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Vous croiriez peut-fitre, d'apres cette description, qu'il n'y a rien de plus affreux que les campagnes romaines"; vous vous tromperiez beaucoup: elles ont une inconcevable grandeur."—Chateaubriand.
In this vast undulating plain, generally occupying some green knoll, washed by a brook at its base, are the sites of many an ancient Latin town which was alternately the enemy and the ally of Rome. Sometimes, as in the case of Ostia, a whole city, with its paved streets, its narrow shops, and its equally miniature temples, has been laid bare. Sometimes, as at Veii, Gabii, and Tusculum, only a fragment of ruin, rising here and there above-ground, marks one of the principal buildings—a theatre or a temple. Often, as at Antemnae, Fidenae, Crustumerium, and Collatia, only the undulations of the turf attest where the city has been.
As we advance into the hills, where they were more easily protected, the ancient cities are far more perfect; at Tivoli are beautiful miniature temples of the ancient Tibur; at Sutri is its wonderful rock-hewn amphitheatre; at Aquino are noble remains both of arches and temples; at Cori are the threefold walls which gird, and the rock temples which crown, its hill top.
Further still from the capital, where the classical buildings were always less magnificent, glorious mediaeval remains attest the presence of Popes who made the hill-towns the fortified residence of their troubled reigns. The massive remains of the Papal palaces of Anagni, Viterbo, and Orvieto, with the glorious churches of those towns; the gothic palace of Cardinal Vitelleschi at Corneto; the convents of Monte Cassino, Subiaco, Farfa, Grotta Ferrata, Trisulti, Casamari, and Fossanuova; the castles and towers of Tivoli, Bracciano, Ostia, Celano, Avezzano, Borghetto, and
Bolsena; the walls of Civita Lavinia and Nepi,—attest the love and knowledge of art and beauty which flourished in those dark ages.
As^we go further from Rome, too, new interests are suggested by the pelasgic and cyclopean remains at Palestrina, Cori, Norba, Segni, Alatri, and Arpino, or by the marvellous Etruscan discoveries of Cervetri, Cometo, Vulci, Norchia, and Bieda.
"The excursions in the neighbourhood of Rome are charming, and would be full of interest if it were only for the changing views they afford of the wild Campagna. But every inch of ground, in every direction, is rich in associations, and in natural beauties. There is Albano, with its lovely lake and wooded shore, and with its wine, that certainly has not improved since the days of Horace, and in these times hardly justifies his panegyric. There is squalid Tivoli, with the river Anio, diverted from its course, and plunging down, headlong, some eighty feet in search of it. With its picturesque Temple of the Sibyl, perched high on a crag; its minor waterfalls glancing and sparkling in the sun; and one good cavern yawning darkly, where the river takes a fearful plunge and shoots on, low down under beetling rocks. There, too, is the Villa d'Este, deserted and decaying among groves of melancholy pine and cypress trees, where it seems to lie in state. Then, there is Frascati, and, on the steep above it, the ruins of Tusculum, where Cicero lived, and wrote, and adorned his favourite house (some fragments of it may yet be seen there), and where Cato was born. We saw its rained amphitheatre on a grey dull day, when a shrill March wind was blowing, and when the scattered stones of the old city lay strewn about the lonely eminence, as desolate and dead as the ashes of a long-extinguished fire."—Dickens. ~- - $
"Nothing can be more rich and varied, with every kind of beauty, than the Campagna of Rome—sometimes, as around Ostia, flat as an American prairie, with miles of canni and reeds rustling in the wind, fields of exquisite feathery grasses waving to and fro, and forests of tall golden-trunked stone-pines poising their spreading umbrellas of rich green high in the air, and weaving a murmurous roof against the sun; sometimes drear, mysterious, and melancholy, as in the desolate stretches between Civita Vecchia and Rome, with lonely hollows and hills without a habitation, where sheep and oxen feed, and the wind roams over treeless and deserted slopes, and silence makes its home ; sometimes rolling like an inland sea whose waves have suddenly been checked and stiffened, green with grass, golden with grain, and gracious with myriads of wild flowers, where scarlet poppies blaze over acres and acres, and pink-frilled daisies cover the vast meadows, and pendant vines shroud the picturesque ruins of antique villas, aqueducts, and tombs, or droop from mediaeval towers and fortresses.
"Such is the aspect of the Agro Romano, or southern portion of the-Campagna extending between Rome and Albano. It is a picture wherever you go. The land, which is of deep rich loam that repays a hundred-fold the least toil of the farmer, does not wait for the help of man, but bursts into spontaneous vegetation and everywhere laughs into flowers. Here is pasturage for millions of cattle, and grain fields for a continent, that now in wild untutored beauty bask in the Italian sun, crying shame on their neglectful owners. Over these long unfenced slopes one may gallop on horseback for miles without let or hindrance, through meadows of green smoothness on fire with scarlet poppies— over hills crowned with ruins that insist on being painted, so exquisite are they in form and colour, with their background of purple mountains—down valleys of pastoral quiet, where great tufa caves open into subterranean galleries leading beyond human ken; or one may linger in lovely secluded groves of ilexes and pines, or track the course of swift streams overhung by dipping willows, and swerving here and there through broken arches of antique bridges smothered in green; or wander through hedges heaped and toppling over with rich luxuriant foliage, twined together by wild vetches, honeysuckles, morning-glories, and every species of flowering vine; or sit beneath the sun-looped shadows of ivy-covered aqueducts, listening to the song of hundreds of larks far up in the air, and gazing through the lofty arches into wondrous deeps of violet-hued distances, or lazily watching flocks of white sheep as they cross the smooth slopes guarded by the faithful watch-dog. Everywhere are deep brown banks of potzolana earth which makes the strong Roman cement, and quarries of tufa and travertine with unexplored galleries and catacombs honey-combing for miles the whole Campagna. Dead generations lie under your feet wherever you tread. The place is haunted by ghosts that outnumber by myriads the living, and the air is filled with a tender sentiment and sadness which makes the beauty of the world about you more touching. You pick up among th"e ruins on every slope fragments of rich marbles that once encased the walls of luxurious villas. The contadino or shepherd offers you an old worn coin, on which you read the name of Casar, or a scarabaus which once adorned the finger of an Etruscan king, in whose dust he now grows his beans, or the broken head of an ancient jar in marble or terra-cotta, or a lacrymatory INTRODUCTORY.
of a martyred Christian, or a vase with the Etrurian red that now is lost, or an intaglio that perhaps has. sealed a love-letter a thousand years ago."—Story's Rota di Roma, i. 313.
From the unenclosed nature of the Campagna and the paucity of inhabitants, all the ancient land-marks are more easily traced here than in other parts of Italy.
"The hills of Rome are such as we rarely see in England, low in height but with steep and rocky sides. In early times the natural wood still remained in patches amidst the buildings, as at this day it still grows here and there on the green sides of the Monte Testaccio. Across the Tiber the ground rises to a greater height than that of the Roman hills, but its summit is a level unbroken line, while the heights, which opposite to Rome itself rise immediately from the river, under the names of Janiculus and Vaticanus, then sweep away to some distance from it, and return in their highest and boldest form at the Monte Mario, just above the Milvian bridge and the Flaminian road. Thus to the west the view is immediately bounded; but to the north and north-east the eye ranges over the low ground of the Campagna to the nearest line of Apennines, which closes up, as with a gigantic wall, all the Sabine, Latin, and Volscian lowlands, while over it are still distinctly to be seen the high summits of the central Apennines, covered with snow, even at this day, for more than six months in the year. South and south-west lies the wide plain of the Campagna; its level line succeeded by the equally level line of the sea, which can only be distinguished from it by the brighter light reflected from its waters. Eastward, after ten miles of plain, the view is bounded by the Alban Hills, a cluster of high bold points rising out of the Campagna, like Arran from the sea, on the highest of which, at nearly the same height with the summit of Helvellyn, stood the Temple of Jupiter Latiaris, the scene of the common worship of all the people of the Latin name. Immediately under this highest point lies the crater-like basin of the Alban lake; and on its nearer rim might be seen the trees of the grove of Ferentia, where the Latins held the great civil assemblies of their nation. Further to the north, on the edge of the Alban Hills looking towards Rome, was the town and citadel of Tusculum; and beyond this, a lower summit crowned with the walls and towers of Labicum seems to connect the Alban hills with the line of the Apennines just at the spot where the citadel of Praeneste, high up on the mountain side, marks the opening into the country of the Hernicans, and into the valleys of the streams that feed the Liris.
"Returning nearer to Rome, the lowland country of the Campagna is broken by long green swelling ridges, the ground rising and falling, as in the heath country of Surrey and Berkshire. The streams are dull and sluggish, but the hill-sides above them constantly break away into little rocky cliffs, where on every ledge the wild fig now strikes out its branches, and tufts of broom are clustering, but which in old times formed the natural strength of the citadels of the numerous cities of Latium. Except in these narrow dells, the present aspect of the country is all bare and desolate, with no trees nor any human habitation. But anciently, in the time of the early kings of Rome, it was full of independent cities, and in its population and the careful cultivation of its little garden-like farms, must have resembled the most flourishing parts of Normandy or the Netherlands."—Arnold's Hist, of Rome, vol. i., ch. iii.
Excursions from Rome have hitherto been usually limited to the Alban Hills and Tivoli, or at most Subiaco. Thus foreigners have lost not only enjoyment of much that is worth seeing, but the benefit of occasional draughts of pure mountain air, which would do much to keep off the fevers to which too many, who strictly confine themselves to the city-sights, are apt to fall victims.
You enter the Campagna and "the ancient dust and mouldiness of Rome, the dead atmosphere in which so many months are wasted, the hard pavements, the smell of ruin and decaying generations, the chill palaces, the convent bells, the heavy incense of altars, the life led in the dark narrow streets, among priests, soldiers, nobles, artists, and women; all the sense of these things rises from the consciousness like a cloud which has imperceptibly darkened over it."—Hawthorne.
In the Campagna, taken in its narrower sense, the Malaria is always sufficiently alarming to make it desirable to avoid lingering on its damp grass, and especially to hesitate about sketching in the sunset. Its growth is most mysterious, but it is certainly in no way due, as is often stated, to the misgovernment of the Popes.
"' Latifundia perdidere Italiam' (large farms were the ruin of Italy) is the expression of the elder Pliny; and in reference to this later period