Approach To Florence - Italy
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
After a residence of a few days we left Bologna, which we did not forsake without regret. Many circumstances in a peculiar manner tend to awaken attention in the traveller who visits this city. The singular beauty of the surrounding country, the high cultivation of science, its valuable possessions in the arts, as also the courtesy and amenity which so entirely characterize the manners and tone of society, powerfully combine to excite the most lively interest, and to leave impressions on the mind not easily forgotten.
The road from this city to Florence is through valleys and over mountains. Passing by the Porta Fiorentina, we first coursed a Highland valley by the side of a beautiful stream, where a mill is seated, in a most picturesque spot, with mountain scenery, rising in fine perspective from behind, and in front, up to the summit of the Alps, across which our road lay. After passing the village of Panora, we proceeded to ascend the great chain of the Appenines, separating the plains of Lombardy from Tuscany; winding our way along a narrow road, some-times bordering the edge of a precipice on one side, while on the other the mountains, clothed with fine trees, growing in every wild and fantastic form, rise precipitously; at other times, our path lay inclosed by rocks, which, occasionally opened by chasms, suddenly offered to our view the distant perspective of the country we had passed.
At Sajano, the first stage from Panora, the prospect becomes more extensive; here the eye may trace the chain of mountains from Turin, Milan, Verona, the plains of Padua, and Lombardy, through which the majestic Po, with its tributary streams, courses onwards to the sea. We passed the night in this place, at a little inn, situated in a sequestered romantic spot, from which, at the distance of four miles, there is a volcano, called Pietra Mala, the stones of which are said to be almost always red. I wished much to visit this phenomenon, interesting to me as being the first volcanic matter which I had an opportunity of examining; but I was forced to leave my curiosity ungratified. Next morning, after a very steep ascent of about two hours, we reached Cavigliaio, and here we had our first distinct view of the Adriatic.
From this spot the road becomes less precipitous, and after a most pleasing and winding drive, we reached the Maschere, the first stage from Sajona, being about fifteen miles from Florence. This house, which formerly be-longed to a nobleman, and is now converted into an inn, offers nothing peculiar in its aspect, presenting only a tame flat style of architecture; but its site is the most singular, commanding, and beautiful, imaginable. Seated on the highest summit of the Appenines, it overlooks the brow of a mountain, which, although covered with trees, is almost perpendicular; while on the plain far below lies the beautiful vale of Arno, bound by a circle of magnificent hills, sometimes rising in acclivities, sometimes in polished knolls or bold promontories, cultivated to the very summit with the vine and olive, interspersed with fruit and forest trees, and thickly studded with villas, convents, and churches, presenting an aspect of extraordinary animation and beauty. Turning from the contemplation of this rich, lively, and cultivated landscape, to the bold country spread abroad among the Appenines behind the Maschere, you behold a prospect finely contrasting nature in all its most polished splendour, with the wild and majestic grandeur of mountain scenery. The singular and striking beauty of this spot often arrests the steps of the traveller journeying to-wards Florence, or returning thence, insomuch that many meaning to pass on, have been induced to remain, even for weeks, at the Maschere. We also stopped a short time, but impatient to reach the termination of our journey, health alone caused the delay. After reposing two days, we once more set forth, and bowling lightly along a fine road, running in a rapid descent, reached the gates of Florence early in the morning of a beautiful day, and drove at full speed to the Hotel di York, in the centre of the city.
I shall now suspend my journal, and confine myself to such general remarks as may arise from surrounding objects, describing the most distinguished specimens in the arts, comprising the several branches of architecture, statuary, and painting, as a source of relaxation and relief from my more serious labours, as also with the view of assisting the researches of the young traveller, by directing his attention to those works which are more especially worthy of notice.