William Stewart Rose.

Letters from the north of Italy. Addressed to Henry Hallam, esq (Volume 1) online

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NORTH OF ITALY.



VOL. L



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LETTERS



NORTH OF ITALY.

ADDRESSED TO

HENRY HALLAM, Esq.
IN TWO VOLUMES.



With discourse that shifts and changes,
That at random roves and ranges,
Hither, thither, here and there,
Over ocean, eartli and air;
To the pole and to the tropic,
Overrunning every topic —
— Tell us, is he drunk or mad ?
— No, believe me, grave and sad.

THE BIRDS, MS. Translatiottr



VOL. L

LONDON:
JOIJN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.

1819.






INTRODUCTION.



Some sort of preface or introduction is con-
sidered as so essential to a book that I have not
courage to depart from the established usage.
Yet in thinking upon what I have to say, every
subject which I might touch, with one excep-
tion, appears to me either unnecessary or im-
pertinent.

The single point I reserve is an explanation
of the false colours under which I have em-
barked : For it would be disingenuous to pretend
that the following letters were not originally
designed for publication. My reason for wrap-
ping my matter in the form in which they ap-
pear, was simply that being little accustomed
to habits of serious literary composition, and
still less fitted for attempting a falsetto^ I
sought an excuse for writing as I should speak,



VI INTRODUCTION.

were it unfortunately the fashion to speak oc-
tavos.

Having thus candidly confessed what the
reader is probably already acquainted with, I
shall make my fairness a ground for claiming
his confidence in another declaration which
makes more essentially for my work

It appears to me to matter less, whether let-
ters of the description of those which follow were
originally designed only for private inspection or
the public eye, than whether they are such as they
were originally struck off, or have been retouched
from after-recollection. Now upon the first
ground I can take my stand, (indeed the letters
themselves will probably afford sufficient evi-
dence of this,) and declare that, excepting two
or three, I have left them as I cast them, having
bestowed no more alteration on them in their
progress through the press than what I suppose
every one naturally and almost unwittingly

makes, in reviewing a private letter.

W. S. R.



CONTENTS



TO



VOL. I.



LETTER I.

The Simplon — Arrangements made by Buonaparte for
the safety and comfort of Travellers — neglected by his
Successors, &c. — Entrance into Italy . . Page I

LETTER II.

I am sent by the Austrians to Genoa — Journey thither —
Description of that City, &,c 15

LETTER III.

Departure from Genoa — Plains of Piedmont — Plains
more common on the Continent than in Great Britain
— Cremona — Mantua — Ridiculous and vexatious Con-
duct of the Austrians — Supposed Changes of Climate
in modem Italy, &c. . 33

LETTER IV.

Verona — its Localities — its Gothic Monuments — Tombs
of the Scaligers — This city the Cradle of many great
Men — of Ippolito Pindemonte — general Character
of his Poetry 41



Vlll CONTENTS.

LETTER V.

Padua — its Appearance — its Sights — An Accident illus-
trative of national Manners — My Departure for
Abano 51

LETTER VL

Abano — a general Description of the Place — its Etymo-
logy — Classical Traditions and Accounts respecting
it — Mode of applying its Muds and Waters — their
Efficacy, 8cc. &c. — Society at Abano — Characteristic
of Italian Society in general 59

LETTER VII.

System of Italian Lotteries and their Consequences. 71

LETTER VIII.

Visit to Arqua — Thoughts on Petrarch's Poetry, &c. 70

LETTER IX.

Excursion — Badness of the Lombard Cross-Roads —
Lombard Farms — Difference of Customs in the Italian
Provinces — Value of Land in Italy — Humane Treat-

, ment of Beasts by the Italians — Visit to La Bat-
TAGLIA — Visit to the Castle of Obizzo — Dift'erence
between the English and Italian Squirearchy, &.c. 85

LETTER X.

On the intermittent Fever common in Italy — the Mal-
aria — its Causes and possible Means of Preven-
tion 101



CONTENTS. IX

LETTER XI.

On the extreme Misery of the Lower Orders in Italy,
&c 128

LETTER XII.

On Italian Cards and Games — Similarity of the last all
over the World — I set out for Vicenza . . . 140

LETTER XIII.

Variety of Character in the Italian Provinces — discern-
able in their Kitchens — The Kitchen affords a Clue to
national Origin — Absence of Prejudice in Matters of
Food amongst the Italians — Vicentine Anecdotes,
&c 154

LETTER XIV.

Palladian Architecture — Mechanical Arts in Italy cul-
tivated with less Success than the liberal — Mistaken
Notion of despotic Government being peculiarly unfa-
vourable to the latter — Perverseness of the Austrian
Government in various Respects l62

LETTER XV.

Extraordinary View from the Monte of Vicenza,
&c 176

LETTER XVI.

Data from which to form a Calculation respecting the
Frequency of Intermittent Fevers in Vicenza, &c. 192
b



X?i CONTENTS.

LETTER XVII.

All Improvvisatore — his Talent common in Italy — Faci-
lities afforded to Poetical Folly by the Italian Lan-
guage 197

LETTER XVIII.

Originality of the Florentines, &c 204

LETTER XIX.

Curiosity of the Vicentines — Ludicrous Stanzas ofGritti
to which it gave rise — Illustration of them. . 207

LETTER XX.

Austrian Decrees, prohibitory of the Importation of fo-
reign Manufactures^ — Mistaken Policy of the Govern-
ment, Sec. &c if 222

LETTER XXI.

A literary Vicentine Society — Books kept out of sight
and reach in Italy — Private and public Libraries —
Public Library at Ferrara — MSS. of Aj-iosto pre-
served there, &c. &c. &,c 229

LETTER XXII.

Genius of the Vicentines for Manufactures. . . 235

LETTER XXIII.

Various Vicentine Recollections — Mistaken English No-
tions respecting Points of moral Character in the
Italians 237



CONTENTS. XI

LETTER XXIV.

Account of the Sette Communi. ..... 247

LETTER XXV.

Anecdotes illustrative of the Roman Government. 259

LETTER XXVL
Journey to Venice 2,66

LETTER XXVIL

General Description of the Lagoon 276

LETTER XXVin.

Localities of Venice — its Political Divisions. Those of
Italy in general, and their Consequences . . 281

LETTER XXIX.
Advantages of Venice — its Society, Scirocco, &c. 292

LETTER XXX.

On the ancient extemporary Comedy — the Comedies of
GoLDONi and Gasparo Gozzi — and the Tragedy of
Alfieri 301

LETTER XXXI.

On the Theatres of Italy, &c 335



LETTERS



FROM THE



NORTH OF ITALY<



LETTER I.



The Simplon — Anangements made by Buonaparte for
the saftti/ and comfort of Travellers — neglected by his
Successors, &ic. — Entrance into Itali/.

Genoa, Aug. I8I7.
DEAR HALLAM,

You, who know the line of march I had cle-
termmedon, will be surprized at the date of this
letter; but all will be explained in its proper
place. In the mean time, 1 follow the good
precept of beginning at the beginning.

My carriage, which had been warranted road-
worthy, having nearly gone to pieces before I
reached Paris, I determined to sell it there
for what I could get, and to proceed, by the voi-
turier, to the baths of Abano, near Padua, my
ultimate destination.



2 LETTERS FROiVI THE NORTH OF ITALY.

This mode of travelling, though tedious, is that
which bids fairest to gratify curiosity in an in-
teresting country. You journey leisurely enough
to see whatever is worth seeing ; and as the
>coiturier$ take care that you shall arrive at the
hours of the tables d'hote, where such are kept,
you see more of manners, than you can travel-
ling in any other mode.

You will imagine, perhaps, that these advan-
tages are dearly purchased by other sacrifices.
I assure you it is not so. I have traversed a
great part of the continent in both ways, and
have found that I was usually better fed, and
better served with the voiturier, than when
travelling post.

The reason is obvious : move with what
magnificence you may, the innkeeper cares little
for conciliating a person whom he never expects
to see again. On the other hand, he is very de-
sirous of satisfying the voiturier, and, through
him, the whole cast, who are, some or other of
them, continually repacing the same roads.
The voiturier, on his part, is anxious to see jus-
tice done to his travellers, because the extent of
the voluntary present which they make him, is
generally regulated by the treatment they re-
ceive ; and he is anxious to obtain from them a
testimonial to his good conduct, to which, if



LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY. 3

they are English, he attaches very considerable
importance. He contracts (unless you choose
to vary the mode of bargain) to lodge, feed, and
deliver you (giving you one meal in twenty-four
hours) at the place of your destination, on a given
day. Thus I contracted to be delivered at
Padua twenty-one days after leaving Paris, and
should have been so, but for an accident, which
I shall shortly relate ; for, to my infinite asto-
nishment, I crossed the Simplon, a mountain
which, in its ascent and descent, contains nearly
fifty Italian miles of road, in a day, though we
had only three permanent mules, and a vile
single provisional horse, for our ascent ; so that
you see even the tediousness of this mode of tra-
velling is exaggerated.

My voiturier, or muleteer, was a Florentine,
for Florence is a prolific parent of men of this
description, and was worthy of occupying a
place in one of the novels of Le Sage. It may
be remarked that the Florentine muleteers are
to be preferred, as being almost always active,
steady and civilized.

But having described the nature of my ark,
(in which you may sometimes moreover meet
with very curious animals,) it is time to bring it
to the top of the mountains.

B 2



4 LETTF.KS lUOM THE NORTH OF ITALY.

Tlioiigli I shall not attempt to make you dizzy
by talcs of precipices,

Where Nature loves to sit alone,
Majestic on a craggy throne ;

save where her solitude is broken in upon, at
the hazaid of her neck, by the jingle of the
muleteer's bells, I cannot help digressing, to
mention a proof which I received here that
terror is not a source of the sublime. There is
indeed no real cause for terror in passing the
Simplon; but it is impossible to look down
from the carriage, almost grazing the brinks of
precipices, often unfurnished with the slightest
protection, without experiencing something
which comes near it. On one or two of these
occasions, I have got out for the purpose of re-
observing points of view which I had passed,
and found myself wrapt in pleasure at the con-
templation of scenes which had previously made
a painful impression. This confirms me in the
idea I always entertained, that it is not terror,
but a certain approach to it, which is one source
of the sublime.

The mode in which we are affected on these
occasions ma}' perhaps be explained in the same
way by which we explain the effects of tragedy.
A moderate excitement of the passions is pleas-
ing, while an intense one is productive of pain.



LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY. .)

But I am straying into the devious paths of
metaphysics, with a beaten road before me ; it
will not however be deviating much from this,
(since their Hospice is within a few yards of it,)
to make some mention of the monks and dogs of
St. Bernard, who occupy a detached post upon
this mountain. You will hear with pleasure,
that the race of these useful beasts (I mean the
dogs) is not, as I had understood in England,
extinguished ; there existing a fine race of pup-
pies, who, literally speaking, promise to tread in
the steps of their progenitors.

The merits of these, though in themselves suf-
ficiently great, have however been much exag-
gerated. They neither carry provisions to the
strayed, nor go, unaccompanied, in search of
those buried in the snow. But they are en-
dowed, as it should appear, with a very extra-
ordinary instinct, which enables them to distin-
guish the solid path, though covered with snow,
where the deviation of a step might plunge their
followers into an abyss. They arc, therefore, to
be considered as the guides of the mquntain, and
it was in the discharge of this duty that the most
experienced of the tribe found their grave. A
courier, who was- passing the St. Bernard, stopped
at the convent for shelter, and, after a short
stay, insisted on proceeding. As the w'^athcr

B 3



6 LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY.

was dangerous, the good monks all but knelt to
him, to divert him from his purpose : but he
was an old stager, and was obstinate. They,
therefore, did all they could for his protection,
and furnished him with three men and three
dogs for guides, these three dogs being the only
ones fit for service, the rert of the family con-
sisting of two bitches wiio gave suck. The
party had not proceeded far, when they were
overwhelmed by an avalanche, and, to complete
the catastrophe, the courier's brother and bro-
ther-in law, who had come out to meet and assist
him, were buried in another, on the opposite
side of the mountain.

To return to the dogs. — Though they do not
proceed alone to disinter the buried, they do
indeed, by scratching, indicate where they are
to be found ; but most dogs, and particularly
our sheep dogs, will do the like to carcasses of
any animal, covered by the snow.

The utility of the convent of St. Bernard, in
the situation in which it is placed, is so ob-
vious, that whilst Buonaparte smoked out all
the drones of the plains, he left several moun-
tain-convents, and by endowing this with an
additional estate in Lombardy, most considerably
increased its revenues. In this he did well : for
independently of the general hospitality which



LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY. 7

is exercised by the monks, the ordinary ex-
penses of the estabhshment must be enormous
in a place which is inaccessible by carriages,
and where a pound of wood Hterally bears the
same price as a pound of bread. A very diffe-
rent system has been followed by the successors
of Buonaparte.

A magnificent building which he had begun,
a sort of caravansera, on the top of the Simplon,
has been left half finished, but things are infi-
nitely worse on Mount Cenis. Buonaparte had
there, as well here, constructed several houses
termed refuges, at different distances, for the
shelter of passengers in the dangerous months,
and endowed them with slight privileges, such
as that of selling wine and provisions duty free.
— It was amongst the early acts of the King of
Sardinia to abrogate these, and the refuges of
Mount Cenis are lost to the traveller.

To return to the monks of St. Bernard. — Of
the mode in which they spend their revenues,
as well as of the manner in which they fulfil
the object of their institution, the anecdote
which follows may serve as a specimen. An
enterprizing English party, consisting of men
and women, took shelter in the convent during
a fall of snow. The monks fed them and their
horses as long as they could, giving up their

B 4



8 LETTERS FROM TIIL NORTH OF ITALV,

bread to tlic beasts, Avhcn they had no more
crude grain to bestow on them. The guests
had then therefore no choice hut to decamp.
But how to get the horses over the snow, whicli
was yet too soft to support tliem ? The inge-
nuity and activity of the monks found an expe-
dient. They turned ou^, with their servants,
and placing blankets before the animals, which
were carried forwards and extended afresh, as
soon as passed over, conducted men, women,
and beasts in safety over their mountain.

I cannot give a better proof of the moral profit
which these monks have derived from the diffi-
culties of their situation, than their having de-
parted from tlie selfish system of policy which
characterizes all other elective clerical bodies.
Their present Prior is in the vigour of his age :
he is, I understand, somewhat under thirty.

The barrier, or turnpike gate, on the summit
of the mountain exacts, and very justly, consi-
derable tolls, 1 think six franks (five shillings) a
beast, and as much for the carriage. The re-
venue nmst therefore be considerable, as, inde-
pendently of chance travellers, going to and
returning from Italy, a very considerable com-
merce is carried on, in times of scarcity, in corn
from Genoa, either the produce of Sicily or of
the countries bordering on the Black Sea. The
revenue thus collected goes to the canton of the



LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY. 9

Valais, in which province the far greater part
of the mountain is situated. Domo d ^Ossola is the
first town of Italy, which was formerly in the
occupation of Austria, but was ceded, you know,
by the last Congress to the King of Sardinia.

I observed that the toll taken on the summit,
goes to the Pays du Valais. A toll is, however,
taken on the Italian side o^ Domo d'Ossola by the
King of Sardinia ; this, which is collected at the
passage of the river Doccia, is very reason-
able : but I shall relate a little adventure which
took place at this barrier, because it will give a
good general idea of the mode in which tra-
vellers are treated by the agents of the different
governments in Italy, who, for want of a rea-
sonable maintenance, are almost necessitated to
prey upon the stranger and to cheat their
employer. The man at the bridge insisted on
double toll from the muleteer, on the ground
that we xvere foreigners. As this is a principle
of taxation legalized in many states of Italy, I
should not have advised the resistance of the
demand, but for the remark of our conductor,
who observed, that he had formerly, in the same
circumstances, paid only half of what was now
claimed. I therefore insisted on seeing the
tarif; when my friend, alleging some excuse
for not having it suspended in his house, as he



10 LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY.

was bound, fell instantly fifty per cent, in his
demands.

Having left Domo d'Ossola, I breakfasted
the next morning at a small village on the
banks of the Logo Maggiore, the Lacus Ver-
hanus of the ancients.

The little islands, which are visible from this
place, are well worthy the visits of those who have
a taste for antiquated, seignorial magnificence.
They present many objects of curiosity in their
palaces furnished with chambers of dais, their
family theatres, magnificent architectural gar-
dens, and the utter contempt of expense, which
they every where exhibit. The traveller sees
not only orange trees trained against walls, like
our peaches and nectarines, but a grove of
them cultivated as standards in the open air.
He is astonished at finding so tender a plant
flourishing in this northern climate, nor are his
causes for wonder much diminished, when he
learns that these plants are covered, in winter,
by temporary houses of wood which are warmed
by stoves.

Yet the Lago Maggiore may pretend to higher
praises ; to that of the beautiful bordering on the
sublime. Nature has indeed here given a dis-
tinct character to each of the three lakes, which
lie within a small distance of each other. The



LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY. 11

next to this, the Logo di Lugano, has austerer
features, and resembles more our northern lakes,
whilst that of Como bears such a print of gay
and festive beauty as might have justified Berni
and Ariosto, in placing a Morgana or an Alcina
in one of the fairy palaces which skirt its banks.
But I am speaking from old recollections. I
am now in pursuit of health and shall not
willingly diverge from my course ;

Minding my compass and my way,
Though pleas'd to see the dolphins play.

But a word or two as to one of the odd fish
who sported in our wake ! Amongst a shoal of
ragged urchins, half squalling and half laughing,
who had accompanied us from the village,
where we had stopt, one persevering little
animal, about ten years old, though the rest
dropt astern, kept up with us for two miles,
when the muleteer, in that spirit of charity
which characterizes all tribes and classes of
Italians, having ascertained that he was bound
to Aronna, the town where we were ourselves
to pass the night, offered him a place upon the
roof of his carriage. I now fell into conversation
with him, and having asked him the motive of
his expedition, was told that he was going to beg
at Aronna ; a place which, he imagined, afforded



12 LETTERS FROM THE XOllTH OF ITALY.

a better field for his operations than that which
he had quitted. I naturally remonstrated with
him on the nature of his project, and asked him
why he did not attempt to procure some honest
service ; but he appeared to have weighed the
matter well, and taken his resolution upon the
maturest deliberation. He told me that he had
left his home on account of the poverty of his
parents, that it was his intention to seek service,
but, as he could pretend to little as yet, he
meant to maintain himself by begging till he
was of age and strength to ensure a sufficient
salary. We slept at Aronna, distinguished by
the bronze colossal statue of St. Carlo of Borro-
meo, which stands at a small distance from it.

But, whilst I have been relating a fact illustra-
tive of the habits of the poor of Italy in general, I
had nearly omitted one peculiarly characteristic
of those of the inhabitants of the country which
I have been just describing. You know the class
of Italians who wander about the world with
prints and barometers. These are considered in
England as Jews, but are, in fact, generally
speaking, natives of the banks of the lakes of
Lombardy. All follow the same trade, and
(what is singular) the natives of the same village
usually follow the same beat ; so that in various
Italian liamlcts situated near the lakes, may be



LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY. 13

found the customs of England, Spain, or Ame-
rica.

One ruling passion however, the love of gain,
distinguishes them all. One of these men had
emharked with us at Paris, as an outside passen-
ger, and appeared to me little short of an idiot.
My servant, however, Avho was a Florentine,
qualified my opinion, by characterising him as
a shrewd oaf, with a coarse but expressive Italian
phrase, for which I have tried to give an Eng-
lish equivalent. He was returning home to his
native village, with a large stock of gold, the
fruit of his travels. The apparent stupidity and
barbarous jargon of the man soon drew on him
a tremendous fire of jokes, speculative and prac-
tical, from the two Florentines, for the muleteer,
as I have said, was also of that city ; and this
was kept up with such activity that I more than
once trembled for the consequences, the lout
having, at last, become desperate, and armed
himself with a piece of granite, which he threat-
ened to drive into the skull of one of his perse-
cutors, a threat which, but for my interference,
he would probably have executed. Yet mark
the persevering spirit of gain and economy
which actuates this race, an object which they
keep always in sight, and which predominates
with them over every other earthlv considera-



14 LETTERS FROM THE NORTH OF ITALY.

tion. The lakite had bargained to be carried to
Milan, from whence, however, he had a day's
journey to his own country. It was, therefore,
evidently his interest to leave us at the Lago
3faggiore, and take boat for it there; but a differ-
ence arose between him and the boatman, which
turned upon a frank. I naturally thought that
he would have given up the point in dispute,
rather than undergo much unnecessary fatigue
and delay, besides subjecting himself to fresh
persecution, which was sure to be carried on by
his indefatigable tormentors at bed and board, by
night and by day. But I mistook my man ; he
stood fast, and refused to pay the tenpence;
when the voiturier, who apparently thought that
his qualifications as a butt did not counterba-
lance his demerits as a bore, literally paid the
disputed frank, in order to get rid of him.

This man may be fairly considered as the re-
presentative of his cast. But to give them
honour due, though miserly, they are not dis-
honest, and are singularly sober, active and in-
dustrious.



( 15 )



LETTER II.

/ am sent bi/ the Austrians to Genoa — Journey thither
— Description of that City, S^c.

Genoa, July, 1817*

I SHALL not particularize the first stages of
my route from Arotina, for a reason you will


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