October 15th. - We left Radicofani long before sunrise, and I saw that ceremony take place from the coupe of the vettura for the first time in a long while. A sunset is the better sight of the two. I have always suspected it, and have been strengthened in the idea whenever I have had an opportunity of comparison. Our departure from Radicofani was most dreary, except that we were very glad to get away; but, the cold discomfort of dressing in a chill bedroom by candlelight, and our uncertain wandering through the immense hotel with a dim taper in search of the breakfast-room, and our poor breakfast of eggs, Italian bread, and coffee, - all these things made me wish that people were created with roots like trees, so they could not befool themselves with wandering about. However, we had not long been on our way before the morning air blew away all our troubles, and we rumbled cheerfully onward, ready to encounter even the papal custom-house officers at Ponte Centino. Our road thither was a pretty steep descent. I remember the barren landscape of hills, with here and there a lonely farm-house, which there seemed to be no occasion for, where nothing grew.
At Ponte Centino my passport was examined, and I was invited into an office where sat the papal custom-house officer, a thin, subtle-looking, keen-eyed, sallow personage, of aspect very suitable to be the agent of a government of priests. I communicated to him my wish to pass the custom-house without giving the officers the trouble of examining my luggage. He inquired whether I had any dutiable articles, and wrote for my signature a declaration in the negative; and then he lifted a sand-box, beneath which was a little heap of silver coins. On this delicate hint I asked what was the usual fee, and was told that fifteen pauls was the proper sum. I presume it was entirely an illegal charge, and that he had no right to pass any luggage without examination; but the thing is winked at by the authorities, and no money is better spent for the traveller's convenience than these fifteen pauls. There was a papal military officer in the room, and he, I believe, cheated me in the change of a Napoleon, as his share of the spoil. At the door a soldier met me with my passport, and looked as if he expected a fee for handing it to me; but in this he was disappointed. After I had resumed my seat in the coupe, the porter of the custom-house - a poor, sickly-looking creature, half dead with the malaria of the place - appeared, and demanded a fee for doing nothing to my luggage. He got three pauls, and looked but half contented. This whole set of men seem to be as corrupt as official people can possibly be; and yet I hardly know whether to stigmatize them as corrupt, because it is not their individual delinquency, but the operation of a regular system. Their superiors know what men they are, and calculate upon their getting a living by just these means. And, indeed, the custom-house and passport regulations, as they exist in Italy, would be intolerable if there were not this facility of evading them at little cost. Such laws are good for nothing but to be broken.
We now began to ascend again, and the country grew fertile and picturesque. We passed many mules and donkeys, laden with a sort of deep firkin on each side of the saddle, and these were heaped up with grapes, both purple and white. We bought some, and got what we should have thought an abundance at small price, only we used to get twice as many at Montanto for the same money. However, a Roman paul bought us three or four pounds even here. We still ascended, and came soon to the gateway of the town of Acquapendente, which stands on a height that seems to descend by natural terraces to the valley below. . . . .
French soldiers, in their bluish-gray coats and scarlet trousers, were on duty at the gate, and one of them took my passport and the vetturino's, and we then drove into the town to wait till they should be vised. We saw but one street, narrow, with tall, rusty, aged houses, built of stone, evil smelling; in short, a kind of place that would be intolerably dismal in cloudy England, and cannot be called cheerful even under the sun of Italy. . . . . Priests passed, and burly friars, one of whom was carrying a wine-barrel on his head. Little carts, laden with firkins of grapes, and donkeys with the same genial burden, brushed passed our vettura, finding scarce room enough in the narrow street. All the idlers of Acquapendente - and they were many - assembled to gaze at us, but not discourteously. Indeed, I never saw an idle curiosity exercised in such a pleasant way as by the country-people of Italy. It almost deserves to be called a kindly interest and sympathy, instead of a hard and cold curiosity, like that of our own people, and it is displayed with such simplicity that it is evident no offence is intended.