IN the long dead, palmy days of peace the traveller who was sufficiently imbued with a love of Antiquity and the Renaissance, and also sufficiently reckless to visit the strange, romantic and lovely but mildly suspicious and wholly unreliable world of the Apennine Peninsula, was bound to be warned about the railways. More experienced travellers would regale him or her with interesting stories about the Venice-Rome train which ought to have reached the Eternal City at midnight and did not arrive under the glass roof of the Termini Station till seven in the morning, or about the Milan-Florence express which refused to start until three hours after the scheduled time. Naples and cholera, Messina and earthquakes, counterfeit soldos and lire, Fra Diavolo, the terrible Borgia popes, the camorra of Naples and the catacombs of Rome—all these things were used as the ingredients of a devil’s brew of alarming legends about Italy, so that the English or American tourist set out on a journey to that sunny country with the same misgiving as if they were going to darkest Africa.
Ten years ago this romantic but most unhealthy and uncomfortable world vanished. The foreign tourist travels by trains that run punctually to schedule; the hotelier, porter, taxi-driver cannot cheat him, for any attempt to do so entails penalties that would cripple these gentry for life. The foreigner in Italy is a welcome and pampered guest, and this has remained entirely unaffected by recent political events.
The State Railways do everything in their power to facilitate the foreign visitor’s stay in the country by granting him various concessions. Fare reductions range from 50 to 70 per cent., according to the itinerary selected by the traveller. Nowadays none but those who are determined to be placed under tutelage pay full fares on the Italian railways. The official Italian tourist traffic organisation—the E.N.I.T.—periodically publish a list of concessions, which can be consulted at any travel bureau. Generally, the Italian railways allow a reduction of 50 per cent. on return tickets in the case of individuals, and one of 75 per cent. in the case of parties of not fewer than eight persons. In addition, 30 per cent. is allowed on touring tickets which are valid for from eight to fifteen days. It is an important condition of these concessions that the foreign visitor can only enjoy them if he stays in the country for at least a week. But, of course, it would not be worth anybody’s while to go to Italy for less than a week.
Although all trains run well and to time, the “rapido,” composed of first and second class carriages, is best. “Rapido” trains only stop at the more important towns and travel at speeds of from forty to sixty miles an hour. Reduced fares are valid on the “rapido” trains, but excess fares have to be paid according to the distance run. Considering the speed and comfort the “rapido” offers the traveller the excess fare is small and does not exceed 40 lire even for the longest distances. The next best type of train is the slower, but quite good, “direttissimo.” The “diretto” is still slower, while the most humble positions in the hierarchy of trains are occupied by the “accelerato,” the “omnibus” and the “misto.” The two latter types can only be recommended to those who do not like to travel at greater speeds than about twenty miles an hour and are particularly enamoured of signal-boxes and the flower-beds of wayside stations. For the “accelerate,” “omnibus” and “misto” stop at all such places and in view of this leisurely mode of progression it sometimes happens that these trains are late. For those who can afford it, there are sleeping-car trains between the large towns. The cost of a sleeping-car ticket, including tips, is from 100 to 130 lire.
On “rapido” and “direttissimo” trains there is always a restaurant car at the principal meal times. Prices are fairly moderate, lunch or dinner, including wine and tips, costing about 20 to 22 lire. Those who cannot afford this amount can lunch or dine magnificently out of a “cestino” or “nose-bag.” The “cestino” is a paper bag containing a complete lunch or dinner, and the price is only 7 to 10 lire.
On some routes a portion of “pasta asciutta,” the indispensable hors d’œuvre of Italian principal meals, is also included. The “cestino” meal itself consists of meat, cheese, an orange or other fruit, one or two pastries and wine. A small tin fork for boiled paste, salt, a toothpick and a cardboard cup for the wine, are provided in the “cestino,” but no knife.
At first the foreign visitor will find it queer to see, round midday, six or eight people in his compartment lunching out of a bag resting on their knees, perhaps wrestling with a sizable chicken bone, but later he will get used to this sight.
A warning in connection with the “cestino”: do not buy them, except at the big stations. The “nose-bags” of Turin, Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence stations are noted for their excellence. At the smaller stations, where few “nose-bags” are sold, it is a matter of luck what you get. If you are a gambler you may purchase your lunch at such stations, but careful people are advised to refrain.
In one respect all Italian trains are alike: they are always crowded. Owing to the low fares everybody is travelling, and after a night spent on a train the foreign visitor might be under the impression that the entire Italian people has suddenly decided to migrate. This passion is not limited to certain hours. You may arrive at a small station at three o’clock in the morning and the chances are that even at that unearthly hour a number of people will board your train. Unless you are a special favourite of fortune do not expect to get any sleep in a second or third class compartment. Thus if you can afford it—and if sleeping-cars are above your means—it is best to travel first class at night.
But if you have any complaint to make, whether it concerns the crowded condition of the train or the conductor, or anything else, remember that every train carries a special representative of the State in the person of a black-shirted, green-uniformed member of the “milizia ferroviaria” (railway militia), to whom you can always turn with confidence. He may not be able to speak English, but within five minutes he will find someone among the passengers who can, bring him to you, and attend to your complaint. The fact that he carries a revolver and looks as grim as if he were just going into battle, need not worry you. If you saw how mothers entrust babies of four or five to his care, and how tenderly the militiaman looks after them, any prejudice you may harbour against him would instantly evaporate. If the train stops at any station for a long time and you wish to alight without leaving your luggage unguarded, you need only say to the militiaman: “Vuol avere la gentillezza di star attento al mio bagaglio?” (“Will you be good enough to look after my luggage?”), after which you can leave the train in the certainty that all will be well. If, upon your return, you say to the blackshirt “Molto grazie, signore,” you will have done all that is expected of you for his services. Do not attempt to offer him a tip, for he will refuse it in any case. Mussolini once said that the man who guards a cheese warehouse is also serving his country; and the railway militiaman, in keeping an eye on your luggage and thereby contributing to the wellbeing of a foreign visitor to Italy, also feels that he is not only doing you a favour but also serving his country.
There is a charming custom in connection with railway travel in Italy. The departing traveller sends a telegram to his friends from the train and they respond in a similar manner. If you wish to send a telegram from the train, you need only approach the conductor.
Arrived at your destination you lean out of the window and shout “Facchino!” whereupon a porter will come up to you and take charge of your luggage. As a special precaution you may note his number, though this is hardly necessary nowadays. If you wish to drive to a hotel by taxi, say to the porter “Tarsi!”; if by horse cab, say “Carozza!” But if you have booked in advance at some hotel, then tell the porter the name of the hotel. The porters of the local hotels are sure to be waiting at the station, and any one of them will direct you. Some hotels have omnibuses waiting at the station, and these are naturally cheaper than taxis or horse cabs. The railway porter will be perfectly satisfied if you pay him the obligatory rate of one lira per suitcase and half a lira for smaller items of luggage, with a tip of one lira in addition. Should the porter exhibit signs of dissatisfaction, you may quite safely swear at him in your own native tongue. You are bound to score an immediate success.
During the day—owing to Sanctions—an extra charge of 90 centisimi is made in addition to the tariff shown by the clock. After 10 p.m. an extra charge is made for luggage—generally one lira per item. During the first few days of your visit to Italy, if there should arise a difference of opinion between yourself and the taxi-driver, you will do well to invite the assistance of the hotel porter.
The Italian roads are to-day the best on the Continent. From the Alps right down to the southernmost part of Sicily the whole of the Apennine Peninsula is covered by a network of asphalted roads, and there is a whole series of autostradas where motorists can disport themselves to their hearts’ content. The motorist entering Italy must possess four different documents, obtainable from the car owner’s club in his home country. These documents, designated in French, which is the international language in the motoring world, are as follows:
1. Carnet de passage en douane.
2. Permis international de conduire.
3. Certificat international de vie.
4. Carnet fiscale.
Naturally, in addition to the above, the motorist must also have a passport.
Foreign cars may be run in Italy for one year without liability to customs duty or taxation.
Owing to Sanctions the price of petrol in Italy has experienced a considerable rise in recent months. At present it amounts to nearly four lire per litre. In order not to frighten away foreign motorists, the Italian Government has fixed cheaper petrol prices for them. Cheap petrol can only be purchased with so-called “petrol coupons” by foreign owner-drivers who have already purchased a certain number of “hotel coupons” (see chapter dealing with hotels). Omnibuses and lorries are excluded from this concession. Those who have purchased hotel coupons for a stay of fifteen days receive a 40 per cent. remission of the petrol tax, while those whose hotel coupons cover a stay of ninety days are accorded a reduction of 80 per cent. Petrol coupons may be purchased at the following frontier stations from E.N.I.T. offices: Grimaldi, Piena, San Dalmazzo, Argentera, Claviere, Modane, Molaretto, Little St. Bernard, Great St. Bernard, Domodossola, Iselle, P. Ribellasca, Piaggio Valmara, P. Tresa, Porto Ceresio, Zenna, Bizzarone, Lanzi d’Intelvi, Gaggiolo, Clivio, Fornasette, P. Chiasso, Spulga, Villa di Chiavenna, Tirano, San Candido, Resia, Stelvio, Tubre, Brennero, Tarvisio, Fusine, Gruden, Postumia, Trieste, Genoa, Naples, Venice, Palermo, Bari, Brindisi.
Each petrol coupon is for ten litres of petrol and the motorist may purchase two coupons in respect of each day he intends spending in Italy. Thus motor tours must be so arranged that the total consumption of petrol should not exceed twenty litres per day. Further particulars in this connection are contained in the leaflet handed to the motorist at the frontier stations together with the petrol coupons.
Every hotel of any size has a garage, while service stations or repair shops are to be found even in the smallest villages. There is a more than adequate number of service stations along the main roads. We invite the attention of motorists to the motor bridge at Venice, which makes it possible for the motorist to take his car into the centre of the city, where it can be accommodated at an up-to-date garage.
Traffic moves on the right side of the road, cutting in must be effected from the left. In the large towns hooting is prohibited. There is no speed limit in built-up areas; everyone may drive as fast as he likes. But if the motorist causes an accident he may have to pay heavy damages and may, in addition, be imprisoned “for a period not exceeding five years”! The motorist is advised to be extremely careful, in case of accident, even if it amounts to no more than bending the mudguard of another, to stop immediately and discuss the matter with the driver of the other car, and in case he knocks down anyone, to take the victim to the nearest doctor. The rendering of immediate help will be regarded as an extenuating circumstance in case of further proceedings, whereas the motorist who tries to vanish from the scene of the accident is severely punished.
Since the War there has been fierce competition between all the sea powers in the building of the most beautiful, up-to-date and comfortable passenger ships. Naturally, this competition has produced many advantages for the travelling public. During the past ten years Italy, which before the War could not compete with England, America, Holland, Germany and France, has built a fleet of liners not only equal but in some respects superior to those of her competitors.
To-day Italian ships carry passengers to all parts of the world. The traveller desiring to take a sea cruise will do well to travel by an Italian ship, as, on the one hand, Italian ships are cheaper and, on the other hand, they are equipped with every modern comfort, while the food is proverbially excellent. Naturally, the crews of the bigger ships speak English and French as well as their own native tongue. The Mediterranean cruises organised by the Italian shipping companies are particularly popular, as they offer a most pleasant holiday extending from two to four weeks at a ridiculously low cost.
Every visitor to Italy must possess a valid passport. In matters relating to passports, customs duties or to anything connected with public order or with the interests of the State, the Italian authorities are extremely strict. It is therefore most inadvisable not to declare any tobacco, sweets, chocolates, alcohol, new underwear or new playing cards which the traveller may be carrying in addition to his or her own clothes and other personal effects. If you are caught in the attempt of smuggling into the country dutiable goods—even a packet of cigarettes or a box of cigars—the article in question will be confiscated and, in addition, you will be severely fined. A box of cigarettes, cigars or chocolate that has already been broken will pass, but duty must be paid on unbroken boxes.
Firearms may only be brought into the country, whether by road, rail, or sea, with a special permit. Foreign permits to possess firearms are invalid. The possession of firearms without a permit is punished with great severity, and if you refuse to part with your revolver even during your stay in Italy you may be exposing yourself to a great deal of unpleasantness. However, you may be sure that you will not need a revolver in Italy, unless it is your intention to hold up the cashier of a bank.
If you carry currency or a letter of credit, the amount must be marked in your passport by the customs at the frontier. Foreign currency should only be changed at a first-class bank, or at the branches of one. Such banks are: Banca Commerciale, Credito Italiano, Banco di Roma, Banco di Napoli, Banco di Sicilia, Banco di Sto Spirito, Banca d’Italia, and a few big provincial banks. The paper money in circulation includes banknotes for 1,000, 500, 100 and 50 lire and Treasury Notes for 10 lire. The 500 and 100 lire banknotes may easily be mixed up, and care must therefore be taken in handling them. The traveller will have no trouble with gold coins, for the simple reason that there are no gold coins in circulation.
On the other hand, extreme care is counselled in the matter of silver coins and small change. Silver coins for 20, 10 and 5 lire are in general circulation, and all three are extensively counterfeited. The 20 lire coin is particularly dangerous, and you are advised not to accept it in any circumstances. You may have carefully tested the coin and found its timbre just right; yet if you try to pay with it in a shop it will be weighed on a cunningly constructed little device and may be returned to you as counterfeit. Silver coins which produce a dull or hollow sound when thrown on a hard surface should always be refused. Two lire, 1 lira and half-lira nickels should also be accepted only if they are entirely satisfactory, and the same applies to coppers of 10 and 5 centesimi. These are also counterfeited, though not so extensively as silver coins. As nickel and silver coins may sometimes be mixed up, it is advisable to keep them in separate pockets.
In deciding to travel to Italy you are probably prompted by a desire to visit a new world. Do not, therefore, be surprised if on crossing the frontier into Italy you encounter people and customs that seem strange to you and may not be pleasant at first. But, then, had you wanted to enjoy your usual environment you would have stayed at home. The general code of behaviour is practically the same all over the civilised world, with a few local variations. In Italy, as everywhere else, there are pleasant and unpleasant, courteous and discourteous people. Generally speaking, the Italian is very courteous and always pleased to assist the foreign visitor. If you encounter the exception to this rule, ask yourself, with your hand on your heart, whether your own country is entirely peopled by angels.
It may easily happen that as you cross the frontier you will find yourself in a crowd of Italian travellers, and you are therefore advised not to talk politics. If your fellow travellers broach the subject, tell them that you are neither an Ambassador nor a Minister of Foreign Affairs, and that you are more interested in Fra Angelico or Leonardo da Vinci than in politics. Naturally, it is not my intention to influence you to suppress your views, nor does anyone in Italy demand this. But politics are a delicate subject and I am sure you do not wish to get into difficulties on account of a misinterpreted remark. So leave politics alone. If you wish to enjoy your stay in Italy to the full, do not be too critical and bear in mind that every nation is touchy about its past, present and future, and proud of its art, its science, its leaders, footballers and other sportsmen. The Italians are intensely so.
Once, after enthusing for half an hour about Italy, I began to talk about the latest international football match, remarking that Orsi (one of the most famous Italian footballers) had played somewhat roughly. This remark was received in frigid silence, then one of the company sharply observed that I was always criticising the Italians. So, if you wish to be popular in Italy, say nothing about the Italians unless you feel like praising them. Keep your criticisms to yourself, bearing in mind that every nation has its peculiarities.
There are a few subjects that should not be mentioned at all in the presence of Italians. These subjects include everything relating to freedom in married life, the emancipation of women, divorce, and child education. Do not attempt to discuss birth control. In Italy a woman who has no children is regarded as a strange and rather superfluous creature. The fact itself may be overlooked, but to defend such immorality is as rude as to expectorate on the floor.
You have no doubt heard that superstition plays a considerable part in Italy, particularly among the common people. The Italians laugh at superstition, but in reality they proceed on the principle that it cannot hurt them to act in accordance with the various superstitions.
The following are a few of the more “important” superstitions.
You must never, never place a hat on a bed, walk under a ladder, open an umbrella indoors, marry or invite guests on a Tuesday or Friday, and you must avoid everything connected with the number seventeen. Some Italians swear that a humpbacked woman brings misfortune, while a humpbacked man brings luck. Young girls count themselves extremely lucky if they can pass between two carabinieri. The carabinieri are soldiers on police duty, and according to regulations they must walk close together. If there happens to be a gap between them young girls slip through, in order to be lucky.
This is important! If you have an upset of some kind, if you miss your train, forget your powder puff or clothes brush, do not advertise the fact that “of course, this would happen to me” and do not enumerate all your past misfortunes, for the Italians have a superstitious fear of “unlucky people” who, by their mere presence, may transmit this quality to other people. It happens even to-day that such Jonahs are treated almost as untouchables. The only sure remedy against the contamination of their presence is to touch iron—a key, a pair of scissors or the like.
In polite society in Italy a man salutes a married woman—but not a girl—by kissing her hand. The general mode of salutation since the advent of Mussolini has been the raising of the right arm, a very attractive gesture, and also convenient. You do not crumple your hat and you need not shake hands with everybody, which is a blessing in the hot summer months. It is a universally accepted custom to salute a funeral cortege or a military flag. Even if you are a foreigner, salute the Italian flag, thereby paying homage to those Italians who have died for their country.
If you are a newspaper reader—and I assume that you are—you may be doubtful as to whether you ought to travel at all “in view of the present political situation.” Or perhaps you are thinking that you ought to give Italy a miss, since, owing to Sanctions you have doubts as to the quality of the food and other comforts. Let me reassure you. You can still obtain in Italy everything you may desire, from your favourite brand of Scotch whisky to Strasbourg pâté a foi gras and, if you can afford it, from swallow’s nest soup to kumis. At hotels you will receive the same excellent service as in the midst of the palmiest days of peace.
It is rather difficult to speak of the Italian hotel. The hotel industry is in a high state of development and there are establishments—from luxury hotels to modest pensions—to satisfy all pockets. The E.N.I.T. each year publishes a list of all the Italian hotels, giving the, maximum prices for rooms and board. The “hotel coupons” issued by the E.N.I.T. offices are very convenient to the foreign traveller. The coupons are accepted by hotels everywhere in lieu of cash, and the foreign tourist can only obtain cheap petrol in Italy if he has purchased a certain number of these coupons. Unless there is some special event and all hotel accommodation is booked several weeks ahead, it is possible—and worth while—to haggle over the price of rooms and board.
To those who are averse to experimenting I recommend the pension system. This is somewhat cheaper than renting a room at a hotel and feeding outside, though the pension method has the disadvantage that it prevents the traveller from getting acquainted with the interesting little restaurants of the various Italian cities. Those who travel economically are advised to rent a room only, thus preserving their freedom to feed where they like and at prices they can afford. Breakfast can be had—at a cost of two lire—at the stalls or bars to be found at every street corner, while lunch and dinner can be obtained at any small restaurant at from 6 to 10 lire.
Tips are added to the bill in most hotels, restaurants and cafés, the addition varying between 10 and 15 per cent, of the basic amount of the bill. In theory additional gratuities are prohibited, but I have yet to meet a waiter who refuses to accept a tip. But whether you offer a tip or not is entirely up to you.
It is important that, before leaving your lodgings, you should ascertain whether the so-called “soggiorno”—a permit to stay in the country, which must be obtained by your hotel or boarding-house—is in your pocket. Without a passport or “soggiorno” no one—neither man nor woman—must go out. It may happen that you are asked by a policeman in the street to prove your identity, and it is convenient if you are able to do so on the spot, by means of your documents. If you are a woman travelling alone, it will most probably happen in the various Italian cities that men of all ages and conditions will accost you, making compliments and offering to accompany you. If you are averse to this sort of thing, it is best simply to ignore all such attempts. Accosting women in the street is a fast disappearing relic of a previous era, and you may regard it as an exotic custom such as hashish smoking in Eastern countries.
Street traffic, as stated in the chapter on motoring, is right-handed. On trams and buses you board at the back and alight in front. If you are not in a hurry I can recommend the “carozza,” a quaint horse cab in which you can ride round the town at your leisure. During your ride you may wish to telephone. The telephone is automatic and you must dial the number you require yourself. The manipulation of the public telephones is somewhat involved, and as you might never learn it unaided you are advised to note the following: There is a box with a slot at the top of the telephone. Insert in this slot a fifty centissimi piece, but only half-way. You now dial the number you require. If you hear an intermittent buzz, that means that the line is engaged. If you hear the word “Pronto” push the coin in entirely. The word “pronto” is not a swear word. It means “I am ready” and is used instead of “Hello!”
Before proceeding to enumerate special local dishes, I consider it important to refer to certain essentials in connection with the Italian cuisine. Italian cooking is only decried by people who have never been to Italy themselves and have only heard about the “oily” Roman dishes from the cousin of their uncle’s friend. It will probably interest you to know that Italian dishes, in addition to being very appetising, are considered by medical opinion to be among the healthiest. Below I give the names of a few Italian dishes which are obtainable at any Italian restaurant, trattoria and even osteria.
If you see the word Ristorante on the sign-board of an eating-house you will know that it is a place capable of satisfying the more exacting requirements in regard to quality, service and price. The trattoria and osteria are smaller, more homely places, though sometimes the food is far better in these establishments, and certainly much cheaper, than in the large restaurants. Bottiglieria means wine shop. In such places the food—if served at all—is of secondary importance. The important thing is the wine. Fish should not be ordered except at seaside towns or places close to the sea.
We now come to the Italian dishes. If you wish to begin a meal with a good hors d’œuvre, order antipasto. If you like it cold, say antipasto freddo; if warm, say antipasto caldo. The following is a list of the more important Italian dishes:
Bouillon = brodo.
Bouillon with vermicelli, rice, vegetables = minestra in brodo.
Vegetable soup = minestrone (cold if desired).
Vermicelli and bean soup = pasta e fagioli.
Fish soup = zuppa di pesce.
DRY PASTES (Paste Asciutte).
Stuffed with meat = ravioli.
Stuffed with winkles = spaghetti a vongole.
With meat and tomato sauce = paste al ragu.
Baked in rolls = maccheroni al gratin.
Small fried fish (octopi, etc.) = fritto di mare.
Raw cockles = frutta di mare.
Other excellent Italian fish specialities = baccala, triglie, dentice, merluzzo, cefalo.
Crab = gambero or (on the Adriatic) scampi.
Grilled beef = bistecca ai ferri.
Beef with ham and cheese = bistecca alla bolognese.
Veal and ham = salt’in bocca (Roman speciality).
Beef in tomato sauce = carne al ragu.
Chicken = pollo.
Roast = pollo arrosto.
Boiled = pollo a lesso.
Green salad = insalate verde.
Paprika, cauliflower and artichoke salad in vinegar = giardiniera.
Mixed salad = insalata mista.
Artichokes = carciofi.
French beans = fagiolini.
Tomatoes = pommodoro.
Cauliflower = carolfiore.
Other fried and boiled vegetable specialities; finocchi, broccoli romani (boiled), melenzani, zucchini.
High, green cheese = gorgonzola.
Fatty = bel paese.
Elastic = mozarella.
Other specialities: Parmiggiano, provolone.
Oranges = aranci.
Tangerines = Mandarina.
Apples = mele.
Pears = pere.
Figs = fichi.
Preserved = frutta cotta.
Dry = asciutto, secco.
Sweet = dolce.
(a) WHITE WINES.
Frascati, Orvieto, “Est, est, est,” Capri scala, Lacrima Christi, Vini dei Castelli Romani, Malvasia.
(b) RED WINES.
Chianti (table wine), Aleatico, Graviano.
Beer is obtainable at all the large establishments. Both Italian and foreign beers are available. On the other hand I warn you against Italian champagne, the “spumante.” Excellent as the Italian white and red wines are, the champagnes made from them are very bad. A few good types of liqueur are also made in Italy, such as the strong strega, the kümmel grappa and ferne, which is useful for indigestion.
At first, until you get acquainted with the countless variety of Italian dishes, you can make up your meals from the above. Do not try to obtain—particularly at small restaurants—English or American dishes. You will not get the right thing, whereas you will learn to enjoy the Italian dishes. Remember, bistecca is not the equivalent of beefsteak, which you cannot obtain in Italy except at the big international restaurants.
Of the principal meals the colazione, corresponding to lunch, is taken between 12 and 2 p.m. and is the most important meal of the day; pranzo, corresponding to dinner, is taken between 7.30 and 9 p.m.
The Italian sports clubs are glad to entertain foreign visitors. Rowing, yachting, tennis, golf, fencing, athletic and other clubs are equally ready to allow the foreign tourist to visit and use their premises. It is, however, advisable for the sportsman travelling to Italy to obtain from his own club at home some sort of letter requesting the Italian club to entertain Mr. So-and-so or Miss So-and-so, who is a good—or moderately good—tennis player, golfer, etc. It is customary for visitors to pay the proportion of the membership fee corresponding to the period of their stay.
Yachting or rowing can be indulged in at every sea or lakeside resort. Fishermen will find good sport at the lakes and mountain rivers. A special licence must be obtained for fishing, but this is easily granted. Hunting and shooting are not sports that can be indulged in in Italy to-day.
Winter sports have improved in recent years. There are first-rate places round Turin, the best being Sestrieres, Val Gardena and the Dolomites. Recently, winter sports have been flourishing near Rome; some five hours’ travel from the Eternal City, on the Gran Sasso, ski-ing is possible even in the late spring.
There are tennis clubs and tennis courts everywhere. Golf has become popular in recent times. The most noted and popular golf courses are at Milan (Golf Club), Merano (Golf Club), Mendola (Grandi Alberghi), Croce sopra Menaggio (Golf Club Menaggio e Cadenabbia), Madonna di Campiglio (Golf Hotel Campo), Cortina d’Ampezzo (Miramonti Majestic Hotel), Rome (Circolo del Golf), Rapallo (Golf Club), Stresa (Circolo Golf, Stresa), Sanremo (Golf Club), Sestriere, Turin (Golf Club Torino e Sestriere), Biumo Inferiore (Club di Golf Varese), Venice-Lido (C. d. Golf), Cernobbio-Como (Golf Club Villa d’Este), Rodi-Egeo (Campo di Golf), Abbazia (Campo di Golf), Brioni (Golf delle Isole Brioni), Claviera (Hotel Santi), Carezza al Lago (Grand Hotel), Florence (Golf dell’ Ugolino), Lago di Garda (Golf Club Lago di Garda).
All compilers of travel guides are agreed that in describing a country the most difficult thing is to know where to begin. For it is possible that the reader will land at, say, Naples, but it is equally possible that he will land at Genua, or arrive in Italy by train via the Brenner Pass, or via Ventimiglia or Postumia. And if he first sets foot on Italian soil at any other point than that with which the description of the country begins, he is bound to be annoyed.
However, I will take the risk and for the sake of simplicity I will start with Northern Italy, on the assumption that you travel to Italy via Paris and Marseilles, by the direct Paris-Lyons-Mediterrané train, entering the country at Ventimiglia. If you are already tired out by the journey you can stop for a day or two’s rest at Bordighera, which lies in the centre of one of the most pleasant sections of the seaboard, the Riviera di Ponente. Among the luxury hotels of Bordighera I recommend the Capo Ampeglio, where a good international cuisine is provided, though there is a choice of thirty other hotels and about a dozen boarding-houses. But if Bordighera does not suit you there is another health resort a few miles away—Ospedaletti, which is world famous for its flower fairs.
Along the sea coast the first important city where the tourist will find it worth while to spend a few days is Genoa. Genoa has more than six hundred thousand inhabitants and is to-day the most important centre of Italian shipping. Those who enjoy the cosmopolitan society of sea captains and merchants will meet them at the big luxury hotels, while the humbler representatives of the sea will be found in a less opulent quarter behind the port. The best of the luxury hotels are: Grand Hotel Miramare et de la Savoy, the Savoy, the Bristol Majestic, and the Colombia. Those who have little time to spare can see Genoa in a single day, and tourists making for the south via Genoa are advised to devote at least twenty-four hours to this beautiful city. The port may best be seen from a boat, which is easily obtained, for the boatmen are always waiting for passengers near the mole, and the fare is only 8 lire for one person or 12 lire for two.
The city itself, the Royal Palace and Pallavicini, Balbi Seneraga and Doria Pamphily palaces, as well as the other sights, can be “done” in the greatest comfort by horse cab. These are not particularly cheap, but after all one has to pay for comfort.
If you arrive in Genoa in the morning, and are not too tired to proceed immediately to see the city, you may leave your luggage at the railway cloak room. But perhaps you would like to have a hot bath? Or perhaps you are in need of a shave, and being desirous of impressing the feminine half of Genoa you are also reluctant to appear in the street in an unpressed suit? The answer is: Go to the Albergo Diurno, or day hotel, which you will find not only in Genoa but also in all other Italian towns, and where you will find a bath, a hairdresser, a tailor to press your clothes, a shoe-shine to clean your shoes—in a word, everything you may require in the circumstances. You may even lie down for a brief rest at the Albergo Diurno which, of course, caters for both men and women. Any railway porter at the station will gladly direct you to this excellent establishment if you say to him: “Dovee’ l’Albergo Diurno?” In Genoa it is near the Carlo Felice Theatre, in the De Ferrari Square.
Having viewed the palaces of the great bankers and merchant princes of Genua, and having, presumably, satisfied your thirst for artistic enjoyment, you will no doubt be ready to visit a restaurant and attend to the needs of the “inner man.”
If you like exotic restaurants go to the Ciccia or the San Pietro all’ Focet in the seamen’s quarter, where you will be served with the best Genovan specialities, including minestrone al pesto, of which the distinguished Italian writer Morelli once said that Columbus in the most critical moments of his life used to think of this soup and was immediately comforted. If, however, you prefer a better class restaurant you could do worse than visit the Gambrinus on the Via S. Sebastiano. There are countless cafés where you can consume your black coffee after lunch or dinner.
Before you leave Genoa try to recollect that Columbus was born here, that Battista Perasso, a young hero of the War of Liberation, whose pet name—Balilla—designates the Italian youth movement, was also cradled in this city, and that Garibaldi set out from Genoa on his campaign for the unification of Italy.
Please do not condemn me for compressing all this momentous information into a single paragraph. Even the smallest Italian township offers sufficient material for a whole volume (which have actually been written about some), but, on the one hand, the publisher of the present work has issued a strict ukase forbidding me to enlarge on such things and, on the other hand, I rather suspect that you, gentle reader, would simply skip any such learned dissertations.
One of the most beautiful stretches of seaboard lies south of Genoa and is called Riviera del Levante. All the towns, townships and villages along this coast are equally beautifully situated, the climate is pleasant both in summer and winter, and the luxury hotels, which abound here, are nearly always teeming with life. Opportunities for sea bathing, yachting, fishing and mountaineering are available at all these places. In the winter Nervi is regarded as the most pleasant resort. The lovely but smaller and cheaper Portofino is also a most pleasant place with a fine view of the coastline and the Alps. At Portofino you can rent completely furnished little villas either for the whole summer or by the month at very reasonable prices. Santa Mergherita Ligure and Rapallo are popular, in particular, owing to their pleasant winter climate. At Rapallo the Casino has a lovely park and an excellent restaurant. Pisa, Viareggio and La Spezia are also worth visiting.
Turin is within three hours’ journey from Genoa, and if you are interested in the motor-car industry, enjoy good milk chocolate, and like to walk constantly under arcades, Turin is the place for you. Turin is a most charming city, and if you can afford it, it will be worth your while to make a slight detour on your way to Milan and visit Turin, which was once the capital of the old Sardinian Kingdom and the starting-point of the movement for a united Italy after the fall of Napoleon I. If you are interested in arms, you will, no doubt, wish to visit the Armeri Reale, whose collection of old weapons is second only to a similar collection at the Royal Palace in Madrid, and shows all the varieties of instruments of destruction with which men have exterminated each other throughout the centuries. One of the best restaurants in Turin is the Ristorante del Cambio, where you can enjoy a dish of bollito, a local speciality consisting of boiled meats. At the Café Alfieri there is dancing in the evening. At the opera you may sometimes enjoy an excellent performance during the Carnival. There is a number of exhibitions, including fashion shows, each year. Football matches take place every Sunday, while rowing and speed boating can always be indulged in on the river Po. If the city itself is not of any particular importance from the viewpoint of the foreign tourist, the surrounding district is all the more noted for ski-ing and Alpine sports facilities. To the great delight of Alpinists, the great St. Bernhard Pass can be reached through Aosta, while Courmayer at the foot of Mont Blanc and Sestriere are the popular ski-ing grounds of Italian society.
Milan, Italy’s biggest commercial and industrial centre, with nearly a million inhabitants, is about 100 miles from Turin. Milan can be reached from Turin by train in three hours. The railway station at Milan is the most modern not only in Italy but also in the whole world. It deals with 350 trains per day. Milan is a city in which the characteristically Italian atmosphere is least felt. It is a beautiful, busy international European city whose social and artistic life is a greater attraction to the foreign tourist than its art treasures, which are few in number as compared with other Italian cities. However, the magnificent Gothic cathedral, which was begun in 1368 and, according to the Milanese, can never be finished, and the vast Ambrosiana Library, are well worth visiting. Mgr. Ratti, an ex-librarian of the Ambrosiana, is to-day known as Pope Pius XI. One of the greatest picture galleries in the world is the Ambrosiana Gallery, which includes paintings by Leonardo, Botticelli, Titian, Tiepolo, Canova, etc., in addition to a valuable collection of antiques. The world-famous picture collection of the Brera Palace should not be missed by any foreign visitor to Milan who has a spark of artistic interest. The collection includes the finest creations of the greatest mediaeval and modern artists. Of the Milan churches, in addition to the cathedral, the S. Maria delle Grazie, a masterpiece of Bramante, should be visited. It is here that the visitor will see Leonardo da Vinci’s world-famous fresco “The Last Supper.”
Board and accommodation in Milan can be obtained at any price the tourist can afford or chooses to pay. In addition to luxury hotels like the Excelsior Gallia or the Principe e Savoia, there are countless good and medium class hotels. In April, when the Milan Fair is held, it is advisable to book accommodation well ahead, as during the Fair no rooms can be had either for love or money. As a good and reliable hotel we can recommend the Bertolin-Europa, which is more than a century old and is situated on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, in the centre of the town, close to the Cathedral and the Scala. The principal popular centre of Milan is the 600 foot covered walk known as the Galleria. There are excellent cafés and restaurants—including the world-famous Savini and Biff restaurants—and also some smart shops along the Galleria. At noon and between 6 p.m. and midnight all Milan can be seen parading here. Quite close to the Galleria is the famous Milan opera house, the Scala, where excellent programmes are given throughout the winter, mostly with the collaboration of world-famous stars. If you enjoy brilliant surroundings, the sight of beautiful women in gorgeous evening attire, and can afford to pay about 100 lire for a stall, you simply must not miss any Scala premières that occur during your stay in Milan. Every première is an event, a worth-while spectacle and a memorable occasion. Another Milan theatre is the Lirico, where operettas, revues and, occasionally, operas are given.
The Italian cinemas everywhere have many surprises in store for the foreign tourist. Milan—like most large Italian towns—is well provided with magnificent cinemas where the latest American films can be seen. But when you occupy your seat in the auditorium expecting to hear Clark Gable or Greta Garbo speaking to you in your native tongue you will hear them, instead, speaking in excellent Italian. The solution to this puzzle is an Italian law according to which all foreign films must be synchronised in Italian. Only Rome has a cinema (with which we will deal later) where foreign films may be performed in the original language. Cinema performances are continuous, as in England.
There are ample opportunities for sport in Milan. Horse-racing on S. Siron goes on from April till October. The football matches, every Sunday, are rather exciting and provide the tourist with a sample of the Italian temperament. The tennis clubs are always pleased to receive visitors upon the recommendation of members (most foreign consuls are members or are acquainted with members). Milan naturally has swimming baths (for example, Piscina Mario Giurati), a skating rink, several fencing, boxing and other similar establishments.
The most convenient shopping centres are the Corso, the Galleria and the Via Manzoni. The more noted Milan products include leather goods, gloves, silks, glass, porcelain. These goods are cheaper in Milan than in other countries and are worth purchasing, just like the world-famous Italian men’s hats.
Milan is connected both by train and bus with the three large North Italian lakes, the Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como and Lago di Lugano. Particularly in spring and autumn, when the weather is most pleasant, the lakes are unforgettably lovely. At these seasons it often happens that while a smart crowd are sunning themselves on the shores of the lakes, the surrounding mountain tops are covered with thick snow. It is here, along the lakes, that you can really rest your nerves. If you want peace and quiet, however, do not go to the localities that are full of luxury hotels, but to the smaller places with their more modest establishments.
Space forbids the enumeration of all the resorts round the lakes, and we will therefore confine ourselves here to the more important places. On the shores of Lago di Como the town of Como itself, which is very urban in character, shares the distinction of being one of the two most popular spring and autumn resorts with Belaggio. The Grande Bretagne and Grand Hotel Belaggio are much favoured by English and American visitors. Near Belaggio lies the village of Varenna, from where a lovely road leads to Fiumelatte. The latter has a waterfull which cascades down from a height of nearly 800 feet and which possesses one strange peculiarity—that it does not exist during certain periods of the year. It appears suddenly round March 25th and just as suddenly disappears on September 8th. Both events are celebrated by a colourful and interesting festival by the people of Fiumelatte.
Tennis, boating, rod fishing, and swimming and yachting are the most popular sports in this region. The smart crowds of foreign visitors make frequent excursions to the fishing points and their osterias, where they can enjoy the famous culinary speciality of Como, the misoltini, a dish prepared from freshwater fish. But in addition to this, there are many similar dishes that visitors may wish to try.
The loveliest of the three lakes is undoubtedly the Lago Maggiore. It is surrounded by mighty peaks of over 3,000 feet, and the climate is as mild in spring and autumn—and in some places, as in Pallanza, even in winter—as in the most sheltered corner of the Riviera. The most fashionable resort is still Stresa, facing the Isole Borromeo, the Isola Madre and the Isola Bella. The two largest hotels are the Isola Borromeo and the Regina Palace, in which you may only stay if “money is no object” with you. But there are several smaller hotels to suit the more moderate pocket. The Stresa beach is excellent, and there is also a golf course—which has in recent years become historical—at a height of some 3,000 feet, with a magnificent view of the lake. It was here that, in the spring of 1935, the diplomatic representatives of England, France and Italy sought relief from their exacting labours at the Stresa Conference. Golf apparently has a beneficent effect on politics, for in spite of their conflicting interests an agreement was come to. But there may be another reason why the statesmen of Europe so frequently fix the North Italian lake district as the venue of their discussions—life is easier and far more pleasant here than anywhere else. If you wish to spend the whole of your holiday in one place you can hardly find a more beautiful spot than the North Italian lake district. There is only one danger, as far as the foreign visitor is concerned—once he has settled down on the shore of one of the lakes he may not be able to tear himself away until he absolutely must. Thus, if all you want is a peep at the lakes, make a day excursion from Milan. Even so you will have an opportunity of tasting the excellent lake fish, the trota di lago, the pesce persico and others, and also the famous rice dishes of Novarra.
I think that musicians, and particularly violinists, will be glad to make a pilgrimage to this Mecca of violin-making which lies some fifty miles from Milan. It was in Cremona that Stradivari and Amati and their descendants made such excellent violins in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that even present-day makers are unable to equal them. Such violins are worth fortunes, so it is understandable that there are very few of them left in Cremona. About two years ago the municipality of Cremona established a museum where the tools of the great violin-makers and a few specimens of their masterly work are preserved.
Beyond Cremona, but on the same railway line, lies bounded by three lakes the lovely little town of Mantua, the ancient habitat of the Gonzagas and the scene of the story of Rigoletto and his tragic daughter. If you are in a hurry you had better not tarry in either of these two towns, for both are so charming, so fascinating that you might tarry too long. But this “danger” is always present wherever you go in Italy. At all events, you can see Cremona and Mantua between two trains on your way to Verona.
On the other hand, you must devote a reasonable amount of time to Lake Garda, which you can reach by rapido from Milan in two-and-a-half hours, travelling through Brescia and arriving at Desenzano del Garda. The lake is one of the most beautiful not only in Italy but in the whole world. A few years ago a magnificent motor road was built round the lake, and those who cannot spend much time in the district may travel round it in a day by one of the omnibuses starting from Desenzano. If you wish to stay at one of the resorts on the lake shore, particularly if it is in the spring or autumn, I recommend the south shore of the lake, as far as Limone and Macesine. In the summer a cold wind known as the ora blows every day, and Riva and Torbole are therefore more pleasant during the summer season. On the west shore of the lake Gardone is the most popular resort. Gabriele d’Annunzio, who is regarded as the greatest Italian poet living, has for years been living at Gardone, in a villa situated in the Vittoriale, which is full of warships and other grim war instruments. These can be inspected with a special permit from the authorities.
The best hotels are on the Gardone shore of the lake. The fascinating little town of Limone, which is famous for its lemon groves, and the charming little town of Riva are also on the west shore of the lake. Riva has a new lake-side pool in which there is dancing every evening.
On the east shore of the lake Torbole, Malcesine and Garda are quiet, refined summer resorts. Those who prefer the paying guest arrangement cannot do better than apply to Baron Beust, at the Villa Beust, Torbole, where you will be looked after by a charming and courteous host. The charmingly situated Villa Beust is said to be on the site from which St. Anthony preached to the fishes.
Verona, one of the most charming and romantic towns of northern Italy, can be reached in comfort from Riva or Torbole by the Royal Mail autobuses. Verona has no luxury hotels, so that even the wealthy tourist must be content with one of the clean, comfortable inns, the best of which, the Grand Hotel Londre, is patronised by English tourists. The Touring is also good, while among the cheaper places the Gabbia d’Oro is adequate. However, it is not absolutely necessary to stay in Verona, as the town can be “done” in half a day. If you arrive in Verona by bus in the early morning you can go on to Venice, or Bolzano, Trento and the Dolomites in the afternoon. The most beautiful and romantic part of Verona is the completely medieval quarter round the Piazza dei Signori. The more “highbrow” guides omit what practically every tourist visiting Verona wishes to see, namely, the house where Juliet Capuletti’s family lived. The building is a large pile at Via Capelli 17, near the Piazza dell’ Erbe. Those who have seen it are puzzled as to how Romeo could heave sighs that were loud enough to be audible to a Juliet standing on a fourth floor balcony. The answer to the puzzle is that the tragic story of the children of the two unruly Veronese families was born in Shakespeare’s brain and never really happened. If you wish to see the more distant parts of Verona, a tram from the Piazza dell’ Erbe or the Piazza Vittori Emanuele will take you most of the way. In addition to the art treasures in the centre of the town the Cathedral, the Porte de Borsari, the Roman Arena, the St. Fermo and St. Zeno Maggiore churches, the Porte Leone and the Castelvecchio picture gallery are worth visiting. But in addition to its art treasures Verona is also noted for its countless small restaurants and osterias. The food and drink are excellent in all of them. Among the masterpieces in rice we recommend the dish known as “Riso e Bisi con l’Ochetta.” Verona is also the home of the various dumplings, so much so that there is a festival in honour of them held on the last Friday of the Carnival. The wines obtainable at the osterias include the world-famous Soava, Valpolicella and Prosecco. You can have your fill of these at one of three fine osterias, the Dei XII Apostoli, the Greppia or the Luna.
While you are in Verona you really must visit the magnificent mountain scenery of Venezia Trentina. This is best done by car, but if you have no car and find a horse carriage too expensive, you can travel by train to Trento and continue from there by bus to Madonna di Campiglio, one of the loveliest spots in the Italian Alps, or beyond this town to Male. If you arrive in Verona in the morning, you can leave your luggage at the railway cloakroom, see the town and proceed in the evening to Trento, where you can put up at a hotel (the best being the Bristol).
There are few sights in Treno itself. You can “do” them in two hours, during which time you can visit the Dome, the Castello del buon Consiglio and have a good meal at the railway restaurant, continuing your journey to Madonna di Campiglio by the second omnibus. There are two buses per day from July till September. During the rest of the year there is only one per day—if the roads happen to be passable. If you wish to take a rest, you are advised to stay at one of the hotels at Madonna di Campiglio—which is some 4,500 feet above sea-level. The Grand Hotel will suit the affluent, while the Excelsior is a good medium-class hotel. Madonna di Campiglio has one of the loveliest golf courses in the whole of Italy. It lies at 5,100 feet above sea-level. It is a nine-hole course and its total length is 6,500 feet. There is a magnificent view of the Alpine peaks from every point of the course. If you are in a hurry you can make the following round trip in a single day: Trento—Madonna di Campiglio—Male—Trento.
An hour’s train journey from Trento will take you to Bolzano, the centre of the Dolomite district. Bolzano is one of the most charming towns in northern Italy, and is a favourite resort of lovers of mountain scenery and mountain sports. Bolzano has some excellent hotels (Bristol, Laurino), while good food and excellent beer can also be obtained at the Cantina del Municipio and the Ca’ dei Bezzi restaurant.
It you visit Bolzano you must, naturally, also go over the Dolomite district. Formerly a tour through the Dolomites was so expensive that only the most affluent could afford it, but to-day even the tourist of moderate means can easily afford to make a tour comprising the Val Garden—Cols de Sella—Cortina d’Ampezzo route, or any other interesting excursion. The former tour takes seven and a half hours and the visitor is taken over the ground in comfort and at low cost by the vehicles of the Societa Automobilistica Dolomiti. Information concerning the excursions may be obtained at the C.I.T. offices at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III, while information in matters relating to climbing is supplied at the Alpine Club at Via Principe di Piemonte.
While at Bolzano you may also wish to visit Merano, this pearl of climatic health resorts. In the spring and autumn the luxury and medium-class hotels of Merano are full of life and movement. There are a number of sanatoria where patients are treated by the foremost European specialists in tuberculosis. Notable social events are the horse-races and golf competitions held in conjunction with the lottery draw. The golf club of Merano will open its new course during the present year.
I know some tourists who are in such a hurry that they have no time to see anything. But even these must, under pain of the severest “sanctions,” see the Dolomites. The fantastic cliffs, grim abysses, magnificent mountain ranges cannot fail to impress themselves indelibly on the memory of anyone who has seen them. The district can be approached and explored from two directions. (1) Starting by omnibus from Bolzano and travelling to Cortina d’Ampezzo, and thence through Dobiacco-Fortezzan, returning by train to Bolzano. Or (2) starting by omnibus from Bolzano for Cortina, then passing through Misurina to Calalzo, from where a train will take you in comfort to Venice.
For a protracted stay in the Dolomites we recommend in the first place Cortina d’Ampezzo, which is one of the loveliest resorts in summer, while in winter it is popular on account of its lovely and not too difficult ski-ing grounds. There are so many excellent hotels in Cortina d’Ampezzo that it is really difficult to choose among them. The Miramonti and the Parc Faloria are only open in the summer, while the Savoy is open all the year round. Among the medium good-class hotels we can recommend the Croce Bianca. Owing to its first-rate Viennese cuisine and liberal table it has become popular with the hungry ski-ers.
Somewhat quieter but just as excellent as Cortina are Col de Costalunga (about 5,000 feet), Canazei (4,500 feet) and Col du Pordoi (7,000 feet). At all these places the tourist will find excellent hotels, pleasant company, reliable, well-tried guides and ski trainers. At Cortina the Miramonti has a nine-hole course at an altitude of 3,700 feet. Total length of the course is 6,000 feet.
To return to the cities, if—which we refuse to believe—you have been careless enough to miss the Dolomites and have travelled straight on from Verona, you are advised to stop for a few hours at Vicenza and walk among the Gothic, Renaissance and Venetian palaces, or at Padua, the city of St. Anthony. At Vicenza you will find a magnificent Basilica by Palladio, an interesting timber-built theatre by the same master, and a most interesting municipal museum. However, Padua offers more interesting sights than Vicenza. The magnificent palazzos and churches are simply full of pictures by the great masters of the Renaissance period. The churches include the Madonna dell’ Arena, with Giotto’s frescoes and S. Antonio, with the sepulchre of St. Anthony. The Padua museum contains some beautiful Titians and Giorgiones.
Barely an hour’s journey by train is Venice. The train passes through Mestre Station before it reaches St. Lucia Station, which is the railway station of Venice.
It is a risky undertaking to write about Venice with such limited space at one’s disposal, and I will say at once that as far as the art treasures of the Pearl of the Adriatic I will not make the attempt. A whole volume would be too little. You probably know the anecdote about a famous writer living in Venice who was asked by visiting friends to show them over the town. “Unfortunately,” replied the writer, “I’ve only been living here for forty years, so I do not know Venice yet.” The travel guides are not so modest, for according to them three days is sufficient for the tourist to get to know the art treasures of Venice. However, when he comes to the itinerary the tourist finds that this is only possible if he sets out in the early morning and dashes about all day, until the churches, museums and galleries are shut for the night. The inevitable result of this method is that when the tourist takes a train at the S. Lucia station or a luxury steamer at the port, he realises that he has seen almost nothing of Venice and only remembers the Palazzo Ducale and San Marco.
No! Even at the risk of being excommunicated by the compilers of guide-books I advise you that if you have only three days to spare for Venice you should only see the most important sights. Walk about in the Doge’s Palace, in St. Mark’s Church, in S. Giorgio Maggiore, in Sant a Maria della Salute, go into the churches you happen to pass and, if you are interested in glass manufacture, you may spend an afternoon at Murano. But if you are wise, gentle reader, and you want to understand Venice, you will not dash about Venice with a guide-book in your hand from dawn till dusk. Instead, you will dress at leisure in the morning, then you will take breakfast at one of the cafés on the Piazza, say at the Florian or the Rosa. Then you will have yourself carried up by lift to the top of the Campanile, from where you will survey the city. After this you will walk about until you tire or, in winter, until you get hungry. In the summer you may quite safely leave the churches and pictures alone and take a “vaporetto” to the Lido, the sea-bathing beach of Venice. After a spell in the sea you can have a good meal on the beach, followed by a good rest, after which, if you are so inclined, you can return to the town and continue your walk. For dinner you can go to one of Venice’s characteristic little osterias, as, for instance, the Colomba, the Fenice, the Trattoria del Elefante near the Riva dei Schiavoni, or the Trattoria della Vida, which is not far from the Salute, and where you can obtain the special wines we have already mentioned in connection with Verona. For supper at a Venetian osteria I would recommend the following. Hors d’œuvres: risi e bisi, motto di zucca, risi e scampi. Fish: Baccala a la Veneziana, bisato su l’ara, bottarga. Meat: Feggato alla Veneziana, cavroman (liberally peppered), lingua alla Veneziana. Vegetables: tegolme, melanzane, patata alla Ven., polenta. Fruit: pere spadone, angurie. Sweets: zaleti or gialetti, crema fritta alla Ven., crocante alla Ven.
In these small Venetian osteria you come to know more about the life of Venice in an hour than by a few days of dashing about.
Speaking of a knowledge of Venice I must say a few words about the gondola. I have met many foreign tourists in Italy who have declared that they had never floated in a gondola on the maze of Venetian rios because that was “so banal.” They preferred to hire a motor-boat! Which is a horrible thing to do. I advise you to ignore what your “experienced” or blasé friends regard as banal or hackneyed. The sole criterion should be what you yourself feel like seeing or doing. A thing experienced by ten thousand other people will be no real experience to you unless you pass through it yourself. And it is in Italy that you will realise fully the meaning of this “banal” truth. Those who have not glided through the Venetian rios on a moonlight night, preferably with a companion of the opposite sex, cannot really understand the true atmosphere of this wonder city, and will remember Venice as a combination of dirty water and old stones. The most enjoyable thing you can do in Venice is to float in a gondola. The next best thing is to walk. You need not worry about getting lost, and you need not clutch your map in order to find out every now and then where you are. The map is useless in any case, for after a quarter of an hour’s walk you will not know where you are and the map will not help you. It is much better to walk in any direction you like and to take a gondola if you should get lost. It may happen that a gondola will take you back to your hotel in two minutes, whereas if left to yourself—and to your map—you might never have found your way home. That is why gondola fares have to be calculated in your budget as an unavoidable item.
The gondolier is not a conservative English business man with an innate sense of fair play, and gondola tariffs have therefore been fixed by the authorities. The price of a gondola for half an hour, up to three passengers, is 8 lire, and 2 lire extra is charged for every additional passenger. For an hour the tariff is 12 lire, with 2 lire extra per person above three. The basic charge after the first hour is 6 lire for half an hour. During the great Redentore festival, when the famous gondola race is also held, gondola hire is much more expensive. According to official regulations the maximum charge for a gondola with one oar for the duration of the entire festival cannot exceed 50 lire, or in the case of two oars too lire, though the gondolier naturally expects a tip in addition to the legal fee.
It is a much debated question during what season of the year Venice is loveliest. There are those who prefer to come in the summer, while others like to stay in Venice in the spring or late autumn when there are few foreign visitors and “Venice belongs to the Venetians.” It is true that between November and April it sometimes rains for days on end, but there are people who love to be in the city of lagoons on just such grey, wet days, when all is silence among the centuries-old palaces, relics of past riches and power, which their owners would gladly sell to the highest bidder—if there were any bidders.
Those who spend the summer in Venice are generally undecided as to whether to live in the town or on the Lido. Well, each presents certain advantages. If you are staying on the Lido you can step into the sea almost from your bedroom door, while at the tea hour and the social events organised by the big luxury hotels you can enjoy the company of the smartest crowd in the world. And, of course, in the summer the Lido is cooler than the city. On the other hand, staying in Venice itself can be very nice. To sleep and wake with this romantic fairy town is an unforgettably lovely experience.
Beyond Venice, along the Trieste line, there are several charming seaside resorts which are still popular with the inhabitants of the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy. These are noted not only for good beaches, excellent hotels and gay company, but also for the important fact that they are inexpensive. There is Grado, two and a half hours’ journey from Venice, which is also built on lagoons, and owing to its extensive sandy beach is a paradise for children. Abbazia and Brioni can best be approached from Trieste, the most important port of the Adriatic. It is in Trieste that the steamers of the Cosulich Line and the Lloyd Triestino berth. Tourists arriving in Trieste receive their first taste of the atmosphere of old Italian towns when passing through the older part of Trieste. Those who intend to spend a few hours only in Trieste are advised to climb to the top of the Cathedral campanile, from which an excellent view of the city can be obtained. The best hotel in Trieste is the Savoia Excelsior, the best restaurant the Antica Bonavia, where you can obtain the finest fish and lobster dishes at all seasons of the year. There are some beautiful and interesting excursion points around Trieste. A small steamer will take you to the beautifully situated Miramare Castle, formerly the residence of the unfortunate Emperor of Mexico. From here a train will take you, in two hours, to Postumia, where you can wander in one of the most beautiful stalactite caves in the world.
Travelling southwards from Milan, Verona or Venice you must pass through Bologna, one of the most charming towns in Central Italy. If you go from Milan to Bologna you will pass through Parma, Correggio’s town, in whose churches you can see many of Correggio’s masterpieces. Your next station will be Modena, capital of the former Grand Duchy, which has a few valuable Renaissance period pictures in its museum.
If you go to Bologna from Venice you will pass through Ferrara, a grim little town, in which the castle of the Dukes d’Este, the Dome and the Schiafanoia Palace are the principal “sights.” The art treasures accumulated in these three towns would be sufficient to support the entire tourist traffic of a smaller country, but Italy is so chockful of art treasures that only tourists of considerable leisure can pause in these small localities.
Bologna, on the other hand, is an important place. It is a charming, attractive town in which the foreign tourist will soon feel at home. Bologna is Italy’s Oxford or Cambridge. The many students of its ancient University throng the streets, cafés and other places at all hours of the day, and the visitor may gain the impression that Bologna is almost exclusively inhabited by young people. In addition to the exuberance of the University students there is the beauty of the local women and—last, but not least—the world-famous cuisine of the town to make the foreign visitor’s stay in Bologna pleasant.
It goes without saying that Bologna also has its share of art treasures and ancient monuments of great artistic value. The latter include the church of S. Petronio, which was built in 1390, the Re Enzo palace, the Palazzo Communale, the church of S. Giacomo Maggiore, the Torre degli Asinelli, and the leaning Torre Garisenda, which could not be completed owing to the settlement of the soil. After the Leaning Tower of Pisa this is the most famous leaning tower in Italy. It is 150 feet high and has an inclination of seven feet. If you care to climb 447 steps you can reach the top of the Torre degli Asinelli. The roof terrace, which is 300 feet above ground-level, gives an excellent view of the city and the surrounding country.
However much you may enjoy the city itself you must not omit to visit the picture gallery which contains a collection of Titians, Tintorettos, Bassanos, as well as masterpieces by other early masters and modern painters.
It would be a pity to “do” Bologna in a hurry, and, in particular, those who have only spent half a day in Verona, are advised to stay a day or two in Bologna. In the summer Bologna’s beautiful new swimming pool must be an irresistible attraction to the tourist who is physically tired from his journeyings and mentally exhausted from too many works of art. You can have a meal at the bathing pool itself, but I would advise you rather to taste the cuisine of one of the good restaurants of the town, such as the Chianti, the famous Papagallo, or one of the incredibly cheap students’ restaurants, like the Leone Nero or Colli di Padeno. If you wish to get acquainted with Bologna’s night life, you must make friends with an Italian or foreign student, who will be pleased to act as your guide in the maze of medieval streets and show you the strange night life of the town.
The Editor of the present work has given me strict instructions not to write too extensively about art, antiquities and anything else that can be found in any ordinary guide. Yet I cannot omit to mention that about an hour and a half’s journey from Bologna will take you to Faenza, the town that was once so famous for its pottery (faience), whose Dome is full of the most valuable artistic masterpieces. The interesting picture gallery of Forli is only a “cat’s jump” from here. About 10 miles from Forli lies Predappio Nuova, a small village formerly known as Dovia, which can be reached by motor-bus. It was in a simple house in Predappio Nuova that Benito Mussolini was born on July 28th, 1883. The house has been “done up” and can be visited by tourists. The mansion on the Rocca delle Caminate is Mussolini’s property.
For some years the Duce has spent the month of August with his family at Riccione, the Adriatic coast. During this time the leaders of Italian political life transfer their headquarters to Riccione, which has accordingly come into vogue.
Not far from Riccione lies Rimini, whose best hotel, the Grand Hotel, is on the beach. In the summer dances and tea parties are organised at the Arena del Lido, a place of amusement. Further along the Adriatic coast lies Pesaro, famous for its majolica, and also Fano. Both are the seaside resorts of Italians of moderate means. Ancona, which is 30 miles from Fano, is one of the most important Adriatic ports, but an insignificant little town from the tourist’s point of view. Not far from Ancona lies Loretto, the famous place of pilgrimage, and Recanti, the birthplace of the famous poet Leopardi. Between Ancona and Foligno the town of Urbino is the only one worth visiting. It has a beautiful Dome and a graceful applazo Ducale. Its picture gallery contains a few world-famous masterpieces (Raphael, Titian, Signorelli, etc.). From Urbino you can reach Rome through Foligno and Terni.
From the point of view of the art-lover it is better to travel from Bologna not towards Faenza, but towards the ancient city of Ravenna. Formerly Ravenna lay on the sea coast, but the deposits of the river Po have formed a 7 mile wide strip between the city and the sea, so that Ravenna is to-day only connected with the Adriatic by a canal. Ravenna was built in the fifth and sixth centuries and is full of art treasures, most of which originate from the Middle Ages, when the city was the hub of Italy’s religious and political life. Ravenna is at its best during the spring months. It is a majestically gloomy city, where the voice of even the most cynical visitor unconsciously assumes a quiet note within a few days. The church of S. Vitale and the Dome are masterpieces of medieval architecture. Near the church of S. Francesco is the sepulchre of Dante Alighieri, the great Italian poet, who died in Ravenna in exile at the age of fifty-six, on the night of September 13th, 1321.
The majority of tourists go from Bologna straight to Florence, the most important city of the Renaissance period from the intellectual, artistic and commercial point of view. Formerly the trains running between the two towns made a wide detour, via Pistoia, but three years ago the journey was considerably shortened, a series of tunnels having been bored under the Apennine Mountains. The electric train runs through a 4 1/2 miles long tunnel and over a 950 feet long bridge before reaching the great 11 mile Apennine tunnel which is the second longest tunnel in the world after the Simplon. The train passes through the small town of Prato before reaching Florence.
After Rome, Florence is the most important Italian town from the point of view of art history. But what makes Florence attractive to the foreign visitor is the fact that it is not merely a dead museum of works of art, like some other Italian localities, but a city full of life, movement and charm.
The Florentines are a charming and courteous breed, but there are also large foreign—and particularly English—colonies. The English colony have their own club, through which the members maintain contact between themselves and also with Italian society in Florence. That is why the majority of Anglo-Italian marriages originate in Florence. Many English and American families have purchased villas at the loveliest points in the surrounding district, in Fiesole, on the hills near the city, and have settled down for life.
The “experts” say that you must spend at least three days in Venice. What about Florence? Who could presume to advise the tourist in this connection? In my opinion even a year is too little, but even if you are in a tearing hurry you must devote at least five days to Florence. As regards accommodation we can recommend any of the luxury hotels, but those who yearn for genuine English or American cooking should go to the Anglo-American Hotel which is situated on the bank of the Arno in peaceful surroundings. There are countless boarding-houses, among which the tourist must choose according to his means. The Danish Dienesen and also Beaccit have been recommended. If you wish to stay in Florence for a long time you can rent a furnished flat or villa. Completely furnished flats—including tableware and kitchen utensils—can be had from 400 to 500 lire per month.
From the point of view of amusements Florence offers no better possibilities than most other Italian cities. Public social life is confined to one or two “middling” dance halls, a good theatre, concerts and cinemas. The fact that we have said little about amusements in the previous chapters is not due to forgetfulness. Italian towns have little to offer to lovers of the lighter type of amusements. Few Italian towns have a dance hall of European standard, a night club or even a restaurant with facilities for dancing. The hotels are magnificent, the scenery unforgettable, the works of art wonderful, the national customs interesting, the restaurants and the Italian wines excellent, and the opportunities for sport adequate; but amusements! There are hardly any, and there is no night life to speak of. This is, of course, not entirely accidental. The political regime at present in power does not favour light amusements for the people, and lovers of such amusements will find no facilities in Italy. But whereas in many Italian towns it is difficult, or even impossible, for the foreigner to secure an invitation to private houses, one or two letters of recommendation are sufficient in Florence to introduce you to a company of charming people. That is why Florence is so attractive to foreigners.
Thus, if you wish to spend a long time in Florence you will do well to arm yourself with letters of recommendation.
The men and women of Florentine society take their aperitif at midday and their tea in the afternoon at Doney’s, Giaco’s or Pieri’s on the Via Tornabuoni. Among the restaurants we recommend Doney’s, among the osterias Bucadi S. Rufillo near the Pza. del Duomo, the Trattoria Paoli on the Via Calzaio, the Pozzo di Beatrice in the Palazzo Ferroni, and the Buca del Lapi in the Palazzo Antinori. All the above supply excellent Florentine specialities and delicious wines from Tuscany which have a characteristic, slightly bitter-sweet taste.
Florence offers many excellent opportunities for sport. You can row on the Arno, play tennis, watch football matches at the Stadium and obtain accommodation for indoor athletics. The new course of the golf club, which also has a swimming pool, is excellent.
Those who are in a hurry are advised to book the conducted charabanc tours of one of the tourist traffic organisations. This will afford you no opportunity for reverent solitude, but it will enable you to see all that you must see in Florence. We have already expressed our view in this matter, and we can only reiterate it here—it is better to see fewer works of art and, instead, to get acquainted with the town, its atmosphere, its inhabitants, than to “do” the museums and the like in a tearing hurry.
I have seen foreign tourists who arrived back at their hotels in the evening dead tired, and went to bed after a hasty meal in order to resume the chase early the next morning, instead of enjoying a beautiful evening by walking on the banks of the Arno or between the jewellers’ shops on the Ponte Vecchio towards the Pitti. Collecting the titles of pictures and statues is not worth while. You should sit down in the Dome, stop at the door of the Battistero. You should devote at least a whole morning to the Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, the sculptures of Donatello, Bandinelli, Cellini. Do not even enter the Uffizi Gallery unless you are prepared to spend a whole morning in it. The Bargello and the Museo Nazionale, the S. Croce church, the collections of S. Ambrogio, S. Marco and the “Oltrarno,” the picture collection of the Pitti Palace, and all that the city of Florence has collected in works of art throughout the centuries, will absorb anyone who has succumbed to their fascination, not for days, but for years. The Giardino Boboli, one of the finest parks in the world, fits excellently into the framework of lovely Florence.
If you are travelling with a great deal of luggage you will do well to establish your headquarters at Florence, taking trips to the neighbouring towns. Leaving the bulk of your luggage at your hotel in Florence you can visit Pisa, Umbria and Siena, carrying only a handbag or a single suitcase. If you are going on to Rome, I advise you to go to Pisa for a day, return to Florence, then make your choice whether you will reach the Eternal City via Siena, Perugia, Assisi, Foligno, or straight through Arezzo. Pisa is 50 miles from Florence. From Pisa Station a tram No. 1 will take you to the Dome, which was begun in the year 1063. The church contains pictures, mosaics, pulpits and other masterpieces by Cimabue, Del Sarto, Pisano, etc. Behind the Dome is the Battistero, and behind it the Camposanto, the world-famous cemetery, with, frescoes by the various masters. Opposite the entrance of the Dome stands the most famous ancient monument of Pisa, the Leaning Tower. The tower was begun in 1174 by Gerardo. When it was 33 feet high one side settled in the loose soil. Building was continued and an unsuccessful attempt was made to correct the inclination. The tower was then taken in hand by William of Innsbruck, and later by Tom Pisano, who completed it. The structure is about 170 feet high and its greatest inclination is about 13 feet. In 1935 the soil under the tower began to settle further and it appeared that the building would at last collapse. However, by a complicated process, tunnels were bored to the foundations, which were reinforced with concrete, so that the Leaning Tower is safe once more. A spiral staircase leads to the top of the building, from where an excellent and interesting view can be obtained of the town and the surrounding country. There is nothing beyond the Dome and its precincts to visit in Pisa, and the tourist may therefore wish to continue to Viareggio, which is an hour’s journey from Pisa.
Viareggio is the most popular resort on the western side and is visited by tens of thousands of Italians in the summer. There are a few luxury hotels and a large number of boarding-houses, all of which are mainly patronised by Italians. Forte de Marmi is close to Viareggio and is both quieter and less expensive. You can make interesting excursions from both localities, visiting the marble mountains of Carrara, or Puccini’s villa on the romantic Torre del Lago, or La Spezia, the most important Italian naval base, which is some 30 miles from Viareggia and which you may inspect if you are able to produce a reference.
If you are travelling light, you can travel to Rome from Pisa through Lucca and Pistoia, or along the coast line through Livorno, Tarquinia and Civitavecchia. The former route is longer but more beautiful and interesting. The small, romantic Lucca, which is well known from the descriptions of the German poet Heine, is a charming place with magnificent churches and interesting art treasures. Some 15 miles from Lucca lies one of the most important Italian health resorts, Montecatini Terme. Its chloride, sulphur and other springs are making this pleasant, charming little place world famous. It is specially recommended for gastric and liver complaints. A few years ago the Government completely restored the springs, while private enterprise has built excellent hotels, so that Montecatini to-day rivals the most famous watering-places of its kind. The main season lasts from the beginning of August till the end of September, when Montecatini is crowded with representatives of the Italian aristocracy and of the world of art, finance and politics.
From Montecatini you can travel to Rome through Pistoia. If you choose the shorter route along the coast and have time to spare, you ought to stop at Taruinia and see the examples of Etruscan art at the museum and also the Necropolis.
There is a direct train each day from Florence to Rome via Siena. The journey lasts seven and a half hours and leads through interesting and beautiful scenery. If you have the time you may wish to break your journey at the small station of Poggibonsi, from where you can take an omnibus to S. Gimignano and see the best preserved medieval castle in Tuscany. If you cannot spare the time you might prefer to break your journey at Siena, the city of St. Catherine and the most romantic place in Italy. Siena has preserved its medieval character to a greater extent than any other Italian city, and has many lovely medieval palaces, churches, public buildings and dwelling-houses. Siena is inhabited by the same charming, friendly race of Tuscans as Florence, but as Siena is one-eighth the size of Florence relations between foreign visitors and natives are even more direct and pleasant. There are many foreigners—particularly Englishmen and Americans—living permanently in Siena. They are mainly painters, sculptors and art historians. Most foreigners will find at least one compatriot at the foreign club at 34, Via del Montanini.
The problem of board and lodgings is very easy to solve in Siena. There are many good and inexpensive hotels and boarding-houses. The best time to stay in Siena is the late spring and early autumn. A most interesting event is the medieval games—the pallio—held on July 2nd and August 16th. According to an ancient custom the seventeen councillors elected by the seventeen wards of the town walk through the streets in procession, wearing picturesque medieval dress, then ten knights fight for a flag, the pallio.
Siena is, above all, an artistic town. Public interest is still directed to art and artists. Almost every stone embodies a work of art which the visitor cannot pass indifferently. I call particular attention to the Palazzo Publico (at the entrance of which you are advised to purchase the 10-lire ticket which will admit you to all the museums in Siena), the church of S. Francesco, the magnificent Roman Cathedral, upon whose marble floor forty artists have worked, and which contains the masterpieces of Pinturecchio, Donatello, and Michelangelo. You must also see Pinturecchio’s pictures in the Piccolomini Library, the Donatellos and Ghebertis of the Battistero, the house of St. Catherine, daughter of Jacob Benincasa, and the Academy of Fine Arts.
A charming souvenir of Siena is the famous panforte, a vessel which was already frequently mentioned in the literature of the twelfth century.
From Siena you can make interesting excursions to several small Tuscan towns, like Asciano, Montepulciano, Pienza. The railway links up with the Rome main line at Chiusi-Bagni di Chianciano.
The shortest route from Florence to Rome is through Arezzo. Arezzo is a little known town. The town of Petrarca, Aretino, Vasari, Piero della Francesca, etc., quite close to Florence, and most tourists pass it by. Yet Arezzo is well worth a visit. The town itself, with its many art treasures, will amply compensate you for your trouble, but in addition to that there is the surrounding district, S. Sepolcro, Citta di Castello, the entirely medieval Gubbio and the source of the Tevere, all of which deserves to be visited.
Between Arezzo and Rome you may wish to break your journey at Orvieto, the city of splendid wines. If you are a motorist I recommend you the following route—after going over the world-famous Dome and having a meal on the Piazza: Orvieto-Lago di Bolsena (there is a charming little restaurant on the lake shore, and bathing in the lake is most pleasant; also, the catacombs behind the church are rather interesting)—Montefiascone (home of the world-famous “Est, est, est” wine, a few bottles of which you might like to put into your car, though you should not taste it until the end of the journey!)—Viterbo (an interesting medieval town)—Rome. The motor road reaches the centre of the Eternal City at the old Roman bridge, the Ponte Milvio.
Starting from Florence by a different route you reach Perugia, capital of Umbria, through Terontola. Perugia is magnificent from the artistic point of view and most pleasant as a town. Its summer university (July-October) is attended by many foreign students studying Italian, and it is during these months that Perugia is liveliest. Among the hotels the old Brufani is the most noted. There are two good restaurants—the Degli Artisti (Via dei Priori) and the Rosticceria (Via Alessi). For a superficial survey of the town half a day is sufficient. The “sights” include the Colleggio del Cambio, the Palazzo Communale and its picture gallery, the Fontana Maggiore, the Cathedral, and the Oratorio of S. Bernardino.
Two omnibuses run daily from the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to Assisi, the town of St. Francis. The motorist can complete the return journey in a day, but they are nevertheless advised to spend at least one night at Assisi, a town saturated with poetry. If possible, visit Assisi on a Sunday. It is true that there are many foreigners in the town on that day, but participation at a Mass celebrated by one of the Franciscan orders is an unforgettable experience. On the road between Perugia and Assisi stands the church of S. Maria degli Angeli, which was raised over the chapel of this Saint. Motorists starting from Perugia in the early morning may attend Mass here before continuing their journey to Assisi.
The best hotel in Assisi is the Subasio. Its windows provide an excellent view of the valley, the scene of St. Francis’ life. Make every effort to attend Mass at the Basilica of S. Francesco at ten o’clock on Sunday morning. The Basilica consists of two churches built one on top of the other. Holy Mass accompanied by the Franciscan Choir is a memorable experience. Having seen the art treasures of the Basilica and the monastery, you ought to see the Giottos of the church of S. Chiara. You must also visit the S. Damiano and Eremo delle Carceri monasteries. It is only here, in the atmosphere of noble simplicity that Assisi presents, that you really learn to understand St. Francis. The simple, sunlit little terrace where St. Francis wrote his ode to the sun, the relics of St. Clara, the simple refectory and the cells—it is these things that show the deep, sincere Christianity of St. Francis of Assisi and his age. The Ermeo delli Carceri is situated in beautiful, poetic, scenery. It is a pleasant hour and a half’s walk from the Porta Cappucini, or an hour’s donkey ride from the same spot. But there is also a motor road to the monastery. The monastery was founded by St. Bernhard, the inventor of pawnshops.
From Assisi you travel to Rome through Foligno, Spoleto—famous for its Dome—Terni—which contains the largest Italian armament works—and Narni.
Up till now we have refrained from giving a detailed programme, leaving it largely to the tourist’s individual taste what he decides to see and providing only a general outline of the things worth seeing. Rome, however, is so big, and there is such a multitude of things to be seen, that the foreigner if left to his own devices would be completely lost and would not know where to begin the process of getting acquainted with the Eternal City. We have therefore compiled an exact programme spread over a number of days. However, before dealing with the programme we must give the tourist a few hints concerning accommodation.
The hotel industry in Rome is in a high state of development. The luxury and first-class hotels are all good. The catalogue issued by the E.N.I.T., the official organisation we have already mentioned, contains precise details of their prices and the tourist may make a choice according to his means. With regard to the luxury hotels—the Grand Hotel, Ambasciatore, Excelsior, etc.—we can say nothing further than that they are excellent. A very good first-class hotel is the Russia, on the Via del Babuin, with a beautiful garden on the Pincio side. A good medium hotel is the Imperial on the Via Veneta, while the Quirinale, the Plaza (where the world-famous Italian composer Pietro Mascagni lives), the Royal, and the Flora are also excellent. Whether you go to an hotel or a boarding-house, choose, if possible, an establishment situated between the Via Nazionale, the Corso Umberto I, the Villa Borghese, Via Veneto and Piazza Esedra. The hotels in the Pantheon district are mainly interesting ancient monuments, while the more distant hotels are not convenient, as they necessitate a great deal of tramway travel. Those desiring to stay for several weeks or months may rent a furnished room or even a furnished flat.
The “sights” can be enjoyed according to the tourist’s point of view. If you are not afraid of fatigue and are determined to see everything, you are advised to take part in the conducted tours organised by the C.I.T. This travel agency takes tourists round all the sights in four days in its large charabancs. The detailed programme mentioned above is for those who have more time to spare and, in addition to Rome’s art treasures, desire to become acquainted with the people of Rome. We assume that the reader will arrive in Rome in the evening, say by the 8 p.m. rapido, intending to spend five days in Rome. (If you have even less time, you can, of course, cut the programme to suit your requirements.)
Upon your arrival at the station you drive to your hotel by the hotel bus or by taxi. If you can afford to rent a room without board, so that you can get acquainted with the little trattorias as well as with the big restaurants of the Italian capital, you will have a quick “wash and brush up” at your hotel and go out for your dinner to the Papagaletto, a charming, inexpensive and most excellent little restaurant on the Via Frattina. You may finish dinner towards ten o’clock. It is too early to go to bed, so you pay your bill, and upon leaving the restaurant you turn to the right and walk as far as the Corso Umberto I, where you turn to the left. In a few seconds you will find yourself in the Piazza Colonna, and stop in front of the Galleria, opposite the 130 foot high Marcus Aurelius memorial commemorating on twenty spiral strips the Emperor’s victories over the Germans and other foes (between 176 and 193). In the right-hand corner of the square is the Palazzo Chigi, the famous building of the Italian Foreign Office. Now you may either sit down on the terrace of some café or go on. In the latter case you walk along the Corso and reach one of the finest squares in the world, the Piazza Venezia. To the right of the colossal white marble memorial to Victor Emanuel is the magnificent Palazzo Venezia. The balconied room above the entrance is the Sala del Mappamondo, Mussolini’s study. It is from this balcony that the Duce delivers his great speeches at public meetings. For the present—unless it is a fine moonlight night—we shall ignore art treasures and monuments and turn the corner in the left-hand part of the square, where you will see two similar churches. A few paces from here you will find the Basilica Ulpia, a basement locale where you can listen to the singing of Del Pelo, a noted folk-singer. This interesting, artistic establishment is visited by the cream of Italian and foreign society. If it happens to be a moonlight night you will walk, or ride in a horse cab, along the Via del Impero and between the ruins of the Roman Forums to the Colosseum. The court of the ancient circus in moonlight is a strange, unforgettable sight.
First Day. Start early in the morning and visit the Pantheon district, the Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the Piazza Navona, the Campo de Fiori. If your stay in Rome happens to include a Wednesday, leave the first day’s programme until then, for Wednesday is market day on the Campo de Fiori, when all sorts of second-hand goods are offered for sale by colourful crowds of vendors. Sometimes you may pick up a valuable bargain which may even pay the cost of your holiday. After the Campo de Fiori you can visit the Piazza Farnese, the interesting Via Giulia, the former Ghetto in the vicinity of the Ponte Garibaldi, and if this tour has tired you out you may sit down at the Café Faraglia in the Piazza Venezia, opposite the Palace, for an apéritif. If you have sufficient energy left, you may visit the Campidoglia (the Capitol) with all its museums.
At midday you can lunch at one of the restaurants in the vicinity, such as the Dreher, which is famous for its beer, or the Fagiano on the Piazza Colonna, or the Roma at the Tritone. None of these places are particularly cheap. If you have already become accustomed to the Italian cuisine you can have an excellent lunch at one of the small trattoria on the Santa Maria in Via. After a brief after-lunch rest you may visit the Forums and the Palatine, after which you will probably enjoy a rest at one of the cafés on the Corso or the Via Veneto. A good dinner can be had at the famous Alfredo trattoria on the Via Ripetta, where the maestro himself mixes his excellent speciality, the fettuncino, for each of his patrons. After dinner you may dance at one of the hotels, such as the Circolo Ambasciatore.
Second Day. Before you set out for the city do not forget to ask the head porter at your hotel to secure for you a ticket or tickets for one of the Pope’s receptions. If you are not staying at a hotel you can apply for tickets to the diplomatic representative of your own country at the Holy See. You must make these arrangements a few days ahead, as obtaining tickets for the Papal receptions always takes time. Having attended to this matter, you will spend the morning visiting the S. Maria Maggiore, the S. Pietro in Vincoli (with Michelangelo’s “Moses”), the S. Giovanni in Lateran and the Scala Santa. The ethnographical collection of the missionaries at the Lateran Palace is extremely interesting. From the San Giovanni you will take a CP omnibus for the city and take lunch at the Abruzzi restaurant on the Via Frattina.
In the afternoon you will visit the Piazza di Spagna, the Piazza del Popolo and its churches, and also the magnificent park and the Giardino del Lago therein. From spring till summer the smartest restaurant and teashop of the Pincio is the terrace of the Casino Valadier, which affords an excellent view of Rome at sunset. In the summer one of the most popular places for dinner is the Casina delle Rose, where open-air variety performances are given. If you do not wish to dine there, you can order ices, coffee, etc. In the summer you can dance in two places on the Pincio, in establishments conducted by Valadier and at the Casina delle Rose respectively.
Third Day. The morning programme includes the Borghese museum, the new University Town, the Museo Nazionale delle Terme. If you are not afraid of a queer-looking district you can lunch at one of the Jewish restaurants of the old Ghetto, such as Samuel’s and Piperno’s. You can have your afternoon tea on the Via Condotti at one of the most interesting cafés in Rome, the two-centuries-old Café Greco. Patrons of the Café Greco used to include Casanova, Goethe, Thorwaldsen, Liszt, Wagner, Mark Twain, etc. To-day the café is a favourite rendezvous of the Roman art world. You will probably enjoy your dinner at the Neapolitan trattoria on the Via Cicerone, where excellent and reliable food is served. After dinner you can dance at the Soda Parlor in the Via Venetora.
Fourth Day. Early in the morning you can visit the Vatican Museum. At midday, the ladies wearing black dresses and veils and the men dark suits, you will attend the Papal audience. After the audience you can lunch well at one of the restaurants on the Piazza del S. Pietro. In the afternoon the programme includes the Via Appia and the Catacombs. The most convenient and comfortable method of visiting the Via Appia is by horse cab. The cab will stop where necessary, and at dusk it will take you round the old Roman graves. You simply must not miss watching the sunset from the Via Appia.
This day will have been rather tiring and you are not likely to feel like staying up late. You may drive across to Trastavere, which is one of the most interesting and oldest quarters of Rome. Here, in the Piazza di S. Maria, you can dine at one of the trattorias and become acquainted with the life of the people of Rome. The district is far from “smart,” but a single dinner in Trastavere will tell you volumes about the colourful, interesting life of the common people.
Fifth Day. In the morning you can visit the Foro Mussolini, the magnificent sports town, and the Giardino Zoologico. Towards midday you take a combined ticket on the Piazzale Flaminia for Ostia (the ticket costs 5 lire and takes you by omnibus to the railway station, to and from Ostia by train, and back to the Piazzale Flaminia by bus), Rome’s seaside resort, which has developed very considerably in recent years. You can lunch at the seaside resort, where you can spend part of the afternoon, using the rest of the time to visit the ancient Ostia itself. Upon your return to Rome you can dine well at one of the restaurants on Mont Mario.
In this way you can see in five days all that your friends at home will expect you to have seen. If you can stay longer you can naturally extend your programme.
Night life in Rome is no more amusing than in most other Italian towns. The great social events always take place privately, and unless you establish contact with Rome society through friends, acquaintances or through your Embassy, you will find Rome—apart from its natural beauty and its art treasures—rather dull. The one or two variety theatres that are open both in summer and winter are less than second-rate and resemble the places of amusement of some Balkan town rather than the smart establishments of a European capital.
Facilities for dancing, as we have already mentioned, are provided at the Ambasciatore, at the five o’clock teas of the Excelsior, and at the Quirinale (which is the best after the Ambasciatore.) A less convenient place is the Grotto del Piggione. The “Soda Parlor” of the Via Veneto is quite a charming place, but the music is supplied—by gramophone. The cinemas everywhere show pictures synchronised in Italian: only the smart little Quirinetta exhibits foreign films in the original version.
We can say little that is good of the Roman, and generally the Italian, theatres. On the other hand, the Rome opera, the Teatro Reale dell’ Opera, is brilliant and the performances are unexcelled anywhere else in the world. The world’s foremost singers appear in these performances, which are perfect to the smallest detail. A first night will mobilise the cream of the “upper ten thousand,” as well as the corps diplomatique, and you may see many well-known people both on the stage and in the auditorium. If you happen to be in Rome on the day of a première at the opera you ought to make every effort to attend the performance. Unfortunately, the opera season is very short. The theatre opens on Christmas Day and closes after Easter.
The most fashionable confisserie in Rome is Rosati’s on the Via Vittorio Veneto, where, from spring till late autumn, the “world of fashion” foregathers every day, but particularly on Sundays, for aperitifs and teas. There are a few tea-rooms in Rome, such as the Golden Gate, which is also on the Via Vittorio Veneto, Rampoldi and Babington on the Piazza di Spagna, which are frequented by many foreigners, particularly by English and American visitors. The English and Americans also have a club on the Piazza di Spagna. However, according to the leading members of the Anglo-Saxon colony in Rome the club is one of the ten most tedious places in the whole world.
Opportunities for sport, on the other hand, are available in plenty. You can indulge in any sport from golfing to shooting. There is an excellent golf course (information in regard to which will be gladly supplied by the Secretary of the Italian Golf Association at the Stadio Nazionale Partito), while among the tennis clubs the Parioli is the best. Visitor-members are gladly received at this club. You can ride a horse in the Villa Umberto, where mounts are hired out by the hour. Athletics, boxing, fencing, football and every other sport imaginable is carried on by the “Lazio” Association. There are swimming pools at the Stadium and at the Foro Mussolini. There are a number of rowing clubs on the banks of the Tevere (Tiber), the best being the R.C. Aniene and the R.C. Tevere Remo. The latter owns a boathouse and some sailing boats in Anzio. Lovers of aquatic sports will find ample opportunities of indulging in swimming and yachting near Rome, in Ostia, Fregene, Anzio-Nettuno, all of which are at the seaside. Ski-ers will find excellent ski-ing grounds both near and far from Rome (Rocca Raso, Campo Imperatore).
Beauty parlours equipped with all the up-to-date appliances are available in Rome for lady visitors. Elizabeth Arden’s institute is on the Via Vittorio Veneto. Among the ladies’ hairdressers we can recommend Leopold, on the corner of the Via Vittorio Veneto and the Via Ludovici. Male visitors have a large choice of good gent’s hairdressers. The best, generally speaking, are in the district defined by the Via Veneto, the Via Condotti and the Piazza di Spagna.
What can one buy advantageously in Rome? Among modern goods, gloves, hats and silk goods occupy first place. With regard to antiques purchased as souvenirs, you must be very careful, as in view of the enormous demand the faking of antiques has become a highly lucrative business. Hence if you wish to buy a valuable antique of any kind, you are advised to consult the experts of one of the museums before parting with money. However, the visitor should remember that the export of works of art is conditional upon a permit being obtained. But—unless it is a question of a work of art of special value or significance—a permit will be granted without difficulty by the Museo Nazionale del Terme.
Few cities in the world are situated in such a beautiful and interesting district as Rome. In the course of its long history, towns, castles, and monasteries have been raised at almost every beautiful point in the district. The motorist will derive particular pleasure from a visit to the country surrounding Rome. One of the loveliest excursion places is Tivoli, a beautifully situated, picturesque little town, which can also be reached by omnibus. Along the omnibus route to Tivoli lies Acqua Albule, the entirely rebuilt, smart Roman baths, famous for its sulphur springs. The omnibus also passes the Villa Adriana, the ruins of the Emperor Hadrian’s residence.
A magnificent sight in Tivoli is the 320 foot high waterfall which feeds the Aniene river. The park of the Villa d’Este is world famous. The small Vesta and Sybilla churches and the black walls of this medieval town create a charming and romantic impression. There is a delightful little restaurant near the Vesta church, called Ristorante della Sybilla, which affords an excellent view of the waterfall and the valley.
The Tivoli motor road continues to the picturesque Subiaco. Unless you are motoring, you can visit this town by the morning train and return in the evening. It was here that Nero built one of his villas, damming the stream in the valley in order to create three lakes suitable for bathing. Subiaco has two interesting monasteries. One is the Sta. Scolastica, whose oldest parts date from 975, and which has many interesting old manuscripts in its library. The other is St. Benedetto, one of whose chapels contains the only apparently authentic portrait of St. Francis of Assisi, painted by a monk two years after the Saint’s death.
Another no less pleasant excursion will take you to the Albano Mountains and the Roman Castelli. Unless you are motoring it will be difficult for you to complete the tour, and you will therefore have to decide at what point of the Rome-Frascati or Rome-Castel Gandolfo-Albano-Genzano electric railway you wish to alight. All the Castelli are famous for their wines, and the good Romans come to these small towns each Sunday in great crowds to enjoy a glass or two.
Frascati is the loveliest and smartest of all the Castelli. It has two noted villas, the Villa Torlonia and the Villa Aldobrandini. An hour’s walk from Frascati lies Tusculum which, according to legend, was founded by Telegon, son of Circe and Ulysses. From Tusculum you can obtain an excellent view of the whole district. At Grotteferrata there is an interesting medieval abbey. Marino is a most interesting place, particularly in the autumn, after the grape harvest, when wine, instead of water, flows from the “parish pump” in the principal square and everyone may drink free of charge. On the way from Marino to Castel Gandolfo you will see Lake Albano. The motorist will find it worth while to drive right down to the shore and along it to the end of the road. Turning round at this point will not be an easy task, but the motorist will be compensated for the little extra trouble at the tiny restaurant near by, where good food and mineral water from an adjacent well can be obtained. The bathing in the warm water of the lake is excellent. It is best to arrange your programme for the day in such a manner that you should reach the lake at midday. In the afternoon, when the heat has abated, you can visit Castel Gandolfo where—unless the Pope is in residence—you can go over the Pope’s palace and park. When you enter the Pope’s property you are on “foreign” soil, which is under the sovereignty of the Vatican.
Albano and Ariccia are also charming little towns. From the former a lovely road leads to the picturesque Rocca di Papara, which is built on a cliff. Rocca di Papara is a favourite summer resort of the people of Rome. From here you may ascend the Monte Cavo (about 3,000 feet) by road and have a meal at a hotel converted from an old monastery. The air on Monte Cavo is cool and pleasant even on the hottest days, and it also affords a splendid view of Rome and the sea. Another road leads to Genzano and to Lake Nemi, from which two ancient Roman treasure boats have been salvaged. The vessels, together with the art treasures found in them, can be seen on the spot.
Continuing by the same road (or if you travel by train, on the Rome-Velletri-Terracina line) you will come to Velletri. Some twelve miles further on you will reach Cori, one of the oldest Italian towns with interesting old buildings. Another six-mile journey will take you to the small town of Ninfa. Ninfa was evacuated by its inhabitants in the seventeenth century owing to an epidemic of malaria, and since then the town has been overrun with weeds and wild roses. When the wild roses are in bloom this deserted town looks like an illustration in a fairy-book: Six miles from Ninfa lie the ruins of the mighty Volsk city of Norba. Some thirty miles to the south of this, on the sea coast, lies Terracina, formerly a popular summer resort of the Roman aristocracy. There is excellent bathing from its sandy beach. From the seashore you can see quite clearly, in the north, the Cap Cicero Cliff, which was once an island. According to legend Circe lived on this island. Behind the cliff lies the Parco Nazionale del Circeo, where a section of the Pontine Marshes—which have ceased to exist after being drained—is preserved in its original form.
To the north of Terracina, along Lake Paola, we come to Sabaudia and some fifteen miles further on Littoria. These two towns are the urban centres of the small holdings established on the vast fertile territory reclaimed by the draining of the Pontine Marshes, and are entirely modern.
To sum up, the following excursions to the Rome district may be recommended:
1. Rome—Bagni—Villa Adriano—Tivoli—Subbiaco.
2. Rome—Albano—Castel Gandolfo—(Lago Albano)—Rocca di Papa—Monte Cavo—Albano—Rome.
3. Rome—Albano—Nemi—Lago di Nemi—Ninfa—Terracina—Sabaudia—Littoria—Nettuno—Anzio—Rome.
Each of these excursions can be accomplished by car in one day. If you travel by train or omnibus, you will have to omit a few things.
From Rome you can travel to Naples by one of two alternative routes, either the shorter, completely electrified Formia line or the longer Cassino line. Motorists who desire to see something on the way between Rome and Naples, are advised to travel by the Cassino road, although the magnificent Via Appia with its perfectly straight stretch of twenty-five miles along the reclaimed Pontine Marshes is a great attraction to the motorist who enjoys speeding. At all events, it is advisable to travel by the one road on the way to Naples and by the other on the way back. On the Rome-Formia-Naples line there is not a single place where it would be worth your while to break your journey. Along the other route there are many lovely places. Some fifty miles from Rome you come to the Frosinone-Alatri-Fiuggi station, which is a junction of the Fiuggi-Frosinone. Fiuggi is visited in summer by many people suffering from various gastric and bladder complaints. As it is less expensive than similar resorts in other countries, Fiuggi is visited by many foreigners, particularly English people.
The tourist is advised to stop at Cassino and see the Monte Cassino, which is the most famous monastery in the world. The monastery lies at an altitude of 1,500 feet and can be approached by a splendid motoring road. The more romantically inclined may hire donkeys at the foot of the mountain, while practical people will, no doubt, prefer to make use of the funicular railway. The Benedictine monks are very hospitable and the tourist may lunch at the monastery, sleep at a building near by, and, if he likes, he can stay for several days. On leaving you will no doubt remember that the monks are not rich and will let them have by way of a donation the amount you would have spent at an hotel. I can heartily recommend a stay on Monte Cassino to those who really want peace and quiet. Beyond Cassino the only place where the motorist will find it worth while to stop is Caserta, where the royal palace and its park are most interesting.
Whether you arrive in Naples by car or by train, do not allow the sense of disappointment that you are bound to feel at first to gain a decisive hold. Only if you arrive by ship will you understand immediately why poets and artists through the centuries have admired this wonder city, why foreign visitors continue to be enchanted with it, and why Naples is universally regarded as incomparably beautiful. The first impressions are really unfavourable. The streets leading from the railway station to the heart of the city are crowded with motor-cars, rattling horse carriages and throngs of people. But when you reach the Via Caracciolo or the Corso Vittorio Emanuele the whole beauty of Naples will be revealed to you and any initial disappointment you may have felt will evaporate.
You must be very careful in selecting accommodation in Naples. In the spring and autumn it is best to put up at one of the hotels on the Via Partenope (“Excelsior,” “Grand Hotel”) or at one of the good boarding-houses on the Via Caracciolo. In the summer, on the other hand, the luxury hotels on the mountain top—“Bertolini’s Palace,” Parker’s, Macpherson’s—are incomparably cooler and more pleasant. Among the hotels in the vicinity of the station only the “Terminus” can safely be recommended. However, it is not worth while staying in this district. You will be better off if you put up at the “Londra,” which is in the heart of the city and where prices are moderate.
If your only consideration in selecting a boarding-house in Naples is cheapness you will probably come to regret it. On no account must you go to any of the hotels and boarding-houses between the Strada Nuova della Marina, the Via Marinella and the station. This is still the darkest quarter of Naples, which it is interesting to visit in order to see the horrible slums which have not changed for centuries, thus forming an idea of the Naples of old; but to stay in this district would be a disastrous mistake. The present Italian Government is making strenuous efforts to rebuild the whole of Naples and make good the criminal negligence of centuries; but, of course, it has been impossible to remedy all the evils in ten years. Formerly it was dangerous to walk alone at night in this quarter behind the port, but to-day the visitor may safely venture even into the most obscure alleys, though ladies are not recommended to visit this quarter alone at night.
Before proceeding to describe the show places of Naples I must say a few words about the peculiar species of humanity known as the “Napoletano.” These natives of Naples are universally believed to be all that is unpleasant and repulsive. They are said to be lazy, cunning, dishonest. All this is untrue, or at any rate true only in the sense that there are lazy, cunning and dishonest people in every human community. Since Naples has ceased to be one vast slum (thanks to the Government), the good qualities of the people of Naples have become increasingly apparent—their intelligence, benevolence, charm and courtesy. The foreign visitor walking round the town should not approach them with a prejudiced mind, though he is at the same time advised to exercise caution, particularly towards those inviting him to nocturnal adventures.
It takes several days to see Naples and district properly. In the city itself the busy, colourful life of the port is of particular interest. You can begin your inspection of the art treasures of Naples near the port, close to which is the Castel del Carmine and the Castel Capuano (dating from 1231) and the Porta Capuana, which is decorated with the reliefs of Giuliano de Maiano. In the same district you will find the lovely church on the Via S. Giovanni Carbonara and, close to the Dome, on the Largo Donna Regina, the church of S. Maria di Donna Regina with the sepulchre of Queen Mary of Hungary. S. Gennaro’s church, also known as the Duomo, is another notable sight.
Walking in the old Centro quarter you will see a number of interesting churches, including the S. Anna de Lombardi, the S. Chiara, and the S. Filippo Neri, which contains Giordano’s famous picture “Christ Driving out the Merchants.” On the edge of the sea you will be interested to go over the vast, recently restored medieval rooms of the Maschio Angioino and the Aquarium. Even those who are otherwise not interested in museums should not fail to inspect the magnificent collection of antique sculptures at the Museo Nazionale, which were brought to light during the excavations in Magna Grecia.
Night life in Naples, which was rather dull before the African war, has experienced a fillip during recent months. A few passable dance halls have been opened on the Via Partenope and in the centre of the town. The most noted osterias are the “Zi’ Teresa” and the “Bersagliera” on the Via Partenope, close to the sea, and the “Rampe di Sant’ Antonio” and the “Porta Capuana” in the centre of the town, where excellent Neapolitan specialities are served. At midday and in the afternoon the terrace of the “Café Esposito” (formerly known as the “Gambrinus”) is a good vantage point from which to view the life of the town. At the Neapolitan Opera House, the famous “San Carlo,” you can listen to excellent singers who, in most cases, appear in indifferently produced operas.
If at first Naples fails to enchant you, you will nevertheless leave it with regret after a few days, when you have become accustomed to the peculiar atmosphere of the city and become acquainted with its people, when you have seen the gorgeous Possilippo and have climbed up to the monastery of Comaldoli in order to survey the Bay of Naples, which presents the loveliest panorama in the world. Providence has assembled so much beauty in and around Naples that mere human imagination can hardly grasp it all.
You must devote a whole week to the district of Naples, and you may be sure that it will be an unforgettable week. You can reach most points of the surrounding country by trams starting from the centre of the town.
On the first day of your tour of the district of Naples you will visit the volcanic fields of mythology. Tram No. 52 from the Piazza Vittoria in Naples will take you to Pozzuoli, one of the quaintest little towns in the Bay of Naples. The surrounding volcanic fields and mountains, where the heroes of Homer and Virgil lived and had their being, are full of mementoes of antiquity. The modern harbour of Pozzuoli still shows traces of the old Roman harbour, its amphitheatre is one of the most perfect in existence. An interesting sight is the Solfatara, a half-extinct volcano which has been in the same condition for 2,000 years, and which can be reached from the Piazza Municipio in twenty minutes. You may see the volcano on payment of 5 lire.
Having seen Pozzuoli and the Solfatara, you can continue by train to Baia, the most fashionable and elegant seaside resort of Imperial Rome which, according to legend, was named after Ulysses’ helmsman Baios. From Baia you can travel by horse cab to Bacoli, little more than a mile away, have lunch, then drive on to the picturesque Capo Miseno, returning to Naples by the Baia-Napoli railway line.
On the following day you will visit the islands of Procida and Ischia. From May 1st till October 31st there are two steamers daily, and thereafter one, to the two islands. Procida really consists of two volcanic craters and is the largest island in the Bay. Ischia is also nothing more than a single crater and a mass of lava, continuously shaken by earthquakes. The small seaside towns are connected by adequate motor roads. An interesting place to visit is the palace on the tiny island close to Ischia, where Vittoria Colonna, Michelangelo’s sweetheart, was brought up. The hot springs of Casmicciola, recommended for rheumatism, are also interesting. The temperature of the water bubbling forth from the earth is at boiling point.
The hotels on Ischia are rather primitive, but correspondingly cheap.
The crater of Vesuvius can most conveniently be reached by the funicular railway. The price of a combined ticket for the return journey from Naples and for access to the crater is 99.30 lire; it can be purchased at No. 11 Via Partenopea. Vesuvius is one of the smallest volcanoes in the world, but also the most notorious owing to its eruption in A.D. 79, which destroyed the towns of Pompeii, Herculanum and Stabia which lay at the foot of the mountain. Before the eruption there were gay vineyards and charming little villages on the mountain. Since the first great eruption thirty-four further eruptions have occurred—the last in 1929—each time involving loss of life and property. The most terrible eruptions occurred in the year 1631, after an interval of 131 years, when the villages that had risen round the volcano, together with their inhabitants, were destroyed, and in the years 1871 and 1872, when the havoc wrought by Vesuvius shocked the whole world. However, even after the most terrible eruptions the inhabitants have returned to the devastated fields and have started a new life on the cold lava, which provides extremely fertile agricultural soil. The Osservatorio on the slope of Vesuvius has been established to watch the activities of the volcano. Close to the Osservatorio is the “Eremo” hotel where good meals can be obtained.
Excellent autostradas lead to Pompeii and Herculanum. It is best to visit both towns with one of the conducted parties organised by the C.I.T., partly because this is far less expensive than hiring a separate motor-car to take you round, and partly because you will learn about the nature of the various ruins from the official guides with greater certainty and in greater comfort than if you go by yourself and rely only on guide-books and maps. The guides of Pompeii and Herculanum are like those tried non-commissioned officers in the Artillery who can aim a big gun by sheer judgment far more precisely than their superiors do with the aid of their involved calculations, and it is therefore entirely superfluous to “check up” on the statements of these guides. These people were born in Pompeii and Herculanum, have loitered round the excavations in their childhood, and many of them possess detailed knowledge that any archeologist might envy.
It is difficult to decide what to write about Pompeii and Herculanum. Every child knows what they are, if not from Bulwer Lytton’s novel, then from those dozens of films dealing with the tragedy of the two towns destroyed by Vesuvius. But a visit will give you the fascination of personal experience that no novel or film can provide. Walking in the wonderfully preserved streets, between shops, villas and palaces, the visitor expects at any moment to see, rounding the corner, some distinguished Roman citizen in his toga, youths in tunics, or Roman girls with their ebony hair knotted into a “bun.” The frescoes and sculptures indicate that the morals of these two towns could not have been particularly strict. The caretakers are not allowed by official regulations to show these paintings and sculptures to lady visitors, yet I have never met a female visitor who has not seen them! How do they accomplish it? The probable answer is that the new lira possesses the same fascination as did the currency of antiquity. If you have seen Pompeii you need not visit Herculanum as well, yet it is worth while doing so, for recent excavations have brought to light a number of wonderful sculptures and a few houses that have remained in a perfect state of preservation. It is possible to see both towns in a day, but there are romantically-minded people who move to one of Pompeii’s excellent hotels for a few days in order to enjoy the atmosphere of antiquity. Without wishing to criticise such people, I would observe that there are at least half a dozen other places in the region that are far more suitable for holiday purposes. I. should advise the tourist to do Pompeii and Herculanum in one day, lunching at Pompeii and consuming at leisure a glass of the Vesuvian wine, the “Lacrime Christi,” then in the evening returning to Naples.
Those who after the almost obligatory excursions to Vesuvius and Pompeii return home feeling that they have “done” all that is expected of them, have no idea what they are missing. Some of the travel guides do not go further than Naples, as though in accordance with the old saying: “See Naples and die!”—all who have seen Naples proceeded to expire. On the other hand, some students of Italy say that Italy only begins at Naples, and you, gentle reader, will undoubtedly agree with them if you take a trip to Capri and put up at one of its excellent hotels or boarding-houses.
Capri is a part of Italy to which every nation lays claim to some extent. The Germans say that Capri was made famous by a German, Gregorovis. The French take a proprietary interest in Capri because they bombarded it from 1806 till 1808; while the English defended it against them, and have in recent times ousted the natives by the peaceful method of purchasing a great deal of property. The Swedish claim rests on the fact that it was here that Axel Munthe wrote his famous novel about his Villa San Michele, the world’s worst joke. Finally, the Italians say that it is in Capri that the most attractive characteristics of the typical Italian have become crystallised—simplicity, kindliness, naturalness. But even within Italy a contrary point of view is represented by Rome, for according to the Romans Capri is not Italian but Roman. A little boy in Rome once told me that the reason for this was that the Emperor Tiberius, who had a number of pleasure palaces and villas on the Island of Capri, had all the natives thrown into the sea, for he could only suffer Romans round him. Foreigners who happened to land on the island were thrown into the sea from a mountain that is to-day known as Monte di Timberio.
Nowadays, foreigners visiting Capri can count on a far friendlier reception. Practically the whole island lives on them, and any building that is not an hotel is sure to contain rooms to let, unless the owner is a foreigner himself, in which case he will view the foreign tourist with horror and consign him—mentally at any rate—to the nether regions. It is one of the peculiarities of Capri that when you have been there for three or four days you regard yourself as a native and probably regard with tolerant contempt the fresh crowds of tourists as they are disgorged twice daily, at noon and in the evening, by the funicular railway, having arrived by steamer from Naples. But in three days’ time these new arrivals will also be sitting on the terrace of some café on the Piazza and view with the same tolerant contempt as yourself the newly-arrived Germans, Frenchmen and Anglo-Saxons.
You will have guessed from the above that there are two or three steamers—according to the season—from Naples to this tropically situated fairy island. In addition, there are steamers from Amalfi and Sorrento and, of course, similar services from Capri to all these places.
To those whose experience of Capri lies in the future (after your first visit you will get on swimmingly on your own) I offer the following advice with regard to the choice of accommodation. You can stay in one of three districts in Capri—on the Grande Marina or harbour, in Capri itself, or in Anacapri, which is less than an hour’s journey from Capri. All three places have their advantages. If you are staying near the harbour (where the “Grotte Bleu” is the only hotel I can recommend) you will not have far to walk for your bathing. However, the best bathing is not on the Grande Marina but on the Piccola Marina on the opposite side. Capri itself is naturally the centre of the island. All roads start from here and lead here. Anacapri is only for those who require absolute quiet. Thus it is really best to stay at Capri itself. The hotels of Capri need no special recommendation. They are all satisfactory as regards accommodation, board, service and prices.
When you are in Capri you will have nothing to do, yet you will find you have no time for anything. The writing of a postcard is a serious job, and even the most thrilling detective thriller proves to be an exhausting study. When you are in Capri you just are. From spring till late autumn the visitor is largely occupied with the sea. Bathing from the Piccola Marina and the Faraglionis is excellent and you can hire sandolins or sailing boats at low prices for extremely pleasant excursions when the sea is calm. The coast is dotted with caves in which the water is painted green, blue or red by the refraction of the sunlight. The exploration of the caves provides an exciting experience, but even the most experienced oarsmen and the best swimmers only undertake such expeditions when the sea is perfectly calm and the sailors predict good weather. A slight breeze is sufficient to whip up huge waves round the island to which a small sailing boat or sandolin cannot stand up, while the swimmer’s position becomes perfectly hopeless. Thus, as we have said, from spring till autumn the visitor spends most of his time bathing, boating and sun-bathing.
The rest of the time can be spent in walks. If you are only staying on the island for two or three days you must not omit to walk to the Castiglioni, Capri’s wonderful ruined medieval castle, to the Belvedere di Tragaro, which gives a splendid view of the whole of the Bay of Naples, to the Arco Naturale, the Palazzo di Timberio (Tiberius’ villa), and to the S. Maria del Soccorso. These are short walks, occupying from twenty to fifty minutes, but each of them is an experience. A somewhat longer walk—an hour from Anacapri—will take you to the Monte Solaro, from whose 1,500-feet high peak a fantastically lovely view of the Bay of Naples can be obtained.
If you are staying in Capri for a longish time you must pay a visit to Sorrento, the second pearl of the Bay of Naples, and birthplace of Torquato Tasso. Most of what we have said concerning Capri also applies to Sorrento, and in advising you to visit the latter and some other places mentioned below, I assume that you will find it possible to spend a considerable time at one of them. Of course, if you can afford it, you could not do better than spend part of your life in the Bay of Naples and Salerno. Sorrento walks: the Piccolo S. Angelo, the Deserto, the Massalubrense. They are no less lovely than the Capri walks. The hotels of Sorrento are no less excellent than those of Capri, and you can feed just as well at the “Favorita” and the “Campidoglio” as at the osterias in Capri.
You can go from Capri to Sorrento, or direct from Naples, by steamer, though the motorist will no doubt prefer to travel by the lovely road, blasted out of the rocks, on the edge of the sea. Starting from Naples, the motorist will drive along the Pompeii autostrada, then continue by the ordinary road to Castellamare. Part of the latter road is not particularly good, but beyond Castellamare, where it runs along the coast, it gradually improves, while from Sorrento onwards it is first rate. Three-quarters of an hour by car from Sorrento lies Positano, a name which has only become known in recent years. Positano is a charming fishing village built at the foot of a mountain which has for years been popular with authors, artists and other people of small means. Positano is a particularly suitable resort for a prolonged stay if you wish to rest or work in absolute quiet. It has the important advantage that it is very cheap. The rent of a completely furnished cottage in Positano is 100 to 150 lire, and it will pay you to rent a place like this if you intend to stay for long. You will always find in the village a woman—or a young man—to do the housework, in return for a small wage. The cost of living—and living well—in Positano is very low.
You can reach Amalfi by three different routes. You can go by train from Naples to Salerno, and from there back to Amalfi by road along the sea, or by car or omnibus through Sorrento and Positano, and finally by steamer. Amalfi is also a pleasant resort. In its few medium-class hotels prices are moderate. At two of them, the “Cappucino” and the “Della Luna,” the visitor can spend his holiday in Amalfi in unique surroundings, for both hotels are in converted monasteries, and the proprietors have naturally endeavoured to preserve the poetry of the Italian chiostros, while providing every modern comfort. Amalfi has one of the loveliest churches of the region, the Dome, which was built in 1204.
From Amalfi you can reach the splendid little town of Ravello by a road with many windings. You must not miss Ravello. From Atrani the road gradually rises among vineyards and flower-beds towards Ravello. This is a place where the visitor experiences in the physical sense the poetry and, at the same time, the terrifying magnificence of nature. Life in the quiet little town, in which at one time the wealthy merchant princes of the coast used to build their Norman-Arabic palaces, appears to be almost at a standstill. The palaces, some of them in ruins, are still there, but most of their owners have moved to other districts; the palaces and villas are locked up, waiting for their owners.
The Palazzo Ruffolo is the finest among the palaces. Its wonderful flower garden gives a lovely view of the Bay of Salerno. It is no wonder that Richard Wagner, when he visited Ravello with his family in 1880, wrote in the autograph book of the palace: “I have found Klingsor’s magic garden.” The whole of Ravello is, in fact, one vast magic garden. It has two hotels, the “Palumbo,” on the site of which Wagner wanted to build a vast hotel to accommodate those who came to see and listen to his works, and the “Caruso Belvedere”; but neither is like any other hotel or inn in the world. The visitor is received here as though he were a Norman or Saracen noble, and that is how he is put up in the lovely arched rooms. Lunch and dinner are served on the terrace of some turret, on a round table with wormholes in it, and the meals include excellent wines. Speaking about food, we must mention the osteria on the Piazza, the “Bella veduta sul mare,” where mine host will first of all cross-examine you as to your tastes, then cogitate for awhile, and finally serve you a meal that you are not likely to forget till your dying day.
However, the pleasures of poetry and the table should not cause you to forget the sights, such as the interesting bronze door and the interior of the Dome, the Palazzo Gonfalone and the twelfth-century S. Giovanni del Toro. When you say farewell to Ravello you may be sure that you will return as soon as possible. When you earn a little extra money the idea will inevitably come to you to pay another visit to this gorgeous little place. I know this from personal experience.
But Ravello is not the last of the lovely places round Naples. There is still Paestum, with its magnificent Greek monuments. It is far from me to criticise Roman architecture, but when you see the ruins of Greek churches and palaces here in the south of Italy you will no doubt stand in amazement and exclaim: “This is the real thing after all!” Paestum, formerly a flourishing Greek and subsequently Roman town, was first depopulated by malaria (which travellers need not fear, as owing to reclamation the danger is now past), then devastated by the Saracens. But even the Saracens could not destroy the magnificent public buildings. The Temple of Neptune is one of the best preserved Greek temples. The oldest church in Paestum, called the “Basilica” for some unfathomable reason, is also worth a visit.
Paestum can be reached by the Naples-Reggio Calabria line via Salerno. If you travel in this direction you must have a look at Salerno as well.
The railway line from Naples to Villa San Giovanni, and beyond that to Reggio Calabria, is the most beautiful in Italy. All along the line there are ancient settlements and towns. An archaeologist would undoubtedly find something in every village, but the tourist has no time to spare for these places.
Passing through the small station of Pizzo di Calabria, the tourist may recollect that it was here that Joachim Murat, ex-king of Naples, Napoleon’s legendary general, was shot dead on October 13th, 1813, five days after landing. Before the train reaches the station of Reggio Villa S. Giovanni, from where it is carried by steam ferry across the Messina Straits into Sicily, it passes through Scilla, the place mentioned in the Odyssey where those who have been fortunate enough to cross the Charybdis were destroyed by the monster with seven heads. In reality both the Scilla and the Charybdis exist, and both are harmless vortices in the sea.
Before we land in Sicily we must return to the eastern coast of the Peninsula on the Adriatic. This part of Italy is known to but few foreigners, yet it is an interesting, colourful and attractive world. The reason that it was completely ignored in the past is that it lies outside the main tourist routes. It was only recently that the attention of the Italian tourist traffic bureau and of foreign tourists has been directed to this spot. Those who arrive in Italy at Brindisi have the best opportunity of visiting Apulia, and in that case it is best to go from Brindisi straight to Bari and take rooms at one of the completely reconstructed hotels there.
From Bari the C.I.T. runs conducted tours through the small seaside towns as far as the Emperor Frederick’s magnificent, world-famous castle, the Castel del Monte. There is a tramway service between Bari and Barletta, but the visitor who is intent on seeing things is not advised to make use of it. Among the coast towns Bisceglia is interesting on account of its cathedral, Andria on account of its Roman temples, and Castel del Monte for the reason already stated. Canosa di Puglia has an interesting dome, and it is also here that Bohemond, son of Robert Guiscard, is buried. Barletta was the scene of the “disfida del Barletta,” where, on February 13th, 1503, thirteen Italian knights fought as many French knights under the refereeship of Prospero Colonna and Bayard. An interesting village is Alborebello, south of Bari, on account of its peculiar round, turreted houses, locally known as trulli.
Bari to-day is the most important commercial centre in the south-east of Italy. In September each year a Trade Fair is held, at which the merchants of the Levant, Little Asia, North Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe congregate. This clean, well-ordered town has an eleventh century cathedral, in addition to the famous S. Nicola church, an example of the Roman style.
Sicily has now been under Italian sovereignty for about seventy years, yet it still remains a separate and different world. The island is undoubtedly inhabited by Italians, and patriotic Italians at that. But the Sicilian is a mixture of Greek, Latin, Norman, Arab, French, Spanish and a score of other races, and differs from the Northern or Central Italian just as much as the English differ from the French, or the North Americans from the Brazilians. As regards mentality and customs, Sicily is a world apart. Few tourists spending a few weeks in Italy can spare the time to include Sicily in their itinerary and, in fact, at least a fortnight is necessary if you wish to see Sicily properly. And Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, deserves it.
In Sicily every traveller finds what he most desires to find. The art lover and the antiquary can indulge their passion for art treasures and artistic monuments, the tourist can enjoy the beauties of nature, while the person who merely wants rest and recreation is assured of good hotels, an excellent cuisine and opportunities for sport.
It is best to visit Sicily in March, April, May or in October and November. During the spring months rail fares are considerably reduced for the “primavera siciliana,” so that a stay of two or three weeks at this time entails comparatively little expense. Sicilian tours planned for about a fortnight or seventeen days are, generally based on the following well-tried programme: Palermo-Monreale-Solunte, three days; Segeste-Trapani-Palermo, three days; Palermo-Termini-Cefalu, two days; Palermo-Agrigentou, two days; Agrigentum-Catania, two days; climbing of Aetna, two days; Catania-Syracusa, two days; Taormina, one day; Taormina-Messina and departure; one day. There are convenient steamer services between Naples and Sicily and some steamers go as far as Genoa. Thus tourists who arrive in Sicily by train via Messina are advised to reverse the programme mentioned here, and travel by steamer from Palermo to Naples or to any other convenient port. Sicily can also be reached by the various air services. There is a daily service from Naples to Palermo (not including Sundays and holidays), and the planes of the Rome-Tunis service also land here. The hydroplane of the Rome-Tripoli service lands at Syracuse.
I need not say much about Messina. Before 1908 Messina was the most interesting city in Sicily, but in that year 84,000 of its inhabitants were killed and its principal art treasures and monuments destroyed by a terrible earthquake. To-day both the Dome and the Annunziata Catalani church are only reconstructed or restored versions of the old buildings. Those who arrive by direct train from Villa San Giovanni are therefore advised not to break their journey here but to continue to Palermo or Catania. However, it may happen that the eager tourist does not wish to waste the precious daylight hours and travels by night. For such tourists there are excellent sleeping cars on the trains communicating between Rome and Sicily and Naples and Sicily. If you are tired out by the nocturnal journey you can stop at Messina, leave your luggage at the railway station and take a bath and a rest at the Albergo Diurno—already described—which in Messina is modernissimo. Having inspected the two churches mentioned above, you may care to watch the play of the church clock at noon. The inhabitants of Messina are very proud of it, but in my humble opinion it will take a few centuries before tourists will flock to Messina in order to see its works. But having seen the business with the clock, what else is there to see in Messina? Shall we say the museum, where there, are a few Egyptian objects, one Carvaggio and a few other pictures. By now it must be lunch time, so let us go to Ricardi’s restaurant near the railway station and become acquainted with the fish specialities of the Sicilians, their wines and world-famous ices. It is no exaggeration to say that nowhere in the world has the making of ices been raised to such artistic perfection as in Sicily. The various cassata concoctions are veritable poems. But Sicilian sweets are no less excellent; every one of them originated in the once so wealthy Sicilian convents and monasteries. In Sicily even to-day a lady—whether married or not—does not appear very often in the street, and formerly it was quite inconceivable that a well-bred girl should leave before marriage the convent where she had been placed for her education by her loving parents. Well—according to an Italian author, the sweets recipes of the convents were all, without exception, “love letters” into which the little Sicilian dames had mixed all their romantic dreams.
You can leave Messina for Palermo in the early afternoon. If you enjoy seeing the miracles of nature, break your journey at Milazzo, the harbour of ships sailing for the Lipari Islands. Milazzo is not a big city, and its hotels are accordingly rather modest establishments, but you can safely spend a night or two either at the “Moderno” or at the “Stella d’Italia.” The small steamer leaves Milazzo at 8.45 a.m. for the volcanic Lipari Islands.
The group consists of seven islands. The Lipari, Salina and Vulcano are close together; the other four are the Alicudi, Filicudi, Panarea and Stromboli. These seven islands are almost a miniature New Zealand, with their countless hot springs and volcanoes. The best way to visit the islands is to land on Lipari and hire a boat there. The most important island of the group is Stromboli, whose 2,150-feet high volcano is in continuous activity, with hourly or two-hourly eruptions of considerable violence. It is an unforgettable sight when glowing lava and rock brought up from the bowels of the earth is flung into the sea at the Sciara del Fuoco during a more violent eruption.
Returning to Milazzo, you can continue to Palermo either by rail or by road. The railway line runs through lovely scenery along the sea coast, and as Palermo is approached the train passes through veritable gardens. Palermo is one of the most beautiful towns in Sicily and one of the most interesting in the whole of Italy. Every nation that has played a rôle in the history of Western Europe has had something to do with Palermo, occupying the city, fighting for it, or retreating from under its walls in defeat. As a consequence the teeming population of Palermo includes dark-skinned Arab types as well as tall, fair-haired Vikings, and practically every type in between. Palermo is a veritable experimental laboratory for the ethnologist.
The city has some excellent hotels, but the “Igiea Grand Hotel” is the best. A good first-class hotel is the “Panoramus” on the Via Florio, where the charges are on the moderate side; still less expensive is the “Centrale,” the hotel of commercial travellers on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. There are a few good boarding-houses, such as the “Lincoln,” the “Aurora,” and the “Lombardia,” where the less pretentious can obtain excellent board and clean, comfortable rooms.
Palermo has a large number of excellent restaurants and cafés. The “Napoli,” “La Fenice,” are among the best restaurants, while the “Massimo,” “Gran Café d’Italia,” “Politeama,” “Raghet” and “Koch” are the most noted cafés. But—as the reader will already have gathered in the course of the preceding chapters—we are partial to the small osterias, and we therefore call your attention to the establishment of Signor Vassallo and the “Spano,” where a variety of Sicilian fish specialities is provided. The Aetna wines you will be served after lunch or dinner, together with the glass of Marsala over which you will pledge eternal friendship with the proprietors of these places, will combine to make it very difficult for you to take your departure. Incidentally, the English are entitled to be proud of Marsala, a famous Sicilian speciality, for it was an Englishman, John Woodhouse, who, in the year 1773, discovered a method for making the best Marsala, thus establishing at one stroke the superiority of his product over the previously unrivalled Oporto wine.
We have reserved two days for Palermo, and in view of the many interesting sights in the city this is really not too long. There are magnificent relics from every period of Palermo’s history. The Arab-Norman, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the so-called Serpotta (seventeenth and eighteenth century) school, all had great architects and artists in Palermo. Orientation in Palermo is easy if you remember that the city is divided into four parts by two wide avenues, the Via Maqueda and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which cross each other at the Piazza Quattro Canti. Unfortunately, lack of space prevents me from giving a detailed account of the sights, and I must therefore confine myself to a brief outline.
In the quarter near the Piazza Pretoria you will find the Martorana, a Norman church dating from 1143, with splendid mosaics, and also the S. Cataldo and Gesu churches. On the Piazza Quattro Canti, near the mountain, stands the lovely Baroque church San Giuseppe dei Teatini and, to the right of it, the famous cathedral, whose foundations were laid in the year 1185. The cathedral contains the tombs of six emperors and kings. The pictures in the chapel, as well as the crypt, are worth seeing. Near the Porta Nuova stands the Palazzo Reale, which was begun by the Saracens. To the right and left of the Palazzo Reale stands the S. Giovanni degli Eremiti, a magnificent medieval church built in the shape of an Egyptian cross. The museum contains Greek art treasures. The church of S. Maria Della Catena and the fine Gothic building of the Palazzo Abbatelli on the Via Alloro are also worth a visit.
The botanical gardens of Palermo are very lovely. Honeymoon couples in particular are advised to visit it. If they get tired they can rest on one of the benches amidst the wonderful tropical vegetation.
The most important locality in the neighbourhood of Palermo is Monreale, which can be reached from Palermo by tram No. 8, continuing by the funicular railway. If you have little time to spare, or if you are not in the mood to look at churches and art treasures, you are strongly advised to visit Monreale. Its Dome is the loveliest Norman church in Sicily, and is full of mosaics, sculptures, pictures and other art treasures. To the right of the Dome stands the twelfth-century monastery in whose court there are 216 pillars, each different, and each a masterpiece in itself.
Mondello is a beautifully situated seaside resort some five miles from Palermo. It has two good hotels which are patronised by Palermo society as well as by foreigners. You can spend a few pleasant days at Mondello swimming, yachting and playing golf. There is dancing at the hotels in the evening.
If you wish to see Trapani, break your journey at Castelvetrani station, then continue by train to Selinonte, which is one of the most important pile of Greek ruins in Sicily and in the whole of Europe. Orientation is not easy in the rather complicated Acropolis and among the temples, and it is therefore advisable to go to the Torre di Polluce by the sea and engage a guide. A unique peculiarity of Selinonte is the fact that it is not framed in a modern city, so that you feel as though you were walking in the midst of an existing civilisation.
Foreign tourists are generally taken to Trapani, but in my humble opinion even the most conscientious tourist need not trouble about Trapani. Instead, he can continue by train from Selinonte straight to Agrigento, where he will find many interesting sights, and also excellent hotels (“Grande Hotel des Temples,” etc.), and a good restaurant (“San Leone”). There is little to see in the new part of the town, apart from the Dome, which is as beautiful as the Domes of all the other Italian towns. On the other hand, the old town has some wonderfully well preserved Doric temples which can be visited by cab in three hours. The Concordia is, next to the Theseion in Athens, the best preserved Greek temple. In addition, there are the temples of Juno, Hercules, Jupiter and Castor and Pollux, all of which are more or less in a good state of preservation. Do not be in a hurry in viewing these temples, and if you happen to be visiting them in the afternoon wait until sunset, when the graceful outlines of the Doric columns against the evening sky will for ever impress on your memory the city of Akragas of 2,500 years ago, whose inhabitants prayed to their gods in these temples.
A lovely, unforgettable walk will take you to Rupe Atenea, which gives an excellent view of the whole district of Agrigento. Here, too, it is best to wait till dusk and, sitting on the ruins of the Temple of Minerva, to watch the classic scenery as it becomes enveloped in darkness.
Taormina is said to have been founded in 396 B.C. by settlers who had fled from the Greek Isle of Naxos. During the intervening 2,331 years Taormina in the course of its varied history has always remained an asylum for refugees. Taormina lies in lovely country above the sea, opposite to, yet at a convenient distance from, Aetna, and its perpetually blue sky, its flowers and citrus groves are sufficient to comfort any refugee for what he has left behind. Formerly Taormina was the refuge of political exiles, to-day it is the resort of voluntary exiles from the noise and tumult of our strenuous modern life who come here to rest. The principal season in Taormina lasts from September till June, during which time the well-to-do fill the gorgeous luxury hotels, whose gardens rival the magnificent parks of Imperial Rome. From June till September, when the weather is very hot, only the second-class hotels are open. The best boarding-house, Schuler’s, is also available in the principal season only. Between October and May it is advisable to book rooms in advance, as even in these times of economic crises it may happen that all the best hotels and boarding-houses are full up.
Taormina is, above all, a summer resort, so that it is not often visited by tourists on account of its sights. However, it has a fine Greek theatre, where a festival play season is given each year. The top of the Cavea gives an unforgettable view of Aetna and the surrounding district. Taormina’s charming Medieval and Renaissance palaces and its thirteenth-century cathedral are in harmony with the refined atmosphere of this luxury resort.
Having thus praised Taormina to the skies, we may now reveal how you can get there. It is a little less than an hour’s journey from Messina by train or car, and those who do not intend to go beyond Palermo may stop here for a few days on their way to Syracuse.
On the other hand, if you wish to visit the interior of Sicily, you are advised to travel by the Enna-Catania line. The train passes through some wonderful scenery. There is little to be said about Catania. Next to Palermo it is the most important town in Sicily, and is mainly noted for the fact that the Aetna tours start from here. However, now we are here let us visit the Dome, which contains the tomb of the great Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini, and includes the chapel of S. Agatha, the Castello Ursino, which dates from the time of the Emperor Frederick II, the church of S. Nicolo, which is the biggest in Sicily and from the roof of which a wonderful view may be obtained, and, finally, the Greek theatre and the amphitheatre. All this can be done in half a day, after which we can turn our attention to the Aetna excursion. Catania is quite close to Aetna, and you will frequently encounter in the city traces of former eruptions and earthquakes.
Up till a few years ago it was very difficult to reach Aetna, but to-day there is already a magnificent autostrada leading up the mountain to the fringe of the lava deposits, so that you can view in comfort the grimly majestic area of one of the world’s greatest volcanoes, where life flourishes charmingly and picturesquely side by side with traces of destruction. In this region the life and destiny of the population has been closely linked with Aetna for thousands of years, and it is therefore not surprising that there should be thousands of superstitions, tales and legends concerning the eruptions and devastations of Aetna throughout the centuries.
The causes of these eruptions are, of course, the same as in the case of all the other volcanoes. Up till now Aetna has erupted about eighty times, sweeping away whole towns and villages, and destroying their inhabitants, yet the towns and villages have sprung up anew and the people have returned to begin life all over again. The highest peak of Aetna is 10,000 feet above sea-level. The peaks are eternally covered with snow, and in recent years they have become a ski-ing ground of great popularity. From a distance Aetna looks a regular cone, yet in addition to the principal crater there are some 200 secondary craters on the mountain, from the interior of which lava and ashes are constantly thrown up to the surface. The slopes of the mountain are covered with vegetable gardens up to a height of 1,500 feet, and with orchards and vineyards up to some 4,000 feet. Aetna wines and fruits are far-famed products, and it is no small pleasure at the time of the fruit harvest to pick golden oranges and luscious grapes with your own hand. Up to 6,300 feet there are forests, but beyond that there is only the humble flower known as Astragatus Aetnensis.
Climbing Aetna is not a particularly tiring business, especially as the motor road has already been completed as far as the refuge of Casa Cantoniera. You must start in the early morning from Catania to Nicolosi, where you can arrange the details, engaging a guide, etc., unless you have already made arrangements in Catania with one of the travel agencies who organise conducted parties for a visit to Aetna. While travelling by the motor road is undoubtedly the most convenient, it is far more interesting to walk or to ride on a mule as far as Casa Cantoniera, then on to the Osservatorio, where you can spend the night. From the Observatory you must, if possible, set out about two hours before sunrise on the road leading to the crater. You will be amply compensated for rising so early by the glorious sight of sunrise on Aetna, and the equally glorious view. From here you can see quite clearly the whole of Sicily, Calabria and most of the islands. But even the most experienced Alpinists are strongly advised not to attempt Aetna alone. In addition to the topographical difficulties the volcano itself has dangers which none but experienced guides know and are able to avoid.
The main line railway will take you from Catania to Syracuse, the former mighty centre of Hellenic culture, through Lentini and the important naval base of Augusta. Italy has some cities which the foreigner may visit purely for the purpose of recuperation, regardless of any art treasures, and other cities that are only worth visiting on account of the latter. Syracuse belongs to this category, which has a great deal to offer to lovers of the Greco-Roman and Renaissance civilisations, but nothing at all to those who are in search of amusement. Yet the immense tourist traffic and the prosperity of the hotels of Syracuse show that, contrary to the universal view, there are still large numbers of art lovers left. The best hotel in Syracuse is the “Grand Hotel Villa Politi,” which is situated in a lovely garden. The principal season lasts from October to the end of April or the middle of May. After this time some of the first-class hotels are closed, but those that are open all the year round reduce their prices very considerably after the end of the season.
Syracuse is one of the most important centres of the African trade and of the traffic flowing towards Tipolitania. There is a comfortable twenty-four hour steamer service between Syracuse and Tripoli, and the tourist with four or five days to spare will do well to visit this rapidly developing North African city as well. In Tripoli he can enjoy all that is pleasant, edifying and beautiful, from the magnificent seaside places to the interesting, colourful life of the Arab world.
But let us return to Syracuse. The modern part of the city with its narrow streets, interesting medieval dwelling-houses, is a picturesque and attractive sight. The Dome, which is built between the Doric columns of the former Temple of Minerva, is gorgeously beautiful. The Museo Nazionale has unique collections of pre-Hellenic and Hellenic art treasures. The neighbourhood of the legendary Fontana Aretusa is also interesting.
You will need a whole day in order to see the Old Town. You will first visit, by bus or horse cab, the mine of the Capucine monks, which at the time of the wars between Athens and Syracuse served as an internment camp. There were times when 7,000 Athenians were accommodated here. You will continue your journey to the church of S. Giovanni, where a Capucine monk will show you over the vast catacombs, the scene of the secret religious meetings of the early Christians. From S. Giovanni a nice walk will take you to the amphitheatre dating from the time of the Emperor Augustus. There is a horse cab rank here, and you can hire a cab to take you past the charming S. Nicolo church to the Latomia del Paradiso and the “Ear of Dionysius,” an artificial cave 180 feet long which, according to legend, was built by Dionysius as a prison. The acoustics of the cave are such that Dionysius could hear—sitting at a height of 66 feet at the top of the cave—what his prisoners were whispering below. The cave has the shape of an “S” and even the noise of a dropped pin can be heard in it.
To the east of “Dionysius’ Ear” is the 2,300 years’ old Greek theatre, from which a good view of the city can be obtained. Close to the theatre there is an osteria, where you can lunch fairly well. After lunch you will drive back to the city, and if it is not too late you will take a bus on the Piazza Archimede for the Euryele, the largest and best preserved Greek fortress, built by Dionysius on the topmost point of Epipolis.
The loveliest and most poetic excursion point near Syracuse is the charming Cyane river. According to legend Cyane tried to abduct Proserpina, so Pluto changed him into a river. If the sea is calm you can approach the river by a boat from the Porto Grande. If the sea is rough, you can travel by bus to the river bank, where you are bound to find a boat that will take you farther on.
From the tourist’s point of view Sardinia differs from all the rest of Italy. Conventional tourists do not visit this second largest island in the Mediterranean, and those who prefer smooth travelling, easy train connections and comfortable accommodation, are undoubtedly right in avoiding Sardinia. The hotel industry and tourist traffic arrangements are still in their infancy here. But if you like wild scenery, interesting local costumes and customs you will probably enjoy a visit to Sardinia. Tourist traffic is not regarded as a lucrative business, and the foreign visitor is not regarded as a profitable traveller who has certain requirements but as a guest in the nobler sense of the word, and he is treated accordingly.
It is best to visit Sardinia during the winter or spring, since in summer and autumn the risk of malaria is still very great. However, in spite of this risk people who come to the island to hunt—Sardinia is rich in game—prefer the autumn. The two most important towns of Sardinia are Sassari and Cagliari, which are connected by rail.
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To condense all that a travel guide should contain about Italy, and a great deal of what other travel guides do not contain, in a few pages is both a difficult and a thankless task. Those who read this necessarily brief article are requested to communicate with the Editor of the present work if they have any observations to make concerning its contents or omissions.
I have been requested by the Editor to calculate and state in detail the cost of a visit to Italy. Needless to say, this is a most difficult task. Italy is each year visited by several millions of foreigners, and it would be necessary to prepare almost as many budgets as the number of people who enter Italy in order to spend a few days, weeks, or months on the Peninsula. No doubt, if a member of the Rockefeller family pays a visit to Italy he will spend a little more money than Mr. Brown or Mrs. Smith, worthy employees of one of the Rockefeller concerns, would spend in like circumstances.
The difficulty is therefore only too obvious. However, since the Editor insists on my writing this chapter, I bow to the inevitable and will try to work out a reasonable budget.
Railway Fares. It is, unfortunately, impossible for me to fix this item. I have already said that in Italy you only travel at full rates if you are determined to be placed under tutelage. The cost of rail travel depends on the length of the journey. The following tariff is for your information:
These are the basic prices, without reductions. With regard to distances, I would point out, also by way of information, that, for instance, the distance from the Italian frontier at Ventimiglia to Rome is 652 kilometres. From this and with the aid of any time-table you can calculate the cost of your rail fares yourself, though it is far simpler to go to any travel agency, where you will be informed of all the prices and all the available concessions in a few minutes.
Accommodation. Hotel prices in Italy have been very considerably reduced. Even in the best luxury hotel a room and board will not cost you more than 70-80 lire per day. But this, of course, represents the maximum. Generally speaking, the all-in prices of the better class hotels range between 35 and 60 lire per day, while at boarding-houses you can live at between 25 and 45 lire per day. If you are staying in the same town for a long time, you will do well to put up at a boarding-house. Prices are reduced in proportion to the length of your stay. The longer you stay the lower will the tariff be.
Food. At first-class restaurants the price of lunch or dinner without wine ranges between 15 and 30 lire. However, in the small trattorias mentioned in previous chapters you can feed quite well on from 7 to 15 lire per meal. If you wish to economise you are advised to have your breakfast at a coffee bar, where you will be served with coffee and pastries from 1.20 lire.
Amusements. The theatres are not expensive. Good seats can be obtained at from 20 to 30 lire, except at the big Italian opera houses, particularly at Milan and Rome, where a stall costs at least 65 or 70 lire. The highest prices at first-class cinemas are in the vicinity of 10 lire, but the larger Italian towns have many excellent cinemas where the best seat can be obtained at 5 lire.
At dance halls you will have to calculate from 10 to 25 lire for refreshments. Where an entertainment is given prices are naturally higher.
Communications. Owing to the uncertainty in connection with the supply of petrol, taxis are at present very expensive. Omnibus fares in the heart of the town amount to about 50-60 centesimi, while in the outskirts fares range between 30 and 40 centesimi. The price of tickets from the heart of the town to the outskirts is in the vicinity of 1 lira. Tramway fares are generally 30-40 centesimi.
Experience shows that it is best to provide approximately as much for pocket money per day as the price of board and lodging.
The total cost of a fortnight’s stay in Italy, provided you travel about 1,500 kilometres, may be estimated as follows:
|Rail fares (50 per cent. reduction)||150|
|Porters, fares, tips, etc.||100|
This amount includes board-residence of a good middleclass standard, but the daily sundries have been taken at a low figure.