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Roma beata; letters from the Eternal city

Roma beata; letters from the Eternal city
Title: Roma beata; letters from the Eternal city
Release Date: 2018-12-08
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Terrace of the Palazzo Rusticucci

From a pencil drawing in the Collection of Miss Mabel Norman


Letters from the Eternal City

With Illustrations from Drawings by John Elliott
and from Photographs


Copyright, 1903, 1904,
By J. B. Lippincott & Company.
Copyright, 1904,
By The Century Co.
Copyright, 1904,
By America Company.
Copyright, 1904,
By The Outlook Company.
Copyright, 1904,
By Little, Brown, and Company.
All rights reserved

S. J. Parkhill & Co., Boston, U. S. A.

To My Sister


I.Looking for a Home1
II. Cadenabbia—Woerishoven—Pfarrer Sebastian Kneipp31
III.A Visit to Queen Margaret50
IV.A Presentation to Leo the Thirteenth76
V.In the Abruzzi Mountains97
VII.Viareggio—Lucca—Return to Rome142
VIII.Roman Codgers and Solitaries163
IX.Black Magic and White—Witch’s Night187
XI.Old and New Rome—Palestrina239
XII.The Anno Santo264
XIII.The Queen’s Visit292
XIV.Strawberries of Nemi314
XV.The King is Dead. Long live the King338


Terrace of the Palazzo RusticucciFrontispiece
From a pencil drawing in the Collection of Miss Mabel Norman
The Appian Way30
From a photograph
The Madonna of St. Agostino72
From a photograph
The Pincian Gate and Wall of Rome76
From a photograph
From a pencil drawing
Marta, a Vestal of the Abruzzi107
From a pencil drawing in the Collection of Mrs. Whitman
The Tiber, at the Ponte Nomantana158
From a photograph
A Lost Love202
From a red chalk drawing in the Collection of Mr. Thomas W. Lawson
From a photograph
The Lady K.250
From a red chalk drawing in the Collection of Mr. Thomas W. Lawson
From a pastel drawing in the Collection of Mrs. David Kimball
The Palace of the Orsini at Nemi318
From a photograph




Rome, January 20, 1894.

Rome, which we reached Thursday, is very much changed since I last sawit; imagine the Fountain of Trevi, all the principal streets, even manyof the smaller ones, gleaming with electric lights!

We at once engaged an apartment bathed with sun in the Piazza di Spagna,sun from early morning till late afternoon. But when we moved into it,the day was overcast. The apartment which had been tropical with the sunwhen we hired it was arctic without it!

We interviewed our padrona (landlady), an immense woman, and demandeda fire.

“But, Excellency, it is not good for the health.”

We told her we understood our health better than she, and reminded herthat fires had been promised.{2}

“Excellency, yes, if it makes cold; but to-day it makes an immense heat.Diamine! this saloon is a furnace.”

The thermometer could not have stood above forty-two degrees, but shewas not to be bullied or cajoled. Then J. went out and bought wood“unbeknownst” to her and lighted a fire in the parlor grate. All thesmoke poured into the room. The padrona charged with fixed bayonets.

“Gentry, we are ruined! Not is possible to make fire here.”

“Why did you not say so before?”

“Who could figure to himself that gentry so instructed would do a thingso strange?”

These people are so polite that this was an insult, meant as such, takenas such. In the end J. prevailed. A small fireplace was unearthed frombehind the wardrobe in our bedroom. He worked like a stoker, but thebadly constructed chimney swallowed all the heat. For three days I wasnever warm, save when in bed. Monday we forfeited three months’ rent,paid in advance, and went, tame and crestfallen, to a pension, asadder and a wiser pair.{3}

Palazzo Santo Croce, March 10, 1894.

The warm weather has come, bright and beautiful, and here we are again,in a furnished apartment, but with what a difference! These pleasantrooms belong to Marion Crawford. That princely soul, having let hislower suite to the William Henry Hurlburts, lends us the pretty littlesuite he fitted up for the “four-in-hand,” as he calls his quartette ofsplendid babes. We are to remain here till our own apartment is found.We have bought our linen, blankets, batterie de cuisine, and otherbeginnings of housekeeping, and yesterday—am I not my mother’s ownchild?—I gave a tea-party for two American girls. They wanted to seesome artists, so I asked the few I know, Apolloni (well named the bigApollo), Sartorio, and Mr. Ross, he who spoke of the cherubs in acertain Fra Angelico picture as “dose dear leetle angles bimbling roundin de corner.” I invited also Mr. and Mrs. Muirhead; he is the author ofthe American Baedeker, the editor of all English Baedekers. I expectedto see him bound in scarlet instead of dressed in hodden-gray. We hadmuch tea, more talk, and most panettone—half bread, half cake, withpignoli and currants; when{4} fresh, it seems the best thing to eat inthe world, until you get it the next day toasted for breakfast, when itis better.

My rooms are still ablaze with yesterday’s flowers. I bought for twofrancs in the Piazza di Spagna what I thought a very extravagant bunchof white and purple flags and white and purple lilacs, like those in ourold garden at Green Peace. Helen came in a little later with a bunchtwice as big and a glow of pink peonies added; in the middle of thetea-drinking Sartorio arrived with a gigantic armful of yellow gorse.Spring is really here! The trees are all green now. When we first camethe stone pines were the chief glory; now the Pincio is gay withsnow-white maple trees and flowering shrubs, mostly white and purple. Isthere any rotation of color in flowers? It has often struck me theremust be! Sometimes everything in blossom seems to be lilac, anotherseason it is all yellow, then all red. I notice the reds come last, inmidsummer chiefly,—has this to do with the heat? Max Nordau—cheerfulperson that, by the way—says that red is hysterical peoples’ favoritecolor; violet, melancholiacs’. There is a boy who sits all day under mywindow selling{5} bird whistles, on which he warbles pleasantly. He isnever without a red rosebud worn over his left ear. I wonder if he ishysterical!

Now that the good weather has come, I often go to the churches to hearthe music. At the festa of Our Lady of Good Counsel the scholars ofthe Blind Institution furnished the music—a good band, though not equalto that of the Perkins Institution, in Boston. The church was crammedwith very dirty people and many children. One mother carried a strappingyearling, a splendid angel of a child; three toddlers clung to herskirts, and a newborn baby howled in the grandam’s arms. After a timethe two women exchanged babies, the grandam took the heavy youngster,the mother took the new-born, and, squatting down, calmly suckled it.The music was marred by the wailing of this and other infants, but noone seemed to mind. After all, it was the only way the women could haveheard mass; the little ones were too young to be left alone at home.

The Romans are devoted to their children, although their ways are notour ways; no woman of the upper class nurses her child, baby carriagesare unknown, and swaddling is{6} still in vogue, at least with the lowerclasses. I know a young American lady, married to a Roman, who importeda perambulator for her first baby. The balia (wet-nurse), a superb cowof a woman, refused to trundle it, saying she was not strong enough,although I saw her carry a heavy trunk upstairs on her head while I wascalling at the house! The baby is now a big eighteen-months-old boy;every day the balia goes out to give him an airing, carrying him inher arms! Here, leading-strings are facts, not symbols. In Trastavere,where I went sightseeing yesterday with Helen—peering, as she callsit,—the best sight we saw was a darling red-haired baby inleading-strings stumbling along in front of its grandmother. In thedivision of labor, the care of the children falls upon the grandmother;the mother’s time is too valuable; if she is not actually employed inearning money, there is the heavier work of the household to do. To usethe pet phrase of the boarders, “things are different here from whatthey are at home.”{7}

Palazzo Rusticucci, July 10, 1894.

Here we are in a home of our own! One moonlight night J. came in withthe news that he had found the very apartment he had been looking for;if I didn’t mind, we would go and see it at once. Naturally, I didn’t“mind.” We took a botte and threaded the network of narrow streetsthat lead down to the Tiber. We crossed the river, a huge brown flood,silver where it swirled about the piers; drove past the Castle of St.Angelo to the dingy old palace at the junction of the Borgo Nuovo andthe Piazza San Pietro. He would not let me stop to look at anything, buthurried me through the entrance, along the corridor, past a courtyardwith orange trees and a fountain where the nightingales were singing, upa high, wide stairway guarded by recumbent statues of terra-cottaEtruscan ladies, to a rusty old green door. We pulled a bell-rope andset a bell jangling inside. The door was opened by the esattore(agent), a brisk young man, who carried a three-beaked brass lamp bywhose light we explored the apartment. They hurried me so that I couldonly see that the high ceilings were of carved wood, that the windowswere large, and that{8} I liked the shape of the rooms. J. kept saying,“Wait till you see the terrace.” The terrace, or house-top, is a flatroof; it covers the whole length and breadth of the apartment, andbelongs exclusively to it. A parapet three feet high runs around it; atone end is a small room with a second smaller terrace on its roof,reached by a flight of stone steps; at the other end is a high wall witha little, open belfry on top. The view is sublime; you look down intothe Square of St. Peter’s with the Egyptian obelisk in the middle,Bernini’s great colonnades on either side, the Church of St. Peter’s atthe end, with the Vatican, a big, awkward mass of a building, behind it,and in the foreground the twin fountains sending up their columns ofpowdered spray. On the left loomed the Castle of St. Angelo; it waslight enough to see the time by the clock. You can imagine all therest,—the city spread out like a map, the dark masses of trees markingthe Pincio and the Villa Borghese, the Campagna, the Sabine and theAlban hills beyond, Mt. Soracte, our familiar friend, on the left, overand under all

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