October 2d. - Yesterday morning, at six o'clock, we left our ancient tower, and threw a parting glance - and a rather sad one - over the misty Val d' Arno. This summer will look like a happy one in our children's retrospect, and also, no doubt, in the years that remain to ourselves; and, in truth, I have found it a peaceful and not uncheerful one.
It was not a pleasant morning, and Monte Morello, looking down on Florence, had on its cap, betokening foul weather, according to the proverb. Crossing the suspension-bridge, we reached the Leopoldo railway without entering the city. By some mistake, - or perhaps because nobody ever travels by first-class carriages in Tuscany, - we found we had received second-class tickets, and were put into a long, crowded carriage, full of priests, military men, commercial travellers, and other respectable people, facing one another lengthwise along the carriage, and many of them smoking cigars. They were all perfectly civil, and I think I must own that the manners of this second-class would compare favorably with those of an American first-class one.
At Empoli, about an hour after we started, we had to change carriages, the main train proceeding to Leghorn. . . . . My observations along the road were very scanty: a hilly country, with several old towns seated on the most elevated hill-tops, as is common throughout Tuscany, or sometimes a fortress with a town on the plain at its base; or, once or twice, the towers and battlements of a mediaeval castle, commanding the pass below it. Near Florence the country was fertile in the vine and olive, and looked as unpicturesque as that sort of fertility usually makes it; not but what I have come to think better of the tint of the olive-leaf than when I first saw it. In the latter part of our journey I remember a wild stream, of a greenish hue, but transparent, rushing along over a rough bed, and before reaching Siena we rumbled into a long tunnel, and emerged from it near the city. . . . .
We drove up hill and down (for the surface of Siena seems to be nothing but an irregularity) through narrow old streets, and were set down at the Aquila Nera, a grim-looking albergo near the centre of the town. Mrs. S - - - had already taken rooms for us there, and to these we were now ushered up the highway of a dingy stone staircase, and into a small, brick-paved parlor. The house seemed endlessly old, and all the glimpses that we caught of Siena out of window seemed more ancient still. Almost within arm's reach, across a narrow street, a tall palace of gray, time-worn stone clambered skyward, with arched windows, and square windows, and large windows and small, scattered up and down its side. It is the Palazzo Tolomei, and looks immensely venerable. From the windows of our bedrooms we looked into a broader street, though still not very wide, and into a small piazza, the most conspicuous object in which was a column, hearing on its top a bronze wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. This symbol is repeated in other parts of the city, and scours to indicate that the Sienese people pride themselves in a Roman origin. In another direction, over the tops of the houses, we saw a very high tower, with battlements projecting around its summit, so that it was a fortress in the air; and this I have since found to be the Palazzo Publico. It was pleasant, looking downward into the little old piazza and narrow streets, to see the swarm of life on the pavement, the life of to-day just as new as if it had never been lived before; the citizens, the priests, the soldiers, the mules and asses with their panniers, the diligence lumbering along, with a postilion in a faded crimson coat bobbing up and down on the off-horse. Such a bustling scene, vociferous, too, with various street-cries, is wonderfully set off by the gray antiquity of the town, and makes the town look older than if it were a solitude.
Soon Mr. and Mrs. Story came, and accompanied us to look for lodgings. They also drove us about the city in their carriage, and showed us the outside of the Palazzo Publico, and of the cathedral and other remarkable edifices. The aspect of Siena is far more picturesque than that of any other town in Italy, so far as I know Italian towns; and yet, now that I have written it, I remember Perugia, and feel that the observation is a mistake. But at any rate Siena is remarkably picturesque, standing on such a site, on the verge and within the crater of an extinct volcano, and therefore being as uneven as the sea in a tempest; the streets so narrow, ascending between tall, ancient palaces, while the side streets rush headlong down, only to be threaded by sure-footed mules, such as climb Alpine heights; old stone balconies on the palace fronts; old arched doorways, and windows set in frames of Gothic architecture; arcades, resembling canopies of stone, with quaintly sculptured statues in the richly wrought Gothic niches of each pillar; - everything massive and lofty, yet minutely interesting when you look at it stone by stone. The Florentines, and the Romans too, have obliterated, as far as they could, all the interest of their mediaeval structures by covering them with stucco, so that they have quite lost their character, and affect the spectator with no reverential idea of age. Here the city is all overwritten with black-letter, and the glad Italian sun makes the effect so much the stronger.