Monday, November 5, 2007

Hawthorne does Italy

Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of my favorite authors. Here, in the notebooks he kept while in Italy, he has me laughing my head off at the thought of the Massachusetts boy discomfited by Italy and its weather.

"We had heard rumors of robberies lately committed on this route; especially of a Nova Scotia bishop, who was detained on the road an hour and a half, and utterly pillaged; and certainly there was not a single mile of the dreary and desolate country over which we passed, where we might not have been robbed and murdered with impunity. Now and then, at long distances, we came to a structure that was either a prison, a tavern, or a barn, but did not look very much like either, being strongly built of stone, with iron-grated windows, and of ancient and rusty aspect. We kept along by the seashore a great part of the way, and stopped to feed our horses at a village, the wretched street of which stands close along the shore of the Mediterranean, its loose, dark sand being made nasty by the vicinity. The vetturino cheated us, one of the horses giving out, as he must have known it would do, half-way on our journey; and we staggered on through cold and darkness, and peril, too, if the banditti were not a myth, - reaching Rome not much before midnight. I perpetrated unheard-of briberies on the custom-house officers at the gates, and was permitted to pass through and establish myself at Spillman's Hotel, the only one where we could gain admittance, and where we have been half frozen ever since.
And this is sunny Italy, and genial Rome!"