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A classical tour through Italy, an. MDCCCII (Volume 1) online

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Faustusque thalamus

Roboretanis gaudentibus*.

In fact, as you approach Italy, you may per-
ceive a visible improvement not only in the cli-
mate of the country, but also in the ideas of its
inhabitants; the churches and public buildings
assume a better form ; the shape and ornaments
of their portals, doors and windows are more grace-
ful, and their epitaphs and inscriptions, which, as
Addison justly observes, are a certain criterion
of public taste, breathe a more classical spirit.
Roveredo is situated in the beautiful valley of



* By the rejoicing inhabitants of Roveredo, to Isabella,
daughter of Philip of Bourbon, Duke of Parma, bride of
Joseph, Duke of Austria, on her way to Vienna. May her
joutney be prosperous, and her nuptials happy.



lOS CLASSICAL TOUR Ch. IL

Lagarina, has distinguished itself in the literary
world, and has long possessed an academy, whose
members have been neither inactive nor inglo-
rious.

The descent (for from Ste'inach, or rather a few
miles south of that village, three stages before
Brijen, we had begun to descend) becomes more
rapid between Roveredo and Ala ; the river which
glided gently through the valley of Trent, assumes
the roughness of a torrent ; the defiles become
narrower; and the mountains break into rocks
and precipices, which occasionally approach the
road, sometimes rise perpendicular from it, and
now and then hang over it in terrible majesty*.



* Amid these wilds the traveller cannot fail to notice a
vast tract called the Slavini di Marco, covered with fragments
of rock torn from the sides of the neighboring mountains by
an earthquake, or perhaps by their own unsupported weight,
and hurled down into the plains below. They spread over
the whole valley, and in some places contract the road to a
very narrow space. A few firs and cypresses scattered in
the intervals, or sometimes rising out of the crevices of the
rocks, cast a partial and melancholy shade amid the sur-
rounding nakedness and desolation. This scene of ruin
seems to have made a deep impression upon the wild imagi-
nation of Dante, as he has introduced it into the twelfth
canto of the Inferno, in order to give the reader an adequate
idea of one of his infernal ramparts.

Era lo loco ove a scender la riva
Venimmo, Alpestro e per quel ch' iv' er' anco,
Tal, ch' ogni vista ne sarebbe schiva.
Qual'e quella ruina che nel fianco



Ch.U. THROUGH ITALY. 109

Ala is an insigniBcant little town, in no respect
remarkable, except as forming the geographical
boundary of Italy.

The same appearances continue for some time,
till at length the mountains gradually sink into
hills ; the hills diminish in height and number, and
at last leave an open space beyond the river on
the right. In front, however, a round hill pre-
sents itself at a little distance, which, as you ap-
proach swells in bulk, and opening just leaves
room sufficient for the road, and for the river on
the right, between two vast perpendicular walls of
solid rock, that tower to a prodigious height, and
cast a most terrific gloom over the narrow strait
that divides them. As the road leads along a



De qua da Trento I'Adice percosse,
O per tremuoto o per sostegno manco ;
Che da cima del monte onde si mosse,
Al piano e si la roccia discoscesa,
Ch' alcuna via darebbe a chi su fosse.

The place where to descend the precipice

We came, was rough as Alp, and there beside

Such object lay, as ev'ry eye would shun.

As is that ruin, which Adice's stream

On this side Trento struck, should'ring the wave,

Or loos'd by earthquake, or for lack of prop ;

For from the mountain's summit, whence it mov'd

To the low level, so the headlong rock

Is shiver'd, that some passage it might give

To him who from above would pass.

C'ary .



no CLASSICAL TOUR Ch.ll.

precipice, hanging over the river, without any
parapet, the peasants, who live at the entrance of
the defile, crowd round the carriage to support it
in the most dangerous parts of the ascent and
descent. A fortification*, ruined by the French
in the late war, formerly defended this dreadful
pass, and must have rendered it impregnable.
But French gold,

Perrumpere amat saxa, potentius
Ictu fulmineo f.

In the middle of the defile a cleft in the rock on
the left sives vent to a torrent that rushes down
the crag, and sometimes sweeps away a part of the
road in its passage. After winding through the
defile for about half an hour, we turned, and sud-
denly found ourselves on the plains of Italy.

A traveller, upon his entrance into Italy, longs



* The fortress alluded to is called Chiusa, and is said to
have been originally built by the Romans ; and though fre-
quently destroyed during the wars and various invasions of
Italy, yet it was as constantly repaired in more peaceable
times. It must be acknowledged that Nature could not
have erected a more impregnable rampart to Italy than the
Alps, nor opened a more magnificent avenue than the long
defile of the Tyrol.

t Stronger than thunder's winged force
AU-pow'rful gold can speed its course.
Gold loves through solid walls to break.

Francis.



Ch. II. THROUGH ITALY. m

impatiently to discover some remains of ancient
magnificence, or some specimen of modern taste,
and fortunately finds much to gratify his curiosity
in Verona, the first town that receives him upon
his descent from the Rhetian Alps.

Verona is beautifully situated on the Adige,
partly on the declivity of a hill, which forms the
last swell of the Alps, and partly on the skirts of
an immense plain extending from these mountains
to the Apennines. The hills behind are adorned
with villas and gardens, where the graceful cy-
press and tall poplar predominate over the bushy
ilex and spreading laurel. The plains before the
city are streaked with rows of mulberry trees,
and shaded with vines climbing from branch to
branch and spreading in garlands from tree to
tree. The devastation of war had not a little
disfigured this scenery, by stripping several villas,
levelling many a grove, and rooting up whole
rows of vines and mulberry trees. But the hand
of industry had already begun to repair these ra-
vages, and to restore to the neighboring hills and
fields their beauty and fertility.

The interior of the town is worthy of its situa-
tion. It is divided into two unequal parts by
the Adige, which sweeps through it in a bold
curve, and forms a peninsula, within which the
whole of the ancient, and the greater part of the
modern city, is enclosed. The river is wide and



1 12 CLASSICAL TOUR Ch. IL

rapid ; the streets, as in almost all continental
towns, are narrower than ours, but long, strait?
w'ell built, and frequently presenting in the form
of the doors, and windows, and in the ornaments
of their cases, fine proportions, and beautiful
workmanship.

But besides these advantages which Verona
enjoys in common with many other towns, it can
boast of possessing one of the noblest monuments
of Roman magnificence now existing; I mean
its amphitheatre, inferior in size, but equal in
materials and in solidity to the Coliseum. Al-
most immediately upon our arrival, we hastened
to this celebrated monument, and passed the
greater part of the morning in climbing its seats
and ranging over its spacious arena. The ex-
ternal circumference, forming the ornamental part,
has been destroyed long ago ; with the ex-
ception of one piece of wall containing three
stories of four arches, rising to the height of
more than eighty feet. The pilasters and de-
corations of the outside were Tuscan, an order
well adapted by its simplicity to such vast fabrics.
Forty-five ranges of seats^ rising from the arena
to the top of the second story of outward arches,
remain entire, with the different vomitoria, and
their respective staircases and galleries of com-
munication. The whole is formed of blocks of
marble, and presents such a mass of compact



CA. II. THROUGH ITALY. 113

solidity, as might have defied the influence of
time, had not its powers been aided by the more
active operations of barbarian destruction. The
arena is not, as in Addison's time, filled up and
level with the first row of seats, but a few feet
lower ; though still somewhat higher than it was
in its original state. As it is not my intention to
give an architectural account of this celebrated
edifice, I shall merely inform the reader, in order
to give him a general idea of its vastness, that
the outward circumference is 1290 feet, the
length of the arena 218, and its breadth 129:
the seats are capable of containing, 22,000 spec-
tators.

At each end of the amphitheatre is a great
gate, and over each a modern balustrade with
an inscription, informing the traveller, that two
exhibitions of a very different nature took place
in it some years ago. The one was a bull-bait-
ing exhibited in honor of the Emperor Joseph
then at Verona, by the governor and the people.
The seats were crowded, as may be imagined,
on this occasion ; and a Roman Emperor was
once more hailed in a Roman amphitheatre with
the titles of Cesar and Augustus, by spectators
who pretend and almost deserve to be Romans.
The other exhibition, though of a very different
nature, was perhaps equally interesting : the late
Pope in his German excursion passed through

VOL. I. I



114 CLASSICAL TOUR Ch. IL

Verona, and was requested by the magistrates
to give the people a public opportunity of testi-
fying their veneration. He accordingly appeared
in the amphitheatre selected on account of its
capacity as the properest place, and when the
shouts of acclaim had subsided, poured forth his
benediction on the prostrate multitude collected
from all the neighboring provinces to receive it.
The thoughtful spectator might have amused
himself with the singular contrast, which this
ceremony must have presented, to the shows and
the pomps exhibited in the same place in ancient
times. A multitude in both cases equally nu-
merous, then assembled for purposes of cruel and
bloody amusements, now collected by motives of
piety and brotherhood : then all noise, agitation,
and uproar: now all silence and tranquil expec-
tation: then all eyes fixed on the arena, or per-
haps on the Emperor, an arena crowded with
human victims, an Emperor, Gallienus for in-
stance, frowning on his trembling slaves : now
all looks rivetted on the venerable person of a
Christian Pontiff, who, with eyes and hands up-
lifted to heaven, implored for the prostrate crowd
peace and happiness.

The French applied the amphitheatre to a
very diiferent purpose. Shortly after their en-
trance into Verona, they erected a wooden theatre
near one of the grand portals, and caused



Ch. II. THROUGH ITALY. 115

several farces and pantomimes to be acted in it
for the amusement of the array. The sheds and
scaffolding that composed this miserable edifice
were standing in the year 1802, and looked as if
intended by the bnilder for a satire upon the
taste of the Great Nation^ that could disfigure
so noble an arena. The Veronese beheld this
characteristic absurdity with indignation ; and
compared the French, not without reason, to the
Huns and the Lombards. In reality, the inha-
bitants of Verona have always distinguished
themselves by an unusual attachment to their
ancient monuments, and have endeavoured, as
well as the misery of the times, and the general
impoverishment of Italy would allow them, to
preserve and repair their public buildings. From
an early period in the thirteenth century (1228)
we find that there were sums appropriated to the
reparation of the amphitheatre; and that after-
wards public orders were issued for its preserva-
tion and ornament, and respectable citizens ap-
pointed to enforce them. This latter custom
continued till the French invasion, and two per-
sons entitled Presidenti alia arena (presidents of
the amphitheatre), were intrusted with its inspec-
tion and guardianship. Such zeal and attention,
to which the world owes one of the noblest monu-
ments of antiquity, are highly creditable to the
taste and the public spirit of the Veronese, and



116 CLASSICAL TOUR Ch.U.

afford an honorable proof that they not only boast
of Roman extraction, but retain some features of
the Roman character.

But the amphitheatre is not the only monu-
ment of antiquity that distinguishes Verona. In
the middle of a street, called the Cor so, stands
a gate inscribed with the name of Gallienus, on
account of his having rebuilt the city walls. It
consists of two gateways, according to the ancient
custom, one for those who enter, the other for
those who go out : each gateway is ornamented
with Corinthian half pillars, supporting a light
pediment ; above are two stories with six small
arched windows each. The whole is of marble, and
does not seem to have suffered any detriment from
time or violence. The gate, though not without
beauty in its size, proportions, and materials, yet,
by its supernumerary ornaments proves, that at its
erection, the taste for pure simple architecture was
on the decline. The remains of another gate, of a
similar though chaster form, may be seen in the
Via Leoni, where it stands as a front to an insig-
niBcant house ; and within that house, in the
upper story, a few feet behind the first gate, there
exist some beautiful remnants of the Doric orna-
ments of the inner front of the gate ; remnants
much admired by modern architects, and said to
present one of the best specimens of that order to
be found in Italy. This double gate is supposed



Ch. II. THROUGH ITALY. 117

to have been the entrance into the Forum Judici-
ale, and ought to be cleared, if possible, of the
miserable pile that encumbers it, and buries its
beauty.

From the first-mentioned gate, which formed
the principal entrance into the town, as appears
from some remains of the wall or rampart, which
ran on each side of it, and was repaired by Gal-
lienus, we may conclude that Verona was an-
ciently of no great extent, as it was confined to
the space that lies between this wall and the
river. This observation, apparently improbable
considering that Verona was an ancient Roman
colony, the native country or the residence of
many illustrious persons mentioned by historians
and celebrated by poets, is founded on the au-
thority of Silius and of Servius ; if indeed the
descriptions of the former can, like Homer's, be
considered as geographical authority *. How-
ever, it may be presumed, that the suburbs of
the town extended into the neighboring plain ;
a conjecture favored by the situation of the
amphitheatre, which, though standing at some



* Athesis Verouje circumflua (Fair Athesis, which girds
Veroiia's town). Sil. VIII. Athesis Venetiae fluvius est
Veronum civitatem ambiens. (The Athesis is a river of
Venetia, surrounding the city of the Verones). Servius in
Virg. VIII.



118 CLASSICAL TOUR Ch. U

distance from the ancient gate, was probably
erected in or near some populous quarter. At
all events, the modern Verona is of much greater
magnitude, and spreading into the plain to a
considerable distance beyond the old wall on the
one side, and on the other covering the opposite
banks of the river, encloses the ancient town as
its centre, and occupies a spacious area of about
five miles in circumference. Many parts of it,
particularly the square called Piazza della Bra,
near the amphitheatre, are airy and splendid.
Some of its palaces, and several of its churches,
merit particular attention : among the latter, the
beautiful chapel of S. Bernardino, in the church
of the Franciscan Friars, and S. Zeno *, with its
painted cloister and vast vase of porphyry, may
perhaps claim the precedency.

Among public edifices, the Gran-Guardia
and the Museo Lapidario are the most con-
spicuous : the portico of the latter is Ionic : its
court surrounded with a gallery of light Doric,
contains a vast collection of antiquities -f- of vari-

* This church suffered considerably from the brutality of
the French soldiery, some of whom amused themselves, as
might have done the Huns of At'tila, or the Goths of Rada-
gaisus, in breaking porphyry pillars and vases, ransacking
tombs, and disfiguring paintings.

t The French visited this collection, and carried off some
of the most valuable articles.



CA. II. THROUGH ITALY. 119

ous kinds, such as altars, tombs, sepulchral vases,
inscriptions, &c. formed and arranged principally
by the celebrated Maffei, a nobleman whose
learning and taste (two qualities not always
united) reflect great honor on Italy, and particu-
larly on Verona, the place of his birth and his
usual residence.

The garden of the Giusti family, alluded to
by Addison, is still shewn to travellers, though it
has little to recommend it to attention except its
former celebrity, and some wild walks winding
along the side of a declivity remarkable as being
the last steep in the immense descent from the
Alps to the plain. From the highest terrace of
this garden, there is a beautiful and extensive
prospect of the town, the hills and the Alps on
one side ; and on the other, of plains spreading
wide, and losing their fading tints in the southern
horizon. This is, in reality, one of the best
spots for viewing Verona, and as such it may be
considered worthy of the attention of travellers,
together with the hills that rise behind the town,
particularly that on which formerly stood the
Castello di San Pietro, now in ruins.

Few towns have contributed more largely to
the reputation of Roman literature, or have been
more fertile in the production of genius, taste, and
knowledge, than Verona. Catullus, and Macer
(supposed to be introduced by Virgil into his



120 CLASSICAL TOUR Ch. IL

Eclogues under the pastoral name of Mopsus);
Cornelius Nepos and Poraponias Secundus; Vi-
truvius, and Pliny the Elder, form a constellation
of luminaries of the first magnitude, and shed a
distinguishing lustre on the place of their birth
and early education. A succession of writers fol-
lowed ; and though feeble tapers in comparison of
their predecessors, yet they cast a transient gleam
as they passed on, and not only preserved the light
of science from being utterly extinguished during
the middle centuries, but contributed to revive its
glories at a later and more fortunate period. In
this revival, at the commencement of the fifteenth
century, Verona had some share : Guarini, a Ve-
ronese, returning from Constantinople, restored
the study of Greek some time before the arrival
of Chrysoloras, and of the other learned Constan-
tinopolitan fugitives. He was succeeded by a long
line of eminent men, among whom we may dis-
tinguish Domitius Calderini (who, with Laurentius
Valla and Politian, received the honourable appel-
lation of Triumvirs of Literature) Scaliger and
Panvinius ; and in fine, Fracastorius the poet, the
naturalist, and the astronomer. In modern times,
Verona still preserves her reputation in taste and
science; and the names of Bianchini and Scipio
Maffei may be considered as proofs of her present,
and pledges of her future literary glory.

The history of Verona is various and interest-



Ch. II. THROUGH ITALY. 121

ing. Situated as it is at the foot of the Alps, and
at the southern opening of the grand defile through
Rhetia, forming the most ancient and regular com
munication between Italy and Germany, it is ex-
posed to the first fury of the northern invaders,
and has always been the first object of their attacks.
It resisted with various success ; sometimes it was
treated with lenity, and sometimes with cruelty.
Like the other Italian towns, it submitted sooner
or later to the prevailing power, and bore succes-
sively the yoke of the Heruli, of the Goths, of the
Greeks, of the Lombards, and of the Italian and
German emperors. During this long period of
invasion, of anarchy, and of devastation, Verona
seems to have enjoyed a better fate, or, to speak
more correctly, to have suffered less than most
other Italian cities. Many of the sovereigns, who
reigned during this interval from Theodoric to
Frederic the Second, either allured by the beautyj
or struck by the importance of its situation, made
Verona their occasional residence ; and frequently
paid much attention to its accommodation, strength,
and ornament.

In the twelfth century, Verona, together with
many other Italian cities, shook off the yoke of
foreign barbarians ; erected itself into an indepen-
dent republic ; and, as conquest frequently attends
liberty, became the Capital of a very considerable
territory. In this state of freedom and of conse-



122 CLASSICAL TOUR Ck.U

quence Verona remained till the commencement
of the fifteenth century ; when, seduced by the in-
fluence, allured by the glory, or awed by the
greatness of Venice, she submitted to the genius
of her powerful neighbor. However, this volun-
tary dependence was rather a state of tranquillity
than of servitude or degradation. The Venetians
respected the laws and customs of the Veronese,
and consulted the beauty and prosperity of their
city ; so that , the change might be considered as
the union of bordering territories, not the subjection
of a separate state ; and the sway of the Venetians
was regarded rather as the superiority of country-
men, than as the usurpation of foreigners.

At length, during the revolutionary war, the.
French invaded Italy ; and, after a long and bloody
contest, remaining masters of the Venetian terri-
tory, employed it to purchase peace, and made
over the greatest part to the emperor. Upon this
occasion, the territory of Verona was divided, and
the city itself torn asunder ; the Adige was declared
to be the boundary of the two states, the territory
and part of the town on the left bank was con-
signed to the Austrians, while the grater part,
which lies on the right, was annexed to the new-
created Italian republic. This dismemberment (if
the expression may be allowed) is considered by
the Veronese as the greatest disaster their town
has ever suffered ; and the French are detested as



a. II. THROUGH ITALY. 1^3

the most cruel of the many barbarous tribes that
have invaded their devoted country. They look
upon themselves as victims of a partition treaty
between two rival powers, agreeing only in one
point вАФ the subjugation and oppression of Italy;
but these powers they hate as transalpines and
barbarians (for the latter term is applied by the
modern as well as the ancient Italians, to all
foreign or hostile nations) but the French most, as
aggressors, who have added treachery and insult
to invasion and plunder. The Italian republic they
regard as the handmaid and creature of France,
with a pompous name to dupe the populace, and
to palliate the odium of tyrannical measures and
of oppressive taxation. They consider its duration
as uncertain as the existence, and its administra-
tion as irregular as the caprice of its founder ; like
the French republic, it is in their eyes a phantom,
which appeared yesterday, and may vanish to-
morrow: doubtful therefore of its permanency,
but convinced that while it exists, it will be a mere
instrument of oppression in the hands of an enemy,
they behold its operations with distrust, and hear
its name with contempt and indignation. Hence
the inactivity and solitude that pervade the streets
of the Italian, or rather French part of the town,
and announce the apprehension and the despair of
its inhabitants, their attachment to their old, and
their hatred to their new government.



124 CLASSICAL TOUR Ch. IL

The Austrians they do not and cannot love :
they are barbarians and invaders ; and though the
emperor be a just and even benevolent sovereign,
yet his right over them is that of the sword only;
and though he may be tyrannorum mitissimus (the
mildest of tyrants), yet in the eyes of every Italian
patriot, still he is, as well as Buonaparte, a tyrant,
and an usurper : since, however, they are doomed
to be slaves, of the two they prefer the former.
The Austrian government is mild and equitable ;
it proceeds on fixed principles, and moves on in
the straight and beaten track ; it is, and so is the
French republic, liable to the reverses of war ; but
it is exempt, and so is not the French republic,
from internal change and unexpected revolution.
Hence they submit with something like resigna-
tion, to the imperial sway ; and hence some life
and activity, some share of confidence, and some
appearance of business, enliven the Austrian quar-
ter of Verona. It is indeed highly probable, that
if the present precarious state of things lasts for



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