We left Arezzo early on Monday morning, the sun throwing the long shadows of the trees across the road, which at first, after we had descended the hill, lay over a plain. As the morning advanced, or as we advanced, the country grew more hilly. We saw many bits of rustic life, - such as old women tending pigs or sheep by the roadside, and spinning with a distaff; women sewing under trees, or at their own doors; children leading goats, tied by the horns, while they browse; sturdy, sunburnt creatures, in petticoats, but otherwise manlike, at work side by side with male laborers in the fields. The broad-brimmed, high-crowned hat of Tuscan straw is the customary female head-dress, and is as unbecoming as can possibly be imagined, and of little use, one would suppose, as a shelter from the sun, the brim continually blowing upward from the face. Some of the elder women wore black felt hats, likewise broad-brimmed; and the men wore felt hats also, shaped a good deal like a mushroom, with hardly any brim at all. The scenes in the villages through which we passed were very lively and characteristic, all the population seeming to be out of doors: some at the butcher's shop, others at the well; a tailor sewing in the open air, with a young priest sitting sociably beside him; children at play; women mending clothes, embroidering, spinning with the distaff at their own doorsteps; many idlers, letting the pleasant morning pass in the sweet-do-nothing; all assembling in the street, as in the common room of one large household, and thus brought close together, and made familiar with one another, as they can never be in a different system of society. As usual along the road we passed multitudes of shrines, where the Virgin was painted in fresco, or sometimes represented in bas-reliefs, within niches, or under more spacious arches. It would be a good idea to place a comfortable and shady seat beneath all these wayside shrines, where the wayfarer might rest himself, and thank the Virgin for her hospitality; nor can I believe that it would offend her, any more than other incense, if he were to regale himself, even in such consecrated spots, with the fragrance of a pipe or cigar.

In the wire-work screen, before many of the shrines, hung offerings of roses and other flowers, some wilted and withered, some fresh with that morning's dew, some that never bloomed and never faded, - being artificial. I wonder that they do not plant rose-trees and all kinds of fragrant and flowering shrubs under the shrines, and twine and wreathe them all around, so that the Virgin may dwell within a bower of perpetual freshness; at least put flower-pots, with living plants, into the niche. There are many things in the customs of these people that might be made very beautiful, if the sense of beauty were as much alive now as it must have been when these customs were first imagined and adopted.

I must not forget, among these little descriptive items, the spectacle of women and girls bearing huge bundles of twigs and shrubs, or grass, with scarlet poppies and blue flowers intermixed; the bundles sometimes so huge as almost to hide the woman's figure from head to heel, so that she looked like a locomotive mass of verdure and flowers; sometimes reaching only half-way down her back, so as to show the crooked knife slung behind, with which she had been reaping this strange harvest-sheaf. A Pre-Raphaelite painter - the one, for instance, who painted the heap of autumnal leaves, which we saw at the Manchester Exhibition - would find an admirable subject in one of these girls, stepping with a free, erect, and graceful carriage, her burden on her head; and the miscellaneous herbage and flowers would give him all the scope he could desire for minute and various delineation of nature.

The country houses which we passed had sometimes open galleries or arcades on the second story and above, where the inhabitants might perform their domestic labor in the shade and in the air. The houses were often ancient, and most picturesquely time-stained, the plaster dropping in spots from the old brickwork; others were tinted of pleasant and cheerful lines; some were frescoed with designs in arabesques, or with imaginary windows; some had escutcheons of arms painted on the front. Wherever there was a pigeon-house, a flight of doves were represented as flying into the holes, doubtless for the invitation and encouragement of the real birds.

Once or twice I saw a bush stuck up before the door of what seemed to be a wine-shop. If so, it is the ancient custom, so long disused in England, and alluded to in the proverb, "Good wine needs no bush." Several times we saw grass spread to dry on the road, covering half the track, and concluded it to have been cut by the roadside for the winter forage of his ass by some poor peasant, or peasant's wife, who had no grass land, except the margin of the public way.

A beautiful feature of the scene to-day, as the preceding day, were the vines growing on fig-trees (?) [This interrogation-mark must mean that Mr. Hawthorne was not sure they were fig-trees. - ED.], and often wreathed in rich festoons from one tree to another, by and by to be hung with clusters of purple grapes. I suspect the vine is a pleasanter object of sight under this mode of culture than it can be in countries where it produces a more precious wine, and therefore is trained more artificially. Nothing can be more picturesque than the spectacle of an old grapevine, with almost a trunk of its own, clinging round its tree, imprisoning within its strong embrace the friend that supported its tender infancy, converting the tree wholly to its own selfish ends, as seemingly flexible natures are apt to do, stretching out its innumerable arms on every bough, and allowing hardly a leaf to sprout except its own. I must not yet quit this hasty sketch, without throwing in, both in the early morning, and later in the forenoon, the mist that dreamed among the hills, and which, now that I have called it mist, I feel almost more inclined to call light, being so quietly cheerful with the sunshine through it. Put in, now and then, a castle on a hilltop; a rough ravine, a smiling valley; a mountain stream, with a far wider bed than it at present needs, and a stone bridge across it, with ancient and massive arches; - and I shall say no more, except that all these particulars, and many better ones which escape me, made up a very pleasant whole.

At about noon we drove into the village of Incisa, and alighted at the albergo where we were to lunch. It was a gloomy old house, as much like my idea of an Etruscan tomb as anything else that I can compare it to. We passed into a wide and lofty entrance-hall, paved with stone, and vaulted with a roof of intersecting arches, supported by heavy columns of stuccoed-brick, the whole as sombre and dingy as can well be. This entrance-hall is not merely the passageway into the inn, but is likewise the carriage-house, into which our vettura is wheeled; and it has, on one side, the stable, odorous with the litter of horses and cattle, and on the other the kitchen, and a common sitting-room. A narrow stone staircase leads from it to the dining-room, and chambers above, which are paved with brick, and adorned with rude frescos instead of paper-hangings. We look out of the windows, and step into a little iron-railed balcony, before the principal window, and observe the scene in the village street. The street is narrow, and nothing can exceed the tall, grim ugliness of the village houses, many of them four stories high, contiguous all along, and paved quite across; so that nature is as completely shut out from the precincts of this little town as from the heart of the widest city. The walls of the houses are plastered, gray, dilapidated; the windows small, some of them drearily closed with wooden shutters, others flung wide open, and with women's heads protruding, others merely frescoed, for a show of light and air. It would be a hideous street to look at in a rainy day, or when no human life pervaded it. Now it has vivacity enough to keep it cheerful. People lounge round the door of the albergo, and watch the horses as they drink from a stone trough, which is built against the wall of the house, and filled with the unseen gush of a spring.

At first there is a shade entirely across the street, and all the within-doors of the village empties itself there, and keeps up a babblement that seems quite disproportioned even to the multitude of tongues that make it. So many words are not spoken in a New England village in a whole year as here in this single day. People talk about nothing as if they were terribly in earnest, and laugh at nothing as if it were all excellent joke.

As the hot noon sunshine encroaches on our side of the street, it grows a little more quiet. The loungers now confine themselves to the shady margin (growing narrower and narrower) of the other side, where, directly opposite the albergo, there are two cafes and a wine-shop, "vendita di pane, vino, ed altri generi," all in a row with benches before them. The benchers joke with the women passing by, and are joked with back again. The sun still eats away the shadow inch by inch, beating down with such intensity that finally everybody disappears except a few passers-by.

Doubtless the village snatches this half-hour for its siesta. There is a song, however, inside one of the cafes, with a burden in which several voices join. A girl goes through the street, sheltered under her great bundle of freshly cut grass. By and by the song ceases, and two young peasants come out of the cafe, a little affected by liquor, in their shirt-sleeves and bare feet, with their trousers tucked up. They resume their song in the street, and dance along, one's arm around his fellow's neck, his own waist grasped by the other's arm. They whirl one another quite round about, and come down upon their feet. Meeting a village maid coming quietly along, they dance up and intercept her for a moment, but give way to her sobriety of aspect. They pass on, and the shadow soon begins to spread from one side of the street, which presently fills again, and becomes once more, for its size, the noisiest place I ever knew.

We had quite a tolerable dinner at this ugly inn, where many preceding travellers had written their condemnatory judgments, as well as a few their favorable ones, in pencil on the walls of the dining-room.