-
dition to the hills of Basilico at early dawn,
and retraced our steps along the high road to
Naples, nearly as far as Gallico, a village which
stands at the foot of the mountains, and is
exquisitely picturesque, owing to its wide
streets being entirely webbed and arched over
with a network of pergolate. Here, as it was
Ciccio's native village, we paid a visit to his
cottage, where his wife and family gave us
heaps of fine figs and grapes, and did all they
could to welcome us in their way.

Toiling up a fiumara we ascended hence to
Calanna, a castellated village, placed in a grand
rocky pass ; after making a drawing of which,
we continued to ascend the hills looking back
on ever-widening views of the Straits and



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 183

Etna, and forwards towards the heights of
Basilico, on the hills of Aspromonte. But the
forests which all the world of Reggio talked
of were little worth looking at ; those who had
described them to us had never seen either
Polsi, or Pietrapennata ; and we were sadly
disappointed with the result of our exertions.
At length we reached some few men who were
at work at the " Sega," or sawpits, placed on
the highest part of the mountain ; these
laughed at our questions about "large oak
trees," and grinned incredulously with odd
signs which we could not make out. " Oak
trees are all bosh/' said they, " and you know
that as well as we ; but as for the men you seek
we assure you they are not here : but we do not
say they are not at Santo Stefano, that village
you see below. In vain we said we sought no
persons. "You are wise to keep your own
counsel," was the reply. So again we saw there
was some mystery we could not unravel.
Therefore, voting the mountain of Basilico an
imposture, we left it, and came straight down to
Reggio. Possibly, after all, we had not gone



184 JOURNALS OF

high enough up in the hills to discover the
gigantic oaks. We returned by a different
route, and before we reached Keggio it
was dark.

August 31. We crossed to Messina, paying
twelve carlini for a boat, which we took for
ourselves. In the fine old cathedral, and in the
exquisite views from the higher parts of the
city, there is sufficient amusement for travellers,
and we, besides, had colours, paper, and
wandering-artist conveniences of all kinds to
look after.

September 1. For three carlini I recrossed the
Straits in one of the public boats, leaving P
at Messina to join me at Reggio on the 4th. A
fair wind soon placed me on the Calabrian shore,
where I found the faithful Ciccio awaiting
me with welcome, and a considerable piece
of eloquence ending with Dighi-doghi-da as
usual.

By one o'clock all was in readiness for
starting, my passport, as well as a letter from
Consigliere da Nava to a proprietor in Melito,



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 135

where I am to sleep to-night for the purpose of
visiting Pentedatilo, that strange rock-town
which we had seen from Bova, and which at all
risks I had resolved to examine. So I set off
in a caratella, for three ducats, all by the dusty
pergola-covered high-road of July 29 ; the
views of Etna increasing in magnificence as I
approached Capo dell' Armi, to the extreme
point of which a strada carrozzabile is carried,
and where I found Ciccio and his horse already
arrived. Leaving the carriage we then struck
inland, as the sun was getting low, by mule-
routes crossing the frequent fiumaras here
joining the sea. On advancing, the views of
the wondrous crags of Pentedatilo become
astonishingly fine and wild, and as the
sun set in crimson glory, displayed a truly
magnificent and magical scene of romance the
vast mass of pinnacled rock rearing itself alone
above its neighbour hills, and forming a land-
scape which is the beau-ideal of the terrible in
Galabrian scenery. On the sea-shore, a few
miles below Pentedatilo, stands Melito, a large
town, the most southerly in all Italy, and ere we



186 JOURNALS OF

reached it, we arrived at the house of D. Pietro
Tropaea, in the outskirts, whose residence is a
kind of ill-kept villa ; for albeit Don Pietro gave
me a most friendly welcome, it is not to be
disguised that his casino was of the dirtiest ; and
when I contemplated the ten dogs and a very
unpleasant huge tame sheep, which animated
his rooms, 1 congratulated myself that I was
not to abide long with them.

Moreover, it appeared to me that some evil,
general or particular, was brooding over the
household, which consisted of a wife, haggard
and dirty in appearance, and agitated in a
very painful degree ; an only son, wild and
terrified in every look ; and a brother and
nephew from Montebello, strange, gloomy, and
mysterious in aspect and manner. The host
also apologised for being ill at ease and unwell.
The singular uneasiness of the whole party
increased presently at the sound of two or
three guns being fired, and Donna Lucia
Tropaea, bursting into tears, left the room with
all the family but Don Pietro, who became
more and more incoherent and flurried, im-



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 187

parting the most astounding revelations relative
to his lady and her situation, which he declared
made all his family and himself most afflicted
and nervous.

These excuses for so remarkable a derange-
ment as I observed in the manner of all the
individuals of the family did not deceive me,
and I once more suspected, more strongly than
ever, that " something was to be foreseen."
This feeling was confirmed at supper-time when
the assembled circle seemed to have agreed
among themselves that it was impossible to
conceal their alarm, and a rapid succession of
questions was put to me as to what I knew of
political changes about to take place imme-
diately. " Had I heard nothing ? Nothing ?
Not even at Reggio ? " " Indeed I had not."
" Ma che ! it was folly to pretend ignorance ;
I must be aware that the country was on the
very eve of a general revolution ! " It was
useless to protest, and I perceived that a sullen
ill-will was the only feeling prevalent towards
me from persons who seemed positive that I
would give no information on a subject they



188 JOURNALS OF

persisted in declaring I fully understood. So I
remained silent, when another brother from
Montebello was suddenly announced, and after
a few whispers a scene of alarm and horror
ensued.

" E giil principiata la revoluzione ! " *
shrieked aloud Don Pietro ; sobs and groans
and clamour followed, and the moaning hostess,
after weeping frantically, fell into a violent fit,
and was carried out, the party breaking up in
the most admired disorder, after a display, at
least so it appeared to me, of feelings in which
fear and dismay greatly predominated over
hope or boldness.

As for me, revolution or no revolution, here I
am in the toe of Italy all alone, and I must find
my way out of it as best I may ; so, wrapping
myself in my plaid, and extinguishing the light,
I lay down in the front room on the bed
allotted me, whose exterior was not indicative
of cleanliness or rest.

Hardly was I forgetting the supper scene in



* The ^Revolution has already begun.



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 189

sleep, when a singular noise awoke me. After
all, thought I, I am to encounter some real
Calabrian romance, and as I sate up and
listened the mysterious noise was again re-
peated. It proceeded from under my bed,
and resembled a hideous gurgling sob four or
five times reiterated. Feeling certain that I
was not alone, I softly put out my hand for that
never-to-be-omitted night companion in travel-
ling a phosphorus box, when before I could
reach it my bed was suddenly lifted up by some
incomprehensible agency below, and puffing
and sobs, mingled with a tiny tinkling sound,
accompanied this Calabrian mystery. There was
no time to be lost, and having persevered in
obtaining a light in spite of this disagreeable
interruption, I jumped off the bed, and with a
stick thrust hastily and hardly below the bed,
to put the intruder, ghostly or bodily, on to

fair fighting ground, Baa aa a !

Shade of Mrs. Radcliffe ! it was the large
dirty tame sheep ! So I forthwith opened a
door into the next room, and bolted out the
domestic tormentor.



190 JOURNALS OF

September 2. None of the Tropaea family
were moving when I started at sunrise. A
letter to a proprietor of Montebello, where
mid-day must be passed, was sent to me, with
apologies for the non-appearance of the house-
hold. " What is the meaning of this ? " said I
to Ciccio ; but nothing could be extracted from
that Phoenix of Muleteers but a clucking sort
of glossal ejaculation ; nevertheless, he seemed
anxious and gloomy.

Off we set; our route followed a tiresome
and tortuous road in the bed of the Alice, and
then became a rugged path crossing to the
Fiume della Monaca ere Pentedatilo was
visible ; for this strange town is so placed, that
although seen from all the country round, you
may pass close to it without being aware of its
proximity. The ravine in which the river
flows is crowded and blocked up with crags to
the south of the great rock on which the town
is built ; so that it is necessary to cross to the
western side of the stream, and ascend the
heights which enclose it before finally re-
crossing it, in order to reach the remarkable




Printed })J "HrcllmSBdel t Walton



London .Rirtar'1 B^TdievU" Boriington Sti-ePt. August 1852.



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 191

crag itself. But having gained the high ground
opposite, the appearance of Pentedatilo is per-
fectly magical, and repays whatever trouble the
effort to reach it may so far have cost. Wild
spires of stone shoot up into the air, barren
and clearly defined, in the form (as its name
implies) of a gigantic hand against the sky, and
in the crevices and holes of this fearfully savage
pyramid the houses of Pentedatilo are wedged,
while darkness and terror brood over all the
abyss around this, the strangest of human
abodes. Again, a descent to the river, and all
traces of the place are gone ; and it is not till
after repassing the stream, and performing a
weary climb on the farther side, that the stu-
pendous and amazing precipice is reached ; the
habitations on its surface now consist of little
more than a small village, though the remains
of a large castle and extensive ruins of buildings
are marks of Pentedatilo having once seen
better days.

I had left Ciccio and the horse below at the
stream, and 1 regretted having done so, when,
as I sate making a drawing of the town, the



192 JOURNALS OF

whole population bristled on wall and window,
and the few women who passed me on their
way to the hanging vineyards, which fringe
the cliffs low down by the edge of the river,
screamed aloud on seeing me, and rushed back
to their rocky fastnesses. As it is hardly
possible to make these people understand
ordinary Italian, a stranger might, if alone, be
awkwardly situated in the event of any misun-
derstanding. Had the Pentedatelini thought
fit to roll stones on the intruder, his fate must
have been hard ; but they seemed filled with
fear alone. I left this wonderful place with no
little regret, and rejoining Ciccio, soon lost
sight of Pentedatilo, pursuing my way up the
stream, or bed, of the Monaca, which is here
very narrow and winding, and so shut in
between high cliffs, that in winter- time the
torrent prevents all access from this quarter.
Higher up in the ravine stands the village of
Montebello ; its district is famous in Calabria
for the excellence of its cactus, or Indian fig, all
the rocks of the neighbourhood being covered
with a thick coating of that strange vegetable.



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 193

The town is situated high above the river, on
a square rock, perpendicular on three sides,
amid wide ruins of walls and houses, betokening
former times of prosperity. In the centre of
this wretched little place is the house of Don
Pietro Amazichi, who, though receiving me
with every kindness and hospitality, was as
much agitated as my acquaintances at Melito.
It seems evident that coming events are casting
rapidly deepening shadows, and in vain again
do I try to persuade my hosts that I am
not in the secret. " It is impossible" they
said; "you only left Keggio yesterday, it is
true ; but it is certain that the revolution
broke out last night, and everyone has known
for days past what would happen/' On which
there was another scene. The lady of Monte-
bello, less feeble than she of Melito, gave
way to the deepest affliction ; her exclamation
of " My sons ! my two sons ! I have parted
from them for ever in this world ! " I shall
not easily forget ; and the husband strove to
comfort her with such deep feeling, that I
became truly grieved for these poor people,



194 JOURNALS OF

ignorant though I was actually of pending
circumstances.

About two, Don Pietro accompanied me to
the foot of the rock, and for some distance up
the dreary fiumara; meanwhile he illustrated
the history of Montebello and Pentedatilo by a
tale-tragedy of the early ages of these towns,
when their territories were governed respec-
tively, the first by a Baron and the second by
a Marquis.

For centuries the families of these two feudal
possessors of the towns of Pentedatilo and
Montebello had been deadly foes, and they
ruled, or fought for, the adjoining country from
their strongholds in persevering enmity. The
Baron of Montebello, a daring and ferocious
youth, was left heir in early life to his ancestral
estates and rights, and fell in love with the
only daughter of the Marchese Pentedatilo;
but, although the young lady had contrived to
acquaint her lover that her heart was his, her
hand was steadfastly denied him by the Mar-
chese, whom the memory of long injuries and



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 195

wars hardened in his refusal. Opposition,
however, did but increase the attachment of
the young lady, and she at length consented
to leave her father's house with her lover ; an
arrangement being made that on a certain
night she should open a door in the otherwise
impenetrable rock -fortress of Pentedatilo, and
admit young Montebello with a sufficient force
of his retainers to ensure the success of her
elopement.

The Baron accordingly enters the castle,
but finding that equal opportunity is presented
him for vengeance on his feudal enemy, and
for possessing himself of the object of his
attachment, he resolves to make the most of
both ; he goes first to the chamber of the
Marchese of Pentedatilo, and finds him sleeping
by the side of the Marchesa, with a dagger at
his pillow's head. Him he stabs, yet not so
fatally as to prevent his placing his left hand
on the wound, and with his right seizing his
stiletto, and plunging it into the heart of the
innocent Marchesa, suspecting her as the
author of his death. The Baron Montebello

o 2



196 JOURNALS OF

repeating his blows, the Marchese falls forward
on the wall, and his five blood-stained fingers
leave traces, still shown, on part of the ruined
hall, a horrible memorial of the crime,
strangely coincident with that of the form and
name of the rock.

Immediately on the consummation of this
double tragedy, the active young Baron Monte-
bello carried off the young lady, his retainers
having put all the family of the Marchese to
death, except one infant grandchild, whom a
nurse saved by concealing him in a crevice of
the rocks ; the castle was then dismantled, and
the lady became Baroness of Montebello. But
she never spoke more ; the horror of having
been indirectly the destruction of her whole
race occasioned her to become insane, and she
poisoned herself within a month of her departure
from her native town.

In process of time, the child saved by the
nurse grew up, and was introduced as a page
into the Montebello family, the Baron having
re-married, and being now the undisputed
possessor of both territories as far as the sea ;



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 197

but, after many years of .life, the wretched man
became wild with remorse for his past iniquities,
and made over all his possessions to the Church,
provided only no living descendant of the
Pentedatili could be found, a decent proviso,
apparently made without any risk. When lo !
the nurse and a small number of the old Mar-
chese's friends proved, beyond any doubt, that
the page was heir to the estates and revenge of
his ancestors! And here you might suppose
the story ended. Not at all. The Baron's
hatred returned on finding there was really
something on which to exercise it, and he
ordered the torture and execution of young
Pentedatilo forthwith. But now the tables
were turned ; the Baron's long reign of wicked-
ness lent weapons to his adversary's cause, and,
in his turn, the last scion of the murdered
Marchese became a tyrant. Forthwith the
whole family of the Baron Montebello were
destroyed before their parents' eyes, and he
himself then blinded by order of the avenger,
and chained for the rest of his days in the
very room where he had slain the grandsire



198 JOURNALS OF

Pentedatilo. Finally, as if it were ordered that
the actors in such a wholesale domestic tragedy
were unfit to remain on earth, the castle of
Pentedatilo fell by the shock of an earthquake,
crushing together the Baron and Marchese,
with the nurse, and every other agent in this
Calabrian horror !

After we had reached Fossati, ever by the
tiresome fiumara weary sad haunts are these
for man to dwell among ! our route followed
the hill we had descended on July 30, and
passing to the right of Motta San Giovanni,
turned towards the coast below San Nocito, one
of the most picturesque of ruined fortresses.
Hence the way was long and tedious to Eeggio,
the more that I was impatient to know what
was really occurring, since Ciccio's philosophy
was less and less proof to the task of concealing
his agitation, which for one so usually tranquil
was remarkable.

At the hour of one in the night we reached
Reggio, and here the secret divulged itself at
once.



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 199

How strange was that scene ! All the quiet
town was brilliantly lighted up, and every
house illuminated ; no women or children were
visible, but troops of men, by twenties and
thirties, all armed, and preceded by bands of
music and banners inscribed, " Viva Pio IX.,"
or " Viva la Costituzione," were parading the
high street from end to end.

" Cosa x'e stata,* Ciccio ? " said I.

" O non vedete," said the unhappy muleteer,
with a suppressed groan. "0 non vedete ? e
una rivoluzione ! Dighi, d6ghi, d ! "

No one took the least notice of us as we
passed along, and we soon arrived at Giordano's
Hotel. The doors were barred, nor could I
readily gain admittance ; at length the waiter
appeared, but he was uproariously drunk.

"Is Signor P arrived by the boat from

Messina?" said I.

" O che barca ! che Messina ! O che bella
rivoluzione ! Ai ! ao ! Orra birra burra ba ! "
was the reply.



* What has happened ?



200 JOURNALS OF

" Fetch me the keys of my room," said I ;
" I want to get at my roba "

11 O che chiavi ! O che camera ! O che roba !
ai, ai ! "

" But where are the keys ? " I repeated.

"Non ci sono piii chiavi," screamed the
excited cameriere ; " non ci sono piu passaporti,
non ci sono piii R piii legge piii giudici
pill niente non x'e altro che 1'amore la liberta
1'amicizia, e la costituzione eccovi le chiavi
ai ! o-o-o-o-o-orra birra ba ! ! " *

Without disputing the existence of love,
liberty, friendship, or the constitution, it was
easy to see that matters were all out of order,
so, taking Ciccio with me, I went hastily through
the strangely-altered streets to Cavaliere da
Nava's house. From him, whom with his
family I found in serious distress, I heard that
a concerted plot had broken out on the pre-
ceding day ; that all the Government officials
had been seized, and the Government suspended,



* There are no more keys there are no more passports, no
more kings, no more laws, no more judges, no more nothing !
Nothing but love and liberty, friendship and the constitution !



A LANDSCAPE PAINTER. 201

he (da Nava), the Intendente, and others being
all confined to their houses. That the tele-
graph and the castle still held out, but would be
attacked in a day or two ; that the insurgents,
consisting mostly of young men from the
neighbouring towns and villages, had already
marched into Reggio, and were hourly increasing
in number ; that on the opposite shore, Messina
was also in full revolt; and that the future
arrangements of the Government could only
be known after time had been allowed for
telegraphic communication between Eeggio
and Naples. The Government impiegati are
all naturally dejected, as nothing of their future
fate is known, except so much as may be
divined from the fact that no one has hitherto
been maltreated. Thus, the agitation of the
people at Montebello and Melito ; the suspicions
of Don Tito, and of the woodmen at Basilico,
and even those of the fat Baron Rivettini, were
all fully explained and justified ; for whether
those persons were for or against Government,
the appearance of strangers on the very eve
of a preconcerted revolt was enough to make



202 JOURNALS OF

them ask questions, and put them all in a
fuss.

I returned to the inn. As for what I should
do, there seemed no will of my own in the
matter ; I might be arrested, or executed as
either a rebel or a royalist as things might
turn out ; so there was nothing for it but to
wait patiently.

All that long night the movement increased :
large bodies from Santo Stefano, and other places
most of them apparently young mountaineers
thronged into Keggio, and paraded the streets,
singing or shouting "Viva Pio Nono," with
banners, guns, swords, and musical instruments.

September 3 No boat stirs from Messina.
I watch on the beach in vain. I sit with Da
Nava and his perplexed family. The telegraph
works away incessantly ; but there is no attempt
to stop it, and no attack on the castle. If there
is no movement in the northern provinces,


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