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than compensates the difference in time. We are glad to come to the end of this We leave Florence by the Porta alla closely built suburb at last, and though Croce, and pass along the Via Aretina, still upon the high-road, to have the freshthe great thoroughfare to Florence from ness of the morning fields about us, and the east, which is full at this morning the glittering river at our side. This is hour of market wagons, heavily laden the Val d'Arno, and we follow the course donkeys and their shrill - voiced drivers, of the stream, which, shrunken from sumfruit venders with their hand-carts piled mer drought, now winds in a narrow with luscious grapes, and calessini with channel through its broad pebbly bed. groups of ruddy, laughing peasant women The hills rise closely to right and left, driving merrily into town to sell their thickly set with the villas of the Florenstraw plaits, or bargain for winter gear tines, amid their olive groves and vineunder the arches of the Mercato Nuovo. yards, with here and there a little village nestling close to the river. It was as ob- supposed to be in villeggiatura for the ligatory in the olden time for every Italian period required by fashion. The time of family of any pretensions to eminence to vintage is indeed a charming one in the own at least two or three country places country; it was just over as we passed as for a Nantucketer to have an interest in through the Val d'Arno, and both masters whale ships. They might be sadly neg- and peasants looked nappy, for it had been lected, and the houses bare and comfort- a fruitful season, and wine and oil and less, but they were no less a pledge of bread were plentiful. good and regular standing in society; and Pontassieve is a busy little town at the though hard times and a new régime have mouth of the Sieve, a small tributary of

changed matters some- the Arno. We clattered through the what for the worse paved main street, between rows of star

with many of ing contadini, and accompanied by a dozthe proprietors, en gamins, who held out their grimy they still cling hands for centesimi; and passing over to their landed the picturesque bridge, high above the possessions with Sieve (and doubtless none too high when great tenacity. the spring floods swell in one night the

diminutive streamlet to a raging torrent), we came out again into the open country. The road begins to ascend, though still keeping the course of the river. Grim - looking buildings, half castle, half farm - house, some of them evidently remnants of older and more pretentious edifices, crown the heights about us After some miles we left the highway to Arezzo, which we had been following, and turned to the left, zigzagging up the face of the hill. The pretty village of Pelago lies in a hollow to the left; but on our way the houses became


finer as we went up and up, sometimes among

chestnut groves, and One may remain in the city all summer sometimes on the bare hill-side. The chestwith social impunity; neither the baths nuts were noble trees, the finest I had seen nor the mountains are imperatively pre- in Tuscany. The fruit had filled out well scribed; but it is not "the thing” to be that year, our driver told us, with a satisfacseen there in September and October. tion which we, who knew how largely the Nay, in some of the smaller cities, where Italian peasantry depend upon the chestthe old customs linger longest, the matter nut for winter food, could well appreciate. is carried so far that those who have no We climbed a bad bit of road, and turned villas, and can not by any means procure the shoulder of a hill, and there in front an invitation to other people's, deliberate of us was the hamlet of Tosi, at the foot ly shut themselves up at home with the of the Pratomagno Mountain. It was front shutters closed, and are charitably seemingly near, but separated from us by


a deep ravine, around which the road trees shot up a hundred feet or more, so must make a circuit of a mile before we close together that scarcely a ray of suncrossed the bridge over the stream at its light reached the ground; no bird's voice bottom, and were set down close to the was heard here, and not a flower was seen. mill of Tosi, the stopping-place for all It took twenty minutes of steep climbwheeled vehicles. It is a lovely spot, and ing to cross this pine belt, and then we we were not sorry to wait, and enjoy the came out into a soft green meadow, in the view for a half-hour, while the driver midst of which, at the end of a long, went up to the village on its rocky height shaded avenue, rose the pile of buildings a hundred feet above us, to procure con

which constitute the Convent of Vallomveyance for the remainder of the way. brosa. We were the only guests at the The air was fine, with just enough of the primitive hotel which had been improvised morning's frost in it to give it vigor; the out of the ancient forestieria, or stransun was only just peeping into this dell, gers' quarter, a long, low building just though it was not far from noon; the vil- outside the convent walls. The summer lage clamor did not reach us here, and all visitors had been driven away by the cold was quiet except an occasional rush of weather of the preceding week; from June water from the mill-race and the tinkle of to September there were always as many the sheep bells on the hills. The heights as could be accommodated (not more than whither we were bound were still half thirty), and Vallombrosa during “the seaveiled in mist, as they had been all the son" presented on a small scale the attracmorning, but as it opened from time to tions and distractions of other summer retime we could see the patches of snow left sorts. We were not sorry to find it deby the last week's storm on the bare mount- serted, and thus to put ourselves more in ain-top above Vallombrosa.

harmony with the spirit of the place and After the usual delay the guides ap- of those who anciently inhabited it. peared with donkeys, rather sorry-looking This level spot or pause in the mountanimals, it must be confessed, but better ain-side is some three thousand feet above than the treggia, to which, unless you the level of the sea. It comprises but a were a pedestrian, you were then obliged few acres, and close behind it the Pratoto intrust yourself. This treggia is a sort magno rises to the height of another thouof sledge, with a stout wicker basket fast- sand feet. The pine belt reaches half-way ened upon it, and half filled with straw, up this peak, which is called the Secchietta, upon which (or upon chairs, if you choose, and from whose top a magnificent prospect but you will not after a short trial!) you is beheld. Eastward lies the fertile Cadispose yourself and your belongings as sentino Valley, bounded by the main chain best you may, holding on for dear life to of the Apennines, among which is promthe side of the basket. The treggia is inent the lofty Monte Falterona, the birthdrawn by oxen, and is incomparable for place of the Arno and the Tiber. Westsafety and discomfort.

ward the eye wanders over the loveliest Nothing could be more delightful, how- part of Tuscany. Florence and its Duomo ever, than the forest path upon which we are distinctly seen; the Arno and its tribentered immediately after quitting the utaries are like silver threads; the hills mill of Tosi. The noonday sun turned and valleys are dotted with white vilthe chestnut leaves to gold, the birds sang lages; and in the far distance, beyond the in the tree-tops, and fluttered about us with southernmost peaks of the Carrara mountout fear, fresh ferns and delicate heather ains, stretches the glittering line of the bordered the path, and mosses clung to ev- Mediterranean. ery rock. Through the forest openings we Those who have not the strength for caught glimpses of the world below and the hour's hard work which it requires to the brilliant sky above: it was a picture ascend the Secchietta may enjoy the best full of glowing color, and yet of repose. part of the westward view at the ParadiSuddenly we saw rising before us a wall sino, a little building ten minutes' walk of shadow, and in another moment, out of above the convent, and so situated as to this atmosphere of light and warmth, we command, through a gap in the hills, a had passed, as through a cathedral door, prospect of the Val d'Arno, which is shut into the gloom and chill and silence of the out from the convent itself. For the latpine forest. The pine needles under our ter, probably shelter from the winter feet hushed every sound of footsteps; the winds was more considered in locating it

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charming to read on the spot, were transferred with the rest of the convent library, at the time of the suppression of the monasteries, to the Biblioteca Nazionale at Florence.

The order of Vallombrosans was founded in the early part of the eleventh century, by St. Giovanni Gual

berto, of Florence. The abbots of than the beauty of the view; indeed, in | Vallombrosa sat in the Florentine Senate, general the dwellers in convents are en- with the title of Counts of Montevelde and tirely indifferent to nature. “We do not Gualdo; they wielded temporal as well as come here to look at the mountains," was spiritual authority in their domains, and the reply of a monk to a traveller who were renowned for their learning and congratulated him on the fine situation of courtesy. Ariosto mentions this convent his Alpine monastery.

as“ ricca e bella non men che religiosa, e The afternoon of our October day ful- cortese a chiunque venia." filled in beauty the promise of the morn- At the time of Milton's visit the Valloming. We wandered through the pine brosan order was at its high tide of prosgroves, inhaling their delicious fragrance; perity. Its revenues were enormous. The we sat on the soft turf of the convent convent of San Salvi and the church of meadow, and listened to the torrent which the Santa Trinità in Florence belonged to rushes down beside it, and looked out over it; in the latter was preserved the marvelthe fair landscape, identifying here and lous crucifix which had wrought such a there a point familiar to us; we planned change in the life of St. Gualberto; and excursions on some future day to the con- the refectory of the former was illumivents of Camaldoli and Alvernia, still nated by Andrea del Sarto's fresco of the deeper in the mountain recesses. We saw Last Supper, to behold the still beautiful the sunset from the heights above the val- remains of which every visitor to Florley, and when the frosty night air drove ence makes pilgrimage. For the Vallomus in-doors we gathered around such a brosans Cimabue had painted his celehuge wood fire as I had not seen before brated Madonna; and over the high altar in Italy, and passed a long evening hap- of the Vallombrosa church was an Aspily in hearing and telling all that could sumption by Perugino. Raphael himself be remembered by one and another of our had visited the sacred valley, and left party in regard to the history of Vallom- traces of his genius there in the portraits brosa. The ancient chronicles, which it of two of the brotherhood.

Vallombrosa was one of the noted places and a young abate remained at Vallomto which the attention of a scholarly brosa. They attended to the religious stranger would be sure to be directed. services of the school and neighborhood, We may be certain that Milton spent the and were also employed by government three days allotted to conventual hospi- to manage a small but very complete tality in continual enjoyment, not only of meteorological observatory, as Vallomnature, but of those treasures of art and brosa is one of the weather stations" of learning which must have seemed doubly Italy. Observations are taken twice in the precious in that lonely spot, and in rea- twenty-four hours. It was well enough, sonings

the young abate said, in summer, but in

high winter it was no joke to wade through the Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate.”

deep snows to the observatory and handle The dress of the Vallombrosan monks the instruments. was gray, or ash-color, but in later years Such was Vallombrosa when I first visthey adopted a black hat and cloak. They ited it. Five years later, in 1882, I was were unwearied in manual labor: from there again, and found many changes in 1750 to 1753, 40,300 beech-trees were plant- the quiet valley. A broad, smooth cared by them, and the magnificent pine for- riage-road from Tosi to the very door of ests which surround the convent are also the convent had taken the place of the in great part the work of their hands. steep and stony mule-path, and the miserTheir prosperity was undiminished down able hamlets on the mountain-side were to the time of the French Revolution, but fast growing into thriving villages, thanks from this devastating storm they suffer to this new means of communication with ed severely. It is said to have been de- the world below. The traveller, leaning bated in council, when Napoleon himself back at ease in his carriage, was at leisure was present, whether in the general sup- to enjoy the charming views which every pression of the monasteries an exception turn of the zigzag road revealed. It was should not be made in favor of Vallom- the beginning of May, and the fruit trees, brosa, on account of the usefulness of the which in the lower Arno Valley had almonks in keeping this solitude free from ready shed their blossoms, were here in wild beasts and open to travel by their full bloom. The banks were purple with constant habitation. The debate was pro- crocuses, and the fields of sprouting grain longed, and at last one of the council, los- gave an intense green to the fields, which ing patience, cried out, “Signori! o mo- in Italy is seen only at this season, for naci, o lupi ?” (Gentlemen, shall we have Italian grass is never vivid in its color, monks or wolves ?) “Lupi!" was the gen- and is soon parched by the summer sun. eral response, and the monastery shared When we emerged from the forest, it the common fate.

seemed strange to see painted boldly After these troublous times were over, across the humble forestieria building the Vallombrosans again sought their des- of other days the sign, “ Albergo della olated abode, and inhabited it until the Croce di Savoia." This building had disestablishment of the monasteries by grown outward and upward, and its inVictor Emanuel in 1860. Since 1869 it terior was even more changed than the has been used as an agricultural school, outside. We were introduced into rooms for which its surroundings are certainly comfortably furnished with carpets, sofas, favorable. There is a corps of nine resi- easy-chairs, and spring beds; and the most dent professors, and lectures are also given welcome change was from filthiness to by some of the most eminent scientists of perfect cleanliness and order. We sat Florence. Besides the strictly agricul- down to a repast which would have done tural branches, the course of study (which credit to a city hotel. is of three years' duration) includes the Thus, if something of the primitive modern languages and drawing. The charm of Vallombrosa is gone forever, it winters are so severe in those high regions is in return made accessible to hundreds that from November 15 to March 1 there who could not reach it by the rough conis vacation, such of the pupils as wish to veyances formerly necessary. And nocontinue their studies without interrup- thing can render less the charm of those tion being transferred to Paterno, the deep forests, or that wonderful panorama monastery farm at Tosi.

of mountain and valley, or the sparkling At the time of our visit only one monk | freshness of the pine-scented air.

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