Like Liguria, lies on the southern slope of the Apennines, but is of far greater width, for that back-bone of Italy retreats there from the Gulf of Genoa, and stretches right across the broadest part of the peninsula to the Adriatic. Besides this there are several detached plateaux and mountain ranges to the south of the valley of the Arno.
The Apennines of Tuscany are of very unequal height, and they are traversed by numerous low passes, which could easily be converted into carriage roads. Speaking generally, they consist of a series of elongated and parallel mountain masses, separated from each other by valleys, through which flow the head-streams of the Serchio and the Arno. The first important mountain mass of the main chain near the frontiers of Liguria, which is commanded by the Orsajo and Succiso, is thus separated by the valley of the Magra from the parallel range of Lumigiana. The chain of Garfagnana, to the north of the plains of Lucca, has for its pendant the Alps of Apuana. Monte Cimone, farther east, and the other summits of the Alpe Apennine to the north of Pistoja and Prato, are attended by the parallel ridges of the Monti Catini and Monte Albano, on whose slope is the famous grotto of Monsummano, with a thermal spring. A fourth mountain mass, that which the direct road from Florence to Bologna crosses in the Pass of Futa, has likewise its lateral chains, viz. the Monte Mugello, to the south of the Sieve ; the Prato Magno, encircled by the Upper Arno ; and the Alps of Catenaja, between the Arno and the Tiber.
The Apennines of Tuscany in many places attain a height of 5,000 feet, and are quite Alpine in their aspect, the upper slopes remaining covered with snow for more than half the year. They owe much of their grandeur to the precipitous slopes and fantastic profiles of the calcareous rocks which enter so largely into their composition. The forests of chestnuts, firs, and beeches which formerly clothed the whole of the range have not vet been entirely destroyed. The beautiful woods which cover the slopes of Prato Magno have impressed the mind of many a poet ; and, since Milton sang the delights of Vallombrosa, the ” shaded vale ” has become a proverbial name for everything sweet and touching in the poetry of nature. Farther to the west the monastery of the Campo di Maldulo (Camaldoli) occupies one of the most beauteous spots in all Italy, the woods and meadows of which ha e been celebrated by Ariosto. From the summit above the convent both the ” Tuscan and the Slavonian Sea ” can be seen, as that poet tells us.
The barren escarpments and forests of the Apennines form a charming contrast to the valleys and rounded hills of Lower Tuscany, where nearly every height is surmounted by the ruins of a mediaeval castle ; graceful villas are scattered over the verdant slopes, farmhouses stand in the midst of vineyards and pointed cypresses, and every cultivable spot is made to yield a rich harvest. Historical associations, the taste of its inhabitants, the fertility of the soil, an abundance of running water, and the sweetness of the climate all combine in making Central Tuscany one of the most privileged regions of Italy. Protected by the rampart of the Apennines against cold northerly winds, this region faces the Tyrrhenian Sea, whence blow warm and humid winds of tropical origin. The rains they bring are not excessive, thanks to the screen formed by the mountains of Corsica and Sardinia, and the happy disposition of the detached hills near the coast. The climate of Tuscany is essentially temperate, and to its equability, no less than to the natural beauty of their abode, the Tuscans owe, no doubt, much of their gaiety, their good-nature, fine taste, poetical feeling, and facile imagination.
The valley of the Arno completely separates the hills of Southern Tuscany, usually known as the ” Sub-Apennines,” from the principal chain of the mountains. This valley, with its defiles and ancient lake basins, may be likened to a moat bounding the wall of the Apennines. The vale of Chiana, originally an arm of the sea, and then a lake, forms the uppermost portion of the zone which separates the Apennines from the hills of Southern Tuscany. Then follows the Campagna of Florence, an ancient lake basin, which it would be easy to flood again by building a dam across the defile of the Golfolino, through which the river makes its escape, and which was rent asunder by the “Egyptian Hercules.” Castruccio, the famous commander of the Luccans, actually proposed to flood the plains of Florence in the fourteenth century by constructing a dam across this defile ; but happily his engineers pronounced the scheme to be impracticable, for they supposed the difference of level to amount to 288 feet, whilst in reality it is only fifty.
The Sub-Apennine hills to the south of the Arno are of rounded contours, of a gloomy grey colour, and devoid of all verdure. Whilst the Apennines consist exclusively of Jurassic and cretaceous rocks, the Sub-Apennines are of tertiary formation, their sandstones, clays, marls, and pudding-stones being pierced here and there by serpentine. Well-defined ranges can hardly be said to exist. Southern Tuscany, indeed, may be described as a table-land intersected by rivers in all directions, surmounted by irregular groups of hills, and pierced by ” sinks,” which swallow up some of the rivers. The cavities of the Ingolla form one of these sinks, in which several rivulets lose themselves, to reappear lower down as the source of the Elsa Viva, one of the principal tributaries of the Arno. The most elevated hills of this Sub-Apennine region form the water-parting between the Arno, the Cecina, and the Ombrone, and in the Poggio di Montieri, a mountain abounding in copper, they attain an elevation of 3,323 feet. The Labbro (3,81 feet), Cetona (3,6.50 feet), and Monte Amiata (5,450 feet), to the south of the Ombrone valley, rise to a greater height, but geologically they belong already to Central Italy. The Cetona is a Jurassic outlier surrounded by recent formations. Monte Amiata, a trachytic cone, is the most elevated volcano of continental Italy. It no longer vomits lava, but numerous hot springs and solfataras prove that the volcanic forces are not yet quite extinct. The Radicofani (2,950 feet) is likewise an extinct volcano, a hose lava resembles petrified froth, and can be cut with a hatchet.
Subterranean agencies must indeed be very active in Tuscany, for metalliferous veins ramify in all directions, and the number of mineral springs of every description is larger than in any other part of Italy. Amongst these springs there are several of world-wide reputation, as, for instance, those of Monte Catini, of San Giuliano, and of the Bagni di Lucca. The brine springs of Tuscany are very. productive ; but the most curious, and at the same time most useful, springs of all are the famous lagoni, in a side valley of the Cecina, and at the northern foot of the Poggio di Montieri. From it distance dense clouds of white vapour are seen rolling over the plain, and the bubbling noise made by gases escaping through the ponds, or lagoni, is heard. These ponds contain various salts, silica, and boracic acid, which is of great value in the manufacture of china and glass, and yields a considerable revenue to Tuscany. Nowhere else in Europe, except, perhaps, in the crater of the Eolian Vulcano, is boracic acid met with in sufficient quantities to repay the labour of extracting it. In Tuscany, however, there are several other localities where it might be won with advantage, as, for instance, near Massa Maritima, to the south of the Montieri.
The subterranean fermentation of which Tuscany is the scene is no doubt due in a large measure to the changes which have taken place in the relative proportions of land and sea. Several isolated hills rise near the coast like islands from the sea, and these have evidently been joined to the mainland by the alluvial deposits brought down by the rivers. The Monti Serra (3,000 feet), to the east of Pisa, between the Arno and the Serchio, are almost insulated even now, for they are surrounded by swamps, and the level of the Lake of Bientina, at their eastern foot, is scarcely thirty feet above that of the Mediterranean. The heights along the coast to the south of Leghorn are not quite so isolated, but the lowland which connects them with the table-land of the interior is only of small elevation. The promontory, however, whose extremities are occupied by the towns of Populonia and Piombino (653 feet), is joined to the mainland only by a low plain of sand. The most perfect type of these ancient islands is presented to us in the superb Monte Argentaro, at the southern extremity of the Tuscan littoral, which rises boldly from the sea to a height of 2,085 feet, and is attached to the mainland by two narrow strips of land covered with pine-trees, enclosing a lake of regular shape : in the midst of it, on a fragment of the ancient beach, is built the town of Orbetello. This lake, which looks almost as if it were the work of a generation of giants, has been converted into an eel-pond, and millions of fish are caught in it eery year. Towards the west of this mountain, in the direction of Corsica, lie the islands of Giglio and Monte Cristo (2,062 feet) and the rock of Formica. The island of Elba, farther north, forms a small world of its own.
The rivers of Tuscany have wrought great changes in the plains through which they flow, and along the sea-coast. Their labour has been facilitated by the nature of the soil which they traverse. The least rain converts the b wren hill-slopes into a semi-fluid paste, which is carried by the rivers down to the sea. The mouth of the Arno has thus been pushed forward to the extent of seven miles in the course of a few centuries. In former times the Serchio and the Arno united before they flowed into the sea, but the Pisans diverted the former river to the north, in order to rid themselves of its unwelcome deposits. Pisa, in the time of Strabo, stood at a distance of only twenty Olympian stadia from the Tyrrhenian Sea, and when the cascina of San Rossore was built, towards the cluse of the eleventh century, its walls were close to the beach, which is now at a distance of three miles. Extensive plains intersected by dunes, or tomboli, and partly covered with forests of pines, have been added to the land in the course of centuries. These sandy wastes have become the home of large herds of horses and half-wild cattle, and the camel has been acclimatised there, it is said, since the Crusades. These changes in the coast-line may not, however, be due exclusively to the agency of the rivers, for there exists evidence of an upheaval of the land. The building stone known at Leghorn as panchina is clearly of marine origin, and the shells which enter into its composition are still met with in the ‘1 Tvrrhenian Sea.
Amongst the changes effected by human agency in the basin of the Arno those referring to the Val di Chiana are, perhaps, the most important. This depression connects the basins of the Arno and Tiber, and may possibly have served as an outlet to the former river before it had opened itself a way through the gorge below Florence. Formerly the water-parting between the two rivers was close to the Arno. A small portion of its drainage was carried to the Tuscan river, but by far the greater portion of the vale was occupied by stagnant pools, extending to the south as far as the latitude of Montepulciano, a distance of twenty miles. The whole of this region was a breeding-place of fever. Dante and other Italian writers speak of it as an accursed place. The inhabitants made vain attempts at drainage. The illustrious Galileo, when consulted on the subject, declared that nothing could be done to mend this evil ; and though Torricelli conceived that it would be possible to drain the valley, he took no steps to put his theories into practice.
About the middle of the eighteenth century the work of drainage was at length seriously taken in hand, directed by Fossombroni, the celebrated engineer. “Warps,” or colmate, were thrown up at the outlet of each lateral ravine between which the débris carried down from the flanks of the mountains was deposited. The swamps gradually filled up, and the soil became firm. By constructing a dam (argine) across the vale at the point chosen for the new water-parting, an outfall was created, and a line of stagnant swamps was thus converted into a pure rivulet. The valley, at one time a hotbed of fever, has now become one of the most salubrious districts of Italy. The newly won lands were at once taken possession of by agriculturists, and 500 square miles were thus added to the productive area of Tuscany. Villages, formerly inhabited by fever-stricken wretches, have become wealthy towns, and the success of this Loiofcatiun, or reclamation, has been thorough. The torrents are under control now, and have already deposited 17,650 million cubic feet of alluvium over an area of 50,000 acres, as if they were intelligent workmen. The same system of drainage has been success-fully applied in other parts of Italy, and particularly near Grosseto, on the right bank of the Ombrone.
Amongst the great drainage works which will evermore contribute to the glory of Tuscan engineers, the innumerable canals draining the plains of Fuceechio, Pontedera, Pisa, Lucca, Leghorn, and Viareggio, each of which w as formerly occupied by its lake, deserve to be noticed. One of the most difficult of these lakes is that of Bientina, or Scsto, to the east of the Pisan hills, which is supposed to have been formed by an overflow of the Serchio. In former times this lake had two effluents, one running north to the Serchio, the other south to the Arno. The outfall left nothing to be desired in ordinary times, but after heavy rains the two effluents were converted into inflowing rivers, and if the sluices had not been closed, the Arno and the Serchio would have rejoined each other in this inland sea. The Bientina, during such freshets, covered six times its ordinary area, and in order to save the fertile fields of Tuscany it became absolutely necessary to create a third effluent. The engineers conceived the happy idea of conveying this new effluent through a tunnel, passing beneath the Arno, three feet in width, into an ancient bed of that river, now supplanted by the Colombrone.
In most of these enterprises it was necessary to struggle on in spite of the miasmatic atmosphere, which hung more p particularly over the littoral zone, where the fresh inland water mingles with the salt water of the Mediterranean. The blending of the two waters destroyed the fresh-water plants and animals, and the deleterious gases arising from their decomposition poisoned the atmosphere. About the middle of last century an engineer, Zeudrini, proposed to construct sluices separating the fresh from the salt water. This was done, and the fevers at once disappeared. In 1768, the sluices having been allowed to fall out of repair, the miasmatic scourge immediately reappeared, and it was not until they had been repaired that the sanitary condition of the villages along the coast was improved. Twice since neglect to keep the sluices in a proper condition has been punished with the saine results ; but from 1821 they have been maintained in thorough order, and the sanitary condition of the country has ever since been most satisfactory. Viareggio, in the centre of this malarial district, was up to 1740 hardly more than a hamlet, avoided on account of its insalubrity, but is now a seaside town, the favourite resort of numbers of visitors.
Much has been done, no doubt, in draining the land, but there is still room for many improvements. The Maremma, a tract between Piombino and Orbetello, remains one of the most insalubrious regions of Europe, in spite of what has been done by sanitary engineers. The inhabitants never reach a high age, and though they descend to the plain only when it is absolutely required for cultivating their fields, they frequently carry away with them the germs of disease. In the two summers of 1840 and 1841 no less than 36,000 persons suffered from fever amongst a total population of 80,000 souls, most of whom reside in villages built on hills, and only rarely visit the pestilential plain. In order to escape the pernicious influence of the poisonous air, it is necessary to reside constantly at an elevation of 325 feet above the sea, and even that does not always suffice, for the episcopal city of Sovana is notoriously unhealthy, though built at that height. Fevers occur frequently at a distance from the swamps, and Salvagnoli Marchetti is of opinion that they are due to the nature of the soil. The malaria is said to creep up clayey hills permeated by empyreumatic substances ; it likewise poisons the air of districts abounding in saline springs, and still more that new. deposits of alum. Southerly winds are likewise most pernicious, and fevers rise highest in the valleys which are exposed to them. Places, on the other hand, which are fully open to the sea breeze are quite free from malaria, even if swamps are near, as at Orbetello and Piombino.
It is generally admitted that the coasts of Etruria did not suffer from malaria whilst the ancient Tyrrhenian cities were prosperous. The excavations made recently in connection with the railways have revealed a complete system of subterranean canals, which formerly drained the whole of the Maremmas. Populonia and other large cities, of which only a few ruins are found now, could certainly not have existed if the climate had been as unhealthy as at present. The ancient Etruscans were famous as hydraulic engineers. They embanked torrents, drained swamps, and rendered the country cultivable, but their engineering works were allowed to decay soon after they had been subjected, and the country returned to its primitive savageness. On the other hand, there are many towns which were considered healthy during the Middle Ages, but are now desolated by fever. Massa Maritima, to the south-west of the Montieri mountain, was rich and populous as long as it maintained its republican liberties ; but no sooner had it been enslaved by Pisans and Sienese than its drainage works were allowed to fall into decay, and in the end it found itself reduced to the ” shadow of a town.” Sanitary works carried out recently have brought back some of its ancient prosperity.
Amongst the causes which have contributed most materially towards a deterioration of the climate may be mentioned the destruction of the mountain forests and the rapid increase of alluvial lands resulting from it. The monasteries of Tuscany, which until quite recently were the owners of the fish-ponds in the Maremmas, energetically protested againt the construction of embankments or other drainage works, which they conceived would interfere with their cherished Lenten food. Several of the inland tonne rejoiced in the possession of some unhealthy swampy tract, to which obnoxious persons might be banished with a certainty of their dying. Even the Kings of Spain established a penal establishment at one of the most deadly spots on this coast, and banishment to Talamone, at one time a flourishing port of the Republic of Siena, was tantamount to a sentence of death.
Many attempts were made to reclaim these lands. Macchiavelli and other statesmen of Tuscany thought that the former salubrity of the climate could be restored by merely repeopling the country. Colonists were sent for from other parts of Italy, and even from Greece and Germany, but they soon succumbed to the climate. Since that time considerable progress has been made in rendering these marshy districts more salubrious. Trees have been planted, and, in combination with proper drainage, they have rendered many districts habitable which were not so formerly. Populonia is a case in point. Follonica, where there are furnaces in which the iron ores of Elba are smelted, is likewise looking up, though its inhabitants still fly the place on the approach of the fever season.
The Etruscans, or Tyrrhenians, were the ancestors of the Tuscans, and long before the dominion of the Romans they were the preponderating race of all Italy. They occupied not only the whole of the southern slope of the Apennines as far as the Tiber, but had also founded a confederation of twelve towns in the Campagna, of which Capua was the head, and as traders and pirates they held possession of the Tyrrhenian Sea, still named after them. The island of Capri was one of their most advanced outposts towards the south. The Adriatic was likewise their own, for Adria, Bologna (called Felsina by them), Ravenna, and Mantua were Etruscan colonies, and the Rhactians in the Alpine valleys were their allies, and perhaps kinsmen. But who were the Etruscans? They have been classed with Aryans,Ugrians, and Semites ; with Greeks, Germans, Scythians, Egyptians, and Turks. The ‘Etruscan inscriptions on ancient monuments, though very legible, have not hitherto been deciphered satisfactorily. If Corssen’s interpretation is accepted, their language resembled the Latin tongues ; but this philologist. after all, may not be entitled to be called the ” OEdipus of the Etruscan sphinx.”
The most common type of the Etruscans, as transmitted to as on cinerary vases, is that of squat men, often inclining to obesity, with broad shoulders, prominent face, curved nose, broad retreating forehead, dark complexion, dolichocephalous skull, and curly hair. This type is neither Hellenic nor Italian. Amongst their monuments there are none of those curious structures known as nuraghi, n which abound in Malta, Sardinia, and Pantellaria, but dolmens are numerous. The sepulchral monuments, of which many thousands have already been brought to light., prove that the arts had attained a high degree of development in ancient Etruria. The paintings in the interior of the vaults, the bas-reliefs on the sarcophagi, the vases, candelabra, pottery, and bronzes, resemble similar works produced by the genius of Greek artists. The arrangement of their dwelling-houses, though not devoid of originality, proves the intimate connection existing between the civilisations of the Etruscans and early Greeks. It was as the Etruscans who initiated Rome into the arts. The Cloaca Maxima, the most ancient monument of the Eternal City, the wall named after Servius Tullius, the Mamertine prison, and, in fact, all the remains of the Rome of the kings, were their work. It was they who erected the temples, supplied the statues to deities, built the dwelling-houses, and furnished them with articles of ornament. Even the she-wolf of bronze, now in the Capitoline Museum, and a symbol of the Roman people, appears to be of Etruscan workmanship.
The Tuscans of our day differ, however, in many respects from their Etruscan ancestors. These latter, to judge from the paintings in their sepulchral cities, were an austere race. They appear, likewise, to have been a nation of cooks and gluttons. Neither of these qualities can be laid to the charge of their descend-ants. The modern Tuscan is of an amiable and kindly disposition, he is possessed of wit and artistic tastes, easy to move, and altogether perhaps a trifle too pliant of character. The Tuscans of the plain, but not those of the Maremmas, are the most gentle of Italians ; they ” live and let live,” and are exceedingly good-natured. A singular trait distinguishes them from the rest of the Italians : though brave when carried away by passion, they turn with horror from a dead body. In this we may trace the persistence of ancient superstitions, for though the Tyrrhenians concealed their tombs, the worship of the dead was the most prominent of their religious observances.
The modern Tuscans, like their ancestors, have known a time when they took the lead amongst the people of Italy, and even now they stand at the head of the nation in certain respects. After the decadence of Rome, when civilisation gravitated towards the north, the valley of the Arno became one of the great centres of the world’s activity. At that time the passage of the Alps was still difficult, but communications by sea were established between Tuscany, France, and Spain. The Apennines not only sheltered the fertile valleys opening upon the Tyrrhenian against cold northerly winds, but also against the hordes of barbarian invaders. Tuscany was, indeed, a favoured region, and its intelligent inhabitants made the most of the natural advantages they possessed. ” Work ” was the great law of the Florentines, and all, without exception, were expected to engage in it. Whilst Pisa disputed the dominion of the sea with Genoa and Venice, Florence became the bead-quarters of commerce, and its bankers extended their operations to every part of Europe.
But Tuscany was more than a commercial and industrial country. What Athens had been to the world two thousand years ago, republican Florence became during its period of prosperity, and for the second time in the history of mankind there arose one of those centres of lig’ t the reflected rays from which still illuminate our own times. Arts, letters, sciences, and political economyeverything, in fact, that is noble in this world was cultivated with an energy to which nations had been strangers for a long time. The pliant genius of the Tuscans revelled in every species of work, and amongst the names great in history Florence may fairly claim some of the greatest. Where are the men that have exercised a greater influence in the world of art and intellect than Giotto, Orgagna, Masaccio, Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Andrea del Sarto, Brunelleschi, Savonarola, Galileo, or Macchiavelli ? It was a Florentine, too, Amerigo Vespucci, who gave his name to the New World, and justly so, for it was Vespueci through whom the discoveries made by the Spaniards first became known, and who, in 1501, bestowed the name of Norus Mundus upon the newly discovered countries, whilst Columbus died in the belief that he had reached the eastern coast of Asia.
The dialect of Florence has become the polished language of the whole of Italy, and it is curious that this honour should not have been carried off by Rome. But whilst Florence cultivated the arts and sciences, and through her great writers exercised an immense influence, the city of the popes yielded herself up to the worship of the past, and its literature was written in a dead language, more or less successfully imitated from that of Cicero. The dialect of Rome never became a language like that of Florence, but Italian is nevertheless indebted to Rome for its musical pronunciation, that of the Tuscans being harsh and guttural. Hence the old proverb, ” Lingua Toscana in bocca Romana.” The delicate, pure poetry breathed in the ritornelli which Tuscan peasants chant in the evening is highly appreciated by all admirers of Italian, and the influence which the fine dialect of the Florentines exercised upon the unification of Italy can hardly be over-estimated. The worshippers of Dante are almost justified in saying that Italian unity dates from the day on which the great poet first expressed himself in the firm and sonorous language which he had forged out of the various dialects spoken throughout the peninsula.
The geographical position of Tuscany accounts for the influence it has exercised upon Italy and the rest of the world, whilst its topography gives us the key to the local history of the country. The Apennines and the mountains to the south of the Arno divide it into a number of separate basins, each of which gave birth to a small state or republic. At the time of the Tyrrhenians Etruria formed a confederation of cities, whilst during the Middle Ages it was divided into numerous small republics, frequently at war with each other. Since that time many changes have taken place in the relative importance of the various towns, but even now most of the free cities of the Middle Ages, and even some founded by the ancient Etruscans, occupy a high rank amongst the provincial towns of Italy.
Florence (Firenze) is not one of these ancient cities of the Tyrrhenianis ; it is merely a Ronian colony of comparatively modern origin. In the time of the Empire it was of small importance, for Fiesole, on a hill to the north, remained the leading town of the country until destroyed by the Florentines, who carried its columns and statues to their own town. The rapid growth of Florence daring the Middle Ages is due to its position on the highway which connects Germany, Lombardy, and even Bologna with Southern Italy. As long as Rome was the capital of Italy travellers starting from the valley of the Tiber crossed the Apennines in the direction of Ancona and Ariminum. But after the fall of Rome, when barbarian hordes inundated the country from the north, the high-roads connecting the plains of Lombardy with the valley of the Arno rose into importance. This great military highway became simultaneously a high-road of commerce, and it was only natural that a great emporium should spring up on the site occupied by Florence_ The ” city of flowers” prospered, and became the marvel which we still admire. But the wealth of the growing commonwealth proved its destruction. The rich bankers grasped at political power, the Medici assumed the title of princes, and though the arts continued to flourish for awhile, public virtues decayed, the citizens became subjects, and intellectual life ceased.
Florence, as in the days of republican liberty, owes much of its wealth to the industry of its inhabitants. There are manufactories of silks and woollen goods, of straw hats, mosaics, china, cut stones (pierra dura), and other objects, all of them requiring workmen possessed of taste and manual dexterity. But neither these industries nor the commerce carried on by the town would have raised Florence above the level of other populous Italian cities. The prominent position it holds is due entirely to the beauty of its monuments, which attract to it the lovers of art from every quarter of the world. Not even Venice is equally rich in architectural masterpieces of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. 1 he museums of Florence ” la Bella “such as the Uffizi and Pitti Galleries, and the Academy of Artsare amongst the richest in Europe. and contain some of the most highly prized treasures of art ; its libraries abound in curious manuscripts and rare old books. Nay, the very streets and piazzas of the town, w ith their palaces, towers, churches, and statues, may be likened to a huge museum. Brunelleschi’s Duomo ; Giotto’s Campanile, which was to ” surpass in beauty all imagination can conceive ; ” the Baptistery, with its incomparable doors of brass ; the Piazza della Signoria; the monastery of San Marco, now a museum ; the gloomy palace of the Strozzi ; and numerous other buildings of superior merit make Florence the delightful place it is. Its charms are enhanced by the beauty of the surrounding country, and the traveller will always recall with pleasure the walks along the Arno, the hills of San Miniato and Bello Sguardo, and the picturesque spur upon which lie the villas and ruins of Etruscan Fiesole. Unfortunately the climate of Florence leaves much to be desired ; the wind changes abruptly, and the heat in summer is overpowering. Il caldo di Firenze has become proverbial throughout Italy. Narrow streets, and to some extent the disregard of the laws of hygiene, cause the mortality to exceed that of nearly every other town on the Continent.
During the Middle Ages pestilence was a frequent visitor, and Boccaccio tells us that in a single season nearly 100,000 inhabitants, or two-thirds of the entire population, were swept away by it. Targioni Tozetti contrasts the site of Empoli, a small town to the w est, with that of Florence, and regrets that a project for removing Florence thither should not have been carried out, as proposed in 1260.
The only town of any importance in the upper valley of the Arno is Arezzo, an ancient city of the Etruscans, and at one time the capital of one of the most prosperous republics of the Middle Ages. The inhabitants ascribe to the ” subtile air they breathe the subtility of their spirits,” and indeed the list of famous men connected with the town is very long. The present Arezzo, however, is a decayed place, and lives upon the memories and the monuments of a past age. Cortona, farther south, near the Lake of Trasimeno, claims to be the most ancient city of Italy ; but all traces of its former greatness have disappeared. Siena, which formerly governed the whole of the hilly tract between the Arno and Ombrone, has fallen from her high estate, not without the fault of its ow n citizens, who were continually quarrelling amongst themselves. Siena no longer rivals Florence in population, power, or industry, but may still compare with the city on the Arno as regards its public buildingsmany- of them in the Gothic styleits works of art, its quaint streets and piazzas, and its magnificent position on the slopes of three hills. Chiusa, one of the most powerful towns of ancient Etruria, is of no importance now, and only attracts antiquarians in search of its ancient tombs. The vineyards of Montepulciano, on the same side of the vale of Chiani, produce the ” king of wines.” Volterra is only a small tea n now, interesting, however, on account of its cyclopean walls and a museum abounding in Etruscan antiquities. The environs are dreary in the extreme. Salt-works, yielding from 7,000 to 8,000 tons a year, quarries of alabaster, copper mines at Monte Catini, sulphur springs, and the famous lagoni di Monti Cerboli , are in the neighbourhood.
The cities at the foot of the Apennines, on the other side of the Arno, have retained their importance, for they are favourably situated for commerce. Prato, where the valley of the Arno is widest, is the centre of a rich agricultural district. The quarries of serpentine in the neighbourhood have furnished building stones for many of the most beautiful edifices of Tuscany, including the cathedral of Prato, celebrated on account of Donatello’s marvellously sculptured pulpit. Pistoja, where the railway descends from the Apennines, is a busy manufacturing town. Other towns of some importance are Pescia, Capannori, in the ” garden of Italy,” and Lucca the industrious, with its celebrated picture,s by Fra Bartolommeo.
The basin of the Serchio is of incomparable productiveness since its marsh lands have been brought under cultivation. From the ramparts of Lucca one of the most charming view s may be enjoyed. On the one hand we have the towers and cupolas of the town, on the other fertile fields and orchards, with white houses peeping through the verdure, and distant hills surmounted by old towers. The impression made by this view- is one of perfect peace. In a country so fertile and beautiful, it would seem, the people ought to be happy, and, if enthusiastic writers can be believed, such is really the case, and the peasants of Lucca and of Lower Tuscany in general enjoy advantages denied to their class elsewhere in Italy. They are farmers for the most part, but hold their land by long leases, and their share of its produce is regulated by ancient custom. The land, however, does not suffice for their wants, and they emigrate in thousands in search of work. Many of these emigrants work as grinders.
The inhabitants of the upper Serchio valley, known as the Garfagnana, are as industrious as those near Lucca, which is the natural outlet for its produce. The slopes and spurs descending from the Apennines and Apuanic Alps are cultivated in terraces. Castelnuovo, the chief town of this valley, occupies one of the most delightful spots of this picturesque district. The common peuple near it are said to speak the best Italian, superior even to that of the Sienese.
The valley of the Magra is far more frequented than that of Garfagnana, for the high-road from Parma to the Gulf of Spezia leads through it. In its upper portion, in the heart of the Apennines, stands the small town of Pontremoli. Its inferior portion, known as the Lunigiana, from the ancient city of Luni, is as beautiful as the parallel valley of the Serchio. At Sarzana it opens upon the sea, and to the south of that charming town, where the Apuanic Alps approach close to the sea, leaving only a narrow passage of some note in history, are situated the towns of Carrara and Massa. Carrara, the ” Quarry,” has replaced Luni as the place from whence the white marbles so highly esteemed by sculptors are exported, and choice blocks of which sometimes fetch £80 a cubic yard. No less than 720 quarries perforate the neighbouring hills, and about 300 of these are being worked now. The town may be likened to an agglomeration of sculptors’ studios, and its Academy has trained artists of high reputation. Massa enjoys a better climate than Carrara, but its marbles are less highly esteemed. As to the marbles of Serravezza, which are quarried in the Altissimo and other mountains of the Apuanic Alps near the town of Pietra Santa, they are in many instances as beautiful as those of Carrara. Michael Angelo highly appreciated them, and had a road constructed to facilitate access to them. The quarries and mines in the neighbourhood also yield slates, iron, lead, and silver.
These towns at the foot of the Apuanic Alps were bound to prosper in pro-portion as the country increased in wealth, whilst Pisa, the great commercial republic of mediaeval Tuscany, was doomed to decay, owing to the silting up of its harbour. This Porto Pisano was situated about ten miles to the south of what was then the mouth of the Arno. In 1442 its depth had been reduced to five feet, a century later only rowing boats could enter it, and soon after it was abandoned definitely. There are no traces of it now, and its very site is disputed. But though Pisa is deadPisa mortathe city still possesses admirable monuments of its past grandeur. It has a wonderful cathedral ; an elegant baptistery ; its Campo Santo, with the famous frescoes of Orgagna and Gozzoli ; and a leaning tower commanding a view of the Pisan hills and the alluvial plains of the Arno and Serchio. Its commerce has dwindled away, but it is still the capital of a rich agricultural district, and its university is one of the best in Italy. It possesses, moreover, that which no change in the commercial highways can deprive it of, a mild climate, and during winter attracts numerous visitors from the north.
Leghorn, or Livorno, has inherited the commerce of Pisa. It is the natural outlet of the fertile districts of Tuscany, and its commerce is far more important than might be supposed from the unfavourable configuration of the coast, and is surpassed only by that of Genoa and Naples. Thousands of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who found a refuge here have contributed in no small measure to the development of the resources of the town. From an architectural point of view, Leghorn is one of the least interesting cities of Italy, but as the outcome of human labour it is one of the most curious. Before the city could be built, the swamps which occupied its site had to be drained, and an artificial harbour had to be excavated for the protection of vessels. Numerous canals intersect the north- western portion of the town, which is known as New Venice. A huge breakwater marks the entrance to the harbour, and on a sand-bank in the offing rises the tower of Meloria, which recalls the naval engagement in which the fleet of the Picans was destroyed by the Genoese.
Insular Tuscany consists of Elba and several smaller islands, which mark the site of an isthmus that formerly joined the mainland to Corsica, and contribute greatly towards the beauty of the Tuscan littoral.
Elba, once the miniature kingdom of Napoleon, is larger than all the other islands together. An ancient dependency of the Etruscan city of Populonia, Elba rises above the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian a picturesque group of mountains. A narrow and dangerous strait separates its steep coasts from the promontory of Piombino, R here passing vessels were formerly obliged to pay toll.
The granitic heights of Monte Capanne, the eastern extremity of the Island, attain an elevation of 3,303 feet ; the dome-shaped hills of serpentine at the other extremity are 1,600 feet in height, and the centre of the island is occupied by hills of various formations, covered with brushwood. The variety of rocks is very great, taking into account the small extent of the island. Associated with the granites and serpentine, we meet with beds of kaolin, and with marble similar to that of Carrara. Remarkable crystals and precious stones abound to such an extent, that Elba has been likened to a ” mineralogical cabinet ” on a vast scale.
Formerly, when the sea was infested by pirates, the inhabitants retreated to the recesses of the interior, or to the summits of steep promontories, where the picturesque ruins of ancient fortifications may still be seen. Several of the old inland villages continue to be inhabited; amongst others, that of Capoliberi, the “Mountain of the Free,” which is looked upon as a sort of acropolis. After the suppression of piracy the islanders came down to the marina, or coast, and established themselves in the towns of Porto Ferrajo, Porto Longone, Marciana, and Rio. The resources of the island are considerable, and afford plenty of occupation to fishermen, salt-makers, wine-growers, and gardeners. The inhabitants are hospitable, and, though neighbours of the fierce Corsicans, they possess all the gentleness of Tuscans.
Elba is not, however, so much noted on account of its fisheries, vineyards, salt-works, or commerce, as because of its rich deposits of iron ore. The russet-coloured cliffs of ironstone are visible from the mainland. The huge excavations made by the miners, many of whom are convicts, resemble the craters of extinct volcanoes, and the reddish brown, violet, or blackish colour of the rocks helps the illusion. Of the quantity of ore carried away from here in the course of twenty-five or thirty centuries we can hardly form a conception. The ironstone is bedded in layers, differing in colour according to the nature of the earthy ingredients, and rising into hills 600 and more feet in height, the slopes of which are covered with brushwood (macchie). Shovels and spades are the only mining tools required in clearing away these heaps of ore, of which at least 100,000,000 tons remain. By regular mining operations 500,000 tons might be obtained annually during twenty centuries. The annual produce at present hardly exceeds 100,000 tons. The ore is more particularly suited to the manufacture of steel. Loadst nes abound near Capo Calamita. The mariners of the Mediterranean formerly made use of them in the construction of a primitive ship’s compass, by placing them in a piece of cork, which they allowed to float in a basin of water.
The smaller islands of the Tuscan archipelago areGiglio, with quarries of granite ; Monte Cristo, a pyramidal rock rising 2,130 feet above the sea-level ; Pianosa, with an agricultural penal settlement ; Capraja, with a small town built within an amphitheatre of pink-coloured granite ; and Gorgona (987 feet).