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JOURNAL OF A TOUR ON THE CONTINENT.
(Continued from p. 89.) I HAD now seen, not all the curiosities of Rome, but at any rate the principal ; and though I might have wished to devote a few days more to them, I had much to accomplish in other places before my return to England, and the weather was becoming unpleasantly bot. I therefore determined to turn my steps Northward; and accordingly made an agreement with a vetturino to take me in six days to Florence. I set out at an early hour in the morging of the 30th of April. (But the details of this part of my journey I am under the necessity of abridging, and must beg my readers to imagine, if they can, the wonders of the Cataract of Velino, and the teeming fertility of the Plain of Clitumnus. ]
In the afternoon of the fourth day, on ascending to the top of a high bill, we came in sight of the Lake of Thrasymene, so celebrated for the defeat of the Romans by Annibal. We slept at Pasignano, and the next morning walked over the ground on which the battle is said to have been fought. It lies between the villages of Touro and Collina, on the banks of a little stream, which has derived its name of Sanguinetto from the Roman blood with which its waters were dyed on that disastrous day. We asked some men on the road, which was the precise spot where the battle took place; and on their pointing it out, we again asked them for their authority ; to which they replied, “ I vecchii ci lo hanno detto.” for The elders told us so.”). The nature of the ground corresponds exactly to the disposition which Annibal is recorded to have made of his forces. It is a plain, shut in on one side by the lake, and on the other by a range of woody hills, which extend for some miles in a semicircular form. On these hills the Carthaginian General stationed bis forces, and thence poured them down upon Flaininius, who had ventured to bring his army into the plain below, without being aware that he was so completely surrounded by his enemies. The battle began from the Westward. The Romans, taken by surprise and overpowered by numbers, were compelled to give way; and their retreat was intercepted by a body of troops, which Annibal had placed in ambush at Pasignano, where there is only a very narrow passage between the mountains and the lake. That Flaminius should ever have suffered himself to be drawn into a situation where the very nature of the ground gave a skilful enemy so decided an advantage, was an error of judgment for which it is not easy to account.
At Carmuccia, two or three miles further on, we entered the Tuscan territory, and soon became sensible that we were now in a more flourishing country, and under a better government than those of his Holiness. There was an air of greater wealth and industry, and more pains were taken with the roads. We arrived at Florence in the evening of the sixth day, and I was not sorry to come to the end of my journey ; for it was tiresome to be so long in accomplishing about 200 English miles, and the inns at which we had slept were certainly not of the first order. The brick floors of the chambers formed a striking contrast to the painted ceilings above, and the knives and forks, the plates, tables, and chairs, must all have been made in the year one. Yet, with all its miseries, I look back on this journey with feelings of no ordinary pleasure; for we were highly favoured in the weather, our road lay through a country which bore the appearance of a perpetual garden, and I had for one of my fellow-travellers a young Englishman, whose excellent good sense and gentlemanly manners rendered him the most instructive and agreeable of companions. This is one of the delights of travelling, that, among the great variety of characters with whom one is thrown together, there are some whose society it would be worth while going many miles to enjoy.
Florence, May 6th. Made my first visit to some of the principal objects of curiosity in the town. The Church of Santa Croce is large but gloomy; for the gothic windows are small, and the light is obstructed by the painted glass with which they are filled. The most interesting objects are the tombs of some of the great men by whom this city has been distinguished; among others, Michel Angelo, Alfieri, Machiavelli, * Pietro Arretino, Giovanni Lami, and Galileo. I was much struck with the observation of an Italian who accompanied me: “ How different,” said he, “is this from St. Peter's! We have here the monuments of men who did good to their species ; but there we see none but those of Popes and Cardinals, and all the other canaile who have infested the world !”
The Cathedral is famed for its Dome, which, at a distance, has a very noble appearance; but on a nearer view, the red tiles with which it is covered, and the unfinished state in which it has been left, detract much from its beauty. It is not equal to that of St. Peter's, but it has at least the merit of having been built the first, which, considering the boldness of the undertaking, is no mean praise. Michel Angelo boasted that he would raise the Pantheon in the air ; and no one who stands under the Dome of St. Peter's, will say that he has failed : but as Forsyth observes, in speaking of the Cathedral of Florence, “ This grand enterprise of Brunelleschi gave him the assurance of performing it.” The interior is painted in fresco, but there is not light enough to display the figures. Indeed, the whole church is
very dark, and, like almost all the other public buildings in Florence, it is unfinished. The most beautiful thing about it, is an immensely high square tower, the Campanile, placed at one corner, apart from the rest of the edifice; but I could not reconcile my eye to the mixture of red, white, and black marble, with which it is incrusted. Opposite the Cathedral is the Baptistery, the doors of which are so beautiful, that Michel Angelo said, that they deserved to be the gates of Paradise. They are of bronze, and have scriptural subjects represented on the panels. On each side are suspended two enormous chains, which the Florentines brought from Pisa, after they had taken that unfortunate city: but what bad feeling, thus to perpetuate the recollection of a war in which the glory of the conquerors was effaced by their inhuman treatment of the conquered; and more especially, when both parties are now united under the same government !
Attached to the Church of San Lorenzo is a magnificent Dome, surrounded by the tombs of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The walls are richly incrusted with marbles and precious stones, and if it were completed, it would far surpass every other mausoleum in the world; but it presents a sad memorial of the folly of those who began to build and had not money to
The inscription on the tomb of this singular writer is very brief and expressive :
TANTO NOMINI NULLUM PAR ELOGIUM.
OBUIT. An. A. P. V. ClɔlɔXXVII, but I did not quite assent to all this praise.
finish. '. It was commenced two hundred years ago ; for a long time nothing was done to it; the work has now been resumed eleven years, and it will take twelve more before it is completed. And, after all, what inconsiderate waste to spend so much on the dead, when all, and more than all, that we have, is wanted for the living! In a small chapel at one side of the church is an inscription, which I viewed with interest, as it is to the memory of Lorenzo de Medicis, though his remains are not, I believe, deposited in that identical spot. It runs thus :
LAURENT. ET JUL. PETRI F. These letters are on the base of a tomb, or rather cenotaph, which bears the following inscription in the middle of a wreath :
PETRO ET JOHANNI DE
H. M. H. N. S.
7th and 8th. I spent a part of the morning of these two days in the Florence Gallery. This superb collection of paintings, statues, &c., owes its origin to the family of the Medicis, who were the first to open
their the merit of the ancient works of art, and whose munificent patronage gave the first impulse to the revival of taste. The treasures which were collected by Lorenzo and by his grandfather Cosmo, have been continually augmented by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and they now fill the whole upper story of an immense building nearly five hundred feet in length. It consists of two galleries 430 feet long, of a cross one of 97, and of twenty rooms on the sides, to which the galleries serve as an approach. In these is deposited a large collection of paintings arranged in their different schools, of ancient statues, vases, inscriptions, and sarcophagi, ancient and modern bronzes, &c. To all these the public are admitted freely and gratuitously; but there is a collection of drawings, engravings, cameos, and medals, which can only be seen by special permission, and this is obtained with difficulty. The rooms which are shewn to the public are opened successively by one of the Custodi, whenever there are assembled a dozen or two of persons who desire it. Through these we were somewhat hurried; but there were two wbich were fortunately open the whole morning, as there were artists in them copying pictures. These were the Tribune and the Salle du Buroccio. I entered the first of these rooms with a feeling of veneration, for
“ Here stands the statue which enchants the world,"
the famous Venus de Medicis. With the first view I cannot say that I was so much pleased as I might have expected. This is a peculiarity of statuary, that it does not strike at first. But as I continued to gaze, the beauties grew upon me insensibly, and before I left the room L had no hesitation in deciding that this statue deserves all the encomiums which have been lavished upon it. The general attitude of the figure, the bust, and the face, are the points which are the most beautiful. The whole of the right arm and half the left are modern, and the inferiority of the fingers is very evident. They are not well placed on the hands ; for which, also, either they are too small, or the hands too large for them-I will not pretend to decide which. This exquisite statue is the work of Cleomenes, son of Apollodorus, of Athens : it was found in the ruins of Adrian's Villa near Tivoli, and was brought to Florence in the year 1680. Many models and engravings of it have been taken, hut none give a correct idea of the original : to be known, it must be seen.
If I was delighted with the Venus de Medicis, I was not less so with the treasures of the Salle du Baroccio, a room in the corresponding gallery, containing about seventy of the choicest paintings. One, which is much admired, is a Virgin by Sassoferrato. She is painted in an attitude of grief and meditation, with her eyes downcast, and her hands raised up and pressed together. The meekness and the pensiveness which are depicted in this face, proclaim the hand of a master; and I might, perhaps, have admired it more, had it not been placed so near another in a totally different style, and much more to my taste. This was the Mary Magdalene of Carlo Dolci. She is represented, in a half-length portrait, with her eyes turned up to heaven, and her hands crossed upon her breast, and in one of them is a vase containing balın. The expression of penitence and devotion which the artist has cominunicated to this figure, is truly wonderful. The face is beautiful; yet it is neither that abstract and ideal sort of beauty which many artists give to their female figures, nor yet that of mere feature and complexion. It is the beauty of this earth, such as we have seen in the intercourses of the world; yet so heightened by the expression of religious feeling!-a feeling pure, holy, and fervent—the complete abandonnient of all inferior interests, and the unreserved aspiration of the soul to that Being from whom alone the penitent can hope for pardon. I came again and again to gaze upon this lovely picture ; and I am sure that it did me more good than half the sermons that I have heard in my life. It roused my devotion, and drew me away from the corruptions of the world. Yet I must confess, that the pleasure I received from it was in some degree diminished by the name which has been given it: in my catalogue it is designated St. Marie Magdalène. The woman whom the artist meant to represent is evidently the one who had been “a sinner,” and who is mentioned in the 7th chapter of St. Luke as anointing our Lord's feet when he was at supper, in the house of Simon the Phariseee. Else, why the expression of penitence ? Or why the vase of balm in her hand? Or why, again, has there been affixed to the engraving which has been taken from it, the motto Fides salvam fecit, which is clearly a quotation from Luke vii. 50; though, to be sure, it is not fair to make the painter answerable for the sins of the engraver. But that Mary Magdalene was the woman mentioned in this passage is altogether a gratuitous supposition, resting on no better authority than the summary which is prefixed to the chapter in our English version, but which forms no part of the original Greek." Yet for ages has it been believed, that Mary Magdalene was a woman of bad character, and the calumny has been perpetuated (and that, too, by people who pretend to read their Bibles) in the name which has been given to female penitentiaries. * 10th.
* In the afternoon I took a drive to Fiesole, whence I enjoyed a glorious prospect indeed. The eye here ranges over the whole rich vale of the Arno, teeming with fertility and studded with villas, in the midst of which rises Florence, with her proud domes and towers, though reduced, by the distance at which she is seen, to a mere nothing. The view extends from the woody height of Vallombrosa on the East, to the mountains of Lucca on the West, and presents every variety of wood, rock, and stream, of corn-field and garden, of city and country. On the top of the hill I fell in with a Franciscan Friar, who took me through his convent to see the view on the other side. He shewed me a room where the Library had formerly been. The French, he said, had carried it away, and it had not been restored at the peace. He mourned over the loss of the books; but whether they were of any great use to their owners I
much doubt. He told me that his convent was very poor, and added, that it was hard work to carry a bag about, begging. I might have asked him, why he did not dig instead. This would surely be a more reputable mean of gaining a livelihood than the other. It is an unprofitable life which is divided between saying mass, preaching occasionally, and carrying a bag about from door to door.
The range of hills on which Fiesole stands, forms a noble back-ground to Florence, as seen from any of the little eminences to the Southward. The town itself, however, does not correspond to the beauty of its situation ; for the streets are narrow, the houses gloomy, and the buildings very irregular, good, bad, and indifferent, being all ranged in the same row.
place has a much more cheerful look than Rome; there is more bustle and activity, and the number of good, substantial dwellings shews that wealth is. more generally diffused. There are excellent shops of every description, and a capital library and news-room, where the principal English papers and reviews are all taken. Living, too, is cheaper than in any large town that I ever was in. One day I breakfasted, dined, and drank tea, and had a bottle of good wine to my dinner, all for six pauls, or about 2s. 6d. English! Besides all this, there are delightful drives and walks in the suburbs; and, to crown the whole, society is more accessible here than in any other town in Italy. No wonder, then, that this is so favourite a resort of foreigners, particularly of the English, many of whom have taken up their abode here. There is, indeed, one drawback, namely, the climate, which is as bad or even worse than that of England, being affected by excessive heat and sirocco in summer, and by cold winds from the Apennines in winter. Delicate persons, therefore, should not choose this for their residence, great as its attractions are.
Sunday, 1lth. Attended the French Protestant service, which is chiefly supported by the Swiss. There were about sixty persons present-no singing; though not, as I was told, for the same reason as at Naples, but from the want of some one to conduct it.
12th and 13th. Came from Florence to Bologna en voiturier, in company
* The mistake has probably arisen in this way. The woman mentioned in Luke vii. has been confounded with Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who is recorded in John xii. 1-3 to have anointed our Lord's feet at Bethany; and she again has been confounded with Mary Magdalene. See this more fully explained in the Mou, Repos. 0, S. Vol. XX. p. 393.