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VOLCI (PONTE DEL ABBADIA).
(It is possible for those who wish to visit Void to find rooms at Montalto, not in the miserable inn, but in a private house. But those who are not greatly piessed for time will do better to return from Corneto to sleep at Civita Vecchia, and go by the first morning train to Montalto, whence it is a drive or walk of five miles to Volci.
Volci (Ponte del Abbadia) should only be visited in the winter or early spring. It is one of the most fever-stricken places in the whole country. A rough country cart is the only conveyance to be obtained at Montalto.)
SOON after leaving Corneto the railway crosses the little river Marta, close to the mouth of which, on its northern side, are some remains of Roman buildings, and a large arch of Etruscan masonry, with traces of a quay and port, which have been identified by Dennis* with Graviscae, the port of Tarquinii. The place is still as fraught with fever as in classical times, but its pine trees have disappeared.
"Inde Graviscaram fastigia rara videmus,
Rutilius, Ilin. i. 279.
A little south of this is the little malaria-stricken port of
• Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, v 393.
THE RIVER FIORA. 329
San Clementino, whence corn and salt are exported in large quantities. Here Gregory XL, brought from Avignon by the remonstrances of S. Catherine of Siena, landed Oct. 18, 1376, thus ending what was termed "the Babylonish captivity of the popedom."
At Montalto there is nothing to be seen. The dismal town stands on a hill around its castle about 1 ^ mile from the station, and is only remarkable as having given a Cardinal's title to Sixtus V., whose father, Peretto Peretti, a gardener, had lived there in the utmost poverty, till driven by his debts to Fermo, shortly before the birth of the future Pope.
A most desolate track leads from Montalto to Ponte del Abbadia*, exposed to every wind, and, when we visited it in March, to driving snow storms. The country is piteously bare, and owing to the prevalence of malaria is entirely uninhabited. A tumulus called the Cucumella is the only feature which breaks the bare outline of the treeless moors.
This dismal prelude makes the transition all the more striking, when a path, turning down a hollow to the right, leads one into the beautiful ravine of the sparkling river Fiora, which forces its way through a rocky chasm overhung with a perfect wealth of ilex, arbutus, and bay, and is one of the most beautiful streams in Italy. The views near the bridge no one will omit, but there is a most lovely spot about a mile lower down the river called " II Pelago" (where an Etruscan bridge is said once to have existed), at which the river forms a deep rocky pool overhung by rocks and evergreens, which should also be visited, and, if possible, be painted.
Hence an ill-defined path along the edge of the cliffs leads to the Ponte del Abbadia, which is one of the most glorious scenes in this land of beauty. A gigantic bridge spans the river at a height of ninety-six feet, striding from one great orange-coloured cliff to another by a single mighty arch, while on the other side, close to the bridge, rises a most picturesque mediaeval castle with a tall square * tower. From bridge and rocks alike, hang stupendous masses of stalactites, often twenty feet in length, giving a most weird character to the scene, and formed by many centuries of dripping water, "charged with tartaric matter." The whole view is filled with colour; the smoke of the large fires which the guards at the castle burn to keep off the malaria adds to the effect, and the utter desolation of the surrounding country only renders it more impressive.
"The bridge is of different dates. It has three projecting piers of red tufo, much weather-worn, which are obviously of earlier construction than the neat and harder nenfro masonry which encases them. Both are in the same emplecton style, like the walls of Sutri, Nepi, and Fal
• Not round, as in the engraving in Dennis' book.
leri; and the nenfro portion is, in part, rusticated. The return-facing of the arch, however, is of travertine, and may with certainty be referred to that people, as it possesses features in common with bridges of undoubted Roman origin—the Ponte d'Augusto at Narni, and the celebrated Pont du Gard. The aqueduct, also (which occupied the parapet of the bridge), I take to be Roman, simply because it passes over arches of that construction; for the skill of the Etruscans in hydraulics is so well attested, as to make it highly probable that to them were the Romans indebted for that description of structure. The tufo buttresses are very probably Etruscan, for they are evidently the piers of the original bridge. The nenfro and travertine portions are, in any case, of Roman times, whatever be the antiquity of the tufo piers."—Dennis.
Scarcely anything is known of the history of Void, beyond the fact of the defeat and conquest of its people, together with those of Volsinii, in B. C. 280, by the Roman Consul Titus Coruncanius. The city, however, was not destroyed then, and continued to exist in imperial times, as is proved by inscriptions which have been found there, including even some early Christian epitaphs. Now, however, scarcely a trace of the ancient city remains, and only a few fragments of wall, of imperial date, stand here and there above-ground on the table-land which it once occupied upon the right bank of the Fiora, and which is still known as the " Pian di Voce."
Comparatively little also is now to be seen in the famous Necropolis of Volci, which occupied the summits of the cliffs on both sides of the Fiora about a mile below the Ponte del Abbadia, for though they are absolutely inexhaustible in the treasures they have afforded and continue to afford, the proprietors of the soil are so greedy of space, that a sepulchre is no sooner rifled of its contents, than it is filled up again. The tombs were first discovered by the earth falling in when some men were ploughing, in 1828. After that, Lucien Bonaparte, who had bought the Principality of Canino on the advice of Pius VII., made considerable scavi, appropriating the riches they afforded, and these excavations were afterwards continued by his family.
The points best worth visiting are on the left bank of the Fiora. Here is the great sepulchral mound of La Cucunulla, 200 feet in diameter and above 40 feet high, once encircled by a wall of masonry. It was opened in 1S29, but has been closed again. Two towers, one round and the other square, have been disclosed in the upper part of the mound, and it is supposed that there may have been once five of these towers on cones, as in the tomb of Aruns at Albano. Beneath the towers were found two chambers approached by long passages, guarded by the sphinxes which are now at Musignano.
Very near this is a walled tumulus called La Rotonda; and beyond it, near the Fiora, another smaller mound, called La Cucumelletta, which was opened in 1832. Near these an enormous tomb was discovered in 1857, consisting of a principal chamber with a pyramidal roof, surrounded by a series of smaller crypts, and approached by a passage 100 feet long. The principal tomb is surrounded by paintings: —Achilles sacrificing to the Manes of Patroclus: Ajax and Cassandra at the altar of Minerva: Masarna releasing Cables Vibenna from his bonds, and other subjects, in good preservation. A tomb, opened in 1840, and reclosed, called the "Grotta d' Iside," was very curious, as containing painted ostrich-eggs, vases, and ointment pots decorated with figures of Isis, all evidently of Egyptian origin, as well as the effigies of the two ladies in whose honour it was constructed, one a miniature full-length marble figure, the other a bronze bust . On the opposite side of the Fiora, a tumulus, opened by