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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE,

THE BATHS OF LUCCA.

BY FLORENTIA.

These grey majestic cliffs that tower to heaven-
These glimmering glades and open chesnut groves
That echo to the heifer's wandering bell
Or woodman's axe, or steersman's song beneath,
Who loves not ?

I.

The Outward and Visible of the Villages of Ponte a Serraglio, Bagni Caldi, and

the Villa. WHEN I first arrived at the Bagni di Lucca the heat had become so intense that one actually expected to see the mountains smoking under its rays. It was the first summer I had passed in Italy, and I was quite astonished at the climate. Florence was uninhabitable-burning fiery heat drove one from the streets, where the smells from the continual drought and parching atmosphere had become quite overwhelming; while in-doors the oppressive want of air was suffocating: On arriving, one superb afternoon in the month of June, at the Bagni, I thought myself positively in a terrestrial paradise, everything was so cool and shady, with the most luxuriant mantle of emerald green spread over the mountains and the valleys. Beyond lay woods refreshing to the eye (fatigued and weakened by the glare of the plains, and the reflection of dusty streets), while the delicious murmuring of rivers, streams, and waterfalls lulled every sense in a feeling of dreamy repose. It was positively delicious, I rejoiced at my former sufferings in Lombardy and Florence, where I had been wellnigh baked alive, so much did I revel in the force of the contrast.

As the road from Lucca winds along the valley of the Serchio, close to the banks of that impetuous river-penetrating into the beautiful chesnut woods that line the entire range of mountain heights-a sense of exquisite beauty steals over one quite impossible to describe with mere words. Even the pencil would be at fault. The rich luxuriance of the olive woods around Lucca, rejoicing in the hottest rays of the sun, gradually changes, as one ascends the deep gorges of the Apennines, into the primeval forest, suggesting every romantic, wild, and extraordinary adventure the most harrowing romance ever imaged. For fifteen miles the road ascends the valley amid the most enchanting scenes of beauty. Vines festooned from tree to tree give to the country the appearance of interminable sylvan halls prepared for some festive rejoicing-one great ball-room, as it were, carpeted with the greenest grass, overshadowed by trees, that in long lines descend from the heights, over

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spreading the more cultivated patches on both sides. Mountains are tossed about in the most fantastic and picturesque confusion, now entirely shutting in the valley, and apparently forbidding all further progress, now opening into spacious glades and clearings; while the river, ever and anon spreading its waters, assumes all the appearance of an inland lake. Here and there dark groups

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cypress lend a sterner character to scenery of the softest beauty, while huge blocks of reddish stone relieve the perpetual green of the fertile mountains—their deep sides gorged and indented by the marks of streams and cascades, wrinkling their hoary fronts, as it were, with the time-marks of ages, save where the flowers and shrubs, springing from the crevices, clothe with rich colours their ancient sides, and garland the frowning masses in harmonious unison with the garden-like character of the whole scene. Here were the myrtle flowers, like snow-flakes, peeping out from the dark waxy leaves; the red and white oleander; the gorgeous crimson of the pomegranate; the pink everlasting pea, banging in tangled clusters, and the white clematis running wild over the face of the rocks.

Advancing up the valley within about three miles of the Bagni, the town of Borgo appears on the opposite side of the river, and the marvellous bridge of the Maddalena, or Ponte del Diavolo-positively suspended in mid-air-spans the Serchio, that boils and foams over the rocks beneath. This bridge is a great feature in the landscape, and excites the utmost wonder from its extraordinary altitude, the central arch being raised sixty feet above the water. From this point the road continues to wind along the base of lofty forest-covered mountains, penetrating deeper and deeper into the bosom of the Apennines. A delicious coolness already tempers the former heat as the road plunges deeper among the surrounding woods. In front the heights appear to unite in a sort of basin, entirely shutting in the valley. The road is on the very edge of the river, artificially supported on a terraced embankment against the bluff sides of the rocks descending to the edge. The river Serchio, whose course has been hitherto followed, now turns off to the left up a broad and magnificent valley extending into the Lombard plains, bordered by lovely mountains on either side terminating in lofty peaks and precipitous rocks, marking the summits of La Pagna and the range of the Carrara mountains, while from the right flows down the Lima, to meet the rival soon destined to engulf it, at a point just visible, where “the meeting of the waters” takes place. Instead of the Serchio, the road now follows the course of the Lima, a much smaller river, bearing all the marks of a mountain torrent in its unequal depth, now just covering the stones, now forming deep eddies and pools under the rocky banks, fringed with feathering trees. The valley narrows extremely--precipitous mountains rise on either hand, ending in the white and calcined summit of Prato Fiorito, which encloses the prospect in a kind of horse-shoe.

It is precisely when you cannot imagine where you are going, that one of the villages of the Bagni appears very opportunely to solve the mystery, Situated at a considerable elevation on the opposite mountain, and embosomed in the bright green of the chesnut-covered heights that surround it, stand a cluster of white houses shaded by acacia woods. Meanwhile our road-skirted by vineyards and gardens, beyond which, through chasms in the woods, numerous streams come rushing down in

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pretty waterfalls-rapidly approaches the other village of Ponte a Serraglio, so called from the bridge, whose single arch crosses the Lima, and affords a convenient lounge for all possible grades of idlers. Now we are rattling through the well-paved streets of the little Borgo, something between a village and small country town, most beautifully situated on either side of the river ; the houses suspended, as it were, over the rocky banks, and shut in on all sides by lovely mountains. There is nothing more enchanting than the view from the bridge: the mountains, terraced near their base with luxuriant vineyards, shoot upwards in the most harmonious lines, the summits mantling with chesnut forests, giving a charming softness to their forms ; while valleys open in different directions, revealing fresh and apparently never-ending scenes of the same romantic beauty.

Ponte a Serraglio, situated midway between the two other villages lying right and left of Bagni Caldi and the Villa, is the central point of the Bagni di Lucca ; and although not itself containing any mineral spring, is principally preferred as a residence from its greater convenience. Here the utmost coolness to be found in Italy may be enjoyed during the months of July and August, as the sun disappears full two hours earlier than elsewhere. From the extreme height of the mountains and the narrowness of the valley, mosquitoes are unknown; while the rushing Lima carries off all damp or unwholesome exhalations in its rapid current, cools the atmosphere, and delights the ear with its never-ending murmur.

A propos, it is the noisiest river I know; perhaps the echoes of the mountains tend to increase this most agreeable quality on a sultry day, but if I lived on its immediate banks, I really think I never should be rightly awake, so lulling is the sound as it rushes over the rocks.

The baths lie at an elevation of 555 feet above the level of the neighbouring Mediterranean, and the heat never exceeds eighty degrees of Fahrenheit, which, added to the shortness of the time that old Sol forces his rays over the overshadowing mountains, renders it a place adapted beyond all others to dream away a delicious Italian summer in a luxurious sort of existence exceedingly like Elysium. There is a curious mixture of the freedom of a country life with the restraints of the most aristocratic exclusiveness; a union, too, of luxury with simplicity in expenditure and appearance most paradoxical

. Standing on the Ponte, the most magnificent equipages roll by with all the pomp and circumstance of liveried servants and splendid horses worthy of Hyde Park, while parties of ladies appear mounted on donkeys, wearing large umbrella straw-hats, and princes and peasants lounge and smoke pell-mell together, not one whit better dressed than each other; indeed, as the inhabitants of the Bagni are generally a handsome race, the peasants decidedly have the best of it.

In that portion of the Ponte village first approached there is a large and handsome hotel, belonging to Pagnini, the great hotel-keeper of the Bagni

, a sort of deputy grand-duke, far more useful and estimable than the usual Simon Pure, whom no one can endure. Various shops, among which is an English store, where everything is to be purchased, are found on this side, together with an excellent livery-stable from Florence, where capital riding-horses and carriages may be hired" for a consideration.” But the other side of the bridge is decidedly the court-end,

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and it is on this fertile ground that all the scandal and gossip, for which the Ponte is so renowned, arises. Here is the Piazza, a small space beside the river, bounded on one side by the post-office and the caffè, under whose verandah I would be afraid to tell what thousands of reputations have been sacrificed to the reigning goddess of mischief, Pandora, whose box is always in a perpetual state of opening in these regions. The remaining houses adjoining the caffè are let as lodgings at very exorbitant prices, considering their size and the rate of expenditure in Italy. On the next side appears the second hotel belonging to Pagnini, a lofty house of many stories, where charming apartments may be had at moderate prices. On the fourth and remaining side appears the mysterious form of the Ponte,-a spot I afterwards learnt never to pass without a shudder, such an abomination of scandal lingers about it; where every step is watched, every look scanned, even one's clothes canvassed, and the very form and fashion of one's coiffure made the subject of minute and earnest discussion. I proposed that a certain witty friend of mine-Mr. M‘Dermott-in imitation of Ruskin, should write the history of the stones of that bridge, and make each relate the dreadful tales they had heard in successive seasons ; but even he, the chief, par excellence, of cancan and gossip, professed his inability for such an overwhelming task. So the river flows on, and the Ponte stands without a chronicler courageous enough to call up the shades of those who have suffered unknown grief and mortification, exile and moral death, on that spot.

But to proceed with the outward and visible of the Bagni. Turning to the left, along the bank of the river, a row of clean, white houses conducts one to the other hotel belonging to Pagnini, the Europa, where he himself resides. The very mention of the house reminds me of his fat, punchy person, his red, jocund face and laughing eye, standing in the doorway, with a kindly word to all passers by, from the grand duchess in her carriage and four, to the poorest cripple begging a quattrino. All the world loves old Pagnini, who is the very soul of the Bagni, and keeps things and people together in a wonderful way. He knows everybody and everything; and can do anything, from lending you 1001. to finding the quietest donkey for a sick child. His good-nature and obligingness are genuine and universal ; decidedly, when we all have our due, he will be created Deputy Grand-Duke of the Bagni di Lucca. It is at this hotel the great table d'hôte is held, where all the beau monde from the two other hotels collect as the clock strikes five, and are to be seen slowly approaching from all sides, with umbrellas and large hats, in recherché morning toilets, to taste the good things awaiting them, and make sarcastic observations on their neighbours' manners and deportment, to be carefully digested at home into formidable tales of scandal, duly to be reported on the morrow at the caffè or the Ponte.

Immediately adjoining the Europa Hotel, raised on a handsome platform, ascended by a double flight of steps, appears the Casino Reale, where the balls are held. It is an elegant building of dazzling whiteness, consisting of a single story, supported by columns, with a large portico ; spacious windows, with bright green jalousies, giving it a very cheerful appearance. It is extremely well laid out within, and during the government of the late Duke of Lucca some splendid entertainments took place

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here ; but no gambling is allowed under the present régime. Beyond are knots of villas beside the river, let to visitors ; on the slope of the hill is an hospital and chapel, erected by Prince Demidoff; while above are the baths of the Docce Basse, where patients rejoice in marble baths and mineral water boiling hot. There are altogether ten mineral springs at the various points, with pump-rooms, as we call them, at hand, the waters being composed of carbonic acid gas, sulphate of lime, magnesia, alumine, potash, muriate of soda, and oxide of iron. But, spite of this formidable array of ingredients, they are, medicinally, but little esteemed, either internally or externally, and the Bagni owe their celebrity not to the waters, but to the lovely scenery amidst which the waters spring. Dr. C. is appointed physician to the baths by the court, but as far as the visitors are concerned his office is almost a sinecure.

Above, on a lofty eminence bordering the valley on one side, and shaded by charming woods, lies the village of the Bagni Caldi, much smaller than the Ponte, and not so favourite a situation on account of the tremendous hill on which it stands. It is approached by a zig-zag road running at the back of the Europa and the Casino, extremely shady and agreeable on a hot day. At the Bagni Caldi the court resides, often for four months at a time, in a great ugly building, absurdly small for their requirements, but into which they manage to cram, on account of the fine view it commands of three distinct valleys. Nothing, indeed, can be more lovely than the prospect from the balcony running along the front of the palace, on which the grand duchess, unless driving out, is almost always to be seen with her children. In the rear of this temporary palace are a few houses to be let, and another pump-room, with baths prepared for the duchess.

We will now return to the Piazza at Ponte a Serraglio, and, turning to the right hand, describe the geography of that direction. There are two roads that lead to the Villa, each equally pretty, on either side of the river; but the shortest is along the same bank on which we are now standing, and is generally towards evening thronged with pedestrians and carriages. The distance may be a mile and a half, along a capital road, bordered by lovely trees covered with feathering red flowers, strewing the path with blossoms. I never saw anything more beautiful than these trees, but what they are called in English I do not know. On the left, a steep bank rises abruptly from the road, terraced with vineyards to the height of several hundred feet. Below rushes the river, broader here and more rocky than at the Ponte; a low parapet

wall protects

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passers by, looking over which, on the opposite bank rise the wooded heights on whose summit stands Lugliano. Deep valleys separate the line of mountains winding among the lower hills, down which lovely rivulets and streams come pouring through romantic woody glens, dancing over the masses of rock that obstruct their passage, all seeking the Lima, the receiver of these tributary streams, Each secluded valley is in itself a study of beautiful scenery, soft, harmonious in outline, and exquisitely green and fresh; but among the multitude of picturesque points of view many verdant passes are positively overlooked, from the impossibility of exploring each particular spot in these enchanting regions.

I never shall forget, the first evening I arrived at the Bagni, wandering along this very road. I was freshly arrived from England,

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