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into Italy by L. Witellius, uncle of the Emperor Vitellius, and who was censor about A.D. 34, in the last years of Tiberius. Being now refreshed, I tore myself away from my intelligent host, as I saw that I must advance a few miles farther before the sun was in its mid-day fury, if I meant to reach Stella before sunset. My host told me that there were ruins on its summit, and this made me the more anxious to put my plan in execution. He pressed me to remain, but the hot season is fast advancing, and I am aware that I shall find it to increase every day as I proceed southward. I do not mean to omit the examination of any interesting spot full of historical recollections, but I shall not tarry longer than is absolutely necessary for the object I have in view. I parted from my host with considerable regret, but I at last began to ascend the hill in the direction of a village, Turchiara, which was about four miles farther on. As I advanced, the country became more bare, and the rock protruded with an unpleasant glare. No attempt had been made to level the path along which I was proceeding, and, from its appearance, I should imagine that in the winter season the water flowed along with considerable force. On reaching Turchiara, a large church was the first object that attracted my attention, and, as it seemed a handsome building, I expected to find the inhabitants comfortable, and the village of a higher grade than I had anticipated. In this, however, I was mistaken, as, though the houses were built with stone, they were uncemented by mortar, and had a wretched unfinished look. What I could see of their interior as I passed along quite corresponded with the discomfort of the exterior. Of course there was no attempt at regularity in the erection of the houses; but what was most surprising, and showed the apathetic disposition of the people, was, that they had left the road, I cannot call it street, between the row of houses in the same state as it had come out of the hands of nature. The rocks in many parts protruded considerably, and it was not without an effort that I climbed up. A very little labour would have made it level, but they say, I suppose, as we used to do too often in Scotland, it just does weel eneugh. It was now necessary to make some inquiries respecting the road I ought to pursue, and I thought that the best place to obtain this information would be the locanda. The eople stared at me as I passed along, making, however, no observation, and I did not enter into conversation with any of them till I reached the locanda, which I easily recognised by the various objects hung up at the door. There was only one apartment, and it was crowded with peasants. It was not plastered; was low-roofed, dark and dingy, though it perhaps looked more so from the bright sunshine which I had just left. I glanced hurriedly over the contents of the little shop while I called for a flask of wine. As the apartment was small, they had everything suspended from the roof, except the wine; hams, which seemed to be well dried and smoked; long strings of sausages; small round cheeses made from goats' milk; and a variety of dried fruits, such as raisins and figs, which were hung up in nets. Two tolerably sized casks of wine completed the contents of the shop. There were three small tables and several benches of the rudest construction, on which were lolling several Salvator Rosa looking men, their countenances exhibiting the same angular form and the same dark piercing eye. Some had evidently drunk a sufficient quantity of my host's wine, and were very boisterous in their mirth; but, as I was aware of the excitable temperaments of the southern Italian, I did not know how soon their knives might be at each other's throats. A party of them were playing at a game of cards, which I found to be usually kept by the landlord, no doubt as a means of inducing people to frequent his shop. The game was of the nature of what they call “scopa,” but I found it to be somewhat different from the game of that name played by the Neapolitans. My appearance among them of course attracted attention and excited their curiosity. With some difficulty I made my host comprehend that I was on my way to Stella. I was sadly annoyed to find my Italian, on which I piqued myself, and on which I was complimented by the better educated, was with difficulty understood by the peasants, and, what was more distressing, I found great difficulty in understanding their language. However, we managed to get on pretty well, and I had rather an interesting conversation with the party, which was now increased by a large proportion of the inhabitants of Turchiara, at least, as many as the apartment would hold. The door was crowded, and they were climbing on each other's backs to look in at the windows, I was, no doubt, regarded as a great curiosity, as no Englishman had ever probably passed through their village before. I may tell you, that to declare yourself an Inglese secures respect wherever you go, and I am sorry to think that a Scozzese would not sound so important in their ears. Our conversation turned on the constitution of England, of which some of them seemed to have a pretty correct idea. They inquired whether we did not often behead our kings, and they had an imperfect notion of our parliaments. Our conversation was suddenly put an end to by the appearance of an officer of gendarmes, who strutted into the apartment with a consequential air, and demanded to know who I was. There is no advantage to be got in resisting these Jacks in office, and I therefore told him that I was an Englishman travelling through the country by permission of his government, as my passport would show. He had done nothing more than his duty in questioning me, as the government find it necessary to be on their guard against insurrectionary movements, and I had, no doubt, in his eyes, a suspicious look. I stated my desire to visit Stella, when one of the party said that a friend of his was in the village who was going to its vicinity, and that he would be my guide if I delayed a short time. Accordingly, ere long, we were on our way. The path lay along the ridge of a hill, a small portion of which was covered with vines, and our view extended across the valley of the Alento to a forest, which my guide called Monteforte. To the west he pointed to a wood of pines, from which, in former times, they got resin, but the manufacture had long since ceased. The village of Copersito lay below us, about which there is rather an amusing legend. You must know that Salerno, which I have already mentioned, possesses the sacred body of the venerated St. Matthew, and that it was conveyed thither by land from I know not what place. At all events, the monks, who were toiling under the weight of the body, reached Copersito with difficulty, fainting from heat. Water could not be found till they prayed to the apostle, when it burst suddenly from the rock, and the water is now considered to be a cure for every kind of disease. This is no doubt very silly, and we may laugh at it, but I could match it with many equally superstitious notions in Ireland. Barregoween well, in the county of Limerick, is visited by crowds of people every week, with the idea that they can be cured of their diseases by the water blessed by St. Patrick.
After passing through several small villages, I reached Il Mercato, situated at the foot of the hill where the ruins of which I was in search were said to be found. It consisted only of half a dozen houses, but I was now so completely knocked up, that, without rest, I could proceed no farther. Luckily one of the houses was a locanda, being part of an old monastery, the inmates of which had been turned adrift by the French when Murat occupied the throne, and which still continued to form part of the royal domain. It is in a sadly dilapidated state, and a few years will level it with the ground. It is amazing how numerous the monasteries were in this beautiful corner of Italy: St. Franciscans, near Agropoli; Austin Friars, at Copersito; Reformed Fathers and Benedictines, at Lauriano; Capuchins, at Perdifumo; and many others, whom it is needless to enumerate. The French may have acted from interested motives in much they have done in Italy, but in reducing the number of monasteries I have no doubt that the country has been benefited.
I did not quite like the appearance of my host, and the ruined monastery seemed a fit place for a deed of darkness, but my exhaustion precluded the possibility of my advancing a step farther without rest. I inquired if he had any room where I could lie down for a couple of hours, when he showed me into a cell once occupied by the monks, about eight feet square, and containing a few boards, on which I could stretch myself. I smiled at the idea of resting on such a bed, but, at all events, I should enjoy quiet and coolness for a short time, and I told him to call me in two hours if I did not make my appearance. I inquired what dinner he could procure me, and was highly delighted to find that he had some excellent fish. I placed a bench against the door, that the noise might awake me if any attempt were made to break in upon my privacy. I slept soundly, and at the hour I fixed my landlord awoke me, when, on looking up to the mountain, I was sadly disappointed to find it covered with a thick mist. I called for my dinner, and had it brought out into the open air, as the heat was no longer so oppressive. I looked out with longing eyes to see the fish I had been promised, when, to my consternation, a dish made its appearance containing cold salted fish, swimming in vapid vinegar, and spiced with every herb, I am quite sure, that the Mountain Stella could produce. It was the most abominable compound that I had ever tasted, but mine host looked so wistfully in my face to hear its praises, that I could not find it in my heart to tell him so. Sausage was again my dinner, with the coarse black bread of the country. The wine, too, was miserable, but I had made up my mind to rough it. While I was thus employed, I was surprised to see a manufactory busily at work on the opposite side of the road. It was not a large one, nor very important; it was a potter merrily employed at his trade, turning out the common earthenware used by the peasants. I inquired where he found a market for his merchandise, and he told me that this village had fairs at certain periods of the year, when he disposed of large quantities of his goods. There was no appearance of wealth about himself or his house, which consisted only of one apartment, but, notwithstanding this apparent poverty, I had heard him loudly carolling some merry lay of his country while he was turning his wheel. The peasantry of Italy are a gay, merry race, who have few wants, and, knowing nothing of those luxuries which have become necessaries for all classes among us, live perfectly satisfied with the little they possess.
This fair, to which the potter refers, may possibly be that mentioned by Cassiodorus as taking place in the fifth century near Leucothea, now Licosa, which is at no great distance from the spot where I was sitting. These public meetings, though they dwindle away in importance, often continue for many centuries. Cassiodorus tells us that it was attended by merchants from distant lands, who extemporised a city for a short time. His words are (book viii. letter 33): “Quidguid praecipuum aut industriosa mittit Campania, aut opulenti Bruttii, aut Calabri peculiosi aut Apuli idonei, velipsa potest habere Provincia, in ornatum pulcherrimae illius venalitatis exponitur.” “All the most precious wares which the industry of Campania, the riches of the Bruttii, the wealth of the Calabrians or Apulians, or Lucania herself could produce, are exhibited at this important fair.” He tells us that it takes place “in Lucania, in the neighbourhood of Leucothea,” and he proceeds to give an account of a miracle which took place every year on the day of Saint Cipriano, when the fair was held. I had engaged my friend who had accompanied me in the morning to remain till I was ready to proceed on my journey, as I saw that I should probably be benighted, and unable to find the ruins of Petilia. We started about five in the afternoon, but, though the sun's rays were no longer so powerful, it required considerable resolution to persevere in the ascent. As we mounted, however, the air became fresher, and there was some appearance of change in the vegetation. My eye has been little accustomed for some years to the sight of grass, and it was not, therefore, without delight that my foot once more trod the green sward. I confess that I prefer the green fields, fresh and sparkling with dew, even to the graceful festoons of the vine and the rich hues of the orange-tree. In the lofty region above us, ever and anon, as the mist cleared away, we had a glimpse of a ruined castle perched on the top of a rock, but my time would not permit of my ascent to it. Along the foot of this rock I passed through the ruins of some edifices, which had probably contained the retainers of the baron. Tradition has handed down that it was destroyed by a piratical band of Saracens; at what period is unknown. I climbed up for about a mile farther, when I reached the summit of Stella, on which there was a small piece of level ground, where a chapel had been erected to the Madonna della Stella. There were no ruins that had the slightest appearance of bearing any very ancient date, but there were a good many foundations of ruined buildings a little below the chapel; and if Petilia was of small size, it may have been placed on this spot, though it must have been of difficult access. There were two towns called Petilia, one in this part of Lucania, and another at Strongoli, among the Bruttii, which will be mentioned hereafter. At least, this is what Antonini and Romanelli maintain, but having been on the spot, and seeing the small space of ground which it could occupy, I confess that I entertain grave doubts whether the true position has yet been discovered. At such a height water would fail, and even the difficulty of procuring provisions would be great. You must not suppose, because I was disappointed in the object of my search, that I was not amply rewarded for the fatigue I had undergone. I would willingly have endured a thousand-fold as much more to have enjoyed the magnificent scene that lay before me. I am not so bitten with the antiquarian mania but that I believe a varied landscape, such as
that which I was now admiring, speaks far more powerfully to the heart, and has a greater moral effect, than any work of man, however magnificent, even though it may be a memorial of one of the brightest pages of human history. It was truly a noble landscape that opened to my view as the mist cleared away. The sun was approaching the horizon, and its rays tinged with a golden hue the sea, which was smooth as glass. All the rocks were touched with the same bright light. I must have been about fifteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, but so nearly perpendicular was the mountain in some parts that it looked as if I could have thrown a stone into the water, and everything around was so silent that I imagined I could have heard its plunge to the bottom. In other parts the mountain slanted away gently, and the vegetation seemed to continue to the very edge of the water, for you must recollect that we have no perceptible tides here. The shore wended away to the north with numerous indentations, and immediately off the promontory there was a small island, which, on referring to my map, I found to be Licosa, the ancient Leucosia or Leucothea, the residence of a siren, a fabulous lady, who is said to have charmed men to their destruction. It seems a mere rock, and likely enough was always so, but the fable was an allegory to show that, whatever might be the outward appearance of the lady, if the imagination clothed her with beauty, it was sufficient to lead the individual to his ruin. I had again a glimpse of the Bay of Salerno, which appeared in the distance, and of which I had to take a farewell glance. From this bright and lovely scene I turned round and looked into the interior. My eye rested on the lofty Apennines, and below them stretched the gloomy forest of Monteforte, which my guide told me was the abodeof a band of brigands. I have heard so much respecting them, and some of the statements have been of so alarming a character, that I thought it wise to hear what my guide, who lives in their vicinity, thought of them. I expressed a desire to visit them, which I secretly thought was putting my head into the lion's mouth, and inquired whether he imagined P should be plundered of my property. He told me that a solitary traveller ran no risk, but they levied heavy contributions on rich proprietors. From the statements he made, I see that they have established a species of black mail, and, if I fall in with such parties, I have some right to claim kin with them, in consequence of the same practices that once prevailed in my own country. About a year ago, he tells me, that a proprietor came to reside in this vicinity, who had lived in a more peaceful and civilised part of the world, and who refused to submit to their exactions. It was not long before they waylaid and carried him off to their fastnesses, demanding a large ransom, and threatening death in case of refusal. His friends contrived to collect the sum which they demanded, and arrangements were entered into for his release. An attached servant of a muscular frame, and remarkable for activity, was appointed to convey the money, and it appears that this man determined to release his master without payment of the stipulated sum. It was a bold and hazardous enterprise, both for his master and himself, particularly as he had no means of communicating his intentions; but the result showed that he had calculated correctly as to the step he meditated. When he appeared before the band he pretended to have some private communication to make to the chief, and when they had retired to a short distance, he darted upon him and brought C