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Italy and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) online

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province, lies in the Papal States ; and the other moun-


tain districts of the same province are in the Ahnizzo
Ultra within the kingdom of Naples. The name of
Latium, originally confined to the plain around Rome,
shut in between the Tiber, the nearest mountains, and
the sea, spread farther and farther south till it touched
Campania at, and afterwards beyond, the mouth of the
river Liris or Garigliano. In this region, according to
the geography of the middle ages, the Etrurian portion
of the Papal State was called the Patrimony of St
Peter ; and the March of Ancona nearly corresponds to
the ancient Picenum.

Lower Italy, the third region, lies wholly in the king-
dom of Naples, in which, however, two small territories
belonging to the Papal See are isolated. None of its
ancient districts comcides exactly with any of the mo-
dern provinces ; but Campania may be considered to be
substantially represented by the Terra di Lavoro ; Sam-
nium and the lands of the Frentani by the Principato
Ultra and the Abi-uzzo Citra ; Apulia by the Capitanata,
the Terra di Bari, and the Terra di Otranto ; Lucaniaby
the Principato Citra and the Basilicata ; and Bruttium
by the Two Calabrias. Apulia, under its name of
Puglia, is important in the history of the middle ages.

Several islands are geographically connected with Italy.
In the Adriatic are no large ones on the Italian shore.
The only clusters are two ; the Tremiti isles, oflF the
Neapolitan coast ; and the line of shoals at the head of
the gulf, having the city of Venice for their centre, and
belonging wholly to the Austrian province which bears
the same name. The islands on the western side of the
peninsula are the largest in the Mediterranean ; and all
of them belong to Italy, politically as well as physically ;
except Corsica, which has been subject to France for
nearly a century ; and Malta, which in 1800 was trans-
ferred from its famous order of knights to the British
empire. Of the two main groups of these western
Italian islands, the more northerly is composed of
Corsica and Sardinia, with a few islets attached to the
latter, and that cluster between Corsica and Tuscany, of


wliich Elba is the largest. The second group consists of
Sicily, and the islands which surround it, the only con-
sideralDle ones being the Lipari isles on the north, and on
the south Pantellaria, with ]\Ialta and its dependent isle
of Gozo. The whole of this group, except the two last
mentioned, belongs to the kingdom of the Two Sicilies,
as do Ischia, Capri, and the other islets about the mouth
of the Bay of Naples.

When we first tread the soil of Italy, the loveliness
of the landscape absorbs our whole attention. Associa-
tion, indeed, does much to strengthen the spell which the
scenery throws over us ; and the force of the attraction
is greatly increased by the southern sky, with its balmy
repose, its magical colouring, and its harmonious combi-
nations of light and shadow. All the features of the
picture, however, are in themselves both novel and
beautiful. The climate and its productions do not, it is
true, unfold their full luxuriance till we reach Sicily ;
but to the native of northern Europe, the face of the
country is new from the very foot of the Alps.

Italy is divided by nature into two very dissimilar
regions. The first is Lombardy, or Upper Italy, bound-
ed, as w^e have seen, on the north by the Alps, and on
the south by the Apennines. This tract commences, on
the north and west, among Alpine heights and glens,
whose aspect is that of Switzerland. The. mountains
then subside into broad meadow-plains, watered by large
rivers, and crossed m every field by rows of poplars sup-
porting vines ; while the olive-groves on the lower emi-
nences both of the Alpine and Apennine chains, and
the scattered cypresses and pines, impart the first charac-
teristic images of the Italian landscape.

Southward of the ridge of the Apennines is the second
region, the strictly peninsular portion of Italy. On
crossing the mountains wdiich bound it on the north,
we immediately lose the broad plains and full rivers
of Lombai'dy. The Apennine accompanies us to the
extremity of the peninsula, dividing it lengthwise, nar-


rowing its flats, and forming deep hollows by the pro-
montories which it every where sends out. The moun-
tains, though in many districts lofty, are rounded in
shape ; and the undulating hills, which cluster about their
sides, sink down into flat alluvial valleys, like the de-
serted beds of lakes. Woods of olive-trees, not unlike
in character to the birch, cover the rising grounds with
their gray foliage. Towns and villages on the plains, or
oftener perched like castles on the hills, peer out from
amidst vineyards, or clumps of the dark flat-topped pine,
and the tall pillar-like cypress ; and the most unculti-
vated and lonely of the vales are clothed with a pic-
turesque and almost tropical prodigality of vegetation,
in the wild trees and shrubs, the broad leafy masses of
the glossy ilex, the rich forms and colours of the
arbutus, and the graceful outline of the fragrant myrtle.
Tliis aspect of the landscape, which prevails in Middle
Italy, suffers some changes as we advance farther south.
The date-palm is now seen in sheltered nooks ; in some
districts the orange and lemon groves give odour to
the air ; and the aloe and cactus grow wild upon the
rocks. These features are caught in glimpses, even on
the northern side of the Apennines ; they are more and
more frequent as we proceed towards Lower Italy, in
which they are not indeed the prevailing features, but
in several quarters assume prominence in the scene ;
and in Sicily the picture unites oriental vegetation with
that of the Italian valleys. The panorama of the low
country, too, has every where a back ground in the moun-
tains, among which, as we climb their sides, the wide
woods of chestnut, intermingled with oak and beech,
give way to the hardier species of the pine and other
vigorous plants, and these to the green pastures which
rise to the very summits of the Apennines.

The landscapes of Italy are excelled by those of nor-
thern Europe in several respects, and most of all in ex-
tent and gi-andeur of forest scenery ; but every defect is
redeemed by the lucid atmosphere, the characteristic
luxuriance of the vegetation, the singular beauty of form


in hill and vale, and tlie brilliant pictures of rural and even
woodland loveliness which we discover in so many spots.

Italian scenery receives another charm from its build-
ings, which in themselves are singularly pictui'esque
and add much to the historical and poetical recollections
they so often recall. Throughout the whole country are
scattered the architectural monuments of the Romans,
and in Lower Italy and Sicily many of the finest edi-
fices of the Greeks ; most of them now huge piles of
ruins, with shrubs and weeds mantling their walls and
twining round their broken columns. The perfection of
this species of landscape is to be found in the tract which,
solitary though within the walls of a modern city, is
covered by the ruins of Ancient Rome. The middle ages
liave, in the rural districts, left scanty relics ; a few dark
towers, a very few castles on the hills, and in Middle Italy
some of those villages, whose spacious mansions, falling
into decay, attest the former wealth and the present po-
verty of the agricultural population. Over the whole
peninsula, however, the churches, convents, and habita-
tions which rise amidst the vmeyards or olive-grounds,
are striking features in the scene. From the mean
dwellings of the Lombard peasants, or the few comfort-
able homesteads of the fanners, to the thickly crowded and
neat houses of the Genoese and Tuscan valleys, and thence
again to the ruinous and cheerlessbuildingsof the southern
provinces, all is characteristic. The most curious fact is
the almost total want of what we should call cottages.
Scarcely any where do we discover habitations which
might not be classed under one of two lieads : wretched
huts, fortunately rare, built perhaps of reeds or logs ;
and tall houses bearing a resemblance to those in our
small country towns, not unfrequently ruinous, and
always inhabited by a population which we should ex-
pect to find in far humbler dwellings. These facts re-
ceive their explanation from the history of the people.

We meet, in most districts, with comparatively few
villas of the opulent classes, those wliich we do find being
commonly grouped together in particular spots. The


outline of their architecture, which we see successfully
caught by many painters, is at once peculiar and
beautiful. The long horizontal lines indicate the linger-
ing influence of the ancient monuments ; the flattened
roofs, scarcely visible, and in Southern Italy quite level,
contrast strongly with the buildings on the other side of
the Alps ; balconies and terraces open from the sides of
the mansions ; and above the Avhole rise one or more of
those rectangular towers, which, solid in their lowest
division and ending at top in an open story, are covered
with a low roof, supported by four square pillars, or by
an arcade. The monasteries, which crown so strikingly
the brow of many eminences, have the general outline
of the villas, but with less ornament, and a more gloomy
aspect, derived from their fortress-like compactness, and
their great extent of dead wall, pierced by a few diminu-
tive windows. The interior of these edifices, forming ranges
which enclose courts or cloisters, at once reminds us of
the ancient domestic dwellings, and gives us the prototype
of the aristocratic residences in the Italian towns ; for no
palazzo receives the name unless it has its inner court,
entered by a gateway, and surrounded by the buildings
which form the mansion. Architecture in the cities has
all the features which distinguish it in the country ; and
there are many towns which contain edifices of all ages,
from the primeval fortifications of the Pelasgians to the
villa of the nineteenth century.

The groups which animate the landscapes of Italy
are as picturesque in their aspect as they are inter-
esting in a more philosophical light. Amidst many
shades of difference, the people have in common the
physiognomy and person of their ancestors and their
southern climate ; and the dark fiery eye and marked
features of the Neapolitan fisherman, or the deep rich
complexion, the full tall figure, and the noble classical
profile of the Roman female of the western suburbs, are
only more distinctive instances of a physical character,
which has equally fine examples elsewhere. The
costumes of the peasantry complete the eff^ect which


their figures, faces, air, and gestures, produce on the
minds of foreigners. It is ti-ue that all the rustic dresses
are not graceful, and that some are decidedly ugly ; for no
one can admire either the boots of the females in Eastern
Lomhardy, or the felt- hats which disfigure the beautiful
countenances of the Tuscan women. In many provinces,
however, the attire of both sexes is remarkably pictur-
esque ; and the figures of the ecclesiastics are to us even
more striking than those of the country people. The habit
of the secular clergy, though distinguishing, is not by
any means remarkable ; but the monks and friars, with
their shaven cro^^Tls and long cinctured robes, lead the
fancy back to the most animating scenes of history and
poetry. ]\Iodern Rome owes its peculiarity of aspect in
no small degree to its multitude of monastic churchmen.

When we turn to the details of tlie physical geography,
the mountains first attract our notice. The crescent of
the Alps embraces the northern bounds in a curve of
perhaps five hundred miles ; and the deepest of the val-
leys are from 5000 to 8000 feet above the level of the
ocean. Of the stupendous peaks which tower between
these picturesque passes, the greaternumber stand, accord-
ing to political divisions, beyond the frontier of Italy ;
the interest which belongs to them is not Italian ; and we
but rarely catch a glimpse of some of the loftiest sum-
mits closing in the head of the distant ravines.

At the eastern end of the great chain, on the con-
fines of Austrian Germany, two successive groups,
the Julian or Carnic, and the Tyrolese Alps, rear
their highest peaks far from the Itahan territories.
But to the latter range may be assigned the mountains
of the Valtelline (now within the Italian boundary),
among the most elevated of which we have, on the line
of division, the Oertler Spitz, and the Monte d' Oro.
The same range sends down on the grand lake of Garda
the Monte Baldo, which protects its Veronese or eastern
bank ; and in the Bergamasc territory, the principal
oflFshoots are the ]\Ionte Adamello on the edge of the Val



Camonica, and the Monte Presolana in the Val Seriana.
The next great group, the Rhgetian Alps, which form
nearly the whole of the frontier with Switzerland, have
also huge promontories, whose peaks surround the Lakes
of Como and Lugano, and the Lago Maggiore. Among
these are Monte Legnone in the district of Como, and
Monte Generoso, which stands between the Val di
Maggia and the Lake of Lugano. Passing into Piedmont
we find, just within the borders, the Monte Rosa, the
second highest of the Alps, which may be regarded as asso-
ciated in its structure with the Pennine Alp or Great St
Bernard, with which the Swiss frontier ends. The Savoy-
ard marches, after passing over the central summits of
Mont Blanc, proceed along the Graian Alps, including
the lofty Mont Iseran. The Cottian Alp commences
with Mont Cenis, which completes the junction with
Savoy ; and the rest of the range, between Italy and
France, includes the Monte Viso. The Maritune Alps,
sweeping round till they dip into the sea in the Gulf of
Genoa, are comparatively low, rising nowhere much
higher than their fine pass of the Col di Tenda.

The Apennines, which are regarded as commencing
about Savona, continue the chain of the Maritime Alps,
and trend nearly west and east till they have almost cross-
ed the peninsula, forming thus far the southern bank of
the great valley of Upper Italy. Though more elevat-
ed than the range from which they directly spring,
they are every where far lower than the great Alpine
chain. In the portion of them just described, the highest
point is the Cimone di Fanano, which stands almost in-
sulated in the Duchy of Modena ; and the Monte Radi-
coso, the highest pass between Bologna and Florence, is
less than 8000 feet above the sea. Before reaching the
Adriatic, the Apennine bends round, and from that point
forms a ridge running south-east, through the middle of
the peninsula, to its extremity. Nor does it terminate
there ; for a chain of mountains, which, according to the
inferences of mineralogical science, forms a continuation
of the range, rises in Sicily. Far north in Tuscany, a


branch is sent off towards the west, which, dipping into
the sea, reappears successively in Elba, Corsica, and Sar-
dinia. Several others project from both declivities of the
central chain, the longest being one on the east side, which
ends at the Cape of Leuca.

The principal heights of the Apennmes, in most dis-
tricts, stand between 8000 and 5000 feet above the sea ;
a few mountains of the range have an elevation consider-
ably exceeding 5000 feet ; but none of them reaches
10,000. Their highest cluster of peaks, save one, is
in the island-chain which shoots off from Tuscany.
Among these, Corsica has the Monte Rotondo, and the
Monte d' Oro ; and Sardinia, whose hills generally rise
from 1000 to 3000 feet, has two much more elevated, the
Monte Genargentu, and the Monte Limbarra. The central
range, too, begins to rise higher opposite those islands. It
presents, among the mountains of U rhino, the Monte
Catria, near Cagli, and in Umbria the picturesque Nor-
cian group, where the peak of the Leonessa, so conspicu-
ous from the plain of Rome, is overtopped by the lofty
Mount of the Sibyl. The range thence shoots up into
its greatest heights, in the hilly region of the Abruzzo Ul-
tra. The highest of the Abruzzese mountains is the huge
IMonte Como, called also the Gran Sasso or Great Rock
of Italy, which spreads over a wide district of upland
glens, and has its finest summits near the town of Aquila.
The most remarkable, and probably the loftiest, of the
other members of the same group, are the conical Monte
Vellno,and the round shapeless mass of the Majella, crested
with a knot of castle-like rocks. Both of these overhang
the banks of the beautiful Fucine Lake, or Lake of Celano.
The Apennines preserve an imposing height in the eastern
quarter of the Neapolitan Ten-a di Lavoro, in which are
the Monte Meta, and the Monte Miletto near Alife. The
southern members of the chara are less lofty. Among
the most elevated are, the Monte Sant' Angelo (the
ancient IMount Garganus), an offset of the range, skirting
the Gulf of Manfredonia ; and Monte Sirmo, in the Basi-
licata. The medium height of the Calabrian branch


seems to be from 4000 to 5000 feet. From the Col di
Tenda to the Capo dell' Armi, the total length of the
Apennmes is reckoned at 640 geographical miles.

The mountains of Sicily, if we except the volcanic
Etna, are much lower than the peninsular Apennines,
and nowhere rise to 4000 feet. The mountain of Dina-
mare, above Messina, is one of the highest ; the Neptunian
or Pelorian range, which runs southwest from Messina,
reaches its greatest elevation in Monte Scuderi, northward
from Taormina ; in the same chain, and in the centre o!
the island, stands the rock of Castro Giovanni, which is
the poetical Enna ; in the Madonia range is the Monte
Cuccio, near Palermo ; and the loftiest summit of the
island, except Etna, is a peak in the Calatabellotta
range, near Castro Nuovo.

From the banks of the river Ombrone in Tuscany to
the south side of the Bay of Naples an interrupted chain
of extinct volcanoes runs side by side with the Apen-
nines. The first lofty eminence among these is the Monte
Amiata, at Radicofani on the Tuscan frontier, which is
followed by the Monte Soriano near Viterbo, the highest
of the ancient Ciminian liills. The next is Somma, the
old crater of Vesuvius, opposite to which is Ischia, crested
by Mount Epopeus or San Nicola. The volcanic zone
reappears in the Lipari isles, in which the loftiest are
Stromboli and Felicudi. It next crowns SicUy with the
renowned Mount Etna ; and we trace it once more in the
islet of Pantellaria, half-way between Sicily and Africa.*

The Po is the only Italian river which can be com-
pared with those of transalpine Europe. It rises in the
Monte Viso, flows through Piedmont and the Lombardo-
Venetian territories, and discharges itself into the Adriatic

• The following table, taken from the most approved authorities,
gives the heights, calculated in English feet, to which the principal
mountains of Italy rise from the sea. They are arranged in four
groups, as they are described in the text: — 1. Those mountains
among the Alps which, as being either in Italy or closely bordering
on it, may all, without much impropriety, be called Italian ; 2. The
Apeniiines, including their offshoots in Corsica and Sardinia;



by several mouths, after a slow course of nearly 300 geo-
grapliical miles. In its whole progress through the Aus-
trian territories, which extends to 136 of those miles,
it is navigable for boats, excepting in unusually dry
weather, when they are sometimes stopped at Cremona.
The Po has for its basin the whole of the great valley
between the Alps and Apennines. The tributary streams
which descend to it from the latter are comparatively
small : but the Trebbia, one of their number, has a classi-
cal reputation on account of Hannibal and its monastery
of Bobbio ; the Secchia is navigable for boats from Mo-
dena downwards ; the Panaro presents the same conve-
nience to the extent of thirty miles ; and the Reno feeds
a canal which communicates between Bologna and the
Po. From the Alps this river receives several large ac-
cessions. In Piedmont its principal tributaries are, on
the right, the Tanaro, on the left the Dora-Riparia, the

3. The prolongation of the Apennines in Sicily ;
mountains in Italy and the islands.

I. — The Italian Alps, | Monte Sirmo,
Mont Blanc, . . 15,744 Monte Catria,

4. The volcanic

Monte Rosa, .
Mont Iseran,
The Oertler Spitz,
Monte Viso,
Mont Cenis,
Monte Adamello,
Monte d Oro,
Monte Legnone,
Monte Presolana,
Monte Baldo,
Monte Generoso,

Monte Velino^

Monte d' Oro (Corsica),

La Majella,

Monte della Sibilla,

Monte JMeta,

II Cimone di Fanano, .

Monte Miletto,


1 5, 150 1 Genargentu ( Sardinia),
13,275 I Monte Sant' Angelo, .
12,852 I Linibarra (Sardinia),
12,600 j Monte Radicoso Pass,
11,460 1 , „
1 980 ■ — Apennines


8*594 '^^^ Calatabellotta Peak,
8 198 Monte Cuccio,
7 207 Monte Scuderi,
6^282 ^I^"te di Dinamare,

Col di Tenda (Marit. Alps) 5',884 Castro Giovanni,

11- — The Apennines. ; IV.— The Volcanic Moun-

The Gran Sasso d' Italia, 9,460 tains.

Monte Rotondo (Corsica), 9,061 INIount Etna (Sicily),

^^ ' "' " 8,943 Monte Soriano,

8,697 La Sorama di Vesuvio,

7,998 Monte Amiata,

7,495 Felicudi (Isle), .

7,271 Monte San Nicoh (Ischia),2,605

6,971 Pantellaria (Isle), . 2,213

6,742 StromboU (Isle), . . 2,171





Dora-Baltea, and the Sesia. In Austrian Lombardy the
largest rivers which disgorge themselves into it issue
from the Lakes. The Lago Maggiore, forty-eight miles
long, from four to seven miles broad, and generally
more than twenty feet deep, receives the waters of
the Ticino and twenty-six other streams, all of which,
after passing through the lake, are discharged into the Po.
The Lake of Como, thirty-seven miles in its greatest
length, and varying in breadth from one mile to four, is
traversed by the Adda, which thence flows across the
plain to join the same river. The Oglio passes through
the Lake of Iseo, and the classical Mincio issues from
the fine Lake of Garda, thirty-seven miles long and from
four to fourteen miles broad. The Adige, which ranks
next to the Po, emerges from the Tyrolese defiles a little
above Verona, and flows a very short way through the
plain. The Bacchiglione, Brenta, and others of smaller
dimensions, are geographically unimportant.

The rivers of Middle and Lower Italy are more im-
portant in history than in geography or commerce.
They flow from no large lakes, for of these the only
considerable one, the Lake of Celano, which is reckoned
thirty -five miles in circuit, has no visible outlet. On the
side of the Adriatic, the largest streams are the Metauro
and the Tronto in the Papal States, and the Neapolitan
Pescara, Ofanto, and Bradano. On the other side, the
Magra and the Serchio, the Neapolitan Garigliano, Vol-
tumo, and Sele, are all historical names ; but except the
Arno and the Tiber none require to be more than mention-
ed. These rise within ten miles of each other, in the moun-
tainous district of Tuscany called the Casentino. The
former, receiving several beautiful streams, and winding
extensively in the upper part of its course, flows in all
about 150 geographical miles. Its lower valley (Val
d' Arno Inferiore) one of the most lovely scenes in Italy,
has Florence near its head, and the river is passable
for boats from that city to the Mediterranean, a dis-
tance of nearly sixty miles. The course of the Tiber
is about 190 geographical miles, and its direction is


southerly, till, after it has received several considerable
streams, the Ncra bemg the latest and largest, the
Apennines near Tivoli force it westward across the
plain. A little before entering Rome it receives the
Teverone, the ancient Anio ; and from the Roman
wharfs downwards it is navigable for small coasting
barks. Within the city, beside the Tomb of Augustus,
its breadth is 197 English feet, its depth twenty-one, its
medium surface twenty-one feet above the level of the
sea, and the distance from its mouth fifteen geographical

In none of the Italian islands are the rivers geogra-

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