« PreviousContinue »
the heart of Europe; blest with a temperate climate and a fertile soil; washed by two great seas, and intersected by many noble rivers, affording peculiar facilities for commerce; embracing a hundred splendid cities; enriched by the works of art; and containing an active population of thirty or forty millions-what might not such a country become with political, civil, and religious institutions free as our own! What might it not now have been, had the republican counsels of such statesmen as Foy and La Fayette triumphed over the lawless ambition of Napoleon? or even if the splendid despotism of the latter had not been crushed by the leaden power of a dynasty, possessing neither the talents to be great, nor the virtues to be good? But notwithstanding these drawbacks, and often as the mind is disgusted with the evidences of a drivelling government, a burdensome soldiery, an oppressive priesthood, and a degraded people, no country in the world perhaps, contains a greater variety of interesting objects than France; and after a sojourn of four months, the last foot of its territory was trodden not without feelings of regret, high as were our anticipations of enjoyment in that classical land, which now opened before us.
The transition from one kingdom to the other was not attended by any of those difficulties, expenses, and vexations which travellers sometimes experience. Our passports and trunks underwent a slight examination at the custom-houses on each side of the line, occasioning a delay of fifteen or twenty minutes. The boundary between the two countries is the Var, a broad, shoal river, or more properly the bed of a torrent opening from the Alps. Crossing its long, low, narrow bridge, we entered the dominions of his Sardinian Majesty. The inhabitants upon the frontiers are so assimilated in manners, customs, and language, that few discriminating marks of distinct nations are observable. Straggling guards of short, puny, pale-faced troops, in blue uniform and tight, black cloth gaiters, stationed along the road, were the most striking peculiarities which arrested our attention. They looked like a feeble and inefficient race, fit only for the inglorious service in which they are at present employed.
Our entrance into Italy afforded us a favourable specimen of its farfamed climate and splendid scenery. A pure blue sky deepened the azure of a boundless expanse of waters, spreading towards the south; and the snowy tops of the mountains, glittering in a bright morning sun, presented a striking contrast with their green declivities and with the luxuriant plain which skirts their bases. If Galignani's nightingales did not warble from the rocks, a concert of less poetical though not less melodious birds enlivened the gardens and groves of oranges, which are everywhere seen blooming in the environs of Nice.
The town is approached from the west through a long and handsome faubourg, denominated La Croix de Marbre, from the circumstance of a marble cross having been there erected, to commemorate an interview between Charles V. Francis I. and Pope Paul III. assembled to diseuss the affairs of church and state in the 16th century.
of neat white houses, with Venetian blinds and uniformly surrounded by gardens, line the sides of the street. Here is the principal residence of the swarms of English, sometimes amounting to several thousands, who resort to Nice during the winter, for the sake of the climate and the cheapness of living.
Crossing the bridge of the Paillon, which is little more than an apology for a river, and passing through several of the principal streets, which are well built and exhibit an air of magnificence, we arrived at the Hotel de Yorck, a stately building fronting one of the public squares, and affording excellent accommodations. The apartments are furnished in the English style. Handsome carpets cover the floors, and the wares of Birmingham impart cheerfulness to the hearth. These substantial comforts were rendered doubly welcome by contrast with the cheerless brick and stone floors of the French hotels.*
The whole of this day was busily occupied in rambling over the town, which is a dull place and contains but few works of art, that can interest the traveller. Nature, however, has been lavish of her bounties in contributing to its embellishment. It is delightfully situated at the outlet of a deep, verdant, and romantic valley, opening from the Maritime Alps to the Mediterranean. On the north and east it is surround
* It is always more agreeable to praise than to censure, to be pleased than to cavil; and I should regret to leave a country, which has afforded me so much instruction and amusement, with a budget of complaints, or with a single remark that might manifest either a captious spirit or illiberal feelings. But justice compels me to say, that the facilities and conveniences of travelling in France are far less than in the United States. The roads are pretty good; yet the public conveyances are tediously slow, though always in a hurry, jogging on night and day, without giving the passengers time to eat or sleep. In the great cities, good hotels and comfortable accommodations may be found, at moderate prices; but the ordinary inns, on the principal routes, are extremely incommodious, especially in winter. The floors are generally composed of pentagonal tiles, six or eight inches in diameter, bedded in mortar, seldom covered with carpets or rugs, and slightly warmed by a fire, thrown almost out of sight at the back of a deep chimney. I have often climbed the bed, before venturing of a frosty night to take off my slippers. To persons in ill health, such inconveniences become dangerous and intolerable. The beds are uniformly good, and the furniture of rooms is often elegant. In summer, travelling in France is doubtless far more agreeable; for French houses, as well private as public, are much better calculated for warm than for cold weather.
ed by ranges of mountains, rising to the height of two or three thousand feet, and terminating in the bold promontory of Montalbano, composed of ledges of brown rock and forming one of the boundaries of the bay, which spreads between Nice and Antibes. From the south, the sea rolls in its waves upon the shore, bathing the very foundations of the town. The sides of the neighbouring hills are cultivated half way to their summits, where white country seats and farm-houses are seen peeping from plantations of olives.
But the most striking and picturesque object is an insulated, precipitous rock, rearing its barren crags several hundred feet above the tops of the houses, by which it is encircled on all sides, except towards the sea, where a terraced road has been extended round its base, to connect the two sections of the town. This curious mount covers several acres, sloping towards the north, and terminating to the south in impending cliffs. Its top is naked, and forms a natural observatory, whence the eye takes in a wide horizon. It is too elevated for purposes of defence, and its parched surface too arid for cultivation.
On the eastern side of this rock, and between its base and Montalbano, is the harbour of Nice, which like that of Antibes, appears to be in a great measure artificial. It is so completely out of sight, that we looked some time before it was discovered. A substantial mole defends it from the violence of the waves, leaving but a narrow entrance. The basin, though not very capacious, is of sufficient depth to admit ships of any burden. It is surrounded by handsome quays, bordered by blocks of warehouses. There were between one and two hundred vessels in port, most of them small. An American deck was looked for in vain among the number; and from all I could learn, our trade with the place is very limited, though the United States have here a Consul.
The handsomest part of Nice is perhaps the stately range of buildings, with arcades in their basements, encircling the spacious open area, denominated the Piazza Vittoria from VICTOR AMADEUS III. to whom it owes its embellishments, and in honour of whom a triumphal arch has been erected at its entrance, near the eastern barrier of the town. From this square on which the Hotel de Ville, Custom-House, and other public edifices are situated, a terraced road extends on the north of the singular bluff above described, and along the bank of the Paillon, to the southern division of the town. The river itself, so called by courtesy, is at this season a mere thread of water, not half sufficient to cover the broad stony channel over which it trickles, and scarcely enough to supply the troops of washer-women, who line its shores. Two long, lofty, and substantial bridges thrown across its bed
indicate, what is the fact, that at times tremendous torrents, fed by heavy rains and the snows of the Alps, sweep down this opening from the mountains to the sea.
A visit to the Governor's house and to the public Promenade in its vicinity concluded our rambles over Nice. The former is a new and neat building, remarkable only for the pretty Ionic columns, which adorn its stair-way. The latter is the place of rendezvous for all the fashionables in town. It consists of a long terrace, of the width of an ordinary street, guarded by railings, and erected along the roofs of a range of buildings fifteen or twenty feet from the ground. Handsome flights of white marble steps lead to the walk. One side of it below is bordered by the Place Royale, planted with long vistas of trees, and on the other, the waves come in and break upon the beach in unceasing murmurs. At the fashionable season it is thronged with ladies and gentlemen from all countries, who resort hither to enjoy a pure air and a splendid prospect reaching in clear weather to the mountains of Corsica.
Finding few inducements to remain longer at Nice, and many to urge us forward towards the southern limits of our tour, we concluded to take our departure on the same evening for Genoa, in the Courier, which carries the mail, and travels night and day. But the weight of our baggage would cause such an impediment to the necessary speed of a conveyance, which is for a considerable part of the way on mules, that the superintendent refused us seats after our passages had been engaged. Other arrangements were therefore made to commence climbing, on the following morning, the Maritime Alps, which, like the walls of Milton's Eden, interposed their icy ramparts between our hopes and the promised paradise beyond.
ROUTE FROM NICE TO GENOA-MONACO MENTONE-VENTIMIGLIA— SAN REMO-ALBENGA-FINALE-SAVONE-ARRIVAL AT GENOA.
Ox the 21st we left Nice for Genoa, a distance of something more than two hundred English miles. The commencement of so arduous a journey over the Maritime Alps, which from the disheartening accounts of some of our friends at Marseilles, had long been dreaded, was rendered still more appalling by the gloomy state of the weather, and the wretched vehicle which afforded no shelter from its inclemencies. Disappointed of a seat in the Courier, we were compelled to engage an accommodation coach, at an hour in the evening too late to enable us to examine the establishment; and the traveller who bespeaks conveyances on the representations of their owners is sure to be cheated. What was our surprise on going to the door of the hotel, to find a small, shattered, crazy gig, without a top, with only one skeleton horse, and a boy for a driver! This was the "buona carrozza" and the "buoni cavalli," which had been chartered to take us and all our baggage over hills that seemed almost impassable with the best of teams! But the bargain was sealed, and there was no retreating without loss of time and money; so seating ourselves in the tub of a vehicle, with the urchin sitting "squat like a toad" upon the shafts, to guide the horse, we commenced our travels in Italy for health, information, and pleasure, under circumstances apparently not very well calculated to secure either of these objects. Sed finis opus
In ten or fifteen minutes after leaving the gates of Nice, we began to climb what Madam Starke, the mother of all tourists, would denominate an Alp! for she, good lady, seems to view the giant sentinels, planted along the northern frontier of Italy, in an individual rather than a collective capacity, and familiarly speaks of encountering this or that one of the group in her endless adventures. But thanks to the levelling system of Napoleon, whose power was exerted with equal success in humbling monarchs and mountains, the craggy and precipitous acclivities of Montalbano were found to be less difficult of ascent than had been anticipated. Bonaparte here commenced a great road similar to that over the Semplon and Mont Cenis. The first part of it was finished in a style of magnificence which nothing can surpass, consisting of long terraces, often hewn from the solid