List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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but appear to have a very slight purchasing, power in Austria even,
and none at all elsewhere, and the only use for which I have found is
to give to Italian beggars.  One of these pieces satisfies a beggar
when it drops into his hat; and then it detains him long enough in
the examination of it, so that your carriage has time to get so far
away that his renewed pursuit is usually unavailing.

The Brenner Pass repaid us for the pains we had taken to see it,
especially as the sun shone and took the frost from our windows, and
we encountered no snow on the track; and, indeed, the fall was not
deep, except on the high peaks about us.  Even if the engineering of
the road were not so interesting, it was something to be again amidst
mountains that can boast a height of ten thousand feet.  After we
passed the summit, and began the zigzag descent, we were on a sharp
lookout for sunny Italy.  I expected to lay aside my heavy overcoat,
and sun myself at the first station among the vineyards.  Instead of
that, we bade good-by to bright sky, and plunged into a snowstorm,
and, so greeted, drove down into the narrow gorges, whose steep
slopes we could see were terraced to the top, and planted with vines.
We could distinguish enough to know that, with the old Roman ruins,
the churches and convent towers perched on the crags, and all, the
scenery in summer must be finer than that of the Rhine, especially as
the vineyards here are picturesque,--the vines being trained so as to
hide and clothe the ground with verdure.

It was four o'clock when we reached Trent, and colder than on top of
the Brenner.  As the Council, owing to the dead state of its members
for now three centuries, was not in session, we made no long tarry.
We went into the magnificent large refreshment-room to get warm; but
it was as cold as a New England barn.  I asked the proprietor if we
could not get at a fire; but he insisted that the room was warm, that
it was heated with a furnace, and that he burned good stove-coal, and
pointed to a register high up in the wall.  Seeing that I looked
incredulous, he insisted that I should test it.  Accordingly, I
climbed upon a table, and reached up my hand.  A faint warmth came
out; and I gave it up, and congratulated the landlord on his furnace.
But the register had no effect on the great hall.  You might as well
try to heat the dome of St. Peter's with a lucifer-match.  At dark,
Allah be praised!  we reached Ala, where we went through the humbug
of an Italian custom-house, and had our first glimpse of Italy in the
picturesque-looking idlers in red-tasseled caps, and the jabber of a
strange tongue.  The snow turned into a cold rain: the foot-warmers,
we having reached the sunny lands, could no longer be afforded; and
we shivered along till nine o'clock, dark and rainy, brought us to
Verona.  We emerged from the station to find a crowd of omnibuses,
carriages, drivers, runners, and people anxious to help us, all
vociferating in the highest key.  Amidst the usual Italian clamor
about nothing, we gained our hotel omnibus, and sat there for ten
minutes watching the dispute over our luggage, and serenely listening
to the angry vituperations of policemen and drivers.  It sounded like
a revolution, but it was only the ordinary Italian way of doing
things; and we were at last rattling away over the broad pavements.

Of course, we stopped at a palace turned hotel, drove into a court
with double flights of high stone and marble stairways, and were
hurried up to the marble-mosaic landing by an active boy, and, almost
before we could ask for rooms, were shown into a suite of magnificent
apartments.  I had a glimpse of a garden in the rear,--flowers and
plants, and a balcony up which I suppose Romeo climbed to hold that
immortal love-prattle with the lovesick Juliet.  Boy began to light
the candles.  Asked in English the price of such fine rooms.  Reply
in Italian.  Asked in German.  Reply in Italian.  Asked in French,
with the same result.  Other servants appeared, each with a piece of
baggage.  Other candles were lighted.  Everybody talked in chorus.
The landlady--a woman of elegant manners and great command of her
native tongue--appeared with a candle, and joined in the melodious
confusion.  What is the price of these rooms?  More jabber, more
servants bearing lights.  We seemed suddenly to have come into an
illumination and a private lunatic asylum.  The landlady and her
troop grew more and more voluble and excited.  Ah, then, if these
rooms do not suit the signor and signoras, there are others; and we
were whisked off to apartments yet grander, great suites with high,
canopied beds, mirrors, and furniture that was luxurious a hundred
years ago.  The price?  Again a torrent of Italian; servants pouring
in, lights flashing, our baggage arriving, until, in the tumult,
hopeless of any response to our inquiry for a servant who could speak
anything but Italian, and when we had decided, in despair, to hire
the entire establishment, a waiter appeared who was accomplished in
all languages, the row subsided, and we were left alone in our glory,
and soon in welcome sleep forgot our desperate search for a warm

The next day it was rainy and not warm; but the sun came out
occasionally, and we drove about to see some of the sights.  The
first Italian town which the stranger sees he is sure to remember,
the outdoor life of the people is so different from that at the
North.  It is the fiction in Italy that it is always summer; and the
people sit in the open market-place, shiver in the open doorways,
crowd into corners where the sun comes, and try to keep up the
beautiful pretense.  The picturesque groups of idlers and traffickers
were more interesting to us than the palaces with sculptured fronts
and old Roman busts, or tombs of the Scaligers, and old gates.
Perhaps I ought to except the wonderful and perfect Roman
amphitheater, over every foot of which a handsome boy in rags
followed us, looking over every wall that we looked over, peering
into every hole that we peered into, thus showing his fellowship with
us, and at every pause planting himself before us, and throwing a
somerset, and then extending his greasy cap for coppers, as if he
knew that the modern mind ought not to dwell too exclusively on hoary
antiquity without some relief.

Anxious, as I have said, to find the sunny South, we left Verona that
afternoon for Florence, by way of Padua and Bologna.  The ride to
Padua was through a plain, at this season dreary enough, were it not,
here and there, for the abrupt little hills and the snowy Alps, which
were always in sight, and towards sundown and between showers
transcendently lovely in a purple and rosy light.  But nothing now
could be more desolate than the rows of unending mulberry-trees,
pruned down to the stumps, through which we rode all the afternoon.
I suppose they look better when the branches grow out with the tender
leaves for the silk-worms, and when they are clothed with grapevines.
Padua was only to us a name.  There we turned south, lost mountains
and the near hills, and had nothing but the mulberry flats and
ditches of water, and chilly rain and mist. It grew unpleasant as we
went south.  At dark we were riding slowly, very slowly, for miles
through a country overflowed with water, out of which trees and
houses loomed up in a ghastly show.  At all the stations soldiers
were getting on board, shouting and singing discordantly choruses
from the operas; for there was a rising at Padua, and one feared at
Bologna the populace getting up insurrections against the enforcement
of the grist-tax,--a tax which has made the government very
unpopular, as it falls principally upon the poor.

Creeping along at such a slow rate, we reached Bologna too late for
the Florence train, It was eight o'clock, and still raining.  The
next train went at two o'clock in the morning, and was the best one
for us to take.  We had supper in an inn near by, and a fair attempt
at a fire in our parlor.  I sat before it, and kept it as lively as
possible, as the hours wore away, and tried to make believe that I
was ruminating on the ancient greatness of Bologna and its famous
university, some of whose chairs had been occupied by women, and upon
the fact that it was on a little island in the Reno, just below here,
that Octavius and Lepidus and Mark Antony formed the second
Triumvirate, which put an end to what little liberty Rome had left;
but in reality I was thinking of the draught on my back, and the
comforts of a sunny clime.  But the time came at length for starting;
and in luxurious cars we finished the night very comfortably, and
rode into Florence at eight in the morning to find, as we had hoped,
on the other side of the Apennines, a sunny sky and balmy air.

As this is strictly a chapter of travel and weather, I may not stop
to say how impressive and beautiful Florence seemed to us; how
bewildering in art treasures, which one sees at a glance in the
streets; or scarcely to hint how lovely were the Boboli Gardens
behind the Pitti Palace, the roses, geraniums etc, in bloom, the
birds singing, and all in a soft, dreamy air.  The next day was not
so genial; and we sped on, following our original intention of
seeking the summer in winter.  In order to avoid trouble with baggage
and passports in Rome, we determined to book through for Naples,
making the trip in about twenty hours.  We started at nine o'clock in
the evening, and I do not recall a more thoroughly uncomfortable
journey.  It grew colder as the night wore on, and we went farther
south.  Late in the morning we were landed at the station outside of
Rome.  There was a general appearance of ruin and desolation.  The
wind blew fiercely from the hills, and the snowflakes from the flying
clouds added to the general chilliness.  There was no chance to get
even a cup of coffee, and we waited an hour in the cold car.  If I
had not been so half frozen, the consciousness that I was actually on
the outskirts of the Eternal City, that I saw the Campagna and the
aqueducts, that yonder were the Alban Hills, and that every foot of

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