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Ch. 9 - To Rome by Pisa and Siena

There is nothing in Italy, more beautiful to me, than the coast-
road between Genoa and Spezzia. On one side: sometimes far below,
sometimes nearly on a level with the road, and often skirted by
broken rocks of many shapes: there is the free blue sea, with here
and there a picturesque felucca gliding slowly on; on the other
side are lofty hills, ravines besprinkled with white cottages,
patches of dark olive woods, country churches with their light open
towers, and country houses gaily painted. On every bank and knoll
by the wayside, the wild cactus and aloe flourish in exuberant
profusion; and the gardens of the bright villages along the road,
are seen, all blushing in the summer-time with clusters of the
Belladonna, and are fragrant in the autumn and winter with golden
oranges and lemons.

Some of the villages are inhabited, almost exclusively, by
fishermen; and it is pleasant to see their great boats hauled up on
the beach, making little patches of shade, where they lie asleep,
or where the women and children sit romping and looking out to sea,
while they mend their nets upon the shore. There is one town,
Camoglia, with its little harbour on the sea, hundreds of feet
below the road; where families of mariners live, who, time out of
mind, have owned coasting-vessels in that place, and have traded to
Spain and elsewhere. Seen from the road above, it is like a tiny
model on the margin of the dimpled water, shining in the sun.
Descended into, by the winding mule-tracks, it is a perfect
miniature of a primitive seafaring town; the saltest, roughest,
most piratical little place that ever was seen. Great rusty iron
rings and mooring-chains, capstans, and fragments of old masts and
spars, choke up the way; hardy rough-weather boats, and seamen's
clothing, flutter in the little harbour or are drawn out on the
sunny stones to dry; on the parapet of the rude pier, a few
amphibious-looking fellows lie asleep, with their legs dangling
over the wall, as though earth or water were all one to them, and
if they slipped in, they would float away, dozing comfortably among
the fishes; the church is bright with trophies of the sea, and
votive offerings, in commemoration of escape from storm and
shipwreck. The dwellings not immediately abutting on the harbour
are approached by blind low archways, and by crooked steps, as if
in darkness and in difficulty of access they should be like holds
of ships, or inconvenient cabins under water; and everywhere, there
is a smell of fish, and sea-weed, and old rope.

The coast-road whence Camoglia is descried so far below, is famous,
in the warm season, especially in some parts near Genoa, for fire-
flies. Walking there on a dark night, I have seen it made one
sparkling firmament by these beautiful insects: so that the
distant stars were pale against the flash and glitter that spangled
every olive wood and hill-side, and pervaded the whole air.

It was not in such a season, however, that we traversed this road
on our way to Rome. The middle of January was only just past, and
it was very gloomy and dark weather; very wet besides. In crossing
the fine pass of Bracco, we encountered such a storm of mist and
rain, that we travelled in a cloud the whole way. There might have
been no Mediterranean in the world, for anything that we saw of it
there, except when a sudden gust of wind, clearing the mist before
it, for a moment, showed the agitated sea at a great depth below,
lashing the distant rocks, and spouting up its foam furiously. The
rain was incessant; every brook and torrent was greatly swollen;
and such a deafening leaping, and roaring, and thundering of water,
I never heard the like of in my life.

Hence, when we came to Spezzia, we found that the Magra, an
unbridged river on the high-road to Pisa, was too high to be safely
crossed in the Ferry Boat, and were fain to wait until the
afternoon of next day, when it had, in some degree, subsided.
Spezzia, however, is a good place to tarry at; by reason, firstly,
of its beautiful bay; secondly, of its ghostly Inn; thirdly, of the
head-dress of the women, who wear, on one side of their head, a
small doll's straw hat, stuck on to the hair; which is certainly
the oddest and most roguish head-gear that ever was invented.

The Magra safely crossed in the Ferry Boat--the passage is not by
any means agreeable, when the current is swollen and strong--we
arrived at Carrara, within a few hours. In good time next morning,
we got some ponies, and went out to see the marble quarries.

They are four or five great glens, running up into a range of lofty
hills, until they can run no longer, and are stopped by being
abruptly strangled by Nature. The quarries, 'or caves,' as they
call them there, are so many openings, high up in the hills, on
either side of these passes, where they blast and excavate for
marble: which may turn out good or bad: may make a man's fortune
very quickly, or ruin him by the great expense of working what is
worth nothing. Some of these caves were opened by the ancient
Romans, and remain as they left them to this hour. Many others are
being worked at this moment; others are to be begun to-morrow, next
week, next month; others are unbought, unthought of; and marble
enough for more ages than have passed since the place was resorted
to, lies hidden everywhere: patiently awaiting its time of
discovery.

As you toil and clamber up one of these steep gorges (having left
your pony soddening his girths in water, a mile or two lower down)
you hear, every now and then, echoing among the hills, in a low
tone, more silent than the previous silence, a melancholy warning
bugle,--a signal to the miners to withdraw. Then, there is a
thundering, and echoing from hill to hill, and perhaps a splashing
up of great fragments of rock into the air; and on you toil again
until some other bugle sounds, in a new direction, and you stop
directly, lest you should come within the range of the new
explosion.

There were numbers of men, working high up in these hills--on the
sides--clearing away, and sending down the broken masses of stone
and earth, to make way for the blocks of marble that had been
discovered. As these came rolling down from unseen hands into the
narrow valley, I could not help thinking of the deep glen (just the
same sort of glen) where the Roc left Sindbad the Sailor; and where
the merchants from the heights above, flung down great pieces of
meat for the diamonds to stick to. There were no eagles here, to
darken the sun in their swoop, and pounce upon them; but it was as
wild and fierce as if there had been hundreds.

But the road, the road down which the marble comes, however immense
the blocks! The genius of the country, and the spirit of its
institutions, pave that road: repair it, watch it, keep it going!
Conceive a channel of water running over a rocky bed, beset with
great heaps of stone of all shapes and sizes, winding down the
middle of this valley; and THAT being the road--because it was the
road five hundred years ago! Imagine the clumsy carts of five
hundred years ago, being used to this hour, and drawn, as they used
to be, five hundred years ago, by oxen, whose ancestors were worn
to death five hundred years ago, as their unhappy descendants are
now, in twelve months, by the suffering and agony of this cruel
work! Two pair, four pair, ten pair, twenty pair, to one block,
according to its size; down it must come, this way. In their
struggling from stone to stone, with their enormous loads behind
them, they die frequently upon the spot; and not they alone; for
their passionate drivers, sometimes tumbling down in their energy,
are crushed to death beneath the wheels. But it was good five
hundred years ago, and it must be good now: and a railroad down
one of these steeps (the easiest thing in the world) would be flat
blasphemy.

When we stood aside, to see one of these cars drawn by only a pair
of oxen (for it had but one small block of marble on it), coming
down, I hailed, in my heart, the man who sat upon the heavy yoke,
to keep it on the neck of the poor beasts--and who faced backwards:
not before him--as the very Devil of true despotism. He had a
great rod in his hand, with an iron point; and when they could
plough and force their way through the loose bed of the torrent no
longer, and came to a stop, he poked it into their bodies, beat it
on their heads, screwed it round and round in their nostrils, got
them on a yard or two, in the madness of intense pain; repeated all
these persuasions, with increased intensity of purpose, when they
stopped again; got them on, once more; forced and goaded them to an
abrupter point of the descent; and when their writhing and
smarting, and the weight behind them, bore them plunging down the
precipice in a cloud of scattered water, whirled his rod above his
head, and gave a great whoop and hallo, as if he had achieved
something, and had no idea that they might shake him off, and
blindly mash his brains upon the road, in the noontide of his
triumph.

Standing in one of the many studii of Carrara, that afternoon--for
it is a great workshop, full of beautifully-finished copies in
marble, of almost every figure, group, and bust, we know--it
seemed, at first, so strange to me that those exquisite shapes,
replete with grace, and thought, and delicate repose, should grow
out of all this toil, and sweat, and torture! But I soon found a
parallel to it, and an explanation of it, in every virtue that
springs up in miserable ground, and every good thing that has its
birth in sorrow and distress. And, looking out of the sculptor's
great window, upon the marble mountains, all red and glowing in the
decline of day, but stern and solemn to the last, I thought, my
God! how many quarries of human hearts and souls, capable of far
more beautiful results, are left shut up and mouldering away:
while pleasure-travellers through life, avert their faces, as they
pass, and shudder at the gloom and ruggedness that conceal them!

The then reigning Duke of Modena, to whom this territory in part
belonged, claimed the proud distinction of being the only sovereign
in Europe who had not recognised Louis-Philippe as King of the
French! He was not a wag, but quite in earnest. He was also much
opposed to railroads; and if certain lines in contemplation by
other potentates, on either side of him, had been executed, would
have probably enjoyed the satisfaction of having an omnibus plying
to and fro across his not very vast dominions, to forward
travellers from one terminus to another.

Carrara, shut in by great hills, is very picturesque and bold. Few
tourists stay there; and the people are nearly all connected, in
one way or other, with the working of marble. There are also
villages among the caves, where the workmen live. It contains a
beautiful little Theatre, newly built; and it is an interesting
custom there, to form the chorus of labourers in the marble
quarries, who are self-taught and sing by ear. I heard them in a
comic opera, and in an act of 'Norma;' and they acquitted
themselves very well; unlike the common people of Italy generally,
who (with some exceptions among the Neapolitans) sing vilely out of
tune, and have very disagreeable singing voices.

From the summit of a lofty hill beyond Carrara, the first view of
the fertile plain in which the town of Pisa lies--with Leghorn, a
purple spot in the flat distance--is enchanting. Nor is it only
distance that lends enchantment to the view; for the fruitful
country, and rich woods of olive-trees through which the road
subsequently passes, render it delightful.

The moon was shining when we approached Pisa, and for a long time
we could see, behind the wall, the leaning Tower, all awry in the
uncertain light; the shadowy original of the old pictures in
school-books, setting forth 'The Wonders of the World.' Like most
things connected in their first associations with school-books and
school-times, it was too small. I felt it keenly. It was nothing
like so high above the wall as I had hoped. It was another of the
many deceptions practised by Mr. Harris, Bookseller, at the corner
of St. Paul's Churchyard, London. HIS Tower was a fiction, but
this was a reality--and, by comparison, a short reality. Still, it
looked very well, and very strange, and was quite as much out of
the perpendicular as Harris had represented it to be. The quiet
air of Pisa too; the big guard-house at the gate, with only two
little soldiers in it; the streets with scarcely any show of people
in them; and the Arno, flowing quaintly through the centre of the
town; were excellent. So, I bore no malice in my heart against Mr.
Harris (remembering his good intentions), but forgave him before
dinner, and went out, full of confidence, to see the Tower next
morning.

I might have known better; but, somehow, I had expected to see it,
casting its long shadow on a public street where people came and
went all day. It was a surprise to me to find it in a grave
retired place, apart from the general resort, and carpeted with
smooth green turf. But, the group of buildings, clustered on and
about this verdant carpet: comprising the Tower, the Baptistery,
the Cathedral, and the Church of the Campo Santo: is perhaps the
most remarkable and beautiful in the whole world; and from being
clustered there, together, away from the ordinary transactions and
details of the town, they have a singularly venerable and
impressive character. It is the architectural essence of a rich
old city, with all its common life and common habitations pressed
out, and filtered away.

SIMOND compares the Tower to the usual pictorial representations in
children's books of the Tower of Babel. It is a happy simile, and
conveys a better idea of the building than chapters of laboured
description. Nothing can exceed the grace and lightness of the
structure; nothing can be more remarkable than its general
appearance. In the course of the ascent to the top (which is by an
easy staircase), the inclination is not very apparent; but, at the
summit, it becomes so, and gives one the sensation of being in a
ship that has heeled over, through the action of an ebb-tide. The
effect UPON THE LOW SIDE, so to speak--looking over from the
gallery, and seeing the shaft recede to its base--is very
startling; and I saw a nervous traveller hold on to the Tower
involuntarily, after glancing down, as if he had some idea of
propping it up. The view within, from the ground--looking up, as
through a slanted tube--is also very curious. It certainly
inclines as much as the most sanguine tourist could desire. The
natural impulse of ninety-nine people out of a hundred, who were
about to recline upon the grass below it, to rest, and contemplate
the adjacent buildings, would probably be, not to take up their
position under the leaning side; it is so very much aslant.

The manifold beauties of the Cathedral and Baptistery need no
recapitulation from me; though in this case, as in a hundred
others, I find it difficult to separate my own delight in recalling
them, from your weariness in having them recalled. There is a
picture of St. Agnes, by Andrea del Sarto, in the former, and there
are a variety of rich columns in the latter, that tempt me
strongly.

It is, I hope, no breach of my resolution not to be tempted into
elaborate descriptions, to remember the Campo Santo; where grass-
grown graves are dug in earth brought more than six hundred years
ago, from the Holy Land; and where there are, surrounding them,
such cloisters, with such playing lights and shadows falling
through their delicate tracery on the stone pavement, as surely the
dullest memory could never forget. On the walls of this solemn and
lovely place, are ancient frescoes, very much obliterated and
decayed, but very curious. As usually happens in almost any
collection of paintings, of any sort, in Italy, where there are
many heads, there is, in one of them, a striking accidental
likeness of Napoleon. At one time, I used to please my fancy with
the speculation whether these old painters, at their work, had a
foreboding knowledge of the man who would one day arise to wreak
such destruction upon art: whose soldiers would make targets of
great pictures, and stable their horses among triumphs of
architecture. But the same Corsican face is so plentiful in some
parts of Italy at this day, that a more commonplace solution of the
coincidence is unavoidable.

If Pisa be the seventh wonder of the world in right of its Tower,
it may claim to be, at least, the second or third in right of its
beggars. They waylay the unhappy visitor at every turn, escort him
to every door he enters at, and lie in wait for him, with strong
reinforcements, at every door by which they know he must come out.
The grating of the portal on its hinges is the signal for a general
shout, and the moment he appears, he is hemmed in, and fallen on,
by heaps of rags and personal distortions. The beggars seem to
embody all the trade and enterprise of Pisa. Nothing else is
stirring, but warm air. Going through the streets, the fronts of
the sleepy houses look like backs. They are all so still and
quiet, and unlike houses with people in them, that the greater part
of the city has the appearance of a city at daybreak, or during a
general siesta of the population. Or it is yet more like those
backgrounds of houses in common prints, or old engravings, where
windows and doors are squarely indicated, and one figure (a beggar
of course) is seen walking off by itself into illimitable
perspective.

Not so Leghorn (made illustrious by SMOLLETT'S grave), which is a
thriving, business-like, matter-of-fact place, where idleness is
shouldered out of the way by commerce. The regulations observed
there, in reference to trade and merchants, are very liberal and
free; and the town, of course, benefits by them. Leghorn had a bad
name in connection with stabbers, and with some justice it must be
allowed; for, not many years ago, there was an assassination club
there, the members of which bore no ill-will to anybody in
particular, but stabbed people (quite strangers to them) in the
streets at night, for the pleasure and excitement of the
recreation. I think the president of this amiable society was a
shoemaker. He was taken, however, and the club was broken up. It
would, probably, have disappeared in the natural course of events,
before the railroad between Leghorn and Pisa, which is a good one,
and has already begun to astonish Italy with a precedent of
punctuality, order, plain dealing, and improvement--the most
dangerous and heretical astonisher of all. There must have been a
slight sensation, as of earthquake, surely, in the Vatican, when
the first Italian railroad was thrown open.

Returning to Pisa, and hiring a good-tempered Vetturino, and his
four horses, to take us on to Rome, we travelled through pleasant
Tuscan villages and cheerful scenery all day. The roadside crosses
in this part of Italy are numerous and curious. There is seldom a
figure on the cross, though there is sometimes a face, but they are
remarkable for being garnished with little models in wood, of every
possible object that can be connected with the Saviour's death.
The cock that crowed when Peter had denied his Master thrice, is
usually perched on the tip-top; and an ornithological phenomenon he
generally is. Under him, is the inscription. Then, hung on to the
cross-beam, are the spear, the reed with the sponge of vinegar and
water at the end, the coat without seam for which the soldiers cast
lots, the dice-box with which they threw for it, the hammer that
drove in the nails, the pincers that pulled them out, the ladder
which was set against the cross, the crown of thorns, the
instrument of flagellation, the lanthorn with which Mary went to
the tomb (I suppose), and the sword with which Peter smote the
servant of the high priest,--a perfect toy-shop of little objects,
repeated at every four or five miles, all along the highway.

On the evening of the second day from Pisa, we reached the
beautiful old city of Siena. There was what they called a
Carnival, in progress; but, as its secret lay in a score or two of
melancholy people walking up and down the principal street in
common toy-shop masks, and being more melancholy, if possible, than
the same sort of people in England, I say no more of it. We went
off, betimes next morning, to see the Cathedral, which is
wonderfully picturesque inside and out, especially the latter--also
the market-place, or great Piazza, which is a large square, with a
great broken-nosed fountain in it: some quaint Gothic houses: and
a high square brick tower; OUTSIDE the top of which--a curious
feature in such views in Italy--hangs an enormous bell. It is like
a bit of Venice, without the water. There are some curious old
Palazzi in the town, which is very ancient; and without having (for
me) the interest of Verona, or Genoa, it is very dreamy and
fantastic, and most interesting.

We went on again, as soon as we had seen these things, and going
over a rather bleak country (there had been nothing but vines until
now: mere walking-sticks at that season of the year), stopped, as
usual, between one and two hours in the middle of the day, to rest
the horses; that being a part of every Vetturino contract. We then
went on again, through a region gradually becoming bleaker and
wilder, until it became as bare and desolate as any Scottish moors.
Soon after dark, we halted for the night, at the osteria of La
Scala: a perfectly lone house, where the family were sitting round
a great fire in the kitchen, raised on a stone platform three or
four feet high, and big enough for the roasting of an ox. On the
upper, and only other floor of this hotel, there was a great, wild,
rambling sala, with one very little window in a by-corner, and four
black doors opening into four black bedrooms in various directions.
To say nothing of another large black door, opening into another
large black sala, with the staircase coming abruptly through a kind
of trap-door in the floor, and the rafters of the roof looming
above: a suspicious little press skulking in one obscure corner:
and all the knives in the house lying about in various directions.
The fireplace was of the purest Italian architecture, so that it
was perfectly impossible to see it for the smoke. The waitress was
like a dramatic brigand's wife, and wore the same style of dress
upon her head. The dogs barked like mad; the echoes returned the
compliments bestowed upon them; there was not another house within
twelve miles; and things had a dreary, and rather a cut-throat,
appearance.

They were not improved by rumours of robbers having come out,
strong and boldly, within a few nights; and of their having stopped
the mail very near that place. They were known to have waylaid
some travellers not long before, on Mount Vesuvius itself, and were
the talk at all the roadside inns. As they were no business of
ours, however (for we had very little with us to lose), we made
ourselves merry on the subject, and were very soon as comfortable
as need be. We had the usual dinner in this solitary house; and a
very good dinner it is, when you are used to it. There is
something with a vegetable or some rice in it which is a sort of
shorthand or arbitrary character for soup, and which tastes very
well, when you have flavoured it with plenty of grated cheese, lots
of salt, and abundance of pepper. There is the half fowl of which
this soup has been made. There is a stewed pigeon, with the
gizzards and livers of himself and other birds stuck all round him.
There is a bit of roast beef, the size of a small French roll.
There are a scrap of Parmesan cheese, and five little withered
apples, all huddled together on a small plate, and crowding one
upon the other, as if each were trying to save itself from the
chance of being eaten. Then there is coffee; and then there is
bed. You don't mind brick floors; you don't mind yawning doors,
nor banging windows; you don't mind your own horses being stabled
under the bed: and so close, that every time a horse coughs or
sneezes, he wakes you. If you are good-humoured to the people
about you, and speak pleasantly, and look cheerful, take my word
for it you may be well entertained in the very worst Italian Inn,
and always in the most obliging manner, and may go from one end of
the country to the other (despite all stories to the contrary)
without any great trial of your patience anywhere. Especially,
when you get such wine in flasks, as the Orvieto, and the Monte
Pulciano.

It was a bad morning when we left this place; and we went, for
twelve miles, over a country as barren, as stony, and as wild, as
Cornwall in England, until we came to Radicofani, where there is a
ghostly, goblin inn: once a hunting-seat, belonging to the Dukes
of Tuscany. It is full of such rambling corridors, and gaunt
rooms, that all the murdering and phantom tales that ever were
written might have originated in that one house. There are some
horrible old Palazzi in Genoa: one in particular, not unlike it,
outside: but there is a winding, creaking, wormy, rustling, door-
opening, foot-on-staircase-falling character about this Radicofani
Hotel, such as I never saw, anywhere else. The town, such as it
is, hangs on a hill-side above the house, and in front of it. The
inhabitants are all beggars; and as soon as they see a carriage
coming, they swoop down upon it, like so many birds of prey.

When we got on the mountain pass, which lies beyond this place, the
wind (as they had forewarned us at the inn) was so terrific, that
we were obliged to take my other half out of the carriage, lest she
should be blown over, carriage and all, and to hang to it, on the
windy side (as well as we could for laughing), to prevent its
going, Heaven knows where. For mere force of wind, this land-storm
might have competed with an Atlantic gale, and had a reasonable
chance of coming off victorious. The blast came sweeping down
great gullies in a range of mountains on the right: so that we
looked with positive awe at a great morass on the left, and saw
that there was not a bush or twig to hold by. It seemed as if,
once blown from our feet, we must be swept out to sea, or away into
space. There was snow, and hail, and rain, and lightning, and
thunder; and there were rolling mists, travelling with incredible
velocity. It was dark, awful, and solitary to the last degree;
there were mountains above mountains, veiled in angry clouds; and
there was such a wrathful, rapid, violent, tumultuous hurry,
everywhere, as rendered the scene unspeakably exciting and grand.

It was a relief to get out of it, notwithstanding; and to cross
even the dismal, dirty Papal Frontier. After passing through two
little towns; in one of which, Acquapendente, there was also a
'Carnival' in progress: consisting of one man dressed and masked
as a woman, and one woman dressed and masked as a man, walking
ankle-deep, through the muddy streets, in a very melancholy manner:
we came, at dusk, within sight of the Lake of Bolsena, on whose
bank there is a little town of the same name, much celebrated for
malaria. With the exception of this poor place, there is not a
cottage on the banks of the lake, or near it (for nobody dare sleep
there); not a boat upon its waters; not a stick or stake to break
the dismal monotony of seven-and-twenty watery miles. We were late
in getting in, the roads being very bad from heavy rains; and,
after dark, the dulness of the scene was quite intolerable.

We entered on a very different, and a finer scene of desolation,
next night, at sunset. We had passed through Montefiaschone
(famous for its wine) and Viterbo (for its fountains): and after
climbing up a long hill of eight or ten miles' extent, came
suddenly upon the margin of a solitary lake: in one part very
beautiful, with a luxuriant wood; in another, very barren, and shut
in by bleak volcanic hills. Where this lake flows, there stood, of
old, a city. It was swallowed up one day; and in its stead, this
water rose. There are ancient traditions (common to many parts of
the world) of the ruined city having been seen below, when the
water was clear; but however that may be, from this spot of earth
it vanished. The ground came bubbling up above it; and the water
too; and here they stand, like ghosts on whom the other world
closed suddenly, and who have no means of getting back again. They
seem to be waiting the course of ages, for the next earthquake in
that place; when they will plunge below the ground, at its first
yawning, and be seen no more. The unhappy city below, is not more
lost and dreary, than these fire-charred hills and the stagnant
water, above. The red sun looked strangely on them, as with the
knowledge that they were made for caverns and darkness; and the
melancholy water oozed and sucked the mud, and crept quietly among
the marshy grass and reeds, as if the overthrow of all the ancient
towers and housetops, and the death of all the ancient people born
and bred there, were yet heavy on its conscience.

A short ride from this lake, brought us to Ronciglione; a little
town like a large pig-sty, where we passed the night. Next morning
at seven o'clock, we started for Rome.

As soon as we were out of the pig-sty, we entered on the Campagna
Romana; an undulating flat (as you know), where few people can
live; and where, for miles and miles, there is nothing to relieve
the terrible monotony and gloom. Of all kinds of country that
could, by possibility, lie outside the gates of Rome, this is the
aptest and fittest burial-ground for the Dead City. So sad, so
quiet, so sullen; so secret in its covering up of great masses of
ruin, and hiding them; so like the waste places into which the men
possessed with devils used to go and howl, and rend themselves, in
the old days of Jerusalem. We had to traverse thirty miles of this
Campagna; and for two-and-twenty we went on and on, seeing nothing
but now and then a lonely house, or a villainous-looking shepherd:
with matted hair all over his face, and himself wrapped to the chin
in a frowsy brown mantle, tending his sheep. At the end of that
distance, we stopped to refresh the horses, and to get some lunch,
in a common malaria-shaken, despondent little public-house, whose
every inch of wall and beam, inside, was (according to custom)
painted and decorated in a way so miserable that every room looked
like the wrong side of another room, and, with its wretched
imitation of drapery, and lop-sided little daubs of lyres, seemed
to have been plundered from behind the scenes of some travelling
circus.

When we were fairly going off again, we began, in a perfect fever,
to strain our eyes for Rome; and when, after another mile or two,
the Eternal City appeared, at length, in the distance; it looked
like--I am half afraid to write the word--like LONDON!!! There it
lay, under a thick cloud, with innumerable towers, and steeples,
and roofs of houses, rising up into the sky, and high above them
all, one Dome. I swear, that keenly as I felt the seeming
absurdity of the comparison, it was so like London, at that
distance, that if you could have shown it me, in a glass, I should
have taken it for nothing else.

Charles Dickens