October 13th. - We arranged to begin our journey at six. . . . . It was a chill, lowering morning, and the rain blew a little in our faces before we had gone far, but did not continue long. The country soon lost the pleasant aspect which it wears immediately about Siena, and grew very barren and dreary. Then it changed again for the better, the road leading us through a fertility of vines and olives, after which the dreary and barren hills came back again, and formed our prospect throughout most of the day. We stopped for our dejeuner a la fourchette at a little old town called San Quirico, which we entered through a ruined gateway, the town being entirely surrounded by its ancient wall. This wall is far more picturesque than that of Siena, being lofty and built of stone, with a machicolation of arches running quite round its top, like a cornice. It has little more than a single street, perhaps a quarter of a mile long, narrow, paved with flag-stones in the Florentine fashion, and lined with two rows of tall, rusty stone houses, without a gap between them from end to end. The cafes were numerous in relation to the size of the town, and there were two taverns, - our own, the Eagle, being doubtless the best, and having three arched entrances in its front. Of these, the middle one led to the guests' apartments, the one on the right to the barn, and that on the left to the stable, so that, as is usual in Italian inns, the whole establishment was under one roof. We were shown into a brick-paved room on the first floor, adorned with a funny fresco of Aurora on the ceiling, and with some colored prints, both religious and profane. . . . .
As we drove into the town we noticed a Gothic church with two doors of peculiar architecture, and while our dejeuner was being prepared we went to see it. The interior had little that was remarkable, for it had been repaired early in the last century, and spoilt of course; but an old triptych is still hanging in a chapel beside the high altar. It is painted on wood, and dates back beyond the invention of oil-painting, and represents the Virgin and some saints and angels. Neither is the exterior of the church particularly interesting, with the exception of the carving and ornaments of two of the doors. Both of them have round arches, deep and curiously wrought, and the pillars of one of the two are formed of a peculiar knot or twine in stone-work, such as I cannot well describe, but it is both ingenious and simple. These pillars rest on two nondescript animals, which look as much like walruses as anything else. The pillars of the other door consist of two figures supporting the capitals, and themselves standing on two handsomely carved lions. The work is curious, and evidently very ancient, and the material a red freestone.
After lunch, J - - -and I took a walk out of the gate of the town opposite to that of our entrance. There were no soldiers on guard, as at city gates of more importance; nor do I think that there is really any gate to shut, but the massive stone gateway still stands entire over the empty arch. Looking back after we had passed through, I observed that the lofty upper story is converted into a dove-cot, and that pumpkins were put to ripen in some open chambers at one side. We passed near the base of a tall, square tower, which is said to be of Roman origin. The little town is in the midst of a barren region, but its immediate neighborhood is fertile, and an olive-orchard, venerable of aspect, lay on the other side of the pleasant lane with its English hedges, and olive-trees grew likewise along the base of the city wall. The arched machicolations, which I have before mentioned, were here and there interrupted by a house which was built upon the old wall or incorporated into it; and from the windows of one of then I saw ears of Indian corn hung out to ripen in the sun, and somebody was winnowing grain at a little door that opened through the wall. It was very pleasant to see the ancient warlike rampart thus overcome with rustic peace. The ruined gateway is partly overgrown with ivy.
Returning to our inn, along the street, we saw - - - sketching one of the doors of the Gothic church, in the midst of a crowd of the good people of San Quirico, who made no scruple to look over her shoulder, pressing so closely as hardly to allow her elbow-room. I must own that I was too cowardly to come forward and take my share of this public notice, so I turned away to the inn and there awaited her coming. Indeed, she has seldom attempted to sketch without finding herself the nucleus of a throng.