The Approach By Carriage Road
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Immediately after leaving Incisa, we saw the Arno, already a considerable river, rushing between deep banks, with the greenish hue of a duck-pond diffused through its water. Nevertheless, tho the first impression was not altogether agreeable, we soon became reconciled to this hue, and ceased to think it an indication of impurity; for, in spite of it, the river is still, to a certain degree, transparent, and is, at any rate, a mountain stream, and comes uncontaminated from its source. The pure, trans-parent brown of the New England rivers is the most beautiful color; but I am content that it should be peculiar to them.
Our afternoon's drive was through scenery less striking than some which we had traversed, but still picturesque and beautiful. We saw deep valleys and ravines, with streams at the bottom; long, wooded hillsides, rising far and high, and dotted with white dwellings, well toward the summits. By and by, we had a distant glimpse of Florence, showing its great dome and some of its towers out of a sidelong valley, as if we were between two great waves of the tumultuous sea of hills; while, far beyond, rose in the distance the blue peaks of three or four of the Apennines, just on the remote horizon. There being a haziness in the atmosphere, however, Florence was little more distinct to us than the Celestial City was to Christian and Hopeful, when they spied at it from the Delectable Mountains.
Keeping steadfastly onward, we ascended a winding road, and passed a grand villa, standing very high, and surrounded with extensive grounds. It must be the residence of some great noble; and it has an avenue of poplars or aspens, very light and gay, and fit for the passage of the bridal procession, when the proprietor or his heir brings home his bride; while in another direction from the same front of the palace stretches an avenue or grove of cypresses, very long and exceedingly black and dismal, like a train of gigantic mourners. I have seen few things more striking, in the way of trees, than this grove of cypresses.
From this point we descended, and drove along an ugly, dusty avenue, with a high brick wall on one side or both, till we reached the gate of Florence, into which we were admitted with as little trouble as custom-house officers, soldiers, and policemen can possibly give. They did not examine our luggage, and even declined a fee, as we had already paid one at the frontier custom-house. Thank heaven, and the Grand Duke!
As we hoped that the Casa del Bello had been taken for us, we drove thither in the first place, but found that the bargain had not been concluded. As the house and studio of Mr. Powers were just on the opposite side of the street, I went to it, but found him too much engrossed to see me at the moment; so I returned to the "vettura," and we told Gaetano to carry us to a hotel. He established us at the Albergo della Fontana, a good and comfort-able house. Mr. Powers called in the evening—a plain personage, characterized by strong simplicity and warm kindliness, with an impending brow, and large eyes, which kindle as he speaks. He is gray, and slightly bald, but does not seem elderly, nor past his prime. I accept him at once as an honest and trust-worthy man, and shall not vary from this judgment. Through his good offices, the next day we engaged the Casa del Bello. This journey from Rome has been one of the brightest and most uncareful interludes of my life; we have all enjoyed it exceedingly, and I am happy that our children have it to look back upon.