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THE BATHS OF LUCCA.
The Lucchese Villas: Manzi, Mazzarosi, Torrigiani, Garzoni. The next day after the Countess O.'s ball, where I have painted Italian society precisely as it is, nor in aught have “fattered its rank breath,” we agreed to go with Count M. on an excursion to see the principal villas in the neighbourhood of Lucca. This was a little tour he had planned for our amusement, and he had so set his heart on showing us these villas before my departure for the Baths, that it was impossible to refuse him, especially as I confess I never am more happy than when engaged in sight-hunting—particularly in pleasant company.
“ To come to Lucca,” said the count, " and not to visit its villas, is like leaving Rome without seeing St. Peter's. They are celebrated throughout Italy as being, after the Roman villas, incomparably the finest we possess, both in point of situation and magnificence. I, whom you have honoured by permitting me to act as your cicerone at Lucca, cannot hear of such an omission. You must come, and let us also take that
poor devil Baldassare; he has nothing to do, poverino, and it will be a treat to him."
This part of the arrangement I sincerely regretted; but as the count has, for some inexplicable reason, constituted him his double, I was forced to submit. The carriage appeared, and ourselves, the count, and Baldassare (who, overcome by sleep and fatigue from his exertions at the ball overnight, was in a more than ordinarily ill-bred mood) proceeded in the direction of Ponte a Moriano. Here we turned out of the main road and drove through the rich plain that encompasses the city, cultivated to a perfection that is hardly conceivable. The weather was fine-a fresh autumnal morning. The grapes were almost all gathered, and the stalks of the Indian corn blackening in the sun, but new crops of lupins, flax, and maize were already springing from the abundant earth, whilst the industrious peasants were still labouring in all directions. This low land is intersected by small canals flowing between open ditches, which irrigate the earth, and maintain, even during the sultry summer heat, a refreshing moisture.
When we had driven about four miles through the festooned vineyards, we passed an aged hermit, habited in a dark-brown mantle, with a girdle of rope, bearing a bag for collecting provisions with which to return to his cell. The count was all excitement.
“Fermatevi, fermatevi!” cried he to the driver, " birbone, ascoltatemi.”
The carriage being at last stopped, he rushed down and ran back some distance to join the hermit, who, quite unconscious of the impression he had created, was quietly pursuing his way. M. soon returned, leading the aged man towards us, whose venerable countenance, flowing mantle, and long beard looked quite romantic, and reminded one of the "Hermits
of Warkworth," and "Edwin and Angelina," and a whole jumble of all one had ever read about cells and pilgrims and hermits.
“ This friar," said the count, “is the hermit of Pezzonia-he who lives at San Bartolomeo, and ministers to the wayworn travellers who have lost their way on those inhospitable rocks. How I reverence him!” cried he, suddenly clasping his hand in an ecstasy. “What an adventure thus to meet the holy father, and be able to show you a real hermit—not one of those nasty begging friars, with shaven crowns, but a venerable recluse, whose whole life is one act of charity and religion. Padre mio!" said he, turning to the old man, who, with his arms crossed on his breast, had scarcely listened to the conversation, “ bless me, I implore you.”
“Con piacere, figlio mio."
M., casting himself down on the dusty road, reverently received the old man's benediction.
“ Dio vi benedica in questo mondo e nell' altro!" said the hermit. The count then crossed himself devoutly and rose.
“Padre mio!” said he, “ these ladies are strangers, and come from a land where there are no holy hermits like yourself. Tell them what has been your life."
“For eighty-four years," replied the hermit, “I have lived in this world, all which time I have spent on the rocky summit of Pezzonia, where, when the winds howled and the tempests roared, I have prayed at the shrine of our Lady of the Snow for those poor travellers who might be benighted or storm-strayed amongst those barren rocks. Many have I tended and comforted when life was almost extinct from cold and fatigue. Those who, alas ! have perished had my earnest prayers. May their bodies rest in peace, and may their souls be delivered from the fires of purgatory! Such has been my poor life, and I am still spared, and have even now strength to descend
to the plain and gather in the little store I need for my subsistence. Grande è la misericordia di Dio- -"
The old man paused-tears stood in M.'s fine eyes as he listened-he pressed the hermits hand, and evidently left within it some ample mark of his liberality, from the look of gratitude and thankfulness that instantly lit up the venerable countenance of the recluse. How long he might have stayed communing with the old man is difficult to say, for he was so exalté when once his imagination was fired, everything but the present was forgotten, and our tour to the villas might have ended here, had not Baldassare, who had listened with ill-concealed contempt to the whole scene, now broke forth :
“ Count, for Heaven's sake, don't be such a fool! Let that old beggar go to the devil, where he soon must appear in person.
Pray, at least, let him proceed on his expedition at present—a good-for-nothing old cheat. I wonder you can be so absurd. "His blessing, indeed! I'll get you a dozen begging friars who will bless you all day for a quattrini an hour, if you please.
The count's brow darkened, and he looked offended. “ Baldassare,” said he, “ you are young, and, like your age, inconsiderate and presumptuous; but I request that in my presence you speak with becoming respect of this holy man, whom I rejoice to have met, and whose blessing I prize."
Well, but at least," persisted Baldassare, “remember we are going
a long expedition, and have no time to lose, and that the signore want to proceed.'
This hint was enough. The count was too high bred, with all his extravagance, not at once to accede. “ Addio, my father,” said he; “long may you
live! A rivederci.” “ Benedicte," said the old man ; and we drove on.
Baldassare made a grimace and laughed; the count, lost in deep thought, remained silent until his reverie was interrupted by our arrival at the Villa Manzi. By the side of a stream, embowered in umbrageous woods, stands this princely residence. The lofty iron gates were, during the absence of the proprietor, hermetically closed, and we rang and rang in vain for nearly half an hour before any living sval appeared, during which space we stood contemplating the beauties of the garden within, like wretched souls shut out from paradise. At length, when we were admitted, a fine splendid casino appeared, built, in a rococo style, of red and white stone, much indented, with niches and recesses filled with statues, and decorated with various cornices and architraves and friezes. There was a grotesque dignity about the exterior of the Manzi residence perfectly foreign and very picturesque, the deep-tinted walls rising majestically out of the surrounding green of the woods. The double Hight of steps descend into a luxuriant garden, where, amidst the greenest turf, rose parterres of gay flowers, all glorious with the bright autumnal tints peculiar, I think, to flowers as well as trees in this season. Masses of scarlet and blue salvias, tall nodding dahlias of every hue, bright-coloured balsams, rich sprays of scarlet fuchsias, and many other flowers, of whose names I am ashamed to say I am ignorant. The pleasure-ground, winding through grassy lawns, overhung by fine timber, forming a delicious shade in the summer heats, was so entirely English in character that I could almost have persuaded myself I was walking about at S-Park. But one was every now and then reminded of classic Italy by clumps of gigantic magnolias in full bloom, or camelias, whose red, white, and variegated Howers peeped through the dark leaves, or a broken fountain, presided over by some lusty god, who ruled the grove minus a leg or an arm, or a basin of water encircled by a balustrade, surrounded by gigantic lemon-trees — all sights and scenes breathing of the sunny South. At the back of the house we ascended a broad fight of steps into a spacious open gallery, supported by pillars occupying nearly all one story of the front, from whence there stretches a beautiful view towards the plains of Lucca and its surrounding mountains. This open gallery, or alcove, forms a delightful al fresco apartment fitted up with chairs
, divans, and tables, adjoining the principal apartment, out of which all the other rooms open, the invariable arrangement in almost every Italian country house. The saloon of the Manzi villa was superlatively magnificent, and well lighted by numerous windows. The floor, as usual, uncarpeted, was gaily painted, the walls also being decorated by four large frescoes, that suited well with the vast proportions of this fine saloon. Right and left opened smaller suites of dining, morning, and sleeping-rooms, luxuriously fitted up. The immense beds in particular, crowned with “nodding plumes” of rich old damask, looked most suggestive of ghosts and shades of deceased ancestors, who must, I am sure, walk in such perfectly congenial localities. I would not spend a night alone in one of those boundless rooms on such
a catafalque of a bed for a king's ransom. I inquired of the attendant if the Marchese Manzi ever let the villa. “Oh, yes,” was the answer, “it is sometimes let; as the marchese has several other casinos, the family rarely inhabit this."
On further inquiry, I discovered that the rent of this country palaceI can call it no other, for interiorly or exteriorly it is essentially palatialwould be about a hundred pounds sterling a year! Hear and understand, ye English, who lead a wretched life in miserable pigeon-holes, boxed up like criminals in a galley ship, where every foot is considered and paid for, starving on four and five hundred a year in genteel poverty and constant privation-hear and understand, I say, ye who sigh for the elegances of life in hopeless longing, for what a sum you may obtain a palace in Italy, surrounded by what George Robins would call “ a parklike domain,” abounding in all the necessities and luxuries of life, where, as far as situation goes, you command one of the healthiest localities in Italy, wholesome at all seasons, and within a few miles of the flourishing city of Lucca, where everything possible and impossible is to be obtained, and where you may, indeed, if so disposed, ruin yourself quite as easily as in Florence. Therefore, I say, oh ye of limited purse, give ear.
I don't know how it was to-day we were all very silent and stupid. The soul of the count had taken flight into the seraphic heavens, where it had remained, in more congenial society, I suppose, than we could afford, for decidedly only his corporeal or grosser part was with us. He walked about like a person in a dream-scarcely spoke-and although perfectly polite, which he would be, I am sure, under any circumstances,
, was about as dull as I ever saw any living creature. He declared it was the weather, which, to my great delight, was somewhat cloudy, as I quite dread that everlasting scorching sun. Baldassare announced that he was suffering from the "spleen," which being interpreted, signified that having danced until eight in the morning at the Countess O.'s, he was utterly and deplorably fatigued, which fatigue caused him to sit down continually on every inviting chair or sofa, and instantly to fall asleep with that peculiar facility which I think every Italian--man, woman, or child-possesses.
The next villa to which we bent our steps was so near at hand that we needed not the carriage, but walked to the gates. It belongs to the Marchese Mazzarosa, the representative of a name justly honoured in his native Lucca as associated with that learned chronicler (his grandfather, I believe) who has so ably related every incident connected with her history from the advent of the Romans to the exit of Napoleon. Every one interested in Lucca should read that most agreeably written book, which having deeply studied since my abode in the city, has inspired me with such a lively interest in all concerning it.
The country residence of the Mazzarosas is very inferior to their more wealthy neighbours', the Manzis. In the grounds there is a small circular temple dedicated to the native Lucchese worthies, among whom of course figures the Marchese Mazzarosa himself. When all collected there are a goodly assortment of pictures representing grim old monks, fat cardinals, and stiff
, formal, nondescript elderly gentlemen, who, in the society of numberless dried butterflies and beetles, and among musty fossils and barren pieces of rock, pass a very tranquil existence in the
enjoyment of all the posthumous fame likely to be gained by being hung up to dry in a small round room in the middle of the marchese's flowergarden. Here, too, is a stiff French parterre, set out with fountains, and rows of immense orange and lemon-trees, so loaded with fruit that, like true daughters of Eve, I and my sister could not resist the temptation of plucking and eating; for we are already sufficiently Italianised to relish a ripe lemon, acid though it be, quite as much as the sweetest orange that ever grew amid the golden groves of Genoa the Superb, or ripened along the terraced road that borders the Mediterranean leading from Nice to Italy, where, amid the deep shade of the leafy woods, thousands of yellow fruit hang temptingly from the overloaded boughs to mock the thirsty traveller rushing by.
After driving for some time along the vineyards we reached the third villa which was to be inspected, belonging to the Marchese Torrigiani. It is approached by a magnificent avenue of cypress-trees, nearly a mile in length. I beg distinctly to retract all I have said in praise of the other villas since I have seen this one belonging to the Torrigiani, for, with the sole exception of Marlia, it outdoes all I have hitherto beheld, and exceeds my highest expectations. The house, or rather palace, is immense, built in the same picturesque rococo style as the Villa Manzi. Immense vineyards stretch up the hill-side behind in long-vistaed walks, only separated from the garden by a low fence, whilst far above the rocks of Pezzonia rise in stern majesty, overshadowing the fertile plain beneath, and adding a new feature in a landscape varied by every gradation of scenery.
Two enormous jets d'eau, rising at least thirty feet, and falling back into large marble basins, flank either side of the pleasure-ground extending before the house, from whence a lovely view commands the sea glistening in the sunshine far away, the lake of Bientina, and all the intersecting chains of mountains. Such a view is a privilege only to behold, how much more daily, hourly, to feast upon, transporting to the imaginative mind, inspiring to the poet, and calculated to move even the most sluggish soul to enthusiastic admiration. No, I am wrong, it has not that power, for there is Baldassare, decidedly a sluggish soul, has suddenly been discovered by his patron the count, after a long search, fast asleep in the central saloon on a most luxurious sofa. Poor wretch, he has no soul! Let him slumber on, dreaming of waltzes and polkasthings which he can understand—while I and the count, who is now wide awake to sublunary scenes, and wild with delight at the beauty of this lovely place, wander through the grounds in converse meet.
Here are lovely flowers, in immense parterres of every hue and colour, set in masses of emerald grass and overhanging trees, the ilex, the classic bay, and the pale olive, with magnolias, and pomegranates, and arbutuses, and the whole catalogue of Italian shrubs. On the other side of the lawn, or rather park, skirting down towards a noisy brook that bubbles through the shade, is a wood—such a lovely wood, moss-grown, deep, and shady, where the sunbeams come peeping through the leaves in a dancing, chequered shade-a wood intersected with numerous walks and drives, suggestive of happy mornings dreamed away with some delightful book, or in charming converse with friends most dear, on the rustic benches that rise out of the moss-covered ground. In such a wood, Angelica,