Fragrance in Travel Literature-Italy





Italy (1907)
Finnemore, John, b. 1863


Now the vine begins to appear, the chalets of the
hills give place to houses with colonnades, the pointed
church spires to tall white campaniles. The plain
opens out, spreading under a glorious sky of cloudless
blue, its little white-walled hamlets sleeping in the hot
sun, its orange-groves perfuming the air. We roll on
past ancient towns, whose crumbling walls are em-
bowered in thickets of myrtle, pomegranate and
oleander trees. We see the dark, lofty cypress stand,
a pillar of dusky shade, against the gleaming white walls
of some great villa. We are in Italy.

Its beauty is very striking. It is a land of noble,
rocky hills crowned by villages and castles, whose
dwellers look down into romantic and lovely valleys
where vineyards and groves of orange and of palm are
mingled with cornfields and meadows. In winter, when
our land is wrapped in snow or drenched with rain, the
sun is shining in Sicily, and the roses and the violets
bloom, and the air is perfumed with the scent of
almond-blossom and of lavender.


The sunbeam, stealing through a
lofty window at one end of the transept, made a bar of
light on the blue air, hazy with incense, one-tenth of a
mile long, before it fell on the mosaics and gilded
shrines of the other extremity. The grand cupola
alone, including lantern and cross, is 285 feet high, and
the four immense pillars on which it rests are each
137 feet in circumference. It seems as if human art
had outdone itself in producing this temple the
grandest which the world ever erected for the worship
of the Living Good."


Italian travel sketches; (1912)
Sully, James, 1842-1923


The valley of the Anio can be explored by taking,
as far as Vicovaro, either the road or the railway, both
of which keep pretty close to the river and to the
ancient Via Valeria. The Sabine Mountains present
from this point of view a pretty, wavy contour. In May
the soft silvery grey of their limestone slopes is varied
with greens and browns. Below in the valley are
orchards, to the late bright bloom of which there
respond the huge white irises that hght up the hedges.
The river itself is of a bluish green tint and sparkles in
the sunshine. It flows blithely between its green banks,
edged with alders and willows, above which we can spy
familiar northern growths, the hawthorn, the honey-
suckle, and the wild rose, and higher still, among Hme-
stone boulders, a wealth of green bracken. One can
easily imagine oneself in some limestone valley of
Derbyshire, save when a heavy wave of acacia perfume
passes, or a nightingale embroiders the monotonous
hum of the stream with tiny figures of its liquid melody.


Yet the old appears to cling to
the skirts of these movements. The new villas in the
Via della Liberta preserve in a pleasing way some-
thing of the characteristics of the old distinctive
architecture. On this same handsome road, where
in the spring afternoon the heau monde takes its air
perfumed by the violet beds of the villas, we may
observe in the morning humbler though not less interest-
ing processions. These are the little painted carts
moving slowly into the town, each bearing its eight or
nine peasants, the men with heads and shoulders
covered with dark grey shawls which, fitting close about
the swarthy faces, give them a Moorish look. Moving still
more slowly away from the town are the herds of cows
with refractory calves sometimes fastened to their tails,
and of omnivorous goats which deftly manage to get a
nibble through the wire fencing at the bark of the young
trees.


With the characteristics of the village those of its
surroundings combine in a happy harmony. By an odd
inversion of things, the quiet of the street seems here to
have overflowed into the country. The road in which
the riotous Bacchus flourishes his decanter, and which
connects Rovio with a second village or small town, is
for the most part as solitary as a drive in the demesne
of an Irish absentee. The walker will find himself for
the most part on pathways, some of which wind among
the vineyards and fields of the green mountain terrace,
while rougher and steeper ones climb through the
chestnut groves and the thickets of low beech which lie
above these, to clearings where the bells of ruminant
cows, or the axe of the woodman, let you hear the soft
footfall of Time. Tranquillity seems here to be absorbed
at every mental pore. The lake below sleeps peacefully
in its narrow mountain cradle. The monochrome green
of lake and hills, which are wooded to their summits,
seems somehow to lull the sense. The three tiny snow-
peaks of Monte Rosa, which peep over the hills to the
north-west, their dazzling white softened and slightly
encarmined by the haze, look like the gateway to a far-
off slumbering dream-world. An abundance of dainty
flowers, attesting the absence of marauding hands,
takes one to the warm fragrant bosom of Nature.
Masses of wild laburnum and acacia bloom light up the
gloomy recesses of the woods, the latter tempering the
joyous effect of its brightness with a heavy narcotic
perfume. The cyclamen and the narcissus are growing
rare, but the white mantle of the latter has descended
on the lily-of-the-valley ; while, in addition to peri-
winkles and other modest home-products, may be found
the dark columbine, the single peony, and the asphodel.

The buildings of this period, greatly altered as many
of them have since been, offer much that is interesting
for aesthetic contemplation. The Cappella, the church
and cloisters of Monreale, the little church of the Eremiti,
with its ruined cloister garden embalmed in fragrant
flowers, are names which will recall delightful mornings
to one who has lingered in Palermo and fallen in love with
its architecture. The cathedral, though much dis-
figured by the infamous Fuga — the same who clapped
on the fagade of S. M. Maggiore in Rome— still lures the
eye by surviving traces of its noble form, and by the
rich carvings which adorn its exterior ; and even the
old Quas'r preserves in one of its towers and one of its
chambers impressive vestiges of the glory which the
Normans gave it. The surviving chateaux too, La Zisa,
La Cuba, La Favara, and the pearl of these villa buildings,
the pavilion La Cubola, retain something of their old
charm. Then there is the Bridge of the Admiral —
another erection of Roger's Greek Admiral — which is still
a fine specimen of the Saracen arcade, though the arches
are partly filled up by the deposits of the river-bed.

Like the town, the pineta has its gentle human
activities. It grows almost noisy at moments, more
especially in November when the big cones are gathered
in. Men now come into the grove bearing long bamboo
poles with a billhook attached to cut off the cones. Those
highest can only be reached by cHmbing into the tree.
They have weight, and fall on the ground with a thud ;
and the younger men and girls below, whose work it is
to rake them into heaps and to pack them into sacks,
must now take care of their heads. The piles of fruit
add to the odour of resin, which is rarely altogether
lacking in the pineta. You will know the reason of this
careful garnering of the cones some day when the
padrone of your hotel supplies the dinner table with
the delicious little roasted nuts.

If one would really know Baveno he should stay
on after the flitting of the tourist crowd from the lakes
early in October. It is now that the trees, vines, and
creepers take on their richest colouring. The deserted
villa gardens are aglow with hues of red and yellow.
Maples, chestnuts, and several varieties of oak give
the deeper tones, while sycamores and poplars add the
brighter golden hues. The variegated colouring of the
trees and shrubs seems to image itself in the fallen
leaves which strew the bright dewy grass. Behind, the
blue mountains make a soft background, which raises
the mass of warm colour to a yet higher degree of
brilhance. As one stands before the gate of one of the
gardens the last faint odours of the oleander (olea
fragrans) deepen the luxurious yet half-saddening sense
of autumn.

Six years in Italy (1861)-Vol 1
Crichton, Kate


Late in the evening, when the deep clear
sky was set with its myriad gems, the priests ap-
peared clad in their rich white robes worked with
roses and other flowers, while boys in lace tunics
followed waving their silver censers to and fro,
whence ascended the curling fumes of incense.
Then came the object of general interest, the
large wooden doll dressed in a light blue bro-
caded silk, a necklace of jewels round her neck
and flowers on her head, mounted on several
men's shoulders; following in her train were
priests and monks, with numbers of the female re-
latives of those who had died of the cholera, some
in deep mourning with long black veils down to
their feet, and others clothed entirely in white,
their heads covered with flowing muslin drapery,
and all of them carrying lighted tapers in their
hands.


I turned aside, for it was a painful
sight to look upon features unknown to
me, on which departing life had left the
traces of agony in its last struggle against
death ; but as I did so, I saw in another
part of the building a little child who
had died with a smile upon its lips, and
round whose pretty head some loving hand
had twined a wreath of soft pink roses.
Such a perfect picture of peace was indeed wor-
thy of a pause before it. Awhile I gazed, sad,
though soothed by that sweet image of repose.
A few steps led to the open grounds, the
perfume of flowers filled the air, birds fluttered
past and perched upon the bushes, twitter-
ing to each other as they hopped from twig
to twig, when I rejoined my companion, as
she was sauntering along the gravel walk.
We went down one path and up another,
admiring the good taste very generally dis-
played ; little gardens surrounded many of the
graves, and on the monuments of several hung
clusters of flowers, showing that the dead had
not been forgotten.
We wandered about for a long time, my
companion pausing every now and then to
point out the graves of those with whom she
had been acquainted. At last we stood before
a single tablet, engraved with a name, and
the early age of seven-and-twenty inscribed
beneath it.
Footsteps approached, the widow-lady looked
round, drew me aside, and as she did so a
young girl passed us, holding in her hand a
garland of beautiful white roses. We watched
her from a distance unobserved, and saw her
twine the flowers round the tablet of that
early grave by which we had been standing;
this done, she lingered there a few instants,
then moved away, repassed us with a quick
light tread, and bowed in a hurried manner
to the widow-lady as she did so.


It seemed like coming from stern reality
into some lovely garden of Eden, as we moved
along the fairy-like Lago Maggiore. Upon
its crystal waters, as on a mirror, lay reflected
the banks of the undulating emerald hills. The
olive and the fig tree grew there, the bright
leaves of citron and myrtle groves quivered
with the soft breeze, by which many a fragrant
perfume was carried towards the spotless saphire
canopy above, whence shone the intensely bril-
liant rays of a southern sun. It was a smiling
landscape, gladening to gaze on ; and though
the Borromean islands, rising from the water, in
pyramids of orange terraces, have a good deal
of formality in their artificial arrangement, their
general effect is, notwithstanding, strikingly
bright and pretty.

Wondrously fine heads had some of those
monks ; many a keen glance, many a pair of full,
rich, melting eyes shone beneath the cowl and
silky beards, flowing profusely over their chest,
some black as the raven's plumage, others of a sil-
very whiteness, often gave them a most dignified
appearance. Easy in mind, and well cared for
in body is this wealthy order of men, who carry
on two lucrative occupations. To the goodness
of their bread as bakers I can attest ; and also
to the sweet essences expressed from the
flowers at their establishment for perfumery.


About the middle of the month of June a
festa takes place, when the walls of the portico
surrounding the large court-yard of the palace
are completely covered with fine old pieces of
tapestry, and the internal open space is con-
verted into a carpet of flowers. Upon the
ground are chalked out various forms, and these
are covered with the bright blossoms of sum-
mer by several men ranged at intervals to fill in
the spaces allotted to them, from the contents of
the baskets by their sides. As each separate
portion of the carpet is concluded, other men
walk round, pouring water over it to keep it
fresh and brilliant, and when finished, the sweet
scented covering is quite a picture to look
on.