Page images

late revolutions. In the church and convent of St. Zeno Maggiore. there is a chapel, in the form of a Rotunda, exhibiting a beautiful imitation of the architecture, displayed in the decorations of this arch, in white marble from the hills of Verona.

The Bridge of Vitruvius across the Adige is the most stately struc ture of the kind in the city. It is cased in marble, and capped with Gothic pinnacles. It was the scene of a skirmish between the French and Austrians, in which the latter retreated and scampered up the neighbouring heights, to the no small amusement of the spectators, who had assembled to witness the conflict.

Although the rain poured in torrents for the greater part of this day, we made a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Juliet, half a mile beyond the gates of Verona. Her sarcophagus is deposited in a small, dirty, miserable court, filled with hay and rubbish of all kinds, and forming the entrance to a spacious garden, which was once the cemetery of a Franciscan Convent. It is now appropriated to happier uses. Grapes hung in purple clusters from the roof of arbours, spanning the alleys, and peach trees were laden with the largest and most delicious fruit of the kind, which we found in Italy. The old woman, who met us at the gate, permitted us to participate in the fruits of the garden, as well as in its poetical associations. No traces of the cemetery are to be found, except the solitary sarcophagus of Juliet, which is of Veronese marble, large in its dimensions, with a stone pillow for the head, a socket in the bottom to hold the taper, and an aperture in the side to admit fresh air. The lid is gone, and other parts of the coffin have been much mutilated by visitants, who have carried away the fragments as relics. Its present guardian watches with the eyes of an Argus, and will suffer no fingers to pilfer. An extraordinary degree of faith is required, to believe that Shakspeare's heroine was enclosed in this relic by the Father Confessor, while her Romeo was away at Mantua. It is, however, a good story, the romance of which ought not to be dashed with doubts, but swallowed as the two lovers drank their potions.

We went to the church of Notre Dame to see the tombs of the Scaligers, who were the lords of Verona in the age of Romeo and Juliet. Their monuments are curious structures of oriental Gothic, resembling little temples crowned with pinnacles, and embellished with statues. The sarcophagi are cradled in air, among the fretwork, at an elevation of six or eight feet from the pavement of the shrines, and surrounded with iron-railings, in which the scala or ladder, (the arms of the family,) is interwoven.

Crossing the Ponte di Navi, so called from its being the rendezvous of boats, and the point of embarkation on the Adige, we visited the

Giuste Garden, celebrated by Addison and other travellers. It has acquired new fame by the sittings of the late Congress of Verona. The grounds are situated on a steep acclivity, embellished with pyramids of cypress and other ornamental trees. Splendid walks lead to the Palace, seated upon the summit of an eminence, which is said to command a fine view of the town. We commenced an ascent; but the rain came down with such violence, and the alleys were so flooded, as to compel us to retreat. A call was made at the Cathedral, to examine the tomb of Cardinal Colonna. The church itself is a lofty edifice, constructed of Veronese marble, rich in its decorations.

In the early part of the evening, I strolled to the chapel of St. Anastasia, a stupendous fabric. On entering the door, I heard the voice of one crying in the wilderness of columns and chapels; but it was too dark to distinguish whence the words of the preacher came. In a few minutes the brilliant shrines were all lighted up, flashing a flood of splendour through the long Gothic aisles. A numerous audience, chiefly of females, sitting in chairs and wearing white veils, as also the speaker himself mounted in a pulpit, came into view. The remnant of a popular harangue cost me a sous for a seat, and another sous for the hat, which was kept rattling about my ears, till the collector was appeased. After the sermon, an organ struck up, and a full chorus of voices produced a fine effect. A ceremony followed, which was new to me. A priest touched the heads of throngs of people, who pressed to the altar, with a small silver crucifix, and then held it to their lips to be kissed. The rite occupied an hour or more.

We returned the next morning to the same church, to look at its splendid chapels, and the sepulchral monuments of distinguished citizens, erected at the public expense. Verona appears to be justly proud of her great men, among whom are many illustrious names, such as Catullus, Pliny the elder, Cornelius Nepos, Vitruvius, Paul Veronese, and others of later times, who have shed lustre upon their native city. Although it is now subjected to a foreign government, and degraded into a provincial town, it seems to be more flourishing than most other places. The 50,000 inhabitants are engaged in manufactures, and the streets exhibit evidences of a busy, active, and industrious population.



September, 1826.


On the 26th, we set out with a vetturino for Mantua, not without serious apprehensions of encountering banditti in the way. Some of the inmates of the hotel informed us, that they had been attacked but a day or two before, on the road between the two cities, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The band of brigands was sufficiently numerous, to assail three carriages and a pedestrian at the same moment. the latter a considerable sum of money was taken. The coachmen were fired at, but made their escape without injury. All the peasantry turned out, and scoured the woods. Three of the robbers were taken. This intelligence, added to the reports of outrages recently committed on other roads, and to the positive information received from our banker at Florence, that no less than eight robberies had taken place in the vicinity of Milan, in a single week, created not a little anxiety and alarm. But it was impracticable to avoid the risk without giving up Mantua; and other routes had but little preference in point of security. We therefore secreted our money among the clothing in our trunks, and took every precaution which prudence required.

I read the Penal Code of Austria on the journey, as a sort of neckverse, and as furnishing the only scarecrow, which the government has interposed for the protection of travellers; while swarms of officers and soldiers from the Danube are parading the streets of Verona, thronging the coffee-houses and theatres, dangling their swords, smoking their pipes, combing their mustaches, and making love in the most gallant manner. The code is, with a few exceptions, excellent in theory. Crimes and punishments appeared to me judiciously proportioned to one another; and the laws are laid down with perspicuity and precision. But what avail laws without morals? In practice, the whole system is corrupt, inefficient, oppressive, and tyrannical. Instead of affording security to the stranger, the police-officers content themselves with examining passports, causing vexatious delays, and extort

ing exorbitant fees. It was not owing to their vigilance, that we escaped from the Austrian dominions in safety.

The country between Verona and Mantua, like most parts of Lombardy, is a dead level; and the road leads through long vistas of poplars, tangled with vines, bounding the view on either hand by matted walls of verdure. Midway between the two cities, we passed the old town of Villafranca, which is the very image of decay. It is built on one wide street, terminated in front by the ruins of a huge fortress, and lined with roofless and dilapidated buildings. At a small dirty tavern, in the hamlet of St. Zenoni, who is the patron of all this region, the vetturino made his usual pause. The sallow-faced, blackeyed landlord wore a red Grecian cap, which led one of us to ask him, if he was a Greek. He took the question in dudgeon, instead of being proud of the resemblance, and replied with warmth, that he was a Christian; as if the two characters were incompatible.

We soon fell in company with the sea-green waters of the Mincio, which were instantly recognized from their complexion and purity. They are drawn from the river in canals, and conducted all over the plain, for purposes of irrigation, producing fertility and the utmost luxuriance of foliage. These artificial channels are overhung by hedges of alder and willow, and the currents are so rapid, as to appear like natural streams.

At 4 P. M. we emerged from impenetrable thickets, and came in full sight of the towers of Mantua, which rise with a good deal of grandeur from the fens of the Mincio. The river both above and below the town spreads into wide bays, fringed with marshes, reeds, and aquatic plants of all descriptions. Never was a verse more graphic, than that which Virgil has applied to his native stream. The river is much less majestic, pure, and beautiful here, than where it issues from its parent lake, twenty miles above. Its waters are so widely diffused, as to become stagnant, and to deprive the shores of every bold and interesting feature.

On the left bank is a long straggling faubourg, lined with strong fortresses, which were filled with men and munitions of war, during the French invasion. They are now dismantled and half-garrisoned with Austrian troops. An artificial mound, something like half a mile in extent, dividing the upper lake from the lower. forms the entrance into the city. It is pierced with arches and sluices, and the water descends with a sufficient fall, to turn innumerable mills, between the long ranges of which, connected at top by a roof like a covered bridge, the road passes. We were deafened with the clack, as well as suffocated with a tempest of dust, which a troop of scavengers were

raising with their brooms, in the confined avenue. The buildings bear the marks of dilapidations, and at the hour of our arrival, the streets appeared depopulated, desolate, and cheerless.

As the evening was pleasant, immediately after taking lodgings at the Albergo del Teatro Nuovo, we set out on an excursion to Pietrola, the ancient Andes, the birth-place and early residence of Virgil. It is situated on the right bank of the Mincio, five miles below Mantua. The route leads out of the Roman Gate, near which stands a stupendous edifice used as barracks for the accommodation of the Austrian troops, who are generally much better provided for than the nobility, in the north of Italy. Traversing for a mile or two an artificial ridge, bordered by stagnant water and swamps of willows, we at length emerged from the fen, and came upon the rural banks of the river, presenting a noble view of the distant towers of the city. The lands are well tilled, but lie unfenced; and the cottages are scattered over the fields, often buried in copses of foliage. Thrashing floors, like those described in the Georgics, were observed along the way, and the peasantry were engaged in winnowing Indian corn, by throwing it into the air with a shovel. Others were stripping the husks from the yellow ear-an image which brought to mind the scenery of our own country.

A guide-board labelled with the words "Per la Virgiliana,” at the forks of the by-path, directed us to a small white hamlet, which is consecrated by the nativity of the immortal poet. A descendant of some Amaryllis or Galatea, barefooted, with golden pendants in her ears, and her hair done up with silver ornaments, sat sewing at the gate of the garden, which covers a part of the farm of Tityrus, and embraces the site of the thatched cottage, where he first tuned his silvan reed. The kind-hearted and loquacious portress, with four ragged and most unpoetical children at her heels, conducted us through the grounds, beneath bowers overarched with vines, laden with delicious fruit. She plucked the ripest and choicest clusters, pressing us to partake freely of the luscious repast. There is an alcove or recess in the rear of the garden, which has been peculiarly hallowed by the memory of the bard, as the reputed place of his birth; but after the lapse of more than eighteen centuries, the precise spot is of course mere matter of conjecture, and the modern brick and mortar of a deserted convent have no tendency to remove doubts, and strengthen the faith of pilgrims to the shrine.

I examined the woods and natural scenery in the vicinity with minute attention. Many kinds of trees and shrubs, alluded to in the Eclogues, are still visible; and the rushes, which covered the pastures of

« PreviousContinue »