Page images

ing the road. We reached the gates of the city at 9 o'clock; but the stupid officers at the Dogana detained us a long time, in attempting to spell out our passports, and then, not being satisfied, determined to keep them all night, giving us a carte of security till they were returned. Our fellow-passenger remonstrated against such a proceeding, and all of them were at length restored. A broad and desolate belt lies between the walls of Padua and the houses, furnishing evidence of our approach to another Ferrara. The moon was by this time mounting towards the zenith, in a pure cerulean sky, and poured a flood of radiance upon the city of Antenor and Livy, the antique towers of which never appeared under a more favourable light; and to render our arrival still more romantic, a serenade of the softest music was kept up in front of the hotel of the Two White Crosses till midnight.



September, 1826.

THE 12th was occupied in an excursion to Arqua, embosomed among the Euganean Hills, ten or twelve miles in a south-western direction from Padua. Having visited the birth-place and residence of Petrarch, we were anxious to pay our respects to his tomb. Several pretty villas were passed on our way thither. At Bataglia the main road was deserted, and a path pursued which leads through a village, much frequented for its warm baths. Thence onward, the vetturino lost his way, and took us through fields and vineyards, with no other track than the loaded wine-carts of the peasant had left. Our coach frequently brushed along the hedges, and from its windows we plucked rich clusters of grapes, now in full maturity. They are generally purple, and the colour contrasts beautifully with the deep green of the foliage. The vine is here, as in other parts of Italy, trained upon trees of moderate height; and the laden festoons, hanging gracefully from branch to branch, formed a picture, which the touches of no pencil can reach. There is almost as much difference between a French and an Italian vineyard, as between a garden and a hop-field. Yet much to the regret of every person of taste, utility is on the side of the former. The peasantry were busy with the vintage, and wagons heaped with the produce of their grounds were met on our way.

Entering a vale opening from the Euganean Hills to the Adriatic, we came to the borders of a solitary lake, slumbering at the outlet of the gorge, and surrounded by woody slopes. On its quiet shores, three tourists passed us, who had been on a pilgrimage to Arqua, a mile or two beyond. The village is small, and so situated as to look out through the pass upon the broad plain, which spreads below to the Gulf of Venice. An intelligent lad, with a fine face, and a glossy head of hair, descending from beneath his black cap to his shoulders, in graceful and natural curls, offered his services as a cicerone, and led us up the steep to the tomb of the poet. The monument stands upon a small open area, in front of the church of Santa Maria, and is composed of coarse red marble, so rough hewn that the inscriptions

are scarcely legible. A large sarcophagus, finished in the style of the 13th and 14th centuries, is elevated ten or twelve feet from the ground, supported by four plain Doric pillars. In one corner of it is a hole, though which a Florentine is said to have stolen an arm of his illustrious countryman. A bronze bust of the poet stands in front. One eye was picked out and pilfered by an unknown traveller, who remained at the village for the night. Numerous other mutilations have been committed by visitants. There are no trees in the old church-yard, except one little cypress, which stands weeping near the tomb. The laurels mentioned in a note to Childe Harold, are all withered. Several inscriptions, difficult to decipher, are found upon the pedestal and the front of the church.

There is a striking resemblance between the scenery of Arqua and that of Vaucluse; and I cannot but think that Petrarch was influenced by this circumstance, in selecting the place for his retirement and death. Calcareous hills of moderate elevation, naked at their summits, rise on all sides. From their bases descend slopes, clothed with olives, mulberries, figs, pomegranates, and vines. To add to the similarity, a brook waters the vale, and a copious fountain gushes out of the hill, within a few yards of the tomb. In the house of the priest attached to the church, we found an album filled with sonnets and with the names of visitants. The former are almost as voluminous as those of the poet himself. Few of our countrymen appear to have been here. The records of only four American visits were observedtwo from New-York and as many from Philadelphia.

Petrarch's last residence was upon the brow of Monte Grande, commanding a full view of the vale, of the village of Arqua, and of Monte Sero, a pieturesque hill crowned by the ruins of a fortress, at the distance of a mile or two in front. An hour or more was passed in examining the house, which is of brick, two stories high, with a handsome porch at the entrance, shaded by vines and fig-trees. The walls as well as the ceilings of the rooms are ornamented with frescos, depicting scenes which were designed by the poet himself. A coarse old woman, who is the present resident, explained the whole series. They are chiefly illustrative of the loves of Petrarch and Laura. In one she is represented bathing, in another reading, and in a third reposing in the shade of a tree, whilst her votary, always at a respectful distance, is in the act of admiring her charms. The scene at the bath reminds one of a passage in the Seasons.

Among the furniture of the house are a case of drawers, and the old armed chair, in which the poet breathed his last, on the 13th of July, 1374, at the age of 70. The walls of the apartments are inscri

bed with the names of visitants. In a balcony looking into the vale, is a fresco representing an old man in the attitude of disarming Cupid, which is probably intended to be emblematic of Petrarch's philosophical retirement; though it ill accords with the reminiscences of Laura, portrayed in other parts of the house. Below the terrace spreads a small but pretty garden, filled with vines of the muscadel grape, which we found delicious. Strings of figs, undergoing the process of drying in the sun, were suspended in festoons on the front of the building. They are strung like apples in our country, with a leaf of the tree between every two, to keep them from uniting. The fig, before it is dried, is a luscious and nutritious fruit. We found it ripe and in all its perfection, during our tour through the north of Italy.

In walking down a steep descent which leads from the village, on our return towards Padua, a peasant girl came along on her way to a neighbouring vineyard, and entered into conversation with us. She was without shoes or stockings, and the sun had given her the complexion of a pretty brunette. She said her gold ear-rings cost sixty pauls. Her hair was neatly plated and done up with silver skewers. She had a wooden collar, like that of a milk-man, upon her shoulders, and a large bucket suspended at each side. She was going to fill them with grapes, which would then make an enormous load. I asked her if she ever read Petrarch. She pointed to her pails and replied "No, I am taught to carry these, not to read and write."

We returned by a different route, passing a large palace, which belongs to the Duke of Modena. It is five stories high; but neither the edifice nor the grounds exhibit much taste. Many ladies and gentlemen were met in carriages, on their way to the baths of St. Helena. There is a hotel just without the gates of Padua, whither the belles and beaux resort at evening, to eat ice-creams, and sometimes to take refreshments of a more exhilarating description. We overtook a troop of a dozen pretty girls, without hats, unattended by the other sex, and reeling home like Bachantes. They were rude in their manners, and called out to us in passing. There appears to be much less refinement among all classes in this part of Italy, than in other states.

Early on the following morning, we commenced the rounds of Padua, in the usual manner of sight-seeing, under the guidance of a stupid cicerone, who scarcely knew the localities of his native city. He took us to the church of St. Anthony, a stupendous Gothic edifice, rising from one of the principal squares, crowned by five domes and several lofty steeples. It is stately and venerable in its aspect. The area in front is embellished with an equestrian statue of a Vene

[blocks in formation]

tian General. We found the interior full of people, kneeling at the shrine of St. Anthony, who is the patron of the city. His altar blazes with precious materials, and is more frequented than any other in the Over the chapel is the inscription, " Divo Antonio confessori sacrum”—sacred to the godlike Anthony, the confessor. The phraseology is the same as was used in the deifications of the Cæsars. A priest was officiating in ragged robes with a ragged audience.


In the choir of the church is another shrine dedicated to the saint, which may be considered the "sanctum sanctorum," as it is consecrated by the most precious relics. A young ecclesiastic put on his robes, said his prayers, lighted half a dozen large candles, and then opened the three cabinets, which contain the plate of the church, as well as the fragments of St. Anthony's body. Vessels of massive gold embossed with gems, vases and chalices, studded with emerald and diamond, flashed upon our dazzled sight. Two friars, who were strangers to the costly shrine, appeared to be as much astonished as ourselves at its wealth and splendour. Untold thousands must have been expended in the purchase of its treasures; and we had before our eyes a practi cal illustration of the consequences. A group of poor women rose from their knees and their prayers at the entrance of the chapel. beseeching us in the most plaintive and importunate tones for a trifle, to keep them from starving.

Pointing with a long wand to a relic in one of the transparent crystal vases, the priest said, "that is the chin of St. Anthony." It was high above us, and we could but indistinctly see the lower jaw and teeth of some head, perhaps a saint's, but more probably a sinner's. The tongue was in another vase; but the reflection and refraction of the crystal prevented us from discovering any thing beyond a red substance, of the shape and colour of the unruly member, with the root fixed in a socket and the tip pointing upward. It is always an object, in the exhibition of relics, to guard against a close inspection.

The church of Santa Justizia is scarcely inferior in size and splendour to that of St. Anthony, while in the style of its architecture it is far superior. It was designed by Palladio. It has a noble front, and the interior is lofty and magnificent. A crucifix, bathed in blood, was stretched out before one of the altars, and around it on the pavement were strewed hundreds of small coins, which had been offered by devotees on that morning, agreeably to a label enjoining contributions, placed upon the frightful image of the Saviour. The amount of collections from the poor was probably all expended before night by the priests, for omelets, coffee, and ice-creams. One of the fraternity was busy with his lantern, in showing a party of ladies and gentlemen

« PreviousContinue »