Last week a fritter-establishment was opened in our piazza. It was a wooden booth erected in the open square, and covered with canvas painted red, which looked as if it had withstood much rain and sunshine. In front were three great boughs of laurel, not so much for shade, I think, as ornament. There were two men, and their apparatus for business was a sort of stove, or charcoal furnace, and a frying-pan to place over it; they had an armful or two of dry sticks, some flour, and I suppose oil, and this seemed to be all. It was Friday, and Lent besides, and possibly there was some other peculiar propriety in the consumption of fritters just then. At all events, their fire burned merrily from morning till night, and pretty late into the evening, and they had a fine run of custom; the commodity being simply dough, cut into squares or rhomboids, and thrown into the boiling oil, which quickly turned them to a light brown color. I sent J - - -to buy some, and, tasting one, it resembled an unspeakably bad doughnut, without any sweetening. In fact, it was sour, for the Romans like their bread, and all their preparations of flour, in a state of acetous fermentation, which serves them instead of salt or other condiment. This fritter-shop had grown up in a night, like Aladdin's palace, and vanished as suddenly; for after standing through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it was gone on Monday morning, and a charcoal-strewn place on the pavement where the furnace had been was the only memorial of it. It was curious to observe how immediately it became a lounging-place for idle people, who stood and talked all day with the fritter-friers, just as they might at any old shop in the basement, of a palace, or between the half-buried pillars of the Temple of Minerva, which had been familiar to them and their remote grandfathers.
April 14th. - Yesterday afternoon I drove with Mr. and Mrs. Story and Mr. Wilde to see a statue of Venus, which has just been discovered, outside of the Porta Portese, on the other side of the Tiber. A little distance beyond the gate we came to the entrance of a vineyard, with a wheel-track through the midst of it; and, following this, we soon came to a hillside, in which an excavation had been made with the purpose of building a grotto for keeping and storing wine. They had dug down into what seemed to be an ancient bathroom, or some structure of that kind, the excavation being square and cellar-like, and built round with old subterranean walls of brick and stone. Within this hollow space the statue had been found, and it was now standing against one of the walls, covered with a coarse cloth, or a canvas bag. This being removed, there appeared a headless marble figure, earth-stained, of course, and with a slightly corroded surface, but wonderfully delicate and beautiful, the shape, size, and attitude, apparently, of the Venus de' Medici, but, as we all thought, more beautiful than that. It is supposed to be the original, from which the Venus de' Medici was copied. Both arms were broken off, but the greater part of both, and nearly the whole of one hand, had been found, and these being adjusted to the figure, they took the well-known position before the bosom and the middle, as if the fragmentary woman retained her instinct of modesty to the last. There were the marks on the bosom and thigh where the fingers had touched; whereas in the Venus de' Medici, if I remember rightly, the fingers are sculptured quite free of the person. The man who showed the statue now lifted from a corner a round block of marble, which had been lying there among other fragments, and this he placed upon the shattered neck of the Venus; and behold, it was her head and face, perfect, all but the nose! Even in spite of this mutilation, it seemed immediately to light up and vivify the entire figure; and, whatever I may heretofore have written about the countenance of the Venus de' Medici, I here record my belief that that head has been wrongfully foisted upon the statue; at all events, it is unspeakably inferior to this newly discovered one. This face has a breadth and front which are strangely deficient in the other. The eyes are well opened, most unlike the buttonhole lids of the Venus de' Medici; the whole head is so much larger as to entirely obviate the criticism that has always been made on the diminutive head of the De' Medici statue. If it had but a nose! They ought to sift every handful of earth that has been thrown out of the excavation, for the nose and the missing hand and fingers must needs be there; and, if they were found, the effect would be like the reappearance of a divinity upon earth. Mutilated as we saw her, it was strangely interesting to be present at the moment, as it were, when she had just risen from her long burial, and was shedding the unquenchable lustre around her which no eye had seen for twenty or more centuries. The earth still clung about her; her beautiful lips were full of it, till Mr. Story took a thin chip of wood and cleared it away from between them.