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Florence’s Unimportance to the Tourist c 1810 25/03/2011

Posted by florencecapital in Uncategorized.
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This text dates to c. 1810 and gives a nice summary of an English visit to Italy in the generation before Victoria. Note (i) the obsession with antiquity over the renaissance, (ii) references to Napoleon’s recent rampages and (iii) the relative unimportance of Florence. Later in the book the author gives a chapter each to Rome, Naples and Venice.

I would leave England the end of April, and devote the month of May to Paris, where I should suppose that time, if well and assiduously employed, would amply satisfy the curiosity. From Paris I would proceed through Lyons to Geneva, or rather to Secheron, where there is an excellent hotel on the banks of the lake, and where every necessary assistance could be procured to facilitate a tour through the different Cantons of Switzerland, The months of June, July, and August might be pleasantly spent in exploring the picturesque scenery of Helvetia, and the rude Alps might be traversed during the early part of the month of September. Since the late system of spoliation has taken place in Italy, the connoisseur in painting arid sculpture will find but little to detain him, I fear, in many of those cities, where weeks were scarcely sufficient to satisfy his ardent curiosity.

A few days, therefore, may be deemed sufficient, both at Turin and at Milan: but the artist, as well as the lover of picturesque scenery, should, by all means, avail himself of this fine season of the year, when every vineyard smiles, and every villa teems with hospitality, to make an excursion into the Val d’Aoste, and visit the Lago Maggiore, Lago Lugarno, and Lago di Como. By the end of September, or beginning of October, the tourist may continue his southern progress, passing through the cities of Piacenza, Parma, and Modena to Bologna. At each of these places there were objects to attract the traveller’s attention, and to cause some trifling delay in his journey , but I fear they have all suffered in some degree from the system of universal plunder. Parma, however, probably still possesses some of the fresco works of Carreggio uninjured. As to Bologna, once so rich in the productions of the Roman and Bolognese schools, I dread to hear the result of the visits made to it by the Scrutatores, or Commissioners, of the Corsican Verres. Some works, however, I hope still remain, not only to testify the existence of a Guido, a Domenichino, a Guercino, and the Caracci, but even to proclaim their excellence to future ages. Florence will still probably detain the traveller for some days, even though its Tribune is no longer graced with the Venus de Medicis, or its Gallery ennobled by the family of the unfortunate Niobe.

If the season continues propitious, I should strongly recommend the road from Florence to Rome, by way of Perugia, in preference to that by Siena, though the latter is the one most generally frequented. The former abounds with interest; and at every stage presents objects either of natural beauty, or classical antiquity, that cannot fail to diminish the tedium of a long journey. Both to the Artist and the Scholar this tract of country will prove highly attractive.

At Arezzo, he will find some trifling remains of the ancient Arretium, and will call to mind the many celebrated characters to which this city once gave birth. At Cortona, should his inclinations lead him to investigate the very ancient mode of Etruscan building, he will make a slight deviation from the great road to examine the walls of the ancient Crotona, and a most singular stone building in its neighbourhood, called La Grotta di Pittagora. In his way to Perugia he will pass by the lake of Thrasymene, celebrated for the signal defeat of the Roman army under the Consul Flaminius, by the Carthaginian general, Hannibal: and if a scholar, he will not rest satisfied until he has refreshed his memory with the detail of this battle, as related by the historians Livy and Polybius.

At Perugia he will see many works of its native painter, Pietro Perugino, and some of the early essays of his scholar, the divine Raphael. At Foligno he would have been able to have seen the wonderful progress made towards perfection, by the scholar of Pietro, in one of his finest performances. Passing by Spello, he will notice the remains of an amphitheatre, and pay a tribute to the birth place of the poet Propertius.

Alle Vene, he will see a beautiful little chapel, erected probably on the site of a more ancient temple, dedicated to the god of the river, Clitumnus; and he may perhaps, like the Romans of old, lave his weary limbs in its sacred and pellucid streams. At Spoleto, his recollection will again be pointed to the Carthaginian Hannibal, and his tribute of applause given to the citizens who repulsed the exulting victor at Thrasymene from their gates.

But on arriving near the city of Terni, how will his impatience increase, and with what anxiety will he await the approach of that day which will lead him to the precipitous brink of the foaming Velino! with what rapture and with what awe will he view this stupendous cataract, this enfer d’eau, as it has been called by some French tourist. The sea-green Nera will follow him to Narni, where the ruins of a most stately bridge will point out to him the magnificence of an Augustus, and the perfected state of the arts at the period in which he lived. Leaving Narni, and the delightful province of Umbria, and with them the most picturesque country he has perhaps yet seen in this part of Italy, he will look forward with anxiety to the conclusion of his journey, and to his safe arrival within the walls of Rome. Adjoining to Otricoli, he may trace the vestiges of the ancient Ocriculum; and at the romantic town of Civita Castellana, he may recollect the spirited resistance which the Falisci made to Camillus, and the anecdote of the Schoolmaster so well and minutely recorded by Livy. But on the first glimpse of the proud dome of the Vatican, and the streams of the Tiber meandering through the vale, how will his heart throb with impatience! how anxiously will he await that moment when the gates of the Imperial City shall be opened to receive him!

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