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APPROACH TO FLORENCE.
volcano, and miraculously scattered along the banks of a river, for ten or twelve miles, without injury; the intervening spaces being filled up with gardens, pleasure-grounds, vineyards, orangeries, groves of cypress, and plantations of olive :- If he could conceive that this scene was an ample valley, the adjacent eminences being crowned with convents, churches, and villas, white as Parian marble, with a stream flowing through the middle-a magnificent city at one extremity-the whole encircled by towering mountains, and canopied by an Italian sky-he would have no bad idea of the Val d'Arno and Florence, when first seen from one of the Apennine ridges. Such was the idea suggested to my mind by the actual scene-but whether or not it conveys any distinct image to the minds of others I cannot tell.
In approaching close to most Italian cities, but especially Florence, Rome, and Naples, the stranger is mortified by the perpetual presence of high and dead walls, which flank both sides of the road, and completely exclude all prospect of town or country. Whether these horrid boundaries have been erected for the purpose of obscuring our vision, before the grand scene bursts on our view, according to the principle, "omne ignotum pro magnifico”-or for the meaner purpose of security against depredations, I shall not determine; but the effect is excessively annoying and repugnant to an English mind. It is an abridgment of LIBERTY, against which John Bull and the whole British press would loudly and properly exclaim-a voice (vox populi or vox Dei) which has demolished a very humble wall between Kensington and Hyde-park Corner, and erected an iron railing in its stead. But clear, and shrill, and loud, and mellifluous as are Italian throats and notes on the stage, they are as mute and ineffectual in the cause of human liberty, on the political arena, as are the tears of the stag or the bleating of the lanıb against the tusks of the tiger, or the paws of the lion, in the jungles of the sunderbunds !
It was on a fine Autumnal evening that we drove past, not through, the magnificent triumphal arch before the Porta San Gallo--and on entering tủe long street of that name, the "endless anticipation,” which, according to Lady Morgan, so fills the imagination, that " expectation becomes too eager for enjoyment,” came to a full stop. I do not mean the stop occasioned by the official duties of the douaniers and the police ; but the EXTINGUISHER which the entrance into every Italian city puts on the pleasure derived from natural scenery. The streets of Florence are more uniformly wide than those of most other cities of Italy—and (such is the force of habit) the English residents consider them as remarkably clean, although there is not a street in this celebrated capital of Tuscany, which does not shock the eye and the olfactories of an Englishman. The reconcilement, therefore, of the English eye and other organs of sense to such scenes, is a striking illustration of that general principle of reconcilement to all unusual, not to say indecent, things, which is generated by habit and residence.
The paving of the streets of "Florence attracts attention. It is said to be by Arnulfo (that of the Via San Gallo at least) but it is precisely that of the ancient Romans-precisely that of the streets of Pompeii at this moment namely, large flat stones, of all shapes and sizes, but brought into close contact, and thus forming a smooth horizontal wall, with a slight declination to the centre, where the water rans till it falls through a grating into the common-sewer—and ultimately into the Arno. The existence of a common-sewer in the streets of Florence, takes away from the Florentines all excuse for the non-existence of separate sewers from individual houses. English residents in Florence well know the inconvenience and annoyance occasioned by certain annual or biennial openings of boxes, more odoriferous, though not, perhaps, so fatal, as that of Pandora! Heaven has given Italy a blue sky, Nature has heaved up from the ocean a warm and fertile soil-scented zephyrs are wafted over hill and dale—but man has polluted the atmosphere which he breathes with vapours more loathsome than ever issued from the Stygean lake!
From the Porta San Gallo we drive across the greater part of the capital, before we arrive at Schneider’s PALACE, the most substantially-comfortable Palazzo of any in Florence, or perhaps in Italy. One general character of massive strength and simplicity pervades the buildings in all the principal streets. Instead of the Greek façade and portico sublime, we have a chain of « domestic fortresses" on each side, adapted to a people who were forced, at one moment, to defend their liberties, like the inhabitants of Saragossa, from street to street-and, at another, to live in feudal warfare, while torn by domestic factions.
The stranger, in his way to the LUNG’-ARNO, stumbles on the celebrated Duomo, or Cathedral—the admiration, or rather the despair, of Michael Angelo-together with that “gem of architecture,” the Campanile, or belfry, which Charles the 5th considered too exquisite for the plebeian gaze of republican citizens—and which Lady Morgan thinks “equally suited to a lady's cabinet, as to the mighty edifice to which it belongs.". It is 252 Italian feet in height-and admirably adapted to a lady's cabinet. The first view of the Duomo and CAMPANILE conjured up one of those outrageous and barbaresque ideas of comparison, which have so often put the sublimity of admiration to flight on this classic soil. The Cathedral and its belfry suggested the grotesque similitude of a huge architectural zebra and its Keeper—the former with a coating or skin, consisting of alternate stripes of black and white marble—the latter exhibiting, on its exterior, all the colours of the rainbow --all the chequers of a gigantic harlequin! Is there no mitigation of the penalty due to this gothic and tasteless idea? What could have suggested these horrible stripes of black and white marble ? If a linen-draper or calicoprinter embellished his villa on Blackheath or Hampstead-hill with such.
decorations, he would convulse the metropolis of old England with laughter at t'e shop from which the idea originated.
But if I have ventured to criticise the exterior of this venerable pile, I should be sorry to make free with the interior, where the relics of so many holy saints repose.
“ Here (says Lady Morgan) are the whole bodies of the Saints Zanobi and Podio, a thumb of St. John the Baptist, an elbow of St. Andrew the Apostle, a nail of the cross, and a thorn of the crown.” Although I cannot admire the tartan plaid of marble with which the Campanile is dressed, the view from its summit is calculated to afford exquisite delight. It is superior to that from the Boboli Gardens, as it commands an excellent coup d'oeil of the city itself, besides an enchanting panorama of the Val v’Arno and surrounding Apennines. I advise every traveller to ascend the Campanile on a clear day, and he will be well rewarded for his pains.
But we have not yet reached the renowned Arno, “ which (says Mr. Eustace) forms one of the greatest ornaments of Florence, and contributes not a little to its fame." I wish Mr. Eustace had stated the nature of these beauties or ornamental qualities of the Arno—for I could not see them. It is, in ordinary, a yellow muddy stream, or rather stagnant pool, so slow in its motion, that it requires a fixed attention to ascertain any current at all and so shallow, that men are seen wading across it in every direction. Nine-tenths of its bottom would, indeed, be bare, except after heavy falls of rain in the mountains, were there not a dam thrown across it, just below the city, to keep the bed of the river out of sight, and to prevent the beautiful marble arches of Ponte Trinita from vaulting over rugged gravel and arid sand.*
* Like all Italian rivers, the Arno is liable to great and sudden inundations. A very memorable one occurred just 500 years ago, and demolished three out of its four bridges. In this awful catastrophe one of the heathen divinities was forced to swi for his life ; but whether martial and marble Godship reached the bottom or the banks of the Arno, is left ur.decided by history.
“ In the destruction of the old "bridge, (says the Gibbon of Tuscany) the supposed statue of Mars fell down, and was carried away by the flood.” This circumstance may convey some idea of the rapidity of an Italian river after rains.
There is an anecdote connected with the Trinita Bridge which deserves record. A poor inaniac leaped from its central arch into the swollen stream, intent on self-destruction, and was drowning. The cook of a neighbouring hotel, who was crossing the bridge, instantly threw off his jacket, plunged into the river, and saved the life of a fellow-creature, amidst the plaudits of admiring spectators-one of whom took care to rifle the jacket of five pauls, (the only money which the poor cook possessed) before he got up again to claim his clothes ! The Prince, however, was more generous than bis people, and conferred an order of merit on the cook.
Such is the far-famed Arno, along the banks of which the public promenades are constructed, and take, on both sides of the river, as well here as at Pisa, the name of LUNG'ARNO-signifying, on the right bank, LUNG-WARMERon the left, LUNG-HARMER. The span of the Trinita or Carraja Bridge makes all the difference between Summer and Winter in Florence. The LUNG' Arxo, on the North side of the river, being sheltered by the city from the tramontane winds, and open to the sun, is warm, or even hot-while, at the same moment, Schneider's side being exposed to the Apennine blast, and excluded from the solar beams, is chilling cold. And yet the warm side of the Arno is the more dangerous of the two for the sensitive invalid. Thus, while pacing the promenade between the two bridges above-mentioned, the wind being northerly, the temperature will be felt very high, so as readily to bring out perspiration; but the instant we come abreast of any of the streets at right angles, such as the Piazza St. Trinita, or the Vigna Nuova, we are stricken by an icy current of air, the more injurious, from the open state of the pores and the sudden transition of the temperature. On the other side of the Arno it is permanently more cold, and, when the Sirocco prevails, we are exposed to currents of that debilitating and suffocating wind at the cross, ings of streets—but these are not dangerous. From whatever point of the compass, however, the breezes blow-along whatever street they sweep, even in this pride of Italian cities—they carry on their wings, not “airs from Heaven,” but “ blasts from Hell.” Mr. Eustace tells us, indeed, that Florence is “airy, clean, and sometimes rising towards grandeur.” I deny the second assertion, and I appeal to ocular demonstration, not merely in obscure streets, but throughout every piazza and square in that great capital. It might almost be asserted, indeed, that the “ Gates of Paradise," as Michael Angelo styled the portals of the Baptistery, near the celebrated Duomo, are unsafe to enter, unless we afterwards have recourse to the “ holy water" in the Font to purify our bodies as well as sanctify our souls !
One word to the Grand Duke. It may reach his royal ear circuitously, if not directly. He may easily purge his proud capital of these foul and disgraceful blots by a single order to the police, and by very practicable arrangements with the municipal authorities. While breakfasting at MentoNE, ą town in the territory of the Prince of Monaco, I was attracted by a Code NAPOLEON,” hung up in the Salle À MANGER, which prohibited Filth in the streets. I immediately walked out through the town, and to my asto. nishment found that the orders were complied with. Now, if the Grand Duke of Tuscany cannot accomplish what a petty sycophant of Bonaparte has done, the epithet “ Grand” should be dropped at once.
And yet, with all the disadvantages of her 'rigorous climate—her chilling tramontanes from the North-her Siroccos from the South-and the mal. odorous gales within her walls—Florence, for people in health,
one of the
most pleasant residences in Italy. I have alluded to the malpropreté of her. streets and houses ; but every thing is comparative in this world. What must be the case in the rest of Italy, when a fair traveller (authoress of Rome in the Nineteenth Century) congratulates herself, on entering Tuscany, in the following terms ?
“ From the constant irritation of mind produced by the frequent sight of wretchedness which is far beyond the reach of casual relief-from incessant altercations with cheating individuals of every description, whose brutal manners teach one to become almost as brutal as themselves from the continual fear which assails one, that the filth of the streets and houses will infect the air and breed a pestilence and from dreading to get out of one's carriage, lest one should encounter a touch carrying pollution with it—how delightful to find one's self surrounded with happy smiling faces-to see people decently attired -to be treated with civility--to live in comfortable habitations and to have no need to recoil from one's fellow-creatures." -Miss Waldie.
Such were the feelings of a talented English lady on entering Tuscany, where a better government, greater industry, and a more bracing air, have rendered the inhabitants a contrast to most of their neighbours. But Florence has great attractions of another kind. It would be difficult to select an individual from any class of society, whose sentient principle is capable of receiv. ing impressions from without, or generating reflections from within, who might not find, in this city and its vicinity, most interesting objects of study and admiration for weeks, months, or even years, Exercise of the intellectual faculties contributes to pleasure, in the same way that exercise of the corporeal functions contributes to health. But the former exertion requires, in general, stimulation ; whereas the latter is under the command of the will. A short tour from the Apennines to the Promontory of Sorento presents more food for intellectual excitement-more objects of varied and profound contemplation, than a journey over land from the Thames to the Ganges-or a circumnavigation of the globe. Greece has been a CORPSE for centuries ; and the monuments of her arts are dispersed on the four winds. She lives only in memory
Egypt is a MUMMY, whose features can scarcely be recognized. Her pyramids are empty, and her catacombs will soon be tenantless. India is a huge prison, where the human mind has been frozen, though beneath a vertical sun-spell-bound in the adamantine chains of a gloomy
* See Lord Byron's simile. She is worse than a corpse. She is a carcase, so mangled by foreign and domestic vultures, that only her bones and some putrid offal remain! Let any one read Capt. Trant's recent travels in Greece, and he will be convinced that arid rocks, barren plains, frightful valleys, and wretched-too often villainous inhabitants, are all that he can expect to find !