Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

design or execution. Among the groups of statues, is one representing Alexander Borghese crossing a river in triumph. The allegory is supremely ridiculous. With a sort of bombastic expression of bravery, the foot of the conqueror is planted upon the abdomen of the river-god, whose face is as much distorted, as if he was suddenly seized with a fit of the colic! It is an admirable caricature, although intended as a forcible illustration of the valour of this modern Alexander.

The gardens, fountains, and cascades in the rear of the Palace, are all in horrible taste. Such nudity and poverty of grounds were never seen in connexion with so much architectural splendour. A lawn more fit for a farm-yard, than for the park of one of the finest edifices in Europe, spreads back of the northern façade. A scanty coat of foliage ; a few shorn trees and shrubs, bordering straight paths ; parterres of flowers fantastically cut into the shape of baskets, disgust the visitant at every step. In the centre of the grounds is a large square fish-pond, substantially walled up, and guarded by a heavy balustrade. Not a leaf, nor an aquatic plant shades the finoy tribes from the inAuence of a broiling sun. Fishes of a large size are numerous, and look like prisoners, shut up to satisfy the appetite of the king, when he shall be pleased to call for them, rather than as embellishments to gratify a man of taste, by their little sports. I would as soon look into a poultry-yard, as into the fish-ponds of Caserta. "The swans and ducks are equally unhappy captives, swimming from side to side, impatient of their confinement, with no little green islands for their resting place. What a contrast is here to the rural charms of Studley Park! The cascades, instead of descending naturally, pour in regular sheets, as over a milldam; and the fountains, which might be made to gush from rocks and thickets, spout from the mouths of colossal fishes and other monsters. Yet on this Palace and its embellishments five-millions of dollars have been squandered ; while the only use made of it is a twenty days residence in September of each year. The aggregate cost of the several mansions of the king of Naples was originally twenty millions of dollars; and immense sums are annually expended to keep them in repair. Such are some of the blessings of royalty.

Again entering our coach, we set out for the aqueduct, at the distance of four or five miles. The road runs along the base of a high range of hills, crowned with the ruins of old fortresses and towns. It passes several pretty villages, and is bordered at intervals with pyramids of moderate elevation, surmounted by vases. Winding round under the cliffs of one of the mountains, the traveller sees the Aqueduct stretching across a deep, retired, rural vale half a mile or more in width. This stupendous work, which reminds one of the similar structures of the Romans, is two hundred feet in height, consisting of triple rows of arches, stretching from hill to hill, and presenting a view of much grandeur. It is substantially constructed of yellowish stone; wide enough at top for the passage of a coach, and guarded by balustrades. The king has ridden across it in his chariot. It bears a striking resemblance to a work of the same kind at Montpellier, in the south of France, described in one of my former letters.

We climbed the rugged ascent, to the eastern end of it, and examined its arches, opening longitudinally through two of its stories, in lengthened perspective. The conduit is five feet deep, and eight or ten feet from the top. At the point, where the water enters, the stream is so rapid, that its roar may be heard at the depth of several feet below the surface. Half a mile farther on, the current descends from the hill in an open canal. It is rapid, clear, and cold; sufficiently copious to turn several grist-mills before entering the aqueduct. It comes from Beneventum, twenty miles to the north-east. After crossing the valley, it runs along the ridge of mountains, in one place through a tunnel two miles in length, and the rest of the way near the surface, till it bursts from the brow of the hill, in the rear of the palace at Caserta. Thence it is carried to Naples, making a distance in all of about forty miles.

We followed the track of the king's coach, across the top, and descended on the other side. The view into the secluded vale, winding up among the mountains, is extensive, rich, and beautiful. This aqueduct was constructed in the term of seven years, by Charles III. to supply his palace at Caserta with fountains and fish-ponds. Two long Latin inscriptions on the arches, give a history of the undertaking. Who that has examined this work, constructed for more than half of the way through a rough, mountainous country, and by a nation without enterprise or energy, can doubt the practicability of supplying New-York with water from the Bronx or the Croton! Either of these streams might be brought to the city for one half of the sum, which has here been expended.

Having accomplished all the objects of our visit, we returned to Caserta ; and after parting with the friend, who had been with us almost daily during our residence at Naples, and who had done so much to render our tour both agreeable and instructive, the rest of our party set out for Capua, with feelings not a little saddened by such an incident. Just at twilight, a glance was obtained of the ruins of the old city of Capua, rising in dark masses from a plain, on the right of the road, and overgrown with luxuriant foliage. Half an hour more brought us to the centre of the modern town, scarcely less a ruin,

where we were compelled to take lodgings for the night, amidst beggars, bed-bugs, and fleas, the latter of which became more active and sanguinary, as the summer campaign opened. The swarms of these animals, multiplied partly by the warmth of the climate, partly by the ruinous condition of the houses, and still more by a want of neatness in the inhabitants, form a serious drawback upon the comfort and pleasure of the traveller. It is utterly impossible to escape their ravages. I have frequently fled for refuge from the bed to a sofa ; but the remorseless gang pursue, and hold their nightly revels in every corner of the crazy mansions.

It was rather an act of mercy on the part of the vetturino, to arouse his passengers at an earlier hour than the old Carthaginian used to muster his troops, and to hurry us away from Capua with all possible despatch. The weather was intensely hot and our progress slow; but the charms of the country, now dressed in summer pride, together with books and conversation, rendered our leisurely retreat over a road once travelled far from tedious. We reached the charming villa of Cicero, at Mola di Gaeta, on the second night from Naples ; and the third day brought us to Terracina, where it was necessary to take lodgings, much against our inclinations, amidst beggars and banditti. In recrossing the Pontine Marshes, a grand thunder-storm was witnessed. The dark cloud, with well defined borders, rolled along the ridge of Apennines to the east, enveloping one village after another, about which the bolts fell in rapid succession, and the road trembled with the reverberations from the hills. At 11 o'clock, we again reached the Half-way House. A dejeuné consisting of a dirty omelet, a bit of coarse bread, and a glass of sour wine, was served up on a wooden bench, in a room profusely ornamented with frescos in charcoal. This inn is supposed to stand upon the site of the Three Taverns, alluded to in the Acts of the Apostles, where Paul met his friends in journeying to Rome. In the vestibule of the ruinous chapel, mentioned in a former letter, a Latin inscription states, that the temple and its refectory were built by the Pope, to commemorate the scriptural incidents, and preserve the footsteps of the great Apostle of the Gentiles.

The fourth night brought us to the Alban Mount, where good accommodations were obtained at the Villa di Londra. On the following morning, our trunks were forwarded to Rome, while we lingered a day or two to examine this interesting region. The 8th of June was here commemorated, as the anniversary of our departure from the United States; and on the heights of Albano, seating ourselves upon the steps of a little church at sunset, we looked towards the west and called up the images of home, expressing our feelings in the language of the Swiss emigrant :

“Oh! when shall I visit the land of my birth?
'Tis the loveliest spot on the face of the earth!"

In the pretty little white village, on the brow of the Alban Mount, there is a coffee-house, called the Caffè Americano, out of compliment to our country. Could the old Romans awake from the sleep of the tomb, and read the sign, how would they be puzzled with the name, and what would be their astonishment to learn, that it designated a Republic, proud as their own at the zenith of its glory, situated in a land beyond the waste of the Atlantic, unknown to the world for a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire !

At the door of this coffee-house and along the streets were seen the descendants of the Alban Fathers, playing at Mora, the national game of the lower classes throughout Italy. It is a singular amusement. The two combatants stand facing each other, and thrust out their hands simultaneously, both guessing aloud at the same instant, the number of fingers extended conjointly by the parties, the others being pressed to the palm. If either happens to guess right, it counts upon the

The only words heard are the Italian numerals from two to ten inclusive, as thumbs are reckoned in the lot. By the loudness of the voice and the earnestness of manner, it is a stunning, crazing game; and the antagonists, heated with wine and maddened by play, often draw their dirks and engage in more serious contests. The women of Albano are beautiful, in comparison with the same classes in the Neapolitan dominions. They do up their hair in a peculiar manner, with massive silver skewers eight or ten inches in length. Red bodices, tightly laced, preserve an original beauty of form, even among the peasantry.

score.

LETTER LXX.

SKETCH OF MONTE ALBANO-SHORES OF THE ALBAN LAKE-EXCURSION TO LAKE NEMI— POMPEY'S PRISON— MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITIES-GROTTO-FERRATA-FRASCATI --RUINS OF TUSCULUM-MODERN PALACES-

RETURN TO ROME.

June, 1826.

The morning after our arrival at Albano, we procured a suite of donkeys, and commenced an examination of the hill, under the guidance of a local cicerone. A shower overtook us soon after leaving the hotel, and compelled us to take shelter under a grove of ilex upon the declivity, commanding a full view of the Campagna di Roma, which was chequered with sunshine and shade. In the distance, the eye could distinctly mark the foam of the sea, breaking upon the solitary shore. Beneath us rose the tomb of Ascanius, and several other old towers peeped out from the rich foliage, which covers the hill, rendering it highly picturesque. As the rain intermitted, we rode to the woody borders of the Alban Lake, slumbering in a deep, circular crater, more than a hundred feet below the bank. The shores are rural, but lonely and silent. Here a relapse of the shower increased to such a degree of violence, as to drive us into a Franciscan Convent, the monks of which permitted our donkeys to enter the cloisters. These monastic institutions, situated in a healthy region, are appropriated to the

purposes of education ; and on our way up the acclivity, we met a long procession of Roman boys, in their black tunics, and dressed with remarkable neatness. The forms of instruction in Italy are observed with the utmost precision ; but the mind is early filled with the mummery of the church, and intellect rather stifled than developed.

The storm assumed an aspect of much grandeur, and heavy peals of thunder reverberating among the hills were peculiarly suited to the character of the Alban Mount, which was sacred to Jove. Fortunately our covert afforded a prospect of many of the interesting objects in the vicinity. The Convent stands upon the high shore of the lake. Before it rise fourteen little shrines, intended to represent the various stages of the crucifixion. Several monasteries are in sight, crowning romantic eminences, and the sound of the bells mingling with the storm had a strong effect upon the mind. The Lake itself is a pretty sheet of water, seven miles in circumference, embosomed by an unbroken chain of

On its southern shore, stood Alba Longa, the cradle of the Roman empire. It is now in utter ruins, which

38

green hills.

VOL. II.

« PreviousContinue »