網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

E VENING A T SEGNI. 247

It is most amusing to see the return of the country-people at sunset when they return home from their fields, thousands

[graphic][merged small]

at a time, streaming along the terrace in front of the gateway, and up the steep streets into the upper town, each accompanied by his domestic animals—his donkeys, his goats, or his pet pigs, which come frisking behind their masters in the most diverting manner, for all share their homes with them. Then the whole street is blocked up for a time, and the cries, the shouts, the braying, the barking, and, above all, the squeaking and grunting, bafrle all description.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE HERNICAN HILLS—FERENTINO, ALATRI, AND ANAGNI.

HIS is one of the most interesting excursions near Rome, and is perhaps the one which is least known, though it is now rendered very easy by the railway. To accomplish it, one must leave Rome by the first train at eight A.m., and it must be remembered, that that train alone is met by the omnibus from Segni, Anagni, Ferentino, and other places on the route, At Ferentino. Dut distant several miles from the

railway; and that if any other train is chosen, the traveller will find himself deposited at a small country station in a desolate district, without any further means of progress. For the same reason it will be best to visit the nearest places first, taking up the same train at the different stations. Any one who is delicate about food, had better take it with them from Rome, or at any rate some tea and coffee. Meat can scarcely ever be obtained in the mountain towns, but eggs, EARLY MORNING IN THE CAMPAGNA.

[graphic]

249

goats' milk, and excellent coarse bread are always to be found there, and often macaroni also, with the thin sour wine of the hill districts. The inns are mere taverns, often approached by filthy alleys, but the people are always civil, the linen clean, and the beds sufficiently comfortable to be appreciated by a tired traveller, whose appetite, strengthened by the fresh mountain air, will also be quite ready for the humble fare of the place. The charges are those of an Italy unspoilt by English and Americans; one franc for bed, two francs for dinner, and forty centimes for breakfast, are not unusual prices. It is quite unnecessary to bargain, and will only create surprise and discomfort.

Those who have not been accustomed to it in Rome, will learn on this excursion how much beauty and pleasure are lost by want of early rising. The most delicate hues and shadows do not last for many hours after sunrise. When we have emerged from the unfinished station, and traversed the vineyards and kitchen-gardens within the walls of Rome, we are astonished by the colouring of the pale pink precipices in the familiar range of the Sabina, as they melt into a silver haze. Here and there a projecting cliff can be distinguished, in the rest all form is lost in colour; Monticelli and S. Angelo glitter on their hill-tops, and the long flat lines of the Campagna are tinged with peacock hues, as the blue cloud-shadows flit across them. In the foreground the rank vegetation of thistles, marigolds, and lupins, grows together so vigorously, that you seem to see them sucking their strong life out of the rich brown earth. On the other side, we have first the striding aqueducts, tinged on their inner edge by the dazzling sunlight, and then the long line of ruined tombs, which traces out the Appian Way against the low-lying horizon. Soon the train rushes across the sepulchral road of so many memories, and over the stones which we know were once trodden by the sandalled feet of St. Paul,—and so into the upland, to olive-gardens, whose silvery stems glisten against the brilliant green of the young corn, to dark cypress groves and pine-trees on the edge of terraced villas, and to fields divided by hedges of the graceful Spina Christi, the hallowed plant, said to have been brought to Italy by the returning crusaders, and to have come from the seed of the tree on Calvary, whence the sacred crown was woven. Thus we wind round the base of the green slopes encircling Monte Cavo, from which Castel Gandolfo looks down upon the Alban lake, and reach the station of Albano. Beyond this, upon the right, we overlook a plain historical with the sites of Pratica, Ardea, Antium, and Astura, to a wide expanse of blue sea. On the left Civita Lavinia rises with its tower on a fortified height; then Velletri with its orange roofs and wooded hills riven into gulfs of verdure; and then we enter a wilder and less wooded country, the valley of the Sacco— a plain alternately narrow and wide; a very definite plain indeed, closed in by the Hernican hills on one side, and the Volscian mountains on the other, which rise abruptly out of it with rocky buttresses.

An omnibus met us at the Fe entino station, and took us the three miles up into the town, through a country where the most remarkable feature was the faggots, stacked high up in the maple-trees, pollarded for the purpose.

We found tolerable rooms at the little inn, and almost immediately set off in the omnibus again for Alatri. It is a long drive (much longer than Murray describes) of about two hours; you skirt the base of the Hernican mountains, and cross many running streams:

ALATRI.

"Roscida rivis Hernica Saxa colunt."

AEn. vii. 683.

You are beginning to wonder where Alatri can be, when you see its huge Cyclopean walls rising against the sky at the end of a valley upon the left, and forming a terrace fit for Titans to walk upon, an architectural Stonehenge. The modem road winds into the town by a gradual ascent. The ancient approach is the earliest instance of a cordonnata, a hill-side broken by steps, such as the approach to the Roman Capitol. The streets are full of mediaeval houses, with gothic windows and loggias; and the two ancient churches have each a fine rose-window in the west front. But towering high above the buildings of all later ages are the Cyclopean walls of the Pelasgic city, forming a quadrangle, and quite perfect, as if they were finished yesterday: for though the stones are fitted together without cement, each is like a mass of rock, and the arched form of their fitting adds to their firmness. One of the ancient gates remains under a single horizontal stone measuring eighteen feet by nine. The figure of the Pelasgic god Priapus is repeatedly sculptured on the walls, and it has long been a semi-religious custom for the inhabitants to go out en masse to mutilate it on Easter Monday. The place is mentioned by Plautus, under the Greek form AXdrpior: Strabo calls it AXirpiov.

"Alatri, like Ferentino, was surrounded with walls, but the circle round the town has been almost entirely destroyed, and only the walls of the citadel remain, an astonishing monument of that period of civilization, and without parallel amongst the towns of Latium, so that to see so wonderful, so unparalleled a work, which may be compared with the buildings of Egypt, is well worth a fatiguing day's journey.

"The old citadel of Alatri (it is now called ' Civita '—the town, by itself) occupies the highest point in the place, and is now the site of the cathedral, for here, as at Ferentino, the bishopric has nestled within the

« 上一頁繼續 »