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Turkish corn, which is his only food. The fault of this incongruity lies in the agrarian condition. To begin with, you must know that the possessor of land here owes the fourth part of the produce as rent to the lord of the soil. It is the old curse of the latifundia to sink the people in poverty. There are, indeed, few peasants who do not possess a small vineyard, but it is not sufficient to maintain the family. Usury is unlimited ; even from the poorest ten per cent, is taken. The smallest misfortune, or a bad harvest, brings him into debt. If he borrows money or grain the interest burdens him; the avaricious rich man watches for the time of want to wrest the land from the small proprietor for a nominal price. Barons and monasteries grow rich, the peasant-farmer becomes their vassal and vine-dresser. As a rule the transaction takes place thus,—the debtor only sells the soil; the trees (gli alberi, which includes the vines) remain his, he continues to cultivate the vineyard, and retains for himself half or three-quarters of the produce. Scarcely a year passes, and the same vine-owner appears before the purchaser of his land and offers him the trees for sale. Now he becomes farmer for his master, inhabits the vineyard with his family, and continues to cultivate it, receiving a portion of the produce. This may equal or even exceed that of the present proprietor, but yet he will find himself more and more in debt, and have to make over to his master no small proportion of his gains in advance.'— Gregorovius.
The simple religious faith which exists among the mountain peasantry is most touching and instructive. The sound of the Angelus bell will collect the whole population of one of the small Abruzzi towns in its churches, and the priests, unlike the spectres which haunt ultra-Protestant story-books, are more frequently simple gentle fathers of their people, consulted by them in every anxiety, and trusted in every difficulty. The open-air life in many of these villages, where all the spinning, lace-making, and other avocations are carried on in the street, brings the people wonderfully together, and unites their interests and associations as those of one great family, and if a poor person dies, it is not unusual to see the whole town attend the funeral, while orphans who have been born in the place become regarded as universal property, and receive a share of the attentions and care of all. On a summer evening, when crowds of the inhabitants of a mountain-town are sitting out in the shady street at their work, it is not unusual for one of them to take up one of the long melancholy never-ending songs which are handed down here for generations, and for the whole people to join in the choruses. These songs are inexhaustible, varying from the short lively catches in two lines called stornelli, to long ballads which sometimes succeed one another in more than a hundred verses. A curious collection of the latter, giving their variations according to the different towns and patois in which they are sung, is being published, under the name of Canti e Racconti del Popolo Italiano, collected by D. Comparetti and A. d' Ancona.
Riding or cycling is the best means of seeing the Campagna immediately around Rome; indeed, there are many interesting places, such as Rustica on the Anio, which cannot be reached in a carriage. On the other hand, for walkers the most interesting thing to do is to take a train, or tramway, to some interesting spot, and thence make a definite walk across country, so as to spend the day and catch an afternoon train back to Rome on another line. But for the longer excursions it is far best to adopt the cycle, or whatever is the usual means of locomotion in the district, generally some high-slung Baroccino. In the Abruzzi, diligences are universally used, and, where the distances are so great between one town and another, they are quite a necessity. In some places these are of the most primitive construction, and in mountainous districts are always drawn by oxen placed in front of the horses, while the harness of the latter, thickly adorned with bells, feathers, and little brass figures of saints, is quite an artistic study. Diligence life is a phase of Italian existence which no one should omit trying at least once—or rather that of the public carriages which ply slowly between the different surrounding towns and the capital. In a vehicle of this kind one cannot fail to be thrown into the closest juxtaposition with one's neighbours, and nowhere is the universal national bonhomie and good-fellowship more conspicuous. Suppose you are at Tivoli and wish to go to Rome. The diligence starts in the middle of the day. You walk to it from your inn, with a porter carrying your portmanteau. You find it under a dark archway; a lumbering vehicle, something like a heavy though very dilapidated fly, with three lean unkempt horses attached to it by ropes. The company already assembled greets you as if you were an old acquaintance. There is a fat monk in a brown habit which does not smell very good, a woman in panno and large gold earrings, a young office clerk, a girl of sixteen, and a little child of two. The young man sits by the driver; all the rest go inside. There is endless delay in starting, for when you are just going off, the rope-harness gives way and has to be mended. You begin to feel impatient, but find nobody cares in the least, so you think it is not worth while. You get in, and find the interior very mouldy, with tattered sides, and dirty straw on the floor. The most unimaginable baggage is being packed on the roof. The gossipy eonduttore leans against the portico smoking cigarettes, and regaling Tivoli with the scandal of Rome. An important stalliere in rags stands by and demands his fee of one soldo. At last the company are desired to mount. The diligence is moving: it is an immense excitement: there is quite a rush of children down the street to see it. The vehicle creaks and groans. Surely the ropes are going to break again; but no, they actually hold firm this time and the carriage starts, rocking from side to side of the rugged pavement, amid the remonstrances of the woman in the earrings, whose daughter has not been able to embrace her, and who shrieks out of the window, ' Ma, Nino, Nino, non ho baciato la figlia mia.'
You do not get far before a universal scratching begins. The child squeals. Then the monk gives it a lollypop and begins a long story about an image in his convent which winked twice— ringraziamo Dio —actually twice, on the eve of Ascension Day. You can hardly hear, for you are going down a hill and the carriage creaks so, and the bells make such a noise. Suddenly there is a regular outcry, 'Oh, Madonna Santissima!' the young girl is taken worse. . . . 'Oh, povera piccina I' You stop for a little while, and are glad to escape even for a minute from the overwhelming smell of cheese and garlic which rises from a precious basket your next neighbour has placed at your feet. All is perfect good humour, the invalid recovers, you mount once more, the driver sings stornelli in a loud ringing voice: the monk hands round his snuff-box: you sneeze, and all the company say ' Felicita'—and so on, till when you reach the walls of Rome, you are all the greatest friends in the world, and you shake hands all round when you part, amid a chorus of ' A rivederla, Signore!'
With regard to the best seasons for the excursions from Rome, those who reach Central Italy in October will find that month far the best for a tour in the Abruzzi, before the winter snows have set in. Avezzano, Carseoli, and Subiaco are beautiful in November, and their beauty is greatly enhanced by the tints of the vegetation, absence of which is much felt in spring, when the grand valley between Subiaco and Tivoli looks almost bare and colourless.
But during the winter months the shorter excursions may be pleasantly made from Rome in a carriage or on horseback, motor, or far better, on foot from one railway to another. The railways to Frascati, Tivoli, and Viterbo offer many delightful short excursions, and may always give a perfect country change of a few hours. In March, Alatri, Anagni, Cori, and Segni may be visited, with many other places in that district, but March is an uncertain month because 'Marzo 6 pazzo,' for it is the time, say Italians, 'when men did kill God.' For this reason every traveller should provide himself with an ' Indicatore,' containing the train-tables for going and returning. By this means, and arming himself with a map of the environs, or sectional maps of the district he purposes to visit, he can go whither he wills, at ease.
'A reverend meteorologist accounted for the cold in Lent, by saying that it was a mortification peculiar to the holy season, and would continue till Easter, because it was cold when Peter sate at the High Priest's fire on the eve of the Crucifixion.'—Forsyth.
In many parts of the Campagna the contadino will not so much as name March : it is always for him 'il mese accanto Aprile': an unnamable one. Has it anything to do with the death of Cassar?
But April is the pleasantest month of all, and then should be made the enchanting excursions to Soracte, Caprarola, and the Ciminian Hills—which may be extended, vid Montefiascone, to Orvieto, whence those who do not wish to return to Rome may continue their journey northward.
CHAPTER I OSTIA AND CASTEL FUSANO
(This excursion can easily be managed in the day. It is miles by road: two horses, 25-30 lire. Provisions must be taken, as there is no inn at Ostia, and visitors to Castel Fusano must provide themselves the day before with an Order. Two hours do not suflico to see Ostia; nevertheless, as much time as possible should be given to Castel Fus:ino if shown. It is now a royal hunting-box.)
IT was in the freshness of an early morning of brilliant sunshine, that we drove out of the old crumbling Ostian gate, now Porta S. Paolo, which Belisarius built, and whereby Totila and Genseric entered Rome, and passed the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, which for over nineteen hundred years has cast its pointed shadow over the turfy slopes, where foreign Christians, gathered from so many distant lands, now sleep in Christ. This pyramid (though not the walls) must have seen S. Paul as he was led to execution, and it may be considered as 'the sole surviving witness of his martyrdom.' A little further and we pass the 'Chapel of the Farewell,' which marks the site of his legendary leave-taking with S. Peter, and is adorned with a bas-relief of the two aged martyrs embracing for the last time, and inscriptions of the words they are reported to have spoken to one another. Then (2 kil.) we reach the great basilica, once surrounded by the fortified village of Joannopolis (made by John VIII., A.D. 880), but now standing alone in solitary abandonment, even the monks, who scantily occupy its adjoining convent, being obliged to flee before the summer malaria. Externally, the rebuilt church has no features of age or grandeur.
Soon after passing the Basilica, the Via Laurentina strikes off to the left, and another road leading direct among low hills to Tre Fontane. After the sixth kil., the Rio Petroso brings down the out-flow of the Alban Lake. Near this a road branches off to Castel Porziano.
Beyond S. Paolo, and indeed most of the way from thence to Ostia, the road was once bordered with villas and warehouses, but now there are only a few cottages in the whole distance, which is bare and solemn. It leads through the monotonous valley of the Tiber, where grand slow-moving buoi feed amid the pastures which are white with jonquils. Here and there a bit of tufa rock crops up crested with gnarled ilex and laurustinus. A Roman (republican) viaduct called Ponte della Rifolta, which crosses the Fossa di Malafede, is passed after the twelfth kil. At length, on mounting a slight hill, we gain a wide view over the pale-blue mosquito-haunted marshes, called Campo-morto, to the shining sea, and almost immediately we enter a thin forest of brushwood—Macchia di Ostia—chiefly myrtle and phillyrea, from which we only emerge as we reach the narrow causeway above the marsh-lands leading to Ostia itself. It is a strange scene, and upon a small scale not unlike the approach to Mantua. At kil. 17, we near the area lately reclaimed by a colony of Ravennese Socialists, which brings us along to the canal, Allacciante del Dragoncello. On either side formerly stretched the still waters of the lagoon, called the Stagno, waving with tall reeds rustling mournfully in the wind, and white with floating ranunculus. To the left, an undulant outline of dark pine-tops marks the forest of Fusano; to the right we see the tower of Porto, the cathedral of Hippolytus, and the tall campanile which watches over the lonely Isola Sacra, that place where, with a feeling fitting the mysterious sadness of the spot, Dante makes souls wait to be ferried over into purgatory. Yet here with gay ceremony in presence of a Consul and the Prefect of Rome used to be celebrated the Festival of Castor and Pollux. Large sea-birds swoop over the empty expanse. In front the fifteenth century castle of the Bishop of Ostia rises massive and grey against the sky-line. As we approach, it increases in grandeur, and its huge machicolations and massive bastions become fascinating. The desolate causeway is now peopled with marble figures; heroes standing armless by the wayside, ladies reposing headless amid the luxuriant thistle-growth. Across the gleaming water we descry the faint snowy peaks of the Leonessa. On each sandbank, rising above the Stagno, are works connected with the salt-pans founded by Ancus Martius, twenty-five centuries ago, and still working. They have always been important, as is evidenced by the name of one of the gates of Rome, the Porta Salaria, through which the inhabitants of the Sabina passed with their purchases of Ostian salt.
Every artist will sketch the Castle of Ostia, and will remember, as he works, that Raffaelle sketched it long ago, and that, from his sketch, Giovanni da Udine painted it in the background of his grand fresco of the victory over the Saracens, in the Stanza of the Incendio del Borgo in the Vatican, for here the enemy who had totally destroyed the ancient town were as totally defeated in the reign of Leo IV. (a.d. 847-856). Procopius in the sixth century had written of Ostia as ' a city nearly overthrown.' The present town is but a fortified hamlet, built by Gregory IV. (844), and originally called by him Gregoriopolis. It was completely wrecked by the Saracens in 846, who carried off the treasures from the tombs of the apostles. Leo IV. a little later assembled a fleet, and encountering the foe off Ostia effectually defeated them. Nevertheless, the wholesome fear of them caused this same pontiff to fortify the Vatican. In the fifteenth century Cardinal d'Estouteville employed Sangallo, who lived here for two years, in building the moated