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by Sylla, which rose upon terraces, tier above tier, occupying the whole space now filled by the town, and perhaps the largest building in Italy.
Behind Palestrina the mountain rises abruptly, bare and arid, and the town itself stands very high. Virgil alludes to the cool climate of Praeneste :—
"Quique altum Prceneste viri, quique arva Gabinae
There is not much to be seen in the lower town. In the piazza are some pillars of the Temple of Fortune built into a wall, and the small ugly Cathedral, which has a low but graceful gothic campanile. In the highest part of the town is the Palazzo Barberini, of which the wing is used as a barrack, but which is for the most part as deserted and forlorn a specimen of an old Italian palace, once exceedingly mag
Sylla, and is approached by curved staircases enclosing an old well. The halls on the ground-floor are painted by the Zuccheri, but Apollo with his dove-chariot, and Juno with her peacocks, are fading with the damp which streams from the walls. We asked the old housekeeper if she did not suffer from it. "Ah, yes," she said, "all my hair has come off, and all my teeth have fallen out; for even when out of doors it is a caldoferoce, here within it is fresco assai." She said she was a forestiera, for she came from Frescati, and though she had been here forty years, she could not accustom herself to the wickedness of the people,—" II mondo e bello, ma se fosse buono sarebbe meglio." On the upper floor is the famous mosaic, found amid the ruins of the Temple of Fortune, representing the joy of the people and the beasts of Egypt in the annual overflow of the Nile. It is like a dictionary of the manners and customs and people of the Egypt of its time. Priests and priestesses, warriors, fishermen, shepherds, and huntsmen are equally represented, with all the peculiar animals of the country, and its plants, besides its temples and houses. The mosaic was discovered in 1638 and it is quite perfect: the arms and the bees of the Barberini have been added in the corners. There is a grand view from the balcony of this room over the Volscian and Alban ranges, while the Hernican and Sabine hills are seen in profile.
"What is most remarkable in the palace of Palestrina is its incomparable situation on the height, where an ever-fresh and health-giving breeze blows, and whence the indwellers enjoy a view, whose beauty is indescribable. Here a great part of Latium lies spread out beneath the eyes on one side, and of Tuscany or the patrimony of S. Peter's on the other, a great and classic district, whence rise the Latin and Volscian mountains, between which a wide plain opens, reaching to the distant 5. MARIA BELLA VILLA. 277
glancing sea. There is the world-town Rome steeped in the mist; there stands the island-like Soracte; hard by rise the mighty chains of the Apennines; on the left, at their feet, is the deep beautiful valley of the Sacco, over which shine the gleaming hill-towns of Monte-Fortino and Segni; further are the heights of the Serra, and the airy chiefs of all these hills, whose varied forms lose themselves in the sunny atmosphere beyond Anagni and Ferentino. One looks upon these plains and hills, bedecked with towns and villages, of which most are rich in associations, and the early history of Rome, the story of the empire, or of the middle ages, comes back to one's recollection, and when one feels that Umbria, the Sabina, Latium, the Equian territory, the land of the Hernicans, Etruria, the Volscian country, the Alban hills, and the sea are united in one panorama, one appreciates the grandeur of this view. When a Colonna of the middle ages looked down from the windows of the old palace or castle, he might venture, as he gazed upon his possessions, to feel that he was the richest and mightiest chieftain in Latium."—Grego
The plain beneath the windows is so rich that it looks like one vast garden of fruit-trees, amongst which, about a mile from the town, near S. Maria della Villa (the name commemorating it), the remains of the immense villa of Hadrian may be discovered. They are little worth visiting, yet here the Braschi Antinous and other important statues have been found, and smaller antiquities are dug up daily. Madama Pastina, who lets the lodgings to strangers, has a collection of them, chiefly terra-cottas and small bronzes, which she sells at low prices. The little statuettes of Fortune suckling a child are very interesting.
The hill-side above Palestrina is so bare and the sun beats so pitilessly upon its white rocks, that it is best to put off the ascent till near sunset. It may be made on donkeys, but they are atrociously bad. We were obliged to dismiss ours; and when we reproached its owner for having brought it, he coolly said—" Yes, he knew that it was bad, and would certainly fall down, but he brought it because if a saddle was once put on it must be as much paid for as if it had been used. So few strangers came, that they must be taken ad
Street Scene, Palestrina.
vantage of." We did not wonder that so few came amongst this savage population. Every woman and child you meet, however well dressed they may be, rush at you with defiant shouts, insisting, not petitioning, "Signor, dammi un baiocc." From every window hands are outstretched. Stern-looking Sibyls scowl their demands at you, distaff in hand, upon their doorsteps. Dozens of ragged children yell and tumble over one another, and follow you for hours, dancing like frantic little demons, wherever you go. Some friends of ours ascended the mountain, followed by hampers well 5. PIETRO. 279
equipped for a delicious pic-nic. They readied the top, and were surrounded by the inhabitants of S. Pietro. The hampers were unpacked and the luncheon spread out, and —before any resistance could be offered or even suggested, the thronging swarms had descended upon the feast like locusts, and, in one moment, men and women tore up the chickens and swallowed the limbs at a mouthful, crunching bones and all like wild beasts, so that not the slightest vestige remained, and the rightful owners were left, dumbfoundered and famished, to stare at their empty table-cloth.
We had happily no such attractions to offer, but were well persecuted notwithstanding, and heartily cursed by troops of hungry ragged urchins because we had brought nothing for them, as well as by a shaggy-looking ruffian, who was imprisoned under the Barberini Palace, for having lately murdered his wife and son, and who stretched out his bony hand with nails like claws, and shook it at us through the iron bars as we passed. Yet an officer, who was quartered at the palace, told us that the people here are perfectly angelic compared to those of the neighbouring Cavi. TTiere, on the slightest contradiction, the natives never hesitated to pull out a stiletto or a revolver, and he never knew a time when six or seven of his men were not suffering from their violence while they were quartered there.
The view from the top is certainly magnificent. No wonder that Hannibal climbed up to survey it in order to assist his military operations. It is the most historical panorama imaginable. Rome is seen amidst the mists of the plain. Nearer us are Gabii, Collatia, and Zagarolo. On the Alban hills are Tusculum, Frescati, Monte Porzio, Monte Compatri, Labicum (now Colonna), Corbio (now Rocca Priora),