« PreviousContinue »
show of pictures is scanty and mean; but in the brilliancy of altars, and the finery of Saints and Madonnas, these village churches will bear a comparison with those of Genoa, if that be any credit to them.
Onward from this town, we traversed another delicious plain, where our senses were surfeited with perfumes and the luxuriance of the landscape. From a high and solitary ridge of the Apennines, a good-night was waved to the Gulf of Spezia, slumbering along its green and quiet shores. Thence the coachman, taking a hint from his vehicle, which in speed was likely to outstrip his horses, hurried us down a steep declivity into the vale of the Serchio, winding through a wide and verdant champain, under the walls of Lucca. This stream is more like a river, or in other words, less like a torrent, than any one that had been seen since leaving France. It rolls on through its gay and flowery borders with a broad, rapid, but silent current. From its bridge, a straight, spacious avenue, lined with trees, leads to the gates of the city.
The fields on either hand are so many gardens, every foot of which is manured and cultivated to the highest degree, by an overstocked population. Not a tendril of the vine, not a plant, nor a blade of corn is suffered to be out of its place, or to occupy more ground than is just sufficient for its support. The peasantry of both sexes are always in the fields, sometimes apparently only to watch the growth of of plants under their charge, which they feed and nurse with more care than they do their children. They mix manure with water in casks, forming a sort of nutritious pap, which they ladle out daily in exact proportions, for the food of vegetables. To the American farmer, who is lord of his hundred or his thousand acres, this exactness might seem a trifling occupation; but here it is absolutely necessary, that every rood should maintain its man. It would take but few farms, such as are found in the interior of New-York, to cover the whole Duchy of Lucca, which contains only 320 square miles, more than half of which consists of barren mountains, incapable of tillage. Yet this territory has a population of 120,000, who depend chiefly on the cultivation of the soil for support. The richness of the landscape bears ample testimony to their honest industry, and to the utmost nicety in the mode of culture. Females who never saw festoons of silk or damask, are engaged in adjusting festoons of vines, stretching from tree to tree in waving and graceful wreaths.
After a slight examination of our passports and baggage, with an inquiry whether our trunks contained any contraband articles, we were permitted to pass under the stately arch which opens through the walls of Lucca. Passing through several narrow but well paved
streets, the vetturino set us down in a dirty court, filled with coaches and groups of his own brethren. As the interior of the tavern was almost as dirty as the outside, we ordered our luggage to be taken to the Hotel de l'Europe, where excellent accommodations were obtained, though at rather an extravagant price. The saloon was furnished with handsome carpets and sofas, and the walls were hung with so many paintings of no ordinary merit, as to constitute quite a gallery, with the convenience of being examined while sipping a dish of tea.
A considerable fragment of the afternoon yet remained, and as an economy of time was an object with us, dinner was postponed till evening, and a cicerone immediately put in requisition to show us the city. He conducted us first to the church of St. Dominica, which is a stately edifice, rich in marbles, and containing some good pictures. The ceiling and pavement are both splendid. Many votaries were kneeling at the altars, gazing with a steadfast eye at the image of some saint, and whispering a prayer. Particular care was taken on our part never to disturb these acts of devotion, though the valets-de-place step up without hesitation, and begin to talk aloud of the merits of a painting, before which some votary is bending the knee, fixed like a statue upon the pavement. The Lucchese are ultra religious, through the influence and example of the late Dutchess, who was an enthusiast and devotee, not to say a bigot. During her life, her son, the present Duke, who is now perhaps at the age of three and twenty, was tied to her apron-strings and kept under wholesome restraints. If report speaks true, he is now fast verging to the other extreme, disregarding the lessons of his deceased mother.
Our next visit was to the Cathedral, a Gothic edifice of the eleventh or twelfth century, stately, spacious, and rich in its multiplicity of arches and pillars. Its pavement is a splendid mosaic of different marbles. An antique tabernacle, loaded with arrabesque ornaments, filled with relics and votive offerings, occupies the centre of the nave. Round the walls are several sepulchral monuments, among which is the tomb of Adalbert, ancestor of the House of Este and of the Brunswicks, kings of England. In the dim twilight of the church, it was impossible to decipher the long epitaph, inscribed in the old Saxon character upon the sarcophagus.
Calls were made at two other churches, St. Giovanni, and St. Maria. In the former, a crowd were engaged in chanting their vespers ; in the latter, are two good pictures, one by Titian, and the other by Guercino. The Ducal Palace is a large edifice, destitute of ornament, fronting a spacious public square, on which a statue to one of the Bourbons has lately been erected. Lucca is a well built city.
The houses are generally plain, but substantial, indicating a taste for simplicity and comfort, which characterised its inhabitants during the happy days of the Republic. Even now, although the late revolution has wrought many changes for the worse, their manners retain a spirit of activity, industry and cleanliness. In walking through their streets, crowded with a population of 30,000, I do not recollect to have been beset by beggars in a single instance-a rare phenomenon in any part of Italy I have yet seen.
Between sunset and dark, we walked quite round the ramparts-a circuit of about three miles. It is a charming promenade. The walls are built of brick fifteen feet high, with regular bastions, like a fortress, and girt by moats. At top they are covered with earth, planted with groves of elms and poplars, with a carriage road in the centre, and side-paths for pedestrians. This is the ordinary Corso of the citizens, where from their coaches they can look abroad upon their little green dominions, as well as upon their distant mountains. The coronet of foliage, encircling the antique towers of the city, has a a peculiarly picturesque effect. At the close of his third campaign in Gaul, Cæsar went into winter quarters at Lucca, whither Pompey and Crassus, followed by a considerable part of the Roman Senate, repaired to meet him. It was not difficult for the imagination, while musing at twilight upon the ancient ramparts, to summon up the spirits of other ages, and to fancy the picture which the city must have presented, when it was thronged with the legions of the conqueror, and with the splendid equipages of the masters of the world.
Early next morning, while breakfast was preparing, we again rambled over the town, anxious to improve every moment of a short stay. While walking through the crowded market place, I witnessed a scene which was entirely new to me. In a splendid caleche, with two mouse-coloured horses, richly caparisoned with tassels and feathers, an itinerant quack was standing up like an auctioneer, crying his drugs for sale, and tendering his medical services to the crowd. He had a stentorian voice, and his fingers were covered with half a dozen massive rings, which are worn by all classes of the Italians, from the nobleman down to his boot-black. The doctor did not seem to lack patients. He extracted twenty teeth in as many minutes, and there was no want of bids for his medicines among the multitude.
At 8 o'clock, we resumed our journey towards Pisa, distant only twelve miles from Lucca. The road traverses a beautiful plain, passing between an insulated range of mountains on the left, and the Serchio on the right. On entering Tuscany, a fee of four francs was exacted of us, by way of initiation. Our passports underwent a slight
examination, but our trunks were not opened. Few vexations have been experienced from custom-house officers, since arriving at Genoa. A few miles from the Tuscan borders, we passed the Baths of Pisa, situated at the base of Mount Julian, whence issue tepid and copious fountains. A handsome village has sprung up round this celebrated watering-place, which is much frequented by invalids from all parts of Italy. The number in summer often amounts to six or eight hundred at a time. Opposite the Baths, a large building called the Casina, capable of accommodating all the visitants, has been erected by a and the prices of board and lodging established at a low rate, not exceeding half a dollar a day.
From this point onward, the road is bordered on one side by an aqueduct, which supplies Pisa with water. The declivity from the foot of Mount Julian is so gentle and uniform, that nothing more has been necessary than an open channel, excavated in a light soil, at a small expense. It is filled with a stream sufficiently copious to be used as a canal, on which small boats were seen dragged against the current by females, while robust men were acting the subordinate part of riding and directing the helm !
SKETCH OF PISA-BANKS OF THE ARNO-BRIDGES-LEANING TOWER
SANTOCHURCHES-SANTA MARIA DELLA SPINA---BOTANIC GARDEN-UNITO LEGHORN-SKETCH OF THE
TOWN AND HARBOUR.
PISA is situated in the midst of an extensive plain, stretching from the base of the Apennines to the sea at Leghorn, a distance of not less than twenty miles. It stands so low, and is so hidden by its woody environs, as not to appear to advantage from any quarter, the assertions of certain travellers to the contrary notwithstanding. We were close under its walls, before the celebrated Leaning Tower, the dome of the Cathedral, and the Gothic pinnacles of the Baptistry could be seen overtopping the ramparts and rising behind a curtain of trees. The lofty arched gate-way, the antique walls overgrown with shrubbery, and the complexion of the buildings, give a venerable aspect to the city, deepened by its comparative depopulation and silence. Our entrance was at noon-day through some of the principal streets, which are neatly paved, with spacious side-walks and lined with arcades. Few people were seen, and in fact there are few in the town. Its present population does not exceed eighteen or twenty thousand, scattered over a space five or six miles in circuit, which in the glorious days of the Republic contained 150,000 inhabitants. A sort of languor and inactivity seems to characterize those that remain, who are scarcely sufficient to guard and preserve the wreck of former splendour.
The first glance at the Arno, second only perhaps among the Italian rivers to the Tiber in celebrity, was extremely interesting, although it is far from being either a grand or beautiful stream. It is here perhaps a hundred yards in breadth. The water is shoal, sluggish, and so turbid with clay as entirely to destroy its original complexion. It sweeps through the heart of the city, with a bold and rather graceful On both sides are embankments and quays of hewn stone, like those of the Seine, to which they are scarcely inferior in exact masonry. Three stately bridges are thrown across the current at nearly equal distances. The one in the centre is of white marble, and claims as much celebrity for the beauty of its proportions, as for the richness of its materials. On this bridge, once in every three years, a combat takes place in honour of St. Raniere, the patron