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it had several fine passages, was to me devoid of interest; in fact,
unworthy the reputation of Rossini.

The theatre is perhaps the largest in the world. The singers are all
good; in Italy it could not be otherwise, where everybody sings. As I
write, a party of Italians in the house opposite have been amusing
themselves with going through the whole opera of "_La fille du
Regiment_," with the accompaniment of the piano, and they show the
greatest readiness and correctness in their performance. They have now
become somewhat boisterous, and appear to be improvising. One young
gentleman executes trills with amazing skill, and another appears to
have taken the part of a despairing lover, but the lady has a very
pretty voice, and warbles on and on, like a nightingale. Occasionally a
group of listeners in the street below clap them applause, for as the
windows are always open, the whole neighborhood can enjoy the
performance.

This forenoon I was in the Picture Gallery. It occupies a part of the
Library Building, in the Palazzo Cabrera. It is not large, and many of
the pictures are of no value to anybody but antiquarians; still there
are some excellent paintings, which render it well worthy a visit. Among
these, a marriage, by Raphael, is still in a very good state of
preservation, and there are some fine pictures by Paul Veronese and the
Caracci. The most admired painting, is "Abraham sending away Hagar," by
Guercino. I never saw a more touching expression of grief than in the
face of Hagar. Her eyes are red with weeping, and as she listens in an
agony of tears to the patriarch's command, she still seems doubting the
reality of her doom. The countenance of Abraham is venerable and calm,
and expresses little emotion; but one can read in that of Sarah, as she
turns away, a feeling of pity for her unfortunate rival.

Next to the Duomo, the most beautiful specimen of architecture in Milan
is the ARCH OF PEACE, on the north side of the city, at the commencement
of the Simplon Road. It was the intention of Napoleon to carry the road
under this arch, across the Piazza d'Armi, and to cut a way for it
directly into the heart of the city, but the fall of his dynasty
prevented the execution of this magnificent design, as well as the
completion of the arch itself. This has been done by the Austrian
government, according to the original plan; they have inscribed upon it
the name of Francis I., and changed the bas-reliefs of Lodi and Marengo
into those of a few fields where their forces had gained the victory. It
is even said that in many parts which were already finished, they
altered the splendid Roman profile of Napoleon into the haggard and
repulsive features of Francis of Austria.

The bronze statues on the top were made by an artist of Bologna, by
Napoleon's order, and are said to be the finest works of modern times.
In the centre is the goddess of Peace, in a triumphal car, drawn by six
horses, while on the corners four angels, mounted, are starting off to
convey the tidings to the four quarters of the globe. The artist has
caught the spirit of motion and chained it in these moveless figures.
One would hardly feel surprised if the goddess, chariot, horses and all,
were to start off and roll away through the air.

With the rapidity usual to Americans we have already finished seeing
Milan, and shall start to-morrow morning on a walk to Genoa.




CHAPTER XXXII.

WALK FROM MILAN TO GENOA.


It was finally decided we should leave Milan, so the next morning we
arose at five o'clock for the first time since leaving Frankfort. The
Italians had commenced operations at this early hour, but we made our
way through the streets without attracting quite so much attention as on
our arrival. Near the gate on the road to Pavia, we passed a long
colonnade which was certainly as old as the times of the Romans. The
pillars of marble were quite brown with age, and bound together with
iron to keep them from falling to pieces. It was a striking contrast to
see this relic of the past standing in the middle of a crowded
thoroughfare and surrounded by all the brilliance and display of modern
trade.

Once fairly out of the city we took the road to Pavia, along the banks
of the canal, just as the rising sun gilded the marble spire of the
Duomo. The country was a perfect level, and the canal, which was in many
places higher than the land through which it passed, served also as a
means of irrigation for the many rice-fields. The sky grew cloudy and
dark, and before we reached Pavia gathered to a heavy storm. Torrents of
rain poured down, accompanied with heavy thunder; we crept under an old
gateway for shelter, as no house was near. Finally, as it cleared away,
the square brown towers of the old city rose above the trees, and we
entered the gate through a fine shaded avenue. Our passports were of
course demanded, but we were only detained a minute or two. The only
thing of interest is the University, formerly so celebrated; it has at
present about eight hundred students.

We have reason to remember the city from another circumstance - the
singular attention we excited. I doubt if Columbus was an object of
greater curiosity to the simple natives of the new world, than we three
Americans were to the good people of Pavia. I know not what part of our
dress or appearance could have caused it, but we were watched like wild
animals. If we happened to pause and look at anything in the street,
there was soon a crowd of attentive observers, and as we passed on,
every door and window was full of heads. We stopped in the marketplace
to purchase some bread and fruit for dinner, which increased, if
possible, the sensation. We saw eyes staring and fingers pointing at us
from every door and alley. I am generally willing to contribute as much
as possible to the amusement or entertainment of others, but such
attention was absolutely embarrassing. There was nothing to do but to
appear unconscious of it, and we went along with as much nonchalance as
if the whole town belonged to us.

We crossed the Ticino, on whose banks near Pavia, was fought the first
great battle between Hannibal and the Romans. On the other side our
passports were demanded at the Sardinian frontier and our knapsacks
searched, which having proved satisfactory, we were allowed to enter the
kingdom. Late in the afternoon we reached the Po, which in winter must
be quarter of a mile wide, but the summer heats had dried it up to a
small stream, so that the bridge of boats rested nearly its whole length
in sand. We sat on the bank in the shade, and looked at the chain of
hills which rose in the south, following the course of the Po, crowned
with castles and villages and shining towers. It was here that I first
began to realize Italian scenery. Although the hills were bare, they lay
so warm and glowing in the sunshine, and the deep blue sky spread so
calmly above, that it recalled all my dreams of the fair clime we had
entered.

We stopped for the night at the little village of Casteggio, which lies
at the foot of the hills, and next morning resumed our pilgrimage. Here
a new delight awaited us. The sky was of a heavenly blue, without even
the shadow of a cloud, and full and fair in the morning sunshine we
could see the whole range of the Alps, from the blue hills of Friuli,
which sweep down to Venice and the Adriatic, to the lofty peaks which
stretch away to Nice and Marseilles! Like a summer cloud, except that
they were far more dazzling and glorious, lay to the north of us the
glaciers and untrodden snow-fields of the Bernese Oberland; a little to
the right we saw the double peak of St. Gothard, where six days before
we shivered in the region of eternal winter, while far to the north-west
rose the giant dome of Mount Blanc. Monte Rosa stood near him, not far
from the Great St. Bernard, and further to the south Mont Cenis guarded
the entrance from Piedmont into France. I leave you to conceive the
majesty of such a scene, and you may perhaps imagine, for I cannot
describe the feelings with which I gazed upon it.

At Tortona, the next post, a great market was being held; the town was
filled with country people selling their produce, and with venders of
wares of all kinds. Fruit was very abundant - grapes, ripe figs, peaches
and melons were abundant, and for a trifle one could purchase a
sumptuous banquet. On inquiring the road to Novi, the people made us
understand, after much difficulty, that there was a nearer way across
the country, which came into the post-road again, and we concluded to
take it. After two or three hours' walking in a burning sun, where our
only relief was the sight of the Alps and a view of the battle-field of
Marengo, which lay just on our right, we came to a stand - the road
terminated at a large stream, where workmen were busily engaged in
making a bridge across. We pulled off our boots and waded through, took
a refreshing bath in the clear waters, and walked on through by-lanes.
The sides were lined with luxuriant vines, bending under the ripening
vintage, and we often cooled our thirst with some of the rich bunches.

The large branch of the Po we crossed, came down from the mountains,
which we were approaching. As we reached the post-road again, they were
glowing in the last rays of the sun, and the evening vapors that settled
over the plain concealed the distant Alps, although the snowy top of the
Jungfrau and her companions the Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn, rose above
it like the hills of another world. A castle or church of brilliant
white marble glittered on the summit of one of the mountains near us,
and as the sun went down without a cloud, the distant summits changed in
hue to a glowing purple, amounting almost to crimson, which afterwards
darkened into a deep violet. The western half of the sky was of a pale
orange, and the eastern a dark red, which blended together in the blue
of the zenith, that deepened as twilight came on. I know not if it was a
fair specimen of an Italian sunset, but I must say, without wishing to
be partial, that though certainly very soft and beautiful, there is no
comparison with the splendor of such a scene in America. The day-sky of
Italy better deserves its reputation. Although no clearer than our own,
it is of a far brighter blue, arching above us like a dome of sapphire
and seeming to sparkle all over with a kind of crystal transparency.

We stopped the second night at Arquato, a little village among the
mountains, and after having bargained with the merry landlord for our
lodgings, in broken Italian, took a last look at the plains of Piedmont
and the Swiss Alps, in the growing twilight. We gazed out on the
darkening scene till the sky was studded with stars, and went to rest
with the exciting thought of seeing Genoa and the Mediterranean on the
morrow. Next morning we started early, and after walking some distance
made our breakfast in a grove of chesnuts, on the cool mountain side,
beside a fresh stream of water. The sky shone like a polished gem, and
the glossy leaves of the chesnuts gleamed in the morning sun. Here and
there, on a rocky height, stood the remains of some knightly castle,
telling of the Goths and Normans who descended through these mountain
passes to plunder Rome.

As the sun grew high, the heat and dust became intolerable, and this, in
connection with the attention we raised everywhere, made us somewhat
tired of foot-traveling in Italy. I verily believe the people took us
for pilgrims on account of our long white blouses, and had I a scallop
shell I would certainly have stuck it into my hat to complete the
appearance. We stopped once to ask a priest the road; when he had told
us, he shook hands with us and gave us a parting benediction. At the
common inns, where we stopped, we always met with civil treatment,
though, indeed, as we only slept in them, there was little chance of
practising imposition. We bought our simple meals at the baker's and
grocer's, and ate them in the shade of the grape-bowers, whose rich
clusters added to the repast. In this manner, we enjoyed Italy at the
expense of a franc, daily. About noon, after winding about through the
narrow defiles, the road began ascending. The reflected heat from the
hills on each side made it like an oven; there was not a breath of air
stirring; but we all felt, although no one said it, that from the summit
we could see the Mediterranean, and we pushed on as if life or death
depended on it. Finally, the highest point came in sight - we redoubled
our exertions, and a few minutes more brought us to the top, breathless
with fatigue and expectation. I glanced down the other side - there lay a
real sea of mountains, all around; the farthest peaks rose up afar and
dim, crowned with white towers, and between two of them which stood
apart like the pillars of a gateway, we saw the broad expanse of water
stretching away to the horizon -

To where the blue of heaven on bluer waves shut down!"

It would have been a thrilling sight to see any ocean, when one has
rambled thousands of miles among the mountains and vales of the inland,
but to behold this sea, of all others, was glorious indeed! This sea,
whose waves wash the feet of Naples, Constantinople and Alexandria, and
break on the hoary shores where Troy and Tyre and Carthage have
mouldered away! - whose breast has been furrowed by the keels of a
hundred nations through more than forty centuries - from the first rude
voyage of Jason and his Argonauts, to the thunders of Navarino that
heralded the second birth of Greece! You cannot wonder we grew romantic;
but short space was left for sentiment in the burning sun, with Genoa to
be reached before night. The mountain we crossed is called the Bochetta,
one of the loftiest of the sea-Alps (or Apennines) - the road winds
steeply down towards the sea, following a broad mountain rivulet, now
perfectly dried up, as nearly every stream among the mountains is. It
was a long way to us; the mountains seemed as if they would never unfold
and let us out on the shore, and our weary limbs did penance enough for
a multitude of sins. The dusk was beginning to deepen over the bay and
the purple hues of sunset were dying away from its amphitheatre of
hills, as we came in sight of the gorgeous city. Half the population
were out to celebrate a festival, and we made our entry in the triumphal
procession of some saint.




CHAPTER XXXIII.

SCENES IN GENOA, LEGHORN AND PISA.


Have you ever seen some grand painting of a city, rising with its domes
and towers and palaces from the edge of a glorious bay, shut in by
mountains - the whole scene clad in those deep, delicious, sunny hues
which you admire so much in the picture, although they appear unrealized
in Nature? If so, you can figure to yourself Genoa, as she looked to us
at sunset, from the battlements west of the city. When we had passed
through the gloomy gate of the fortress that guards the western
promontory, the whole scene opened at once on us in all its majesty. It
looked to me less like a real landscape than a mighty panoramic
painting. The battlements where we were standing, and the blue mirror of
the Mediterranean just below, with a few vessels moored near the shore,
made up the foreground; just in front lay the queenly city, stretching
out to the eastern point of the bay, like a great meteor - -this point,
crowned with the towers and dome of a cathedral representing the
nucleus, while the tail gradually widened out and was lost among the
numberless villas that reached to the top of the mountains behind. A
mole runs nearly across the mouth of the harbor, with a tall light-house
at its extremity, leaving only a narrow passage for vessels. As we
gazed, a purple glow lay on the bosom of the sea, while far beyond the
city, the eastern half of the mountain crescent around the gulf was
tinted with the loveliest hue of orange. The impressions which one
derives from looking on remarkable scenery, depend, for much of their
effect, on the time and weather. I have been very fortunate in this
respect in two instances, and shall carry with me through life, two
glorious pictures of a very different character - the wild sublimity of
the Brocken in cloud and storm, and the splendor of Genoa in an Italian
sunset.

Genoa has been called the "city of palaces." and it well deserves the
appellation. Row above row of magnificent structures rise amid gardens
along the side of the hills, and many of the streets, though narrow and
crooked, are lined entirely with the splendid dwellings of the Genoese
nobles. All these speak of the republic in its days of wealth and power,
when it could cope successfully with Venice, and Doria could threaten to
bridle the horses of St. Mark. At present its condition is far
different; although not so fallen as its rival, it is but a shadow of
its former self - the life and energy it possessed as a republic, has
withered away under the grasp of tyranny.

We entered Genoa, as I have already said, in a religious procession. On
passing the gate we saw from the concourse of people and the many
banners hanging from the windows or floating across the streets, that it
was the day of a festa. Before entering the city we reached the
procession itself, which was one of unusual solemnity. As it was
impossible in the dense crowd, to pass it, we struggled through till we
reached a good point for seeing the whole, and slowly moved on with it
through the city. First went a company of boys in white robes; then
followed a body of friars, dressed in long black cassocks, and with
shaven crowns; then a company of soldiers with a band of music; then a
body of nuns, wrapped from head to foot in blue robes, leaving only a
small place to see out of - in the dusk they looked very solemn and
ghost-like, and their low chant had to me something awful and sepulchral
in it; then followed another company of friars, and after that a great
number of priests in white and black robes, bearing the statue of the
saint, with a pyramid of flowers, crosses and blazing wax tapers, while
companies of soldiery, monks and music brought up the rear. Armed guards
walked at intervals on each side of the procession, to keep the way
clear and prevent disturbance; two or three bands played solemn airs,
alternating with the deep monotonous chanting of the friars. The whole
scene, dimly lighted by the wax tapers, produced in me a feeling nearly
akin to fear, as if I were witnessing some ghostly, unearthly spectacle.
To rites like these, however, which occur every few weeks, the people
must be well accustomed.

Among the most interesting objects in Genoa, is the Doria palace, fit
in its splendor for a monarch's residence. It stands in the _Strada
Nova_, one of the three principal streets, and I believe is still in the
possession of the family. There are many others through the city,
scarcely less magnificent, among which that of the Durazzo family may be
pointed out. The American consulate is in one of these old edifices,
with a fine court-yard and ceilings covered with frescoes. Mr. Moro, the
Vice Consul, did us a great kindness, which I feel bound to acknowledge,
although it will require the disclosure of some private, and perhaps
uninteresting circumstances. On leaving Frankfort, we converted - for the
sake of convenience - the greater part of our funds into a draft on a
Saxon merchant in Leghorn, reserving just enough, as we supposed, to
take us thither. As in our former case, in Germany, the sum was too
small, which we found to our dismay on reaching Milan. Notwithstanding
we had traveled the whole ninety miles from that city to Genoa for three
francs each, in the hope of having enough, left to enable _one_ at least
to visit Leghorn, the expenses for a passport in Genoa (more than twenty
francs) prevented this plan. I went therefore to the Vice Consul to
ascertain whether the merchant on whom the draft was drawn, had any
correspondents there, who might advance a portion of it. His secretary
made many inquiries, but without effect; Mr. Moro then generously
offered to furnish me with means to reach Leghorn, whence I could easily
remit a sufficient sum to my two comrades. This put an end to our
anxiety, (for I must confess we could not help feeling some), and I
therefore prepared to leave that evening in the "Virgilio."

The feelings with which I look on this lovely land, are fast changing.
What with the dust and heat, and cheating landlords, and the dull plains
of Lombardy, my first experience was not very prepossessing. But the
joyous and romantic anticipation with which I looked forward to
realizing the dream of my earliest boyhood, is now beginning to be
surpassed by the exciting reality. Every breath I drew in the city of
Columbus and Doria, was deeply tinctured with the magic of history and
romance. It was like entering on a new existence, to look on scenes so
lovely by nature and so filled with the inspiring memories of old.

"Italia too, Italia! looking on thee,
Full flashes on the soul the light of ages,
Since the fierce Carthagenian almost won thee,
To the last halo of the chiefs and sages
Who glorify thy consecrated pages!
Thou wert the throne and grave of empires."

The _Virgilio_ was advertised to leave at six o'clock, and I accordingly
went out to her in a little boat half an hour beforehand; but we were
delayed much longer, and I saw sunset again fade over the glorious
amphitheatre of palaces and mountains, with the same orange glow - the
same purple and crimson flush, deepening into twilight - as before. An
old blind man in a skiff, floated around under the bows of the boat on
the glassy water, singing to the violin a plaintive air that appeared to
be an evening hymn to the virgin. There was something very touching in
his venerable countenance, with the sightless eyes turned upward to the
sunset heaven whose glory he could never more behold.

The lamps were lit on the tower at the end of the mole as we glided out
on the open sea; I stood on deck and watched the receding lights of the
city, till they and the mountains above them, were blended with the
darkened sky. The sea-breeze was fresh and cool, and the stars glittered
with a frosty clearness, which would have made the night delicious had
not a slight rolling of the waves obliged me to go below. Here, besides
being half seasick, I was placed at the mercy of many voracious fleas,
who obstinately stayed, persisting in keeping me company. This was the
first time I had suffered from these cannibals, and such were my
torments, I almost wished some blood-thirsty Italian would come and put
an end to them with his stiletto.

The first ray of dawn that stole into the cabin sent me on deck. The
hills of Tuscany lay in front, sharply outlined on the reddening sky;
near us was the steep and rocky isle of Gorgona; and far to the
south-west, like a low mist along the water, ran the shores of
Corsica - the birth place of Columbus and Napoleon![***] As the dawn
brightened we saw on the southern horizon a cloud-like island, also
imperishably connected with the name of the latter - the prison-kingdom
of Elba! North of us extended the rugged mountains of Carrarra - that
renowned range whence has sprung many a form of almost breathing beauty,
and where yet slumber, perhaps, in the unhewn marble, the god-like
shapes of an age of art, more glorious than any the world has ever yet
beheld!

[Footnote ***: By recent registers found in Corsica, it has been
determined that this island also gave birth to the discoverer of the new
world.]


The sun rose from behind the Apennines and masts and towers became
visible through the golden haze, as we approached the shore. On a flat
space between the sea and the hills, not far from the foot of Montenero,
stands Leghorn. The harbor is protected by a mole, leaving a narrow
passage, through which we entered, and after waiting two hours for the
visit of the health and police officers, we were permitted to go on
shore. The first thing that struck me, was the fine broad streets; the
second, the motley character of the population. People were hurrying
about noisy and bustling - Greeks in their red caps and capotes; grave
turbaned and bearded Turks; dark Moors; the Corsair-looking natives of
Tripoli and Tunis, and seamen of nearly every nation. At the hotel where
I stayed, we had a singular mixture of nations at dinner: - two French,
two Swiss, one Genoese, one Roman, one American and one Turk - and we
were waited on by a Tuscan and an Arab! We conversed together in four
languages, all at once.

To the merchant, Leghorn is of more importance than to the traveler. Its



Online LibraryBayard TaylorViews a-foot → online text (page 22 of 34)