Fourteen Months Abroad – Verona, Italy

October 12.—Our first stopping place in Italy ! We spent the Sabbath pleasantly at Hotel Victoria with the magnificent mountains all about us. Half past eight yesterday morning found us leaving Botzen. Our baggage was examined at Ala, where we spent a few hours. The custom-house inspectors were grotesque looking men with their black hats, trimmed with satin ribbon and curled black feathers. We saw men wearing very gay hats in Austria; some of them were bright green, trimmed in the back with feathers and everlasting flowers. We ate our lunch at Ala, which is surrounded by mountains, and walked about to see the place. There was another green river. Soon after leaving Botzen there was a magnificent view of the Mendel Pass and the green river Etsch. Two languages were painted in the car—Hungarian and German. We heard fine singing from a rear car as we were starting. We saw towns and villages at the feet of very high mountains with bare, rocky summits, some bare to the ground; through the openings in the mountains there were fine, distant views.

We reached Trent at 10:35. As we approached Italy we noticed the change of signs from German to Italian. We noticed a large fort on a mountain, houses and vine-yards on the sides of mountains, and rivers winding their way through openings—always green, but different rivers. We are very tired. It is not easy work to look at mountains all day long and there was no interruption—mountains all the way, day after day, until we were not far from this place.

L. and I were out seeing Verona this morning. We walked around the Roman Amphitheatre. The exterior arcade was mostly thrown down by an earth-quake in 1184, but the interior “remains in such perfection that the great shows of two thousand years ago might take place in it today.” There are donkeys drawing small carts and wagons. The trees are strange looking, but none are on the streets. Our impressions of the people are not pleasant. At the market place this morning we saw piles of dead birds for sale; many of them no larger than a sparrow or canary. The market place, occupying the site of the old Roman Forum, contains the column with the winged Lion of St. Mark and a fine fountain around the pool of which immense yuccas are in bloom and bud, stumps of the yuccas being at least six inches in diameter. A priest and people were worshipping before a beautiful illuminated figure of the Virgin in a Catholic church. A woman insisted by signs that I should cross myself. L. is out hunting for a bank.

We have this afternoon seen the forty-five ranges of stone seats in the amphitheatre, which is estimated to hold twenty thousand spectators. These completely surround the arena, or level center, where the ancient combats between gladiators and wild beasts took place and where it is believed many Christian martyrs lost their lives. We climbed up by these stone seats and stairs to the top of the amphitheatre and walked around it, looking at the city and seeing the remains of the old walls and bastions with the help of our field-glass. The amphitheatre, now sometimes used for festivities by the people of Verona, was in existence certainly in the time of the Apostles and may have been much earlier. The outer circumference is more than 1,200 feet, or nearly a quarter of a mile. The exterior arcade (of which only four arches remain) was of course much larger. What experiences we are passing through ! Delightful days among the mountains, and today this old Roman Ampitheatre ! The name of this hotel is, in Italian, Colomba d’Oro; in French, Colombe d’Or; in German, Goldene Taube; in English, The Golden Dove. Verona is the birthplace of Paul Veronese.

October 13.-It has been cloudy but not unpleasant since we came to Verona. It would not have been good weather for mountain views. We are very glad we left Munich and Innsbruck when we did. This morning a street car carried us to the main station and through the ancient Roman gate, Borsari, on one side of which a lighted lantern was suspended before a painting. Crossing the Ponte delle Navi we looked up the walled green river to the castle of St. Peter and passed through the gate Vescova, with doors, where, on returning, a custom house officer came to me in the car and with his cane lifted up my cloak, which I was carrying in my lap, to see what was underneath. “Inspection,” L. remarked, after he left. After leaving the street car we saw the House of Juliet, which bears an inscription stating that she once lived there, and the Dante Piazza, which contains the colossal monument of Dante and flocks of doves. I saw one light on the monumental head of Dante. Afterwards to the elevated Gothie tombs (five) of the Scaligers, which we consider artistically rich and fine; then to Saint Anastasia’s Church with its carved doors and splendid frescoes. In front of this church is a statue of Paul Veronese; there are also figures of two hump-backed dwarfs holding up fonts for holy water and a tomb up on a high wall. Then to St. Peter’s bridge for a view. A woman was washing clothes on the edge of the river Adige on a smooth board with a brush and soap. Afterwards we visited the Cathedral where we saw one of Titian’s paintings The Ascension of the Virgin. A man raised a window shade to throw light on the painting and then followed us for money. The Piazza della Erbe, so called for its fruit and vegetable market (formerly the old Roman Forum), contains, among other things already mentioned, the Berlina, where were exposed great criminals before being beheaded.

Three weeks ago there was a grand review. The King of Italy was here. I saw several fine looking Italian soldiers this morning who wore white gloves and hats resembling those worn by Napoleon I. We met ladies with dark eyes and hair and dark complexions wearing black lace on their heads. The narrow business streets are thronged with people, very few of whom are prepossessing in their appearance. Some of them I am almost afraid of. Beggars follow us. I wonder if there are any cultivated people here. We know there are, but have not time to look for them.

Of course it is very interesting to come here and see this ancient city with its very narrow streets, old houses and queer roofs and chimneys, but I do not feel at home with the people. I am somewhat homesick. There is a great deal of noise in the narrow street below us. People are selling things and calling out. I would not buy grapes in the market this morning because there were wasps and flies on them. There is very little that looks nice in the market. I can wash pears and apples. I bought a pomegranate which is bright red and very pretty to look at—the first I ever saw. The streets here are so narrow and the long lines of houses on each side so near together that blinds are a necessity.

We are both out of sorts with the weather in Italy, L. just making a remark about it which I will not record.

Last evening we met three English ladies down stairs in the reading room (Salon de Lecture). Nearly everything is in French in this hotel.

Verona, on both sides of the river Adige, is at the feet of the lowest spurs of the Tyrolese Alps, the river being crossed by many bridges.