VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE BENI.
August 2d. - We had grown weary of the heat of Florence within the walls, . . . . there being little opportunity for air and exercise except within the precincts of our little garden, which, also, we feared might breed malaria, or something akin to it. We have therefore taken this suburban villa for the two next months, and, yesterday morning, we all came out hither. J - - - had preceded us with B. P - - - . The villa is on a hill called Bellosguardo, about a mile beyond the Porta Romana. Less than half an hour's walk brought us, who were on foot, to the iron gate of our villa, which we found shut and locked. We shouted to be let in, and while waiting for somebody to appear, there was a good opportunity to contemplate the external aspect of the villa. After we had waited a few minutes, J - - -came racing down to the gate, laughing heartily, and said that Bob and he had been in the house, but had come out, shutting the door behind them; and as the door closed with a springlock, they could not get in again. Now as the key of the outer gate as well as that of the house itself was in the pocket of J - - -'s coat, left inside, we were shut out of our own castle, and compelled to carry on a siege against it, without much likelihood of taking it, although the garrison was willing to surrender. But B. P - - - called in the assistance of the contadini who cultivate the ground, and live in the farm-house close by; and one of them got into a window by means of a ladder, so that the keys were got, the gates opened, and we finally admitted. Before examining any other part of the house, we climbed to the top of the tower, which, indeed, is not very high, in proportion to its massive square. Very probably, its original height was abbreviated, in compliance with the law that lowered so many of the fortified towers of noblemen within the walls of Florence. . . . . The stairs were not of stone, built in with the original mass of the tower, as in English castles, but of now decayed wood, which shook beneath us, and grew more and more crazy as we ascended. It will not be many years before the height of the tower becomes unattainable. . . . . Near at hand, in the vicinity of the city, we saw the convent of Monte Olivetto, and other structures that looked like convents, being built round an enclosed square; also numerous white villas, many of which had towers, like that we were standing upon, square and massive, some of them battlemented on the summit, and others apparently modernized for domestic purposes. Among them U - - pointed out Galileo's tower, whither she made an excursion the other day. It looked lower than our own, but seemed to stand on a higher elevation. We also saw the duke's villa, the Poggio, with a long avenue of cypresses leading from it, as if a funeral were going forth. And having wasted thus much of description on the landscape, I will finish with saying that it lacked only water to be a very fine one. It is strange what a difference the gleam of water makes, and how a scene awakens and comes to life wherever it is visible. The landscape, moreover, gives the beholder (at least, this beholder) a sense of oppressive sunshine and scanty shade, and does not incite a longing to wander through it on foot, as a really delightful landscape should. The vine, too, being cultivated in so trim a manner, does not suggest that idea of luxuriant fertility, which is the poetical notion of a vineyard. The olive-orchards have a pale and unlovely hue. An English view would have been incomparably richer in its never-fading green; and in my own country, the wooded hills would have been more delightful than these peaks and ridges of dreary and barren sunshine; and there would have been the bright eyes of half a dozen little lakes, looking heavenward, within an extent like that of the Val d' Arno.
By and by mamma's carriage came along the dusty road, and passed through the iron gateway, which we had left open for her reception. We shouted down to her and R - - -, and they waved their handkerchiefs upward to us; and, on my way down, I met R - - -and the servant coming up through the ghostly rooms.