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WHO has wandered in that enchanting part of Tuscany, called the Upper Val d'Arno, without partaking of the enchantment! Who can be indifferent or blind to the beauties of that favoured valley! The sky of Italy; the verdure rivalling and surpassing that of more northern countries; the glorious sunshine, the orchards, vineyards and gardens, churches and villages, covering and adorning the little hillocks; then the graceful Arno and its tributary brooks flowing in the midst, and watering the whole land, while, as a barrier against the cruel northern blasts, the majestic Apennines, in their purple robe, rise high in the blue vault of heaven, true protectors of the little paradise beneath!
The Val d'Arno is then the scene of this narrative, and at the time we speak of, nearly four centuries ago, was as perfect in its beauty as at this moment, though civilisation may have destroyed the last vestiges of those feudal and warlike times, and added the charm of peace.
In the year 1464, there stood, in one of the most charming nooks of the valley, a solid and tasteful building, called the Villa Verocchio, belonging to the already celebrated artist of that name, and visited by him as frequently as his occupations at Florence permitted. The artist's taste had assisted in the choice of the dwelling; for the position of the house, commanding a view far up and down the valley, and yet neither exposed to sun nor wind,-the deep rich shade of the clustering trees,-the glimpses of the blue mountains in the distance, whose varied hues were the delight of the painter,— these were more highly valued by Andrea del Verocchio than the spacious apartments and their architectural decorations. Here, far from the daily traffic of a great city, Verocchio's genius was at once undisturbed and inspired; the great school of Nature was ever present, and while studying her simple but perfect lessons,