At setting off [from Incisa], we were surrounded by beggars as usual, the most interesting of whom were a little blind boy and his mother, who had besieged us with gentle pertinacity during our whole stay there. There was likewise a man with a maimed hand, and other hurts or deformities; also, an old woman who, I suspect, only pretended to be blind, keeping her eyes tightly squeezed together, but directing her hand very accurately where the copper shower was expected to fall. Besides these, there were a good many sturdy little rascals, vociferating in proportion as they needed nothing. It was touching, however, to see several persons - themselves beggars for aught I know - assisting to hold up the little blind boy's tremulous hand, so that he, at all events, might not lack the pittance which we had to give. Our dole was but a poor one, after all, consisting of what Roman coppers we had brought into Tuscany with us; and as we drove off, some of the boys ran shouting and whining after us in the hot sunshine, nor stopped till we reached the summit of the hill, which rises immediately from the village street. We heard Gaetano once say a good thing to a swarm of beggar-children, who were infesting us, "Are your fathers all dead?" - a proverbial expression, I suppose. The pertinacity of beggars does not, I think, excite the indignation of an Italian, as it is apt to do that of Englishmen or Americans. The Italians probably sympathize more, though they give less. Gaetano is very gentle in his modes of repelling them, and, indeed, never interferes at all, as long as there is a prospect of their getting anything.
Immediately after leaving Incisa, we saw the Arno, already a considerable river, rushing between deep banks, with the greenish line of a duck-pond diffused through its water. Nevertheless, though the first impression was not altogether agreeable, we soon became reconciled to this line, and ceased to think it an indication of impurity; for, in spite of it, the river is still to a certain degree transparent, and is, at any rate, a mountain stream, and comes uncontaminated from its source. The pure, transparent brown of the New England rivers is the most beautiful color; but I am content that it should be peculiar to them.
Our afternoon's drive was through scenery less striking than some which we had traversed, but still picturesque and beautiful. We saw deep valleys and ravines, with streams at the bottom; long, wooded hillsides, rising far and high, and dotted with white dwellings, well towards the summits. By and by, we had a distant glimpse of Florence, showing its great dome and some of its towers out of a sidelong valley, as if we were between two great waves of the tumultuous sea of hills; while, far beyond, rose in the distance the blue peaks of three or four of the Apennines, just on the remote horizon. There being a haziness in the atmosphere, however, Florence was little more distinct to us than the Celestial City was to Christian and Hopeful, when they spied at it from the Delectable Mountains.
Keeping steadfastly onward, we ascended a winding road, and passed a grand villa, standing very high, and surrounded with extensive grounds. It must be the residence of some great noble; and it has an avenue of poplars or aspens, very light and gay, and fit for the passage of the bridal procession, when the proprietor or his heir brings home his bride; while, in another direction from the same front of the palace, stretches an avenue or grove of cypresses, very long, and exceedingly black and dismal, like a train of gigantic mourners. I have seen few things more striking, in the way of trees, than this grove of cypresses.
From this point we descended, and drove along an ugly, dusty avenue, with a high brick wall on one side or both, till we reached the gate of Florence, into which we were admitted with as little trouble as custom-house officers, soldiers, and policemen can possibly give. They did not examine our luggage, and even declined a fee, as we had already paid one at the frontier custom-house. Thank heaven, and the Grand Duke!
As we hoped that the Casa del Bello had been taken for us, we drove thither in the first place, but found that the bargain had not been concluded. As the house and studio of Mr. Powers were just on the opposite side of the street, I went to it, but found him too much engrossed to see me at the moment; so I returned to the vettura, and we told Gaetano to carry us to a hotel. He established us at the Albergo della Fontana, a good and comfortable house. . . . . Mr. Powers called in the evening, - a plain personage, characterized by strong simplicity and warm kindliness, with an impending brow, and large eyes, which kindle as he speaks. He is gray, and slightly bald, but does not seem elderly, nor past his prime. I accept him at once as an honest and trustworthy man, and shall not vary from this judgment. Through his good offices, the next day, we engaged the Casa del Bello, at a rent of fifty dollars a month, and I shall take another opportunity (my fingers and head being tired now) to write about the house, and Mr. Powers, and what appertains to him, and about the beautiful city of Florence. At present, I shall only say further, that this journey from Rome has been one of the brightest and most uncareful interludes of my life; we have all enjoyed it exceedingly, and I am happy that our children have it to look back upon.