The Black Eagle, October 14th. - Perhaps I had something more to say of San Quirico, but I shall merely add that there is a stately old palace of the Piccolomini close to the church above described. It is built in the style of the Roman palaces, and looked almost large enough to be one of them. Nevertheless, the basement story, or part of it, seems to be used as a barn and stable, for I saw a yoke of oxen in the entrance. I cannot but mention a most wretched team of vettura-horses which stopped at the door of our albergo: poor, lean, downcast creatures, with deep furrows between their ribs; nothing but skin and bone, in short, and not even so much skin as they should have had, for it was partially worn off from their backs. The harness was fastened with ropes, the traces and reins were ropes; the carriage was old and shabby, and out of this miserable equipage there alighted an ancient gentleman and lady, whom our waiter affirmed to be the Prefect of Florence and his wife.

We left San Quirico at two o'clock, and followed an ascending road till we got into the region above the clouds; the landscape was very wide, but very dreary and barren, and grew more and more so till we began to climb the mountain of Radicofani, the peak of which had been blackening itself on the horizon almost the whole day. When we had come into a pretty high region we were assailed by a real mountain tempest of wind, rain, and hail, which pelted down upon us in good earnest, and cooled the air a little below comfort. As we toiled up the mountain its upper region presented a very striking aspect, looking as if a precipice had been smoothed and squared for the purpose of rendering the old castle on its summit more inaccessible than it was by nature. This is the castle of the robber-knight, Ghino di Tacco, whom Boccaccio introduces into the Decameron. A freebooter of those days must have set a higher value on such a rock as this than if it had been one mass of diamond, for no art of mediaeval warfare could endanger him in such a fortress. Drawing yet nearer, we found the hillside immediately above us strewn with thousands upon thousands of great fragments of stone. It looked as if some great ruin had taken place there, only it was too vast a ruin to have been the dismemberment and dissolution of anything made by man.

We could now see the castle on the height pretty distinctly. It seemed to impend over the precipice; and close to the base of the latter we saw the street of a town on as strange and inconvenient a foundation as ever one was built upon. I suppose the inhabitants of the village were dependants of the old knight of the castle; his brotherhood of robbers, as they married and had families, settled there under the shelter of the eagle's nest. But the singularity is, how a community of people have contrived to live and perpetuate themselves so far out of the reach of the world's help, and seemingly with no means of assisting in the world's labor. I cannot imagine how they employ themselves except in begging, and even that branch of industry appears to be left to the old women and the children. No house was ever built in this immediate neighborhood for any such natural purpose as induces people to build them on other sites. Even our hotel, at which we now arrived, could not be said to be a natural growth of the soil; it had originally been a whim of one of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, - a hunting-palace, - intended for habitation only during a few weeks of the year. Of all dreary hotels I ever alighted at, methinks this is the most so; but on first arriving I merely followed the waiter to look at our rooms, across stone-paved basement-halls dismal as Etruscan tombs; up dim staircases, and along shivering corridors, all of stone, stone, stone, nothing but cold stone. After glancing at these pleasant accommodations, my wife and I, with J - - -, set out to ascend the hill and visit the town of Radicofani.

It is not more than a quarter of a mile above our hotel, and is accessible by a good piece of road, though very steep. As we approached the town, we were assailed by some little beggars; but this is the case all through Italy, in city or solitude, and I think the mendicants of Radicofani are fewer than its proportion. We had not got far towards the village, when, looking back over the scene of many miles that lay stretched beneath us, we saw a heavy shower apparently travelling straight towards us over hill and dale. It seemed inevitable that it should soon be upon us, so I persuaded my wife to return to the hotel; but J - - -and I kept onward, being determined to see Radicofani with or without a drenching. We soon entered the street; the blackest, ugliest, rudest old street, I do believe, that ever human life incrusted itself with. The first portion of it is the overbrimming of the town in generations subsequent to that in which it was surrounded by a wall; but after going a little way we came to a high, square tower planted right across the way, with an arched gateway in its basement story, so that it looked like a great short-legged giant striding over the street of Radicofani. Within the gateway is the proper and original town, though indeed the portion outside of the gate is as densely populated, as ugly, and as ancient, as that within.

The street was very narrow, and paved with flag-stones not quite so smooth as those of Florence; the houses are tall enough to be stately, if they were not so inconceivably dingy and shabby; but, with their half-dozen stories, they make only the impression of hovel piled upon hovel, - squalor immortalized in undecaying stone. It was now getting far into the twilight, and I could not distinguish the particularities of the little town, except that there were shops, a cafe or two, and as many churches, all dusky with age, crowded closely together, inconvenient stifled too in spite of the breadth and freedom of the mountain atmosphere outside the scanty precincts of the street. It was a death-in-life little place, a fossilized place, and yet the street was thronged, and had all the bustle of a city; even more noise than a city's street, because everybody in Radicofani knows everybody, and probably gossips with everybody, being everybody's blood relation, as they cannot fail to have become after they and their forefathers have been shut up together within the narrow walls for many hundred years. They looked round briskly at J - - -and me, but were courteous, as Italians always are, and made way for us to pass through the throng, as we kept on still ascending the steep street. It took us but a few minutes to reach the still steeper and winding pathway which climbs towards the old castle.

After ascending above the village, the path, though still paved, becomes very rough, as if the hoofs of Ghino di Tacco's robber cavalry had displaced the stones and they had never been readjusted. On every side, too, except where the path just finds space enough, there is an enormous rubbish of huge stones, which seems to have fallen from the precipice above, or else to have rained down out of the sky. We kept on, and by and by reached what seemed to have been a lower outwork of the castle on the top; there was the massive old arch of a gateway, and a great deal of ruin of man's work, beside the large stones that here, as elsewhere, were scattered so abundantly. Within the wall and gateway just mentioned, however, there was a kind of farm-house, adapted, I suppose, out of the old ruin, and I noticed some ears of Indian corn hanging out of a window. There were also a few stacks of hay, but no signs of human or animal life; and it is utterly inexplicable to me, where these products of the soil could have come from, for certainly they never grew amid that barrenness.

We had not yet reached Ghino's castle, and, being now beneath it, we had to bend our heads far backward to see it rising up against the clear sky while we were now in twilight. The path upward looked terribly steep and rough, and if we had climbed it we should probably have broken our necks in descending again into the lower obscurity. We therefore stopped here, much against J - - -'s will, and went back as we came, still wondering at the strange situation of Radicofani; for its aspect is as if it had stepped off the top of the cliff and lodged at its base, though still in danger of sliding farther down the hillside. Emerging from the compact, grimy life of its street, we saw that the shower had swept by, or probably had expended itself in a region beneath us, for we were above the scope of many of the showery clouds that haunt a hill-country. There was a very bright star visible, I remember, and we saw the new moon, now a third towards the full, for the first time this evening. The air was cold and bracing.

But I am excessively sleepy, so will not describe our great dreary hotel, where a blast howled in an interminable corridor all night. It did not seem to have anything to do with the wind out of doors, but to be a blast that had been casually shut in when the doors were closed behind the last Grand Duke who came hither and departed, and ever since it has been kept prisoner, and makes a melancholy wail along the corridor. The dreamy stupidity of this conceit proves how sleepy I am.