網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

to appease the wrath of the gods for a pestilence then devastating the city, and that ludiones were sent for from Etruria, who acted to the sound of the pipe, in the Etruscan fashion.'

Returning a little, a path to the left leads under the old city. The tufa, glowing from the red and golden colour with which time has stained it, is half rock, and half masonry, the natural cliffs being surmounted by ranges of Etruscan walling, and the whole crested by stately mediaeval houses which follow every crevice of the natural formation, and occasionally, where more space is required, are bracketed out from it upon arches.

On the other side of the narrow ravine, the rocky barrier is still fringed with ilexes and perforated with tombs. A little path leads to the entrance of one of these, just beneath the villa and the old clipped garden of the Marchese Savorelli. Over the door is inscribed in Italian: —' Here stay thy step : the place is sacred to God, to the Virgin, and to the repose of the departed. Pray or pass on.' The interior is apparently formed by several tombs thrown together at a very early period of Christianity, to make a very long narrow church, of which the pavement, roof, pillars, and seats are all carved out of the living rock. From the ante-chapel or entrance tomb, still surrounded with its couches for the dead after the manner of Etruria, one looks down an avenue of low pillars green with damp, and separated from the aisles by rock-hewn seats, to the altar, beyond which, from an inner sanctuary, a light streams in upon the gloom. On the rock walls are mouldering frescoes—the Annunciation, the Salutation, the Last Supper; several saints, and a grand angel with a face raised in low relief. It is a touching sanctuary, which carries one back to the earliest times of Christian life more forcibly than the most celebrated of the Roman catacombs. The church is now called 'La Madonna del Porto,' and is still much frequented. The chapel beyond the altar had a traditional communication with the Roman catacombs, but it has been walled up now, in consequence of stories of persons having been lost there.

A ruin on the cliff near the Villa Savorelli is shown as the building in which Charlemagne stayed when he was on his way to Rome in the time of his 'great father' Adrian I. In a wood below is the Grotta d' Orlando, a cave to which the great hero of chivalrous romance is supposed to have been lured by the witcheries of a beautiful maiden of Sutri of whom he was enamoured, and where he was shut up by her. Another story says that the Sutri maiden was not the love but the mother of Orlando, and that the Paladin was born here.

In driving, we have to retrace our course for some distance, but it is. not more than two hours from Sutri to Nepi (crossing the high road to Rome), along the plain which is bounded by the beautiful Ciminian Hills, upon which Ronciglione and Caprarola gleam in the sunlight, and then through woods of oaks and deep lanes overhung with broom, golden in spring.

Nepi is the ancient Nepete. Its position is not higher than that of the surrounding plain, but it is cut off by deep ravines like Civita Castellana. At the Roman entrance to the town stands a most picturesque castle, with a double gateway. The machicolated towers hang over the edge of the cliff, against which rises an old mill, and, below, a waterfall sparkles and loses itself in a mass of luxuriant evergreens. To the right of this are some grand remains of ancient Etruscan wall, probably the same which were scaled by Camillus, when he came to avenge the desertion of the city from the Roman alliance to that of Etruria. The piazza has a handsome town-hall, with a large fountain and a wide portico, decorated with Roman altars and fragments of sculpture found in the neighbourhood. The cathedral has a fine campanile; its first bishop was S. Romanus, and tradition ascribes the foundation of the see to S. Peter. The gorge near the gate towards Civita Castellana is crossed by a bridge and by a double aqueduct built by Paul III. in the 16th century : a little rivulet tumbles over the cliffs below to a great depth.

(It is a drive of an hour and a half from Nepi to Civita Castellana. The road passes near the castle and Benedictine church of 5. Elia, the latter a very curious early Christian building, containing a number of frescoes very important in the history of early art, executed (probably in the ioth century) by the brothers Johannes and Stephanus and their

[graphic][merged small]

nephew Nicolaus of Rome, who have signed their names in the apsis, and who were men apparently accustomed to work in mosaics, to which these frescoes have a great resemblance.)

Returning to join the main road near Monterosi, which henceforward follows the ancient Via Cassia, at 22 miles from Rome, we reach Sette Vene, on the Via Cassia, where there is a large inn, and a small Etruscan bridge in good preservation.

At 18 miles from Rome we reach the post-house of Baccano, the ancient 'Ad Baccanas.' It is situated in the crater of a volcano, afterwards a lake, which was drained at very early times. Two miles further north lies Campagnano, a village with a few insignificant Etruscan and Roman remains. Hence a path runs eastward for five miles to Scrofano, which has many Etruscan tombs, and lies at the foot of the curious Monte Musino, which is most easily ascended from thence. The hill is conical, and is cut into a series of artificial terraces whose origin cannot be satisfactorily explained, unless this is the 'Oscum' mentioned by Festus, the sacred country retreat of the Roman augurs. Near the summit is a cave. The whole is crested by a wood which has been preserved intact by the superstition of the inhabitants of Scrofano, who believe that the felling of the trees would be followed by the death of the head of each family. On the top of the hill a treasure is supposed to be buried, and protected by demons, who would arouse a tempest were any attempt made to discover it. The view is very striking.

About 10 miles from Rome the Via Cassia reaches the dismal post-house of La Storta, where, in vetturino days, horses were changed for the last time before reaching the city. Madame de Genlis and the Duchesse de Chartres were upset here, close to the inn, as they were leaving Rome.

Just before reaching La Storta, a by-road to the left turns off to Veti. As we wind along the hill-sides, we see' below us the picturesque little mediaeval town of hola Farnese.

'From La Storta it is a mile and a half to Isola by the carriage road; but the visitor, on horse or foot, may save half a mile by taking a pathway across the downs. When Isola Famese comes into sight, let him halt awhile to admire the scene. A wide sweep of Campagna lies before him, in this part broken into ravines or nanow glens, which, by varying the lines of the landscape; redeem it from the monotony of a plain, and by patches of wood relieve it of its usual nakedness and sterility. On a steep cliff, about a mile distant, stands the village of Isola— a village in fact, but in appearance a large chateau, with a few outhouses around it. Behind it rises the long, swelling ground which once bore the walls, temples, and palaces of Veii, but is now a bare down, partly fringed with wood, and without a single habitation on its surface. At a few miles distance rises the conical tufted hill of Musino, the supposed scene of ancient rites, the Eleusis, the Delphi, it may be, of Etruria. The eye is then caught by a tree-crested mound or tumulus, standing in the plain beyond the site of the city; then it stretches away to the triple paps of the Monticelli, and to Tivoli, gleaming from the dark slopes behind; and then it rises and scans the majestic chain of Apennines, bounding the horizon with their dark-gray masses, and rests with delight on La Leonessa and other well-known giants of the Sabine range, all capped with snow.'—Dennis.

The fortress, which clings more than half-dismantled to the crumbling tufa-rock, was built by the barons of the Middle Ages, was constantly taken and retaken in the Orsini and Colonna feuds, and was eventually ruined by Caesar Borgia when he took it after a twelve days' siege.

Here we must leave our carriage and find and engage the custode who opens the painted tomb. A deep lane between high banks of tufa overhung by bay and ilex, leads into the ravine, where a brook called Fosso de' due Fossi (from the two little torrents, Storta and Pino, of which it is formed) tumbles over a steep rock into the chasm near an old mill, and rushes away down the glen to join the Crimera. The craggy hill-side is covered with luxuriant foliage, and snowdrifted with laurestinus-bloom in spring; the ground is carpeted with violets and blue and white wood-anemones. Beyond the mill, where we cross the brook upon steppingstones, a small gateway of mediaeval times, opening upon a green lawn overhanging the chasm, with the castle of Lsola crowning the opposite cliff, forms a subject dear to artists, and many are the picnics which meet on the turfy slope under the shade of the old cork trees.

From hence we may begin our explorations of the ancient city, and if we are to visit all its principal remains, it is no

« 上一頁繼續 »