The Works Of Man.
Le moindre débris échappé des ruines de l' antiquité nous en apprend plus que tous les livres.
I propose to write a study of the old House of Aucnus, the venerable excapital of Northern Etruria, promising never to borrow from the guidebooks, and premising that the sooner they borrow from me the better for them. Not a line concerning the ancient city of FELSINA, lately brought to light, appears in Murray (1869); and right few in Baedeker (1873). Travellers, therefore, daily pass through without even hearing of our many admirable collections of archaeology, and without seeing that excavations are being pushed on with exemplary vigour. The stranger herd visits the art galleries, asks after the Santa Cecilia of Raffaele and the San Sebastian of Francesco Raibolini, detto il Francia; it stands wondering under the shadow of La Garisenda, the most towering of the leaning towers; it admires the long miles of arcades and ‑‑ straightway it is gone. Still BONONIA DOCET, and
we students can now learn from her the tale of her older world.
And first of the site. The rich plains of Lombardy to the northwest, and the sub Alpine maritime lowlands of Friuli and Venice to the northeast, Circumpadane Etruria forming the thighpiece of the Italian boot, here abut southwards upon the Apennines, the mighty suture which, immediately north of Genoa, sweeping from west to east, gradually assumes a southeastern trend. Were I speaking geographically I should say that they begin in southernmost Italy, bend around the northwest limit, form the Alps, bifurcate at the great European nucleus of Switzerland, where they send off a branch to form the Rheingau; and, after becoming the Dinarians, they terminate in Greece, the whole being shaped like an elongated arch or a tuning fork. The great steppe of Upper Italy is mostly composed of riverine valleys, feeding the Adriatic Gulf; the main trunks, commencing with the easternmost, where Italy geographically begins, being the Isonzo, Tagliamento, Livenza, and Piave, the Bacchiglione and Brenta of Padua, the Adige or Etsch, the network of the Po Proper, and the Po di Primaro ALIAS the Reno. Many of these historical
streams run, it is well known, upon planes several feet higher than the adjacent lands; and the only tunnel between the Duchy of Gorizia (Görz) and Bologna is that pierced through a vein of the extinct Euganean volcanoes (Colli Euganei) by the ex Duke of Modena: like many an English gentleman of the old school, he would not allow his senses and his feelings to be wounded by the destruction of all feudalism.
Near the southwestern extremity of this noble prairie lies BOLOGNA, with her head resting upon the gentle slopes which represent the foothills of the Apennines, and with her feet extended towards the broad, fat Reno Valley. Her site is in the heart of the temperates; and, though she complains of wintry cold and summery heat, she is amply blessed by Nature and Nurture. There is nothing bad in Bologna but the water, which, hardened by the dissolution of calcareous rocks, chaps the skin and offends the internals. Presently, however, the old Roman aqueduct will flow once more, and the one real nuisance will be effectually abated. [Footnote 1: See Analisi di alcune acque potabili della Città di Bologna, by Cav. Domenico Santagata, 1872.] Nothing will then remain but to cheapen and to improve the
postoffice ‑‑ a civilised instrument which sadly wants refurbishing throughout Italy.
The characteristics of Bologna are the Arcade and the Leaning Tower. The former is of every age and shape; we even find the rude wooden architraves and the post props ‑‑ a palpable survival of the Etruscan temple which we shall visit at Marzabotto. The finished arch resting upon the classical column also dates from the days when it was apparently first employed, namely, in the Diocletianian Palace at Spalato. The result is that of an English Chester and a Switzer Bern, made artistic and beautiful, combined with the timber appurtenances of Tours ‑‑ the most mediaeval amid civilised French cities. Of the hundred towers lately described by the learned and laborious Senator Count Giovanni Gozzadini, [footnote 1: Delle Torri gentilizie di Bologna e delle famiglie alle quali prima appartennerono: Studii, Bologna, 1874, with plates. The large octavo is considered the most interesting of Count Gozzadini's twenty four publications] many if not most of them are distinctly out of the perpendicular. This is not the case in the adjoining cities; and I would explain the fact by the ground having been so much worked by successive races and generations of men. All are mere deformities, rickety minarets, which, as the courses of
masonry show, were begotten to be vertical. The numerous palaces of brick, without and with stone dressings, show that the master hand of Palladio, who adorned Vicenza with the meanest of material, has passed here as at Milan; and suggests that New London need not go to Scotland for her granite ‑‑ a material to be used sparingly, as it kills all its neighbours. The Palazzo of the humblest noble is vast enough to contain two of the largest boxes that poor Belgravia can boast; and the inclined planes of staircase, evidently made for the comfort and convenience of the grandee's destrier, contrast wonderfully with the companion ladder of masonry which, rodded and carpetted, suffices between Teutonland and Scandinavia for the millionaire of the North.
These are features of a bygone day, yet Bologna is not without her modern improvements. The Via Miola, lately repaired, is one of the handsomest and the most striking in the whole peninsula. The Seliciata (slab pavement) is gradually extending, and, where the handsome equipages pass, flag bands have been let into the torturing cobblestones. The thoroughfares have changed their saintly names for those of modern patriots; and the Strada di San Felice can hardly complain that
it has become Ugo Bassi. Clubs abound; besides the Società Felsinea and the Domino Club, the latter on the small scale and the exclusive system which makes the reputation of the Marlborough, there is also, under the presidency of Count F. Carega di Muricci, the Club Alpino dell' Emilia (or della Romagna), a section of the Italiano whose headquarters are at Turin. [Footnote 1: An energetic member, Signor F. Paventi,was kind enough to give me its first publication.] There are two chief newspapers, the Monitore and the Patria, and a handy Italian guidebook. [Footnote 2: Guida di Bologna e suoi dintorni del Cav. Michelangelo Gualandi. Quarta Edizione, interamente rifusa dall' Autore. Bologna: Nicola Zanichelli, 1875.] The shops are tolerable, and the hotels are new, and upon a large scale. The trotting horse has been naturalised; the public commissionnaire is firmly established; and the policeman, has, like his brother of Milan, confessedly borrowed a uniform from the London Peeler. Still, the heart of the city, the great square, is essentially medio evo, as when she adopted her famous watchword LIBERTAS. Huge umbrellas, like those manufactured in England for the Court of murderous Dahome, shelter the buxom market women, the lineal descendants of the Umbrians and the Etruscans;
and King Hensius, after a lapse of five centuries, would find little difficulty in recognising the view from his prison windows. The statue of Neptune (so out of place in an inland city) stands as it stood in AD 1564. I would leave it there, although statues in the open air appear somewhat like a tree in a drawingroom; but I would entirely abolish the boys who are dangling dolphins by the tail, and the handsome feminine monsters who are practising a very peculiar operation. If you wish to see the Contadini, go on Saturday morning to the section of the main street laid off by handrails; it is a fine, tall, and sturdy race, which still affects the pastrano, or brigand cloak of murret coloured wool or of mezza lana (half cotton), and the furs which some day will be more generally adopted in England.
The result of this intimate blending of the mediaeval with the modern soon makes itself felt. There is a something in the presence of Bologna that softens the soul; a venerable aspect appealing to sentiments which men do not wear upon the sleeve; a solemnity of vast half ruined hall, and of immense deserted arcade; a pathetic vista of unfinished church and closed palace, relics of the
poetical Past which have projected themselves into the prosaic Present. You learn with pleasure that you can lose your way in the long, labyrinthine streets and alleys, wynds, and closes ‑‑ such contrasts with the painful rectangular regularity of Mannheim, New York, and Buenos Ayres. The artistic Greeks laid out straight lines of intersecting thoroughfare; but they had aesthetic reasons for the plan which led to the central temple; and they applied it to their miniature official towns, where the square and ritualistic form, oriented to the four cardinal points, must have compared pleasantly with the large irregular suburbs beyond the walls. We moderns have adopted it and, adapting it to a huge scale, we have produced not a copy but a caricature. Briefly to describe the effect of the aristocratic old city, the moral capital of the Emilia, you have only to remember that of Manchester or of Birmingham, and to conjure up into imagination the clear contrary. The centre of trade may have a poetry of its own, but it is certainly not sensuous as Milton advises; and here we have a mediaeval castle dwarfing the mass of bran‑new semidetached villas.
The citizens and peasantry of Bologna are one
of the finest of Italian races, distinguished not only for physique, but by good fighting qualities, by a peculiar vivacity of mind (sveltezza d' ingenio) and by a fund of broad humour which is made broader by the burr of their peculiar dialect. Yet within the walls all speak Italian, and the same is the case with the contadini, especially near the Tuscan frontier.
After what we have heard about Papal misrule and want of progress, we might expect at Bologna, which is essentially Roman, a portentous display of ignorance, superstition, and violence. It is only fair to own that the reverse is notably the fact, and that Bologna still justifies her motto LIBERTAS. I can hardly wonder that there are educated men who regret the change to Eleutheromania and Italiomania.
The section called Society is exceptional as the aspect of their home. The effects of the MEDIA are that universal civility and exquisite amenity which have not been unnoticed by northern travellers. It is, in fact, a rare land of courtesy, an uncorrupted Tuscany. Many families date from the Middle Ages, when the city was ruled by a Governor and forty Senators, Aristos who utterly
scouted the idea of a Lower House, and ‑‑ aristocracy is a rule of honour. Throughout Italy the richard is for the most part a thrifty, if not a penurious, personage, who lives hard the wrong way, and who often, like the famous bishop,
Will die from want of what he has.
At Bologna parsimony is the exception. The wealthy nobles keep large establishments; their equipages and liveries would ornament a capital; and they do not dine in secret ‑‑ a rare circumstance in the bel paese. For their hospitality the Anthropological Congress of 1871 can answer; all who had any claim upon their attention were received with open arms. This is probably due to the fact that Bologna has hitherto escaped the peine forte et dure of the foreign colony; only two English families, two French, and a few of Spanish blood appear amongst the sixty or seventy that represent the Upper Ten, and all of them are acquisitions. The same cannot be said of Rome, Florence, and Naples, where, naturally enough, the stranger is excluded till he has passed a long and a somewhat rigid probation. The university at the MATER STVDIORVM, so famed for Professors of both sexes, still enjoys a green old age; and this society
does not characterise anything beyond and above chaff and chitchat as una seccatura ‑‑ a devilish good word, said Byron, but the most terrible in the neo Latin vocabulary. They remember
The all Etruscan three --
Dante and Petrarch, and scarce less than they
The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he
Of the Hundred Tales of Love;
[Jeff Hill's footnote: less than they PRO less they]
and they do not forget that honneur oblige. Hence we explain the saying that you are sure of returning to Bologna; and thus we account for the feeling that removal to the nearest thriving port, out of Italy, is a real lapse from grace. These venerable civilisations have their peculiar cachet; an aroma like that of wine stored long in the cellar ‑‑ the flavour is independent of instruction or education, in the limited sense of the words, and, like constitutionalism, it must be a growth, not a graft. Briefly, even the English bourgeois begins to realise at Bologna the full sense and significance of Northern Barbarian; and, perhaps, he remembers a fine specimen of the British Philistine, Doctor Johnson.
Etruscan Bologna, A Study