JOURNEY TO FLORENCE.
Civita Castellana, May 24th. - We left Rome this morning, after troubles of various kinds, and a dispute in the first place with Lalla, our female servant, and her mother. . . . . Mother and daughter exploded into a livid rage, and cursed us plentifully, - wishing that we might never come to our journey's end, and that we might all break our necks or die of apoplexy, - the most awful curse that an Italian knows how to invoke upon his enemies, because it precludes the possibility of extreme unction. However, as we are heretics, and certain of damnation therefore, anyhow, it does not much matter to us; and also the anathemas may have been blown back upon those who invoked them, like the curses that were flung out from the balcony of St Peter's during Holy Week and wafted by heaven's breezes right into the faces of some priests who stood near the pope. Next we had a disagreement, with two men who brought down our luggage, and put it on the vettura; . . . . and, lastly, we were infested with beggars, who hung round the carriages with doleful petitions, till we began to move away; but the previous warfare had put me into too stern a mood for almsgiving, so that they also were doubtless inclined to curse more than to bless, and I am persuaded that we drove off under a perfect shower of anathemas.
We passed through the Porta del Popolo at about eight o'clock; and after a moment's delay, while the passport was examined, began our journey along the Flaminian Way, between two such high and inhospitable walls of brick or stone as seem to shut in all the avenues to Rome. We had not gone far before we heard military music in advance of us, and saw the road blocked up with people, and then the glitter of muskets, and soon appeared the drummers, fifers, and trumpeters, and then the first battalion of a French regiment, marching into the city, with two mounted officers at their head; then appeared a second and then a third battalion, the whole seeming to make almost an army, though the number on their caps showed them all to belong to one regiment, - the 1st; then came a battery of artillery, then a detachment of horse, - these last, by the crossed keys on their helmets, being apparently papal troops. All were young, fresh, good-looking men, in excellent trim as to uniform and equipments, and marched rather as if they were setting out on a campaign than returning from it; the fact being, I believe, that they have been encamped or in barracks within a few miles of the city. Nevertheless, it reminded me of the military processions of various kinds which so often, two thousand years ago and more, entered Rome over the Flaminian Way, and over all the roads that led to the famous city, - triumphs oftenest, but sometimes the downcast train of a defeated army, like those who retreated before Hannibal. On the whole, I was not sorry to see the Gauls still pouring into Rome; but yet I begin to find that I have a strange affection for it, and so did we all, - the rest of the family in a greater degree than myself even. It is very singular, the sad embrace with which Rome takes possession of the soul. Though we intend to return in a few months, and for a longer residence than this has been, yet we felt the city pulling at our heartstrings far more than London did, where we shall probably never spend much time again. It may be because the intellect finds a home there more than in any other spot in the world, and wins the heart to stay with it, in spite of a good many things strewn all about to disgust us.
The road in the earlier part of the way was not particularly picturesque, - the country undulated, but scarcely rose into hills, and was destitute of trees; there were a few shapeless ruins, too indistinct for us to make out whether they were Roman or mediaeval. Nothing struck one so much, in the forenoon, as the spectacle of a peasant-woman riding on horseback as if she were a man. The houses were few, and those of a dreary aspect, built of gray stone, and looking bare and desolate, with not the slightest promise of comfort within doors. We passed two or three locandas or inns, and finally came to the village (if village it were, for I remember no houses except our osteria) of Castel Nuovo di Porta, where we were to take a dejeuner a la fourchette, which was put upon the table between twelve and one. On this journey, according to the custom of travellers in Italy, we pay the vetturino a certain sum, and live at his expense; and this meal was the first specimen of his catering on our behalf. It consisted of a beefsteak, rather dry and hard, but not unpalatable, and a large omelette; and for beverage, two quart bottles of red wine, which, being tasted, had an agreeable acid flavor. . . . . The locanda was built of stone, and had what looked like an old Roman altar in the basement-hall, and a shrine, with a lamp before it, on the staircase; and the large public saloon in which we ate had a brick floor, a ceiling with cross-beams, meagrely painted in fresco, and a scanty supply of chairs and settees.
After lunch, we wandered out into a valley or ravine near the house, where we gathered some flowers, and J - - -found a nest with the young birds in it, which, however, he put back into the bush whence he took it.