Fiesole – Florence

To climb the mountain leading to the commanding site on which this city stood, to admire the distant prospect as it becomes in the rapid ascent more grand and extensive, and then to trace its ancient lines, to contrast its ruined remains with the living beauty, as it were, of the surrounding landscape, suggests matter of deep and varied contemplation. Of the remains now offered to the eye of the antiquary who visits this spot, to trace the vestiges of the walls which once encircled Fiesole, or to follow in idea the course of the aqueduct, which brought water from Monte Regge to the city, a distance of four miles, or to view its cathedral, presents the chief source of interest; for little else of its former consequence is now visible. The Cathedral, originally a temple of Bacchus, and probably entirely of Grecian architecture, was converted, in the year 1028, into a church, by Giacopo Bavaro. It now exhibits a wild and capricious combination of the Greek and Gothic style; but its aspect possesses a mingled expression of simplicity and grandeur, infinitely pleasing. The gateway and western front are plain and singular, but in a fine pure taste. The entrance is by a descent of two steps, which produces a mournful and gloomy impression. The interior of the church is of magnificent dimensions; the side-aisles are divided from the body of the church by superb granite columns, crowned with ill-assorted capitals of white marble, of the composite or-der, skilfully varied, but often too small for their columns, as if collected from some more ancient and more magnificent temple. The cross terminates in a semicircular abutment, raised over the crypt or vaulted chapel of the dead. On this plane the great altar is situated, to which a low flight of steps leads on either side; while through the arches supporting the structure, the eye rests on the chapel below, with its innumerable marble columns, the forms of which are rendered more beautiful and various, from the partial touches of light which, slanting from the windows far beyond in the further end of the vault, fall obliquely along the whole. The ornaments of the altar, the images and tablets, are all in basso relievo, and the capitals of the pillars in fine white marble. In general, the crypt is hidden under ground; but in this cathedral it is seen in fine perspective–a still and solemn sanctuary.

In the fresh evening hour, seated on the mouldering walls of Fiesole, I have, amidst these splendid scenes of Italian landscape, with mingled sensations of saddened contemplation, watched the close of day, and felt, that nothing brings to the mind such lively images of home, or such melancholy recollections of the years that are past, as the sight of the setting sun in a foreign land.