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wild land — The Abruzzi as playground and as romantic back- 
ground — Earlier travellers' books — Struggle 'twixtold and new — 
The reception of the wandering stranger— A note on topography 
— The shepherds of the Abruzzi — The peasants — The Americani 
— Women in the Abruzzi — The future 



Ancestry of the Abruzzesi — The Samnite Wars — The brilliant Marsi 
— Latinizing of the Italians— The Marsic War— Corfinium as 
Italica — The peril of Rome — The Italians Roman citizens — 
The Abruzzesi in face of the invaders— Changing djmasties — 
The isolation of the mountains — In the Risorgimento — The 
Carbonari— General Pepe in the Abruzzi — Growing hopelessness 
of the Liberals — Bomba's policy : " My people have no need 
to think" ... ... ... ••• ••• ••• 26 



Disappearance of the brigands— Will they ever come back ?— Nature 
and causes of brigandage in the Abruzzi— Marco Sciarra — Tasso 
and the brigand — Eighteenth-century brigands — Famous bandits 
during the French occupation— Paul-Louis Courier's^ journey — 
General Manhes— Bourbon encouragement of banditti— Brigand 
and guide— Brigands' arrogance— Brigands' songs — 11 Pkhiscito 
—Foreigners in the bands— A brigand dandy— A carabiniere_ of 
genius— The Venti Seitembre—T\\Q Legge /"/Va— Lingering 
memories of brigands ... ... ... ••• •■• 44 






The one reality — A home of hermits and mystics — B. Thomas 
OF Celano — Earthquakes — St. Peter Celestine — Rienzi in 
the Abruzzi — St. John of Capestrano — St. Bernardino of 
Siena — The Messiah of the Abruzzi — "Representations" — 
Talami — Madonna, heiress of Ceres— Pilgrimages — The hermits 
of to-day ... ... ... ... ... ... 70 



Pagan survivals — Demons — Treasure-hunting — Witches — The 
Malocchio — New Year, Easter, May Day, and St. John's Day 
celebrations — The Bond of the Commare — The iede pagane — 
Evocation of the dead — Folk Tales : (i) The Land where Death 
is not; (2) The Creation of the World ; (3) Misery ... ... 95 



No museum cities — Classic remains — Christian architecture — Sculpture 
— The lovely lady of Aquila — Present-day aspect of the churches 
^The master-craftsmen of the Abruzzi — Modern painters : 
F, P. Michetti ... ... ... ... ... ... 116 



Folk-Song in the Abruzzi — Love-Songs — "The Shepherd's Return " 
— Songs of Labour — Songs to Madonna and the Saints — A 
literature of improvisation — Serafino Aquilano — The " plough- 
man poet " — Gabriele Rossetti — The English Rossettis — A 
forgotten romantic — Gabriele D'Annunzio 122 




The Valerian Way — The earliest Tahis Cotium — The body of the 
Blessed Thomas — The Orsini and Colonna — The Valerian Way 
within tlie town — The Soccorso — The Calvario — The gests of 
(jii)rgi — Jose Borjes — A mild scent of brigandage — Benvenuto 
Cellini at Tagliacozzo — The Castello — Home from the hills — 
The Madonna dell' Oriente — The Battle of Tagliacozzo — 
Young CoNRADiN — Santa Mari.i della Vittoria ... ... 14^ 





Ancient FuciNUS — The Claudian experiment— The Claudian pageant 
— Success of the modern scheme — High cultivation and vanished 
beauty — Mythical origin of the ancient Marsi — Marsi enchanters 
and serpent-charmers — Avezzano — The ruins of Albe (Alba 
Fucentia) — Santa Maria in Valle ... ... ••• I75 



A splendid ruin — Old disasters— The story of the castle — The Churcn 
as hospice — St. Francis in Celano — Our padrona — Deserted 
Ovindoli — Roccadi Mezzo — A nightmare of light and of stones — 
Wolves — Bettina Serena ... ... ... ... ... 199 



Hortus inclusus — Mellow Sulmona — A stormy past — Legend of San 
Panfilo— Market-day — The Badia of Pope Celestine — The 
Santone in the Abruzzi — San Spirito in Majella — Sant' Onofrio 
— RiENZi as hermit — Ovid's villa — OviD as magician — Celestine 
and the treasure — Corfinium to-day — Rajano — The iratiuro ... 215 



A wild glen — Scanno — The beautiful Scannese — The beginning and 
the end of life at Scanno— Santa Maria del Lago— The hermits' 
Rule — San Domenico di CocuUo, serpent-charmer — Tasso in the 
Valley — Anversa and its memories — Italy again ! ... ... 239 



Pacentro and Pettorano— The Caldora and the Cantelmi — Roccaraso 
— Pescocostanzo — A weary plain — A village of optimists — 
Suspicion of the stranger — Castel di Sangro ... ... 265 





SanClementediCasauria — Chieti — Cast ellamare the sordid — The 
pageant of Pescara — Sforza — Gabriele D'Annunzio Pescarese — 
Francavilla, the high town— The lovely Sultana — Francavilla- 
al-Mare — St. John's morning by the sea ... ... ... 278 

Bibliographical Notes ... ... ... ••• ..• 296 

Index ... ... ... ... ... ... .•• 299 


CASTEL Dl SANGRO ... ... ... ... frontispiece 

VILLALAGO ... ... ... ... ... to face p. 5 

A SHEPHERDS' VILLAGE ... ... ... „ i6 

ROCCARASO ... ... ... ... ... „ 69 


PASTORAL ... ... ... ... ... ,, 122 



CELANO ... ... ... ... ... „ 201 


SCANNO ... ... ... ... ... „ 240 

PETTORANO ... ... ... ... „ 266 

ROCCACINQUEMIGLIA ... ... ... ... „ 275 






A wild land— The Abruzzi as playground and as romantic background- 
Earlier travellers' books — Struggle 'twixt old and new — The reception 
of the wandering stranger— A note on topography— The shepherds of 
the Abruzzi— The peasants— The A mericani— Women in the Abruzzi 
— The future. 

Looking out from Rome due eastward, beyond the 
nearer heights that bound the Campagna, vague shapes 
rise in the bkie of the distance, cloudHke, part of the 
atmosphere that encircles the City that is a world, or, if 
the day so decree, clear and defined, like frontier sentinels 
on the watch. These masses and peaks are the rough 
edges of a wall that shuts in a land, strange, uncouth, 
primitive, little distant from Rome in mileage, incal- 
culably distant in everything else. To cross its rugged 
frontier is to find yourself at but the first of its many 
defences against the life of to-day — the life of the plain. 
Penetrate but a little way, and from the higher slopes of 
triple-peaked Monte Velino you will descry the wonder 
and the terror of this land — the range upon range, the 
barrier on barrier, shutting off one high-pitched plain 
from another, making the folk of the narrow valleys and 
the lofty townships strangers each to each. The ranges 
and their spurs, snow-capped for more than half the year, 

2 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

with peaks that never lose their crest of white, run 
parallel, or meet, or intersect in a mazy net of obstacles 
thrown up by Nature in her sudden cataclysms, in her 
moods of defiance. Here man has never conquered, but 
only clung, with patient, obstinate persistence. Yet this 
land of peak and pit, of range and gully, red-brown as 
from the fires of a still kindled furnace, full of unquiet 
shapes and of great silence, has its surprises for us. 
After all, we are in the South ; and, sudden, the wilder- 
ness blossoms like a rose, and what seems like a hillside 
in the Inferno may prove the wall that guards an 
exquisite flowering cloister garden ; or above some 
valley of uttermost desolation a cloud lifts, and we 
descry the hills of heaven. Many a time do we climb 
up and are hurled down ere we stand on the last height, 
some crag of the Majella, and look over the narrow strip 
of plain to the eastern sea. 

This is the wild land of the Abruzzi, set apart from 
the rest of Italy by its untamable configuration and the 
rigour of its winter climate. Recently it has been opened 
up, and is now criss-crossed by a network of excellent 
roads, some of them only remade after many intervening 
centuries ; while its few railroads are veritable world- 
wonders in the way they round the mountains, and scale 
the mountains, and burrow the mountains, the trains 
seeming to hang on by their eyelids. From Rome to 
Pescara on the Adriatic, you need no longer foot a step 
of the way, nor trust to the old shaky diligences ; and if 
you would see railway enterprise in a sublimely audacious 
aspect, travel by the line from Terni to Aquila and 
Sulmona, still better from Sulmona to Castel di Sangro, 
the latter section being, I believe, one of the highest in 
Europe. But in the main, the railroads follow the ancient 
traditional routes of communication, and, save for a month 
or two in summer, seem only to serve a few market-folks 
and for the transport of soldiers. Even the newer roads 


leave great regions untouched, their virgin solitudes still 
intact. The modern Italian knows less of the Abruzzi than 
did the ancient Roman. To-day only the richer Italians 
travel ; and to these the far countries call. France, 
Switzerland, our own Highlands, promise them more of 
the new and the romantic than do the mountains over- 
looking their own homes ; and in this they but follow an 
instinct none obey more than ourselves. Besides, the 
average Italians of the north, or even of the centre, 
whether surfeited by beauty or indifferent to it, would 
rather see Manchester than the sublimest scenery on the 
face of the earth. Moreover, the Abruzzi is to them only 
a part of that poverty-stricken and troublesome South, 
which presents so many anxious problems to the poli- 
tician and the economist. Pay it too much attention, 
and it will come knocking at the doors of Rome for a 
larger share in the growing heritage of the nation. As 
if the claims were not too numerous and too harassing 
already ! 


But it is a little wonderful that the hardy Northerner 
in Italy, with time on his hands, should not, after his 
fashion, make of this wild land a playground more often 
than he does. Hardy he should be, and of a humour to 
wander off the main tracks, a good walker, something of 
a climber, and of unluxurious habits. Those to whom 
travelling resolves itself into collecting comparative 
statistics of hotel menus and the getting up of linen 
had best keep away. The sincere Alpinist despises the 
Apennines. A German, who had done all the usual 
Swiss peaks with Teutonic thoroughness, expressed to 
us freely his annoyance that the Abruzzi had nothing 
big enough to try his mettle ; but mountaineers of a less 
professional spirit, to whom eight or nine thousand feet 
seem not so trifling, may be content with the Gran Sasso, 
the highest peak peninsular Italy can offer him, or Monte 

4 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Majella, or Monte Velino rising out of the lovely Marsian 

Moreover, to the hardy Northerner there is another 
attraction. I should have named it first. There is no 
art. Switzerland is in the same case, of course ; in fact, 
in much better case — or worse, according to the point of 
view. But think for a moment. Italy, an Italian sky, 
an Italian climate — for summer here on the heights is 
divine — and no art ! Italy without art ! Can the honest 
Briton, at his honestest, conceive of anything more 
delightful .? I see a load fall from his mind at the very 
thought. Of course, this is not strictly true, but it is true 
for the tourist. In the Abruzzi are the relics of great 
art, well worth the travelling for ; but most of them have 
to be sought out in unfrequented valleys, in little dead 
townships, or on remote mountain-sides. The passer-by 
will miss nearly all. There are no concentrated collec- 
tions, no centres of this school or of that ; and cultivated 
disciples of Mr. Ruskin or Mr. Berenson will here be 
guideless and rudderless. The gems — which are mostly 
chipped and reset in lamentable fashion — they must find 
for themselves or not at all. 

If the treasures of art are thus scattered and broken, 
by war, and earthquakes, and neglect, and restoration at 
diabolic hands, the picturesque is everywhere, and to an 
extravagant degree. Were we back in the romantic 
period, we might be finding half the backgrounds for our 
novels and dramas and epics here in this region, where 
Nature in her convulsions does shuddering things, where 
man is very much alone with his own soul or his passions, 
a shivering pigmy beneath towering rocks, or very proud 
because he moves ever in the companionship of great 
hills. And when she conspires with him, his slightest 
efforts at building a shelter for his hearthstone are 
crowned with beauty. Of his hill-towns, rude and 
sublime, Nature more than man has been the architect. 

3 ' J 3 !> 5 


^>r'.; '" 


Move under them, looking up at their airy, craggy heights, 
where tower and rock are one ; and when next you read 
of fairy castle or knightly keep of the old fighting days, 
you will say, " Yes ; I saw the place. It was Taglia- 
cozzo" — or," It was Roccacasale " — or, " It was Villalago." 

English travellers used to come here in less con- 
venient days — in days when it was necessary to have an 
armed escort through the country. Then inns were not, 
or they were impossible ; but the houses of the hospitable 
native nobility were opened eagerly to the stranger. 
Among those who set down their impressions of the 
country were Henry Swinburne, whose " Travels in the 
Two Sicilies" appeared in 1783-85; Sir Richard Colt 
Hoare, whose " Classical Tour through Italy and Sicily," 
1 8 19, was designed as a continuation of Eustace ; and 
the genial Edward Lear, who, besides his famous rhyme 
on the 

" old man of th' Abruzzi, 
So blind that he couldn't his foot see," 

wrote a delightful account of his wanderings in the 
province in his " Illustrated Excursions in Italy," in 
1846. But my prime favourite among them all is the 
Hon. Keppel Craven. A traveller of industrious ob- 
servation, seventy years ago — his " Excursions in the 
Abruzzi" appeared in 1838 — he is also a perfect specimen 
of the gentlemanly English tourist of former days, who 
turned a haughty eyeglass on the barbaric human 
creatures with whom he was brought in contact, and 
found them mostly beneath his approbation. He saw a 
great deal ; and if he did not altogether understand the 
mountaineers, at least he painted Mr. Keppel Craven to 

Leading a life apart for countless generations — save 
when hustled by invaders — the people of these provinces 

6 IN THE ABRUZZI [ft. i. 

have resisted the inroads of the modern world longer 
than anywhere else in Italy. They resist them still. 
The shepherds of the Abruzzi are nearly as primitive as 
the shepherds of Thibet. The cultivation of the soil is 
carried on by the methods and the implements described 
in the Georgics. Paganism is still a hardy plant ; and 
the Christian faith has a wild fervour that has never 
been tamed and pruned by Church councils, and would 
surprise the Vatican. Ancient beliefs, banned by the 
modern world, lurk here with secret potency. With a 
primitive health and vigour the peasants defy hardships 
never greater than they are now. Ancient songs and 
melodies echo along the hillsides. Legend and song, 
indeed, are still the sole culture of the old. The 
traditional dress has by no means disappeared, nor have 
the manners and the courtesies of a more formal age. 
But alongside these, you may watch the sproutings of a 
new cynicism among the bourgeoisie, the first-fruits here 
of the worship of the new goddess Prosperity ; the inroads 
of utter banality — for new things, ugly and undesired, are 
pressing in on the wreck of the old ; the clumsy imitation 
of a free-and-easy bearing imported from America, which 
sits ill on a people of naturally grave and formal habit. 
These contrasts will sorely wound an jesthete in manners 
or art ; but they render the land curiously interesting to 
a student of humanity. Every year the old retreats 
farther and farther to the inaccessible places. Some of 
it had best die as soon as possible ; but the new as yet 
offered in its place is here an alien thing. It cannot 
flourish on this soil, which nevertheless it can turn sour. 
What the future has in store for a people of hardihood 
and vigour, but limited ambitions, who can prophesy .-* 
Young Italy stands in the magnificent valley of the 
Sagittario, his scornful back turned on the sentimentalist 
rapt in the wonder of the towering crags, of the human 
aeries, of the snowy horizon. But Young Italy's eyes 


are glowing, too, as he calculates the tonnage of the 
roaring torrent that rushes down the cliff. He hears the 
smiting of many mighty hammers and the whirr of giant 
machines, and dreams of a time when the shepherds will 
come down from their pastures and the peasants from 
their fields, and make a bonfire of their crooks and 
wooden ploughs, and when all of them will be " hands " 
to feed a mammoth engine for the enrichment of some 
captain of industry from Milan. 

Or is the Abruzzo to grow into a vast region of 
health resorts ? Is the wild, pure air, the dazzling, 
whirling light that makes the blood dance in the veins, 
that casts out fog and taint from the spirit, to be 
transmuted into gold ? There is talk of it now and then, 
and some hope ; though only at Roccaraso is there any 
serious beginning. Outside enterprise may do some- 
thing ; but the Abruzzesi will be much less easily turned 
into a nation of hotel-keepers than the Swiss, 

Whatever the future may be, as yet the shepherds 
keep their flocks as of old, and the peasants till their 
mountain fields as of old. Or they cross the ocean, and 
recross it with a little pocketful of American money to 
keep the old home going. They have no far expecta- 
tions. A little more bread, a little less ; a fuller flask 
one year, an emptier the next. So has it ever been. In 
the meanwhile they lead safer, quieter lives than they 
were wont to do, if their stomachs are rather worse than 
better filled. But it is not the contadini in the Abruzzi 
who are the unhappiest. I have never anywhere seen 
people with such a look of waiting in their faces as the 
bourgeois. They who longed and strove for the new 
time, now that it has come look on it with a quiet, half- 
despairing cynicism. Not the child of their dreams, this 
world that rushes past. What will the next hour bring ? 
The inquiring stranger desiring to know something 
of the Abruzzi below the surface will often be baulked. 

8 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

This mountain people, courteous and dignified, have none 
of the expansiveness we are wont to think of as ItaHan. 
They are proud and diffident, not given to explaining 
themselves, and not at all ready to believe that a stranger 
can be interested in them. They are more curious about 
you than they can possibly conceive you to be about 
them — though their curiosity is mainly limited to one 
point, namely. What have you come for ? Your presence 
in their midst is a perpetual surprise. Courteous they 
are, but such wonder as theirs must have an outlet ; and 
this it finds among the middle classes only through the 
eyes. The long, slow stare of the Abruzzesi is an 
experience to remember. It is without impertinence ; 
but it is frank, direct, prolonged, unflinching ; and in 
smiling, sunny Sulmona it was very formidable indeed to 
the " milordies " — so were we called there. Among the 
peasants the curiosity finds vent in questions. " Where 
have you come from } " England and London are but 
names. " Cosa c'^, Londra } " said our hostess at Rocca 
di Mezzo. They know of America. It is the place 
letters and postal orders come from. If, tired of prosaic 
reality, you suggest Constantinople, they will receive it 
with little incredulity. London, Milan, Constantinople, 
— are all places beyond their utmost fancying. But they 
forestall your answer at times, and, towards the centre and 
in the east, will give you Naples for your home. Nearer 
the western frontier they will put you down as Romans ; 
and your faulty Italian, which at least is not theirs, will 
be attributed to your distinguished and favoured birth. 
Rome, too, is far away. But the question of questions 
is, " What have you come for } " To see their country ? 
Che, che ! Their little paese ! They look at each other 
and smile, and do not believe. Their village is a 
little village, and broken down at that. And the 
country } There are only hills — and hills — and hills 
again. No, no ; there must be other reasons. It is 


further complicated, too, if you are women, by your 
beino- on foot. " Dove la carrozza ? Dove il marito ? " 
The Abruzzi women are hardy of the hardiest, and we 
mention their own powers. Ah, but signore ! And now 
you realize what you sometimes forget in these regions, 
that you are in the South, where signore never walk. 
But what have you come for } There are only three 
reasons that will generally be accepted as satisfactory. 
Perhaps you have something to sell. For signore to sell 
things would be an eccentricity, but an eccentricity with 
some reason in it. And, after all, these walking women 
may not be signore. In Rajano, on market-day, the 
artist's satchel was the talk of the piazza ; and she roused 
some animosity in one person, whose dress betokened a 
much better worldly station than a peasant's, because 
she could produce nothing purchasable from it. Wasn't 
their market good enough, then t To go on pilgrimage 
is also a highly respectable occupation, and one with which 
they have complete sympathy. They have their famous 
local shrines — the Madonna dell' Oriente, the Madonna 
del Lago, and the Sorrowful Lady of Castellamare. It 
would be to insult these to doubt the possibility of 
pilgrims to them from London or from Constantinople. 
But most general satisfaction is given by the common- 
place statement that you have come to take the air. 
Disparage all their other birthrights and possessions if 
you will, but good air they have, and good water. They 
modestly claim nothing else. " Per pigliar I'aria," then ! 
So you pay your toll. You are accounted for, labelled, 
docketed, pronounced almost safe. " They have come to 
take the air. These signore have come to take the air." 
The word is echoed from one to the other up and down the 
hill, and in their next smile to you there is some relief. 

They are no vaguer as to the whereabouts of London 
than are we about their country, unless we happen to 
have travelled there ; and so a word concerning its 

lo IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

position is perhaps not superfluous. The Abruzzi pro- 
vinces form a rough oblong lying diagonally north-west 
and south-east. On one of the long sides, towards Rome, 
are the Sabine and Hernican mountains, and the other 
is the Adriatic coast-line. Umbria and the Marches lie 
to the north, and to the south the Terra di Lavoro and 
the Molise, or province of Campobasso, which, admini- 
stratively, is counted along with them, and which, ethno- 
logically and historically, is very much akin. The 
greater portion of the country consists of a lofty plateau, 
traversed, mainly from north-west to south-east, by 
chains of the Central Apennines. In the eastern branch 
rises Monte Corno, 9673 ft., belonging to the group of 
the Gran Sasso, the highest point in peninsular Italy. 
There are no great rivers. The longest, the Aterno, 
rising in Monte Capo-Cancelli, known beyond Popoli as 
the Pescara, falls into the Adriatic at the port of that 
name, after a course of less than a hundred miles. Nor 
are there any great lakes. The picturesque Lago di 
Scanno, a few miles in extent, is the largest. Lake Filcino, 
or the Lake of Celano, once the greatest in Southern 
Italy, is now drained, and its bed highly cultivated. 

In modern times the province has been divided into 
three departments. Abruzzo Ulteriore Primo extends 
to the Adriatic seaboard on the east, and has the range 
of the Gran Sasso for a western boundary. Its chief 
towns are Teramo and Penne. The Pescara river divides 
it from Abruzzo Citeriore, lying likewise along the 
Adriatic, the principal towns of which are Chieti, Lanciano, 
and Vasto. West of both lies the largest, the most 
mountainous, and most picturesque of the three, the 
inland department of Abmzzo Ulteriore Secondo. Here 
is Aquila, the capital of the province, lying under the 
Gran Sasso ; and here, too, is Sulmona, in the shelter of 
Monte Morrone and Monte Majella. 

The mountainous nature of the country, and the fact 


that along its ninety miles of coast there is not one good 
harbour — Pescara only sheltering a few fishing-boats, 
while Ortona and Vasto would need immense capital 
for their development — have meant that commerce, out- 
side the wool industry, has never engaged the energies of 
the people. Traces of iron-working are to be found in 
the Majella and elsewhere ; but the mineral wealth was 
probably soon exhausted. If there is to be an industrial 
future it will be brought about by the abundance of 
" white coal " ; and already the mountain torrents serve 
as power to light with electricity the remotest villages, 
which shine upon the mountain-side like wonderful new 
constellations in the night. On the high levels there is 
excellent pasture, and so destiny has made the Abruzzesi 
shepherds. v,^ 

The shepherds of the Abruzzi, who form a large part 
of the population, crave special notice. They are entirely 
apart from the peasants. The contadini despise them ; 
and this scorn is amply repaid. I am not speaking here 
of the keepers of the little stationary flocks and herds 
you meet on the plains or the lower slopes : old men 
these, or boys and girls. Such flocks are for home use 
during the winter, and in most places hardly suffice for 
that. Often as late as the beginning of June — if the 
past winter has been long — you can get no butter in the 
mountains, if you refuse the kind made months before 
and preserved in skins. Winter sets in early, and the 
great flocks are all gone by the beginning of October — 
earlier than that sometimes. Says the song — 

" La luna de settembre ha ju cierchie tunne 
A revederce, bella, tra maggie e giugno." 
["The September moon is round. Adieu, fair one, till 'tween May 
and June."] 

The sheep and cattle are driven down from their 
mountain pastures by the real shepherds, the shepherds 

12 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

de race, and make their slow way by pass and glen to 
the coast, along which lie their main roads, the grassy 
trattiiri, and thence to the plains all about Foggia in 
Apulia. The journey is three weeks or a month long, 
and thousands and thousands of sheep, with their several 
mandriani, fare thus to their winter quarters. From the 
north of the province, and from the Marsica, they go 
mainly to the Roman Campagna, but in fewer numbers. 
At one time as many as two million sheep alone were 
transported every year. This number is now greatly 
reduced since the invasion of the Apulian plain by 

Tradition says it was King Alfonso of Aragon who 
first granted this plain for pasturage, and framed the 
laws that governed the flocks and herds ; but long 
before Alfonso's day — indeed, from a dateless period that 
backs into a mist — the sheep have come there from the 
mountains. What Alfonso did was to re-establish good 
breeds and the ancient oviary system and laws, and to 
fix a tribunal at Foggia, which became a department of 
Government. From time to time war menaced and 
ruined the shepherds' polity. It had fallen low when 
Charles of Bourbon restored it to its antique vigour. 
The Apulian plain forms a great amphitheatre with its 
front open to the Adriatic, and the rest of it enclosed by 
Monte Gargano and a spur of the Apennines, which 
protect it from the worst cold. It goes by the name of 
the Tavoliere (i.e. the chess-board), from its arrangement 
in squares for cultivation and pasture. These lands were 
crranted to the Apulians on condition of their being let 
out in winter to the shepherds and herdsmen of the 
Abruzzi. In , course of time, however, the Apulians 
turned shepherds too, and demanded the right of 
summer pasture in the Abruzzi mountains. In the 
arrangement that followed, the Government, which de- 
rived a huge revenue from wool, favoured the Abruzzesi, 


recognizing that their mountains were only fit for pasture, 
while the Apulians had land that could be profitably 
cultivated. Also, further to protect the revenue from 
wool, distinct limitations were placed on the cultivation 
of the Tavoliere. These restrictions, however, were 
removed gradually, and chiefly under the French occu- 
pation ; and this, along with the general demoralization 
of all trades and industries during the wars, towards the 
end of the eighteenth century, brought about the ruin of 
the Abruzzi. Ferdinand I. made some efforts to restore 
the old condition of things, but in vain ; and less and 
less capital has been put into the pastoral trade. Great 
fortunes are no longer made, and the condition of the 
shepherds has probably never been worse. 

To Apulia, however, they still resort from November 
till the end of May, and live there mainly in patriarchal 
fashion, as of old. A traveller, writing in 1833, describes a 
night spent with them, and how he found them courteous 
and hospitable. The fireplace was in the middle of the 
large hut. There was no chimney, and the smoke swayed 
about the great dim place. They supped on Indian meal 
and bread and onions, with a little wine ; but better fare 
was found for him. After supper the patriarch read the 
prayers and said the Ave Maria. A boy, carrying a large 
brass lamp, said, " Good night, all the company. It is the 
hour for sleep." There were bunks against the wall with 
sheep-skins for the privileged, himself amongst them ; 
and by the head man's berth hung firearms. All the rest 
slept on skins on the floor, and the huge dogs with their 
faces to the fire. What a picture was there for a painter 
of chiaroscuro ! In the morning, when he left, he would 
have paid for his lodging, but they would take nothing 
from a guest. 

In May, just after the close of the great fair at Foggia, 
begins the homeward journey. There are many halts, 
for cheese- and butter-making ; and in hot weather they 

14 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

travel a good deal by night. This is the traditional order 
of march : A shepherd, in his sheep-skin coat, and with 
his crook, heads each division of cattle. He is followed 
by the vmnso, an old ram with a bell {jnanso means 
''the instructor"). After each flock come the dogs — the 
huge, beautiful, shaggy white things, so docile to their 
masters, and to them alone ! Next come the goats. The 
cows and the mares travel in separate bodies. Afattore, 
on horseback and armed, has charge of the flocks and 
herds of each proprietor. Behind follow the mules laden 
with the baggage, the milking utensils, etc. Mr. Keppel 
Craven, the gentlemanly traveller, had his lofty nil 
admirari mood broken into by the sight. " I own," he 
says — note that it cost him an effort — " I own that I 
never beheld one of these numerous animal congregations 
plodding across the flats of Capitanata, or the valleys of 
the Abruzzo, as far as the eye can reach, without expe- 
riencing a sensation of a novel and exciting kind, nearly 
allied to that of enjoyment^ but which I shall not attempt 
to account for." Neither shall I attempt to account for 
the eerie thrill as one lay and listened to the ceaseless 
patter-patter through the night, and to the strange, low 
calls in the darkness ; but neither need one apologize for 
it. Some echo of an earlier world was in the sound ; 
and Man, the Wanderer, was passing to his restless 

There is one short and joyous festa when fathers and 
husbands and children come back to their villages ; and 
then off" they set again up to the mountain pastures. In 
the shepherd's year there is no summer ; and sheep-skin 
is his wear nearly the whole year round. Even when he 
is near home he comes down but once a fortnight for a 
night or two. Then what a serenading of wives and 
sweethearts ! The sindaco, good man, turns in his bed, 
wakened by the sound of " The Shepherd's Return," sung 
in various keys up and down \\\q paese, at an hour when 


an orderly village should be quiet and at rest. But there 
— " Povera gente ! " he mutters, and turns to sleep again. 

These peciirai, nomads, virtually homeless, are naturally 
a race apart. That they are wild-looking and uncouth 
is not surprising. For company they have their sheep, 
their fellow-nomads, the wolves, and their dogs, hardly 
less fierce. They have been called by every bad name. 
The peasant laughs at them for their ignorance, their 
uncouthness, their paganism. The scornful songs about 
the shepherds are many. Says one — 

" Ru pecurare, quanne va a la messa, 
Dice a ru sacrestane : ' Qual e Cristo ? ' 
Quanne ce arriva 'mbaccia a I'acqua sanda : 
'Che belle coppa pe magna' lu latte ! ' 
Quanne ce arriva 'mbaccia a gli altare : 
' Che bella preta pe pesa' lu sale ! ' 
Quanne ce arriva dent' a la sacrastia: 
'Che belle capemandre che sarria ! ' " 

[" When the shepherd goes to Mass, he says to the sacristan, ' Which is 
Christ ? ' When he is in front of the holy water, says he, ' What a fine 
bowl for milk ! ' When he is before the altar, he says, * What a fine stone 
for weighing salt ! ' When he goes into the sacristry, ' What a fine stable 
this would make ! ' "] 

And of civilization, as our world knows it, they have 
little chance of knowledge, for there are no School Board 
officers to drive them as children to school, to do even 
their meagre three classes. Many acts of vandalism are 
put down to their count — ruin of classic remains in the 
mountains, and of the sanctuary of San Spirito on 
Majella. Does one expect nomads to protect the arts, 
and show an interest in archaeology .'' They are not 
always ingratiating in manner ; and in former days they 
were suspected, and sometimes not unjustly, of complicity 
with the brigands. Truly their condition is hard, and as 
hard now as ever ; but theirs is not the most demoralizing 
life in the world, in spite of the groans uttered over them. 
" La pastorizia errante e una delle piaghe piu verminose 

i6 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

e altrettanto nocive che vergognose pe' popoli civili." 
The writers of that style of thing do not know the " black 
countries " of richer lands. They are the oldest of all the 
communities, and have inherited a code not quite degene- 
rate yet, which demands the exercise of some fine ancient 
virtues — hardihood, courage, faithfulness. The shepherds 
of the Abruzzi made magnificent cavalry soldiers, Murat 
found. But they do not like soldiering. It is none of 
their business, and they would always be back to their 
sheep. Now and again, excited by some fanatic mission- 
aries, they have rushed down from their mountains to 
burn and ravage, in the name of a king who was nothing 
to them but a name, or the dim representative of some- 
thing stable in that strange outside world, which was ever 
shuffling and changing, or the guardian of the Faith. 
Their life turns them to churls or poets. And there have 
always been shepherd-poets in the Abruzzo. Benedetto 
de' Virgilii, the favourite of the Jesuit fathers and of the 
Pope, was neither the first, nor the last, nor the best. The 
themes of the poems which they set down in writing, aided 
in their style by Tasso and the Bible, are mainly God, the 
Madonna, and the saints. But they have been the makers, 
too, of much of that love-poetry that wanders about the 
hills and dales, owned by all, owned by none, songs with 
infinite regrets in their burdens, for parting, for lonely 
distance. There are special regions where the shepherd- 
poets grow. Barrea is one of these, and Leonessa is 

Some of the modern shepherds' poetry came, about 
fifty years ago, into the hands of a certain good Dr. Bruni, 
who was interested in the lot of the ^oor pecurai. It had 
been jotted down in dialect ; but dialect was not in vogue 
then, and Bruni, whose heart was better than his style, 
turned it into rather sophisticated and stiff Italian. So 
these Canti del iMandriano ha\-e wandered far from their 

, J ) ) ) ) 

J J -^ •> , •> ; 

5 '' ^ ?•'>•''? ^,''\ 

'■> t o ' 








native simplicity. They are all dolorous. Parting, home- 
sickness, the love of the absent one, horror of " the 
desolate plain " of Apulia, are their only themes — though 
the good doctor may have selected those that illustrated 
his theory that the shepherds' life is always wretched. 

" Dost thou drink there of the silvern water of the 
Abruzzo ? Dost hear the echo from the homesteads of 
thy native valleys, the sweet melodies of the shepherd's 
pipe, lonely and sad, the rare bark of the faithful dog, 
mingled with the keen sound of ringing bells, and the 
meek bleat of the woolly people, fast in their fold, and 
all the songs in which we are wont to speak our love .'' 
Nay, there [in Apulia] the music is silent. Not there 
does the shepherd make his songs." 

And here, too, among the mountains the pipes are 
being put aside ; and perhaps one day the shepherds may 
come to think of singing as we do, not as the breath of 
life, but as an entertainment, and thus absurd amid 
strenuous occupation and hardship. 

The sheep-dogs of the Abruzzi are very formidable — 
huge, white, shaggy creatures that look as if they had in 
them equal parts of bear and wolf, unmatched for strength 
and ferocity too. As they rise slowly on the path, their 
eyes gleam red, and their ominous growl sends one's 
heart into one's mouth. Lucky if the master be near to 
call them off, though if they are not on guard they are 
generally harmless — but never ingratiating. On the road 
to Pettorano we were suddenly surrounded by six of the 
great creatures. One or two showed their teeth, and six 
pairs of red eyes glowed like coals. But slowly the circle 
they made relaxed, and they went their ways. Their 
flocks were not by, else perhaps, as suspicious strangers, 
we should have received closer attentions than a mere 
warning. They are trained to fierceness from the first, 
and by cruel methods. Says De Nino : " A lui si 


i8 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

tagliano gli orecchi, e dopo che si son bene abbrustolite, 
si danno per pasto al sanguinante animale, che deve cosi 
diventare piu feroce." 

Life is not to be play to them. Round their necks 
they wear a wide collar, with sharp spikes as long as 
your finger. In the winter plains, as in the high pastures 
of the summer, wolves are the constant enemy. If they 
can be kept off his throat, the great white beast may be 
a match for two or three. 

Quite apart from the shepherds are the peasants 
tilling an ungrateful soil. There are favoured spots, of 
course. Certain portions of the Adriatic seaboard have 
a vegetation almost tropical, and everywhere along the 
coast the olive and the vine flourish luxuriantly. There 
are rich and fruitful inland places too. The winter snows 
keep warm the roots in the pleasant valley of Sulmona, 
and spring comes with a great bursting of bonds, hangs 
garlands on myriads of orchard trees, and works in- 
numerable flower fantasies all about the vineyards. And 
within the last thirty years the space that once was 
Fucino has been subjected to scientific and intensive 
culture by the aid of Roman capital. But outside these 
favoured spots the peasant's life is a desperate struggle 
to win bread from barren rock, frost and snow-bound for 
more than half the year. The Irish peasant's and the 
Highland crofter's lots, for at least seven months out of 
the twelve, are light by comparison. " The land is going 
out of cultivation," groaned a Scanno man to us. We 
pointed to tilled patches at an altitude and on a slope 
fitter for the feet of goats than labourers with their tools. 
" Ah, but once," he said, " it reached much beyond " ; and 
his eye went up, up, till it seemed that eagles must have 
dropped the seeds that were reaped there. 

The poorest have always been driven out. The 
son of the shepherd nomad is not immovable. The 


Abruzzesi have been among the most patient and 
enduring enlisters in the gangs of the Campagna and 
the Pontine Marshes. Down from the pure air of their 
mountains they have gone, and for a pittance to take 
back to wife and children in the highlands, have sucked 
in the poison of the Maremma. Many have died. Many 
have taken back such maladies as their own good air 
could never cure. The Veronese poet Aleardi, wander- 
ing one day in the Pontine Marshes, near Terracina, 
heard a passer-by say to one of the labourers, " ' Come si 
vive costi .'' ' A cui I'Abruzzese : ' Signore, si muore.' " 
[' How does one live in such a place .-' ' ' Sir, one dies.'] 
And Aleardi, haunted by the sight of the sick reapers, 
sang in his Monte Circello of those — 

" Che vanno 

Dolorosi air esiglio 


consoled by — 

" Niuna canzone dei natali Al^ruzzi 
Le patetiche bande. Taciturni 
Falcian le messi di signori ignoti, 
E quando la sudata opra e compita, 
Riedono taciturni, e sol talora 
La passione dei ritorni addoppia 
Col domestico suon la cornamusa. 
Ah ! ma non riedon tutti." 

[" No song of their native Abruzzi consoles the piteous bands. Silent 
they reap the harvests of unknown lords : and when, by the sweat of their 
brows, their task is done, silent they go back. Only from time to time 
does the bagpipe with its home sound double the passion of the return. 
Ah, but not all return ! "] 

They still join the gangs. But there is another outlet 
now — America. From the towns and villages that I 
know best almost every young man of health and vigour, 
belonging to the artisan or peasant class, has crossed the 
ocean. They cross and recross — the steamship com- 
panies make it easy ; and the commonest decoration of 
an Abruzzo village is the emigration advertisement of the 

20 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Transatlantic liners. They come back saying America 
is " a very fine place," " a place made of money," " oh, 
a very good place," and grumbling a little over home 
conditions. But they come back — with a little pocketful 
of money which goes into the rocky farm and keeps 
the household going ; and perhaps they cross again 
till the boys are grown and ready to adventure out on 
their own account. But in spite of their stock phrase 
— " a fine place," " ver' fine place " — I believe most of 
them hate it. " A goddam dirty hole ! " was the mildest 
comment of an intelligent young tailor on a great city 
of the West, which I will not name. " Yes ; there is 
some money there ; but I get the same price for a coat 
here which I make on my own account as my master 
gave me there. There are more coats wanted there. 
But here — I breathe clean." On the long broad track of 
greensward — the trattojo — that runs from Rajano to 
Sulmona, I saw a young peasant, gallant and brave, with 
a feather in his hat, and mounted on a sorry old mule, 
which he was urging to the pace of a fiery steed. As he 
rode he was singing out his heart aloud in joy, and the 
theme of his song was his happy return, its burden, " All' 
America maladetta non ritorneremo piu." Nowadays we 
are wont to applaud lustily a peasant's love of country. 
None the less do we shove him out to love it elsewhere. 

As yet very rarely do the women go ; and when they 
begin to go in great numbers it is all over with the 
Abruzzo, for they are the sap of its life. You have 
always to take the woman into account. One gathers 
from old tales and old records of the country that she 
has ever been prominent as chief organizer and coun- 
sellor. To-day, however, a great deal more of the bread- 
winning falls to her share. You may say, indeed, that 
all the careers are open to her — especially the hard 
ones. As a rule, she is better developed physically 
than her men-folk, and handsomer, too, which is rare 


among a poor and laborious population. There are 
places where one is hardly aware of the men. Woman 
fills the picture. Household work and child-bearing 
form only a part of her life. She gathers the winter 
fuel — a formidable task that lasts the summer through ; 
she bakes the bread ; she spins the wool and the 
flax ; she dyes the cloth ; she makes the clothes ; she 
keeps the home-flock ; she builds the houses even — 
or does the most arduous part of the masonry ; she is 
an astonishing porter, and, with majestic gait, will carry 
anything you like on her head, from your heaviest luggage 
to a plough or an iron bedstead. As yet I have seen no 
woman blacksmith, but should not be surprised to hear 
there were many. In certain villages she is still an 
accomplished lacemaker. And she is reputed wise. If 
ever her sex is lightly spoken of, it will be by some one 
who has learnt his scorn away from home among aliens. 

It is not only her present capability that has won her 
this position, but the tradition of past valour in the time 
of war, and inspiration in the time of peace. The woman 
warrior, the woman saint, the woman prophetess, the 
woman brigand, have all been familiar in the Abruzzi. 
They have been almost too sufficient for their men-folk, 
who have depended on them overmuch, and perhaps lost 
some of their adventuresomeness thereby. Here is a 
significant story out of old time. 

In 1557, the French, under the Duke of Guise, laid 
siege to Civitella del Tronto, a little town already terribly 
damaged in the war. Many of the fighting men were 
dead or incapacitated, and it was ill guarding walls so 
broken with a handful of starving men. Then the women 
volunteered for the defence. In the night-time they went 
down to the trenches, gathered stones and beams and 
faggots and mud, and with these they mended the gaps 
in the walls. When day came, they donned the helmets 
of the dead or the wounded and armed themselves, and 

22 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

what they lacked in force they more than made up for 
by their power of acting ; for they moved about constantly, 
now here, now there, and made the enemy believe the 
place was still full of busy, strong defenders. When a 
ball knocked one down, the next took the vacant place, 
yet contrived to defend her old one. They kept the 
enemy at bay, and Alva, after the retreat of the French, 
rewarded the heroines, exempting their husbands, or those 
who should be their husbands in time to come, from 

Ever since, in the Abruzzi, woman has been repairing 
breaches in broken walls, and making herself into a 
multitude. To hear the children talk of their homes, 
you might believe that matriarchy existed. Their intro- 
duction of themselves to you is never complete till they 
have given full information as to the Christian name and 
cognomen of their mother, sometimes even of their 
grandmother. The father may be quite creditable and 
even useful ; he may have paid for the boots on the little 
feet ; more often he is the man who sends strange 
/' postage stamps from across the sea. But the mother is 
to be obeyed. She rules at the hearth, and shapes the 
young lives. She is the guardian of the faith, and of the 
old lore that will long compete with the newer science of 
the schoolmaster. 

So the emigrant comes home for a wife, and if he goes 
out again there are the little ones to draw him back. 
" Yes, I was in Chicago," said the saintly-faced sacristan 

of P to us. " Ma pensava sempre alia famiglia." 

Not the stuff to make a colonist of, perhaps, but the man 
was a good possession for his own home. " If you liked 
America so much, why did you come back .'' " we asked 
of a labourer in a stony waste one day. " I had one 
leetle boy," was all his answer. 

But the emigration has been so universal, and so 
incomplete — resolving itself into a series of trips to and 


fro — that the language of the younger male inhabitants 
is English, or rather, American, not uncommonly with an 
Irish accent. 

We have craned our necks to look at craggy villages, 
so high-pitched and so silent that we have thought of 
them as tombs of some ancient people long since vanished. 
But did we venture up the toilsome mule-path that led 
there, then hardly had we passed the gate into the 
mouldering place than we were greeted by the " Ameri- 
cani " — so are they always called, the returned exiles — 
in a language that was approximately our own. In that 
we did not hail from New York or Boston we were dis- 

Only when we had crossed into the Terra di Lavoro, 
at Sora, did we find London to be a place of fame. 
One acquaintance there wished to treat us to drinks 
without limit, because he had made his fortune selling 
ice-cream to little London urchins. His fortune, ;^40, 
he brought back to Sora, where he swaggered like a 
millionaire. But do not credit the Abruzzesi with poison- 
ing the youth of London. They are all for the West — 
for the brickfields and the mines and the factories. 
Then back to their hills again. The emigration com- 
mittees are now speaking of Australia as a field for them. 
That will be a longer exile, with fewer returns. Has 
Italy no work yet for these hardy, frugal peasants to do — 
Italy that is growing rich, and that breeds the best 
scientists of Europe ? Will the North, that has had 
the lion's share of the national resources, stand back 
awhile and give a chance to the troublesome South — the 
neglected South, rather, that needs the generous expendi- 
ture of genius and of capital in the organization of its 
labour and its instruction, if ever it is to cease from 
troubling ? 

There may be a better hour dawning ; but save in 
the matter of public safety — and there the benefit has 

24 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

been immense — even enthusiasts for Italian unity cannot 
say that these provinces have gained very much. They 
have got some roads and some railways, a means of 
leaving a country that cannot support them. They have 
got secular education, but it is in a backward condition, 
and it is not rigidly enforced. Materially, they are worse 
off. The people eat less well, and are not so well clad. 
They are ground by taxes, as elsewhere in Italy, but 
here they get much less in return. The damning fact is 
that the Abruzzi, which is beyond all suspicion of malaria, 
— if you except a spot or two on the coast — which has 
air as pure and as exhilarating as any part of Switzerland, 
has the highest death-rate, for its population, in Italy. 
Ignorance and poverty are the causes. Were it not for 
the money made in America, the people could not live. 
Again and again in the books of travellers written during 
the Bourbon regime, I have met passages describing a 
prosperous condition of things in places which to-day are 
ruined and dead. Modern life has killed the home crafts, 
and given nothing in their stead. Native capitalists 
hardly exist. Encouragement in industries must come 
from without, and it delays too long. Yet there might be 
good returns among a people of traditional skill in handi- 
crafts. There may not yet be enough money in Italy to 
go round all the time, but the North has taken the lion's 
share of the booty. It takes it still, and then calls out 
on the South because it is backward and recalcitrant. 

In the moral benefit of a settled government there is 
some compensation, of course. But man cannot live by 
political theory, nor even by political liberty, alone — as 
is being found out all over Europe. And here especially 
is this the case. As the economist Signor Nitti says, 
" Southern Italy is neither conservative, nor liberal, nor 
radical. It has no politics at all." Why should it have .-* 
It has had no political education, save the worst — that 
of frequently changing tyrannies. In these particular 


provinces the present regime excites little enthusiasm 
and little active antagonism. The uniform of the 
carabinieri is its most commonly known symbol ; and 
police, however efficient and upright, are poor repre- 
sentatives of the beneficence of a government. Among 
the middle-aged there is a vague, hopeless air of waiting 
for they know not what. Definite opinion exists only 
among the very young men who have had schooling ; 
and among them it is distinctly socialistic, I should say. 
At all events, it is not reactionary. They have learnt to 
love liberty ; but in its name they will soon be asking 
for the liberty to live in their native country. 



Ancestry of the Abruzzesi — The Samnite Wars — The brilliant Marsi — 
Latinizing of the Italians — The Social, or Marsic, War — Corfinium 
as Italica — The peril of Rome — The Italians Roman citizens— The 
Abruzzesi in face of the invaders— Changing dynasties — The isolation 
of the mountains — In the Risorgimento — The Carbonari — General 
Pepe in the Abruzzi — Growing hopelessness of the Liberals — Bomba's 
policy : " My people have no need to think," 

Who are these people, and what has been their 
history ? 

They had a glorious past, but it is far, far back. 
Taking no account for the moment of later admixtures, 
they are of the true ancient Italian stock, of the non- 
Latin branch of it. Of their kindred are the Umbrians, 
the Sabines, the Oscans, and the Samnites. There is a 
legend— and back here we move in a mist of legend — 
that their forefathers, pressed by the Umbrians in a 
season of famine and stress, vowed a ver sacniin, about 
the time the kings were reigning in Rome. That is, 
they vowed to send all their sons, born in a year of war, 
without their boundaries. Forth then they went to the 
fate the gods had in store for them, their guide an animal 
sacred to Mars. Thus the Samnites, led by the bull, 
journeyed south, and settled first in the highlands above 
the valley of the Sangro, and later along the eastern 
side of the Matese chain. Their earliest colonies were 
to the south-east of the present Abruzzo, in what is now 
the province of Molise. But these, the most warlike and 



the most brilliant of all the peoples of Southern Italy, 
were destined to spread much farther and to richer lands. 
A second band, led by the woodpecker of Mars — and 
so, according to the legend, named the Piceni — settled in 
the Marches of Ancona, Ascoli Piceni, on the northern 
frontier of the Abruzzi, being one of their chief towns. 
Other tribes branched off this way and that among the 
mountains of the Central Apennines. The Vestini took 
possession of the region of the Gran Sasso, under which 
Aquila was built in later times. The Marrucini went to 
the south of the river Pescara and east of the Majella 
range ; the Frentani, seaward of these, from the mouth of 
the Pescara to the river Trigno ; and the Peligni to the 
western spurs and valleys of Majella. Separated from 
the Peligni by the Mte. Grande range, were the Marsi, 
who settled about the Fucine lake ; the last, with their 
neighbours, the Aequi, coming into contact with the 
Volscians and the Latins. There are famous names 
among these ; and the Samnites, the Marsi, and the 
Peligni, came near to annihilating Rome. But one small 
kindred tribe, which history hardly mentions at all, the 
Pretutii, that fixed itself near where Teramo is to-day, 
was destined, for some never-explained reason, to give 
its name to all this mountainous region. Abruzzo is still 
in the peasant's tongue Apruzzo. Its old name, Aprutium 
means the country of the Pretutii. 

The Samnites, the most ambitious colonizers among 
them, spread to the south where they came in contact 
with the quickening Hellenic civilization, and westward 
where they won riches and degenerated from their 
ancient hardihood. But they felt their kinship with the 
mountaineers they had left in the north, and in its name 
called to the Marsi, the Peligni, the Marrucini for help 
in the great struggle against treaty-breaking Rome. 
These mountaineers had settled to the life they have led 

28 IN THE ABRUZZI [ft. i. 

for the most part ever since, to the keeping of flocks and 
herds, to the cultivation of the lower slopes of the hills 
and the sheltered valleys. A hardy race, they prospered 
in their mountains with that austere and limited prosperity 
possible in their climate ; and lived long in their rocky 
fastnesses, undisturbed by Etruscans or Latins or Greeks. 
Town life was little developed among them, but for 
purposes of defence they built some citadels, round about 
which clustered their clan villages. There were loose 
confederations among them, and the scattered tribes 
acknowledged their kinship on great occasions. Had 
these confederations been faster, had the tribes sought 
each other's continuous friendship, they might have 
changed the story of Italy and of the world. But the 
idea of local independence, so strong in all the Italian 
peoples, was already a rooted instinct with them. Climate 
and the configuration of the country helped towards this ; 
and so local feuds and high mountains kept them apart 
till the great Sabellian fiery cross went round. Shut up 
in their lofty solitudes, they kept their hardihood and 
frugality ; but, after their famous struggle, exercised little 
or no influence on the rest of Italy. In their isolation 
was no germ of political training — and hence the long 
tragedy of their later history. 

It was the Samnites who earliest resisted the aggres- 
sive policy of Rome, and the struggle began in the valley 
of the Liris. They looked all round for allies, but at 
first they were unsupported save by their kindred of the 
mountain tribes. True, the Etruscans joined, but soon 
gave ia. The Marsi, the Peligni, Frentani, Vestini, Piceni, 
were the true brothers-in-arms of the Samnites, of the 
same hardy, fiery, indomitable stock. But Rome was 
strong enough then to recover from the defeat of the 
Caudine Forks ; and in the determined march of the 
Roman soldiers through to the Adriatic, one tribe after 
the other had to surrender. Even the Samnites at last 


sued for peace. The victory of Rome seemed complete 
in the year B.C. 303. The Aequi, on the western borders 
of the allied tribes — their territory mostly inside our 
province— were still up in arms ; but their rebellion was 
ruthlessly put down, and all the Equine and ^quiculine 
territory, save the strip now known as Cicolano, passed 
into the power of Rome. It was now, B.C. 302, that the 
Romans refortified Alba — Alba Fucensis— on the Fucine 
lake, and sent there a colony of six thousand men to 
form a bulwark against the valiant Marsi ; while two 
years later was built the Roman colony of Carsioli, the 
^Equine inhabitants of the earlier town having been 
scattered to right and left. Near the modern Carsoli 
to-day you enter the Abruzzi from the west ; but the 
Roman town is now only a heap of stones and a 

From this time, and for long, the Romans had no 
braver or more brilliant allies than the Marsi, a people 
of great gifts in war and peace — so valiant in war that 
the saying ran, "Who can triumph over the Marsi, or 
without them } " — and famous, too, for their skill in art, 
their mystic wisdom, and their magic powers. 

But the Samnites, though beaten, had not given in. 
Men sprang out of the dust in their territories to defy 
Rome ; and if only Tarantum had helped, they would 
have wrung the rights and privileges they demanded 
from her, or extended their territory, till a death-struggle 
had ensued between genius and discipline. But Southern 
Italy did not rise at their call ; and Samnium had fought 
with a few intervals for nearly fifty years when peace 
was made in B.C. 290. Rome multiplied her colonies in 
the disaffected districts. The strong fortress of Atria 
was built in B.C. 282 as the keystone of the mighty 
wedge separating North and South Italy. This is Atri 
Piceno — if not the birthplace of Hadrian, at least the 
cradle of his race — from which, and not from Atria 

30 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Veneta, the Abruzzesi will have it the Adriatic took its 

Now set in a deliberate Latinizing of these provinces 
by military means. The mountaineers were largely 
drawn on for soldiers, the Celtic invasions giving a 
pretext for this. They were bidden feel what a privilege 
it was to belong to the togati. But Rome, in its passion 
for discipline and unity, very nearly over-reached itself. 
The Latinization was never more than skin-deep ; and 
Rome, striving after a political unity — without equality, 
moreover — only contrived to create a national unity 
deeply hostile to itself. The name of Italian given to 
these peoples by the Greeks of the South began to have a 
cohesive meaning for them. It would soon be a war-cry. 

It is significant of their character, and prophetic of 
their history, that in the Punic War they were not eager 
to fight on either side. They had far less aggressiveness 
than their Samnite kinsmen ; and, indeed, they have 
never fought willingly save for one thing — to be let alone. 
But Hannibal had some allies amongst them ; and Rome 
felt the general coldness to its interests, and revenged it. 
After the defeat of Hannibal the help of the mountain- 
eers was not immediately necessary. Any defections on 
their part were punished. The waverers' lands were 
confiscated. Suspect persons were banished. New 
Roman colonies were formed, into which strangers were 
brought, and they alone were favoured. The judgment 
on the tribes after the Samnite War had been milder 
than now, when there was no general revolt. In fact, 
settlement in Latin colonies was the only road to peace 
and comfort, and that became daily more and more 
impossible. The end of the Punic War had let loose 
bands of lawless, desperate men, who found in the 
mountains a shelter. Slave labour grew the most profit- 
able to the few large landowners left ; and slave herds- 
men and shepherds soon outnumbered the free labourers. 


Things righted themselves to some extent among a 
hardy and industrious people ; and the farmers of the 
Abruzzi maintained a sturdy front. But the political 
conditions were intolerable, and martial law reigned 
perpetually. Yet, on the surface, there was peace for 
nearly two hundred years. 

But the voice of Caius Gracchus penetrated into the 
mountains. And Drusus had friends there — Marsi and 
Peligni — in secret league with him. Rome was full of 
tumults and revolts, and at variance with herself This 
was the opportunity of the tribes, and especially of the 
Marsi — for Rome had tired out her best allies. The 
Social War, which now was to shake Rome to its founda- 
tions, was called the Marsic War. The fiery cross went 
out again to the old confederation. Arming went on in 
secret ; and the great Marsian chief and hero of the 
war, O. Pompidius Silo, a friend of Drusus, had it in his 
mind to march to the city at the head of his men and 
seize it. Nevertheless, the first fire was not kindled 
among the Marsi, but among the Piceni at Ascoli. The 
Roman praetor, Gaius Servilius, learning that Ascoli was 
in league with neighbouring towns, went there with a 
small escort, determined to browbeat the people and 
stifle any resistance by prompt executions. In the 
theatre he harangued them, scolding, threatening, his 
lictors standing by with their axes. The multitude rose 
like one man, killed the praetor and his underlings then 
and there, and, closing the gates, left not a living Roman 
in the town. 

The fire was kindled. The Marsi were ready. So 
were the Peligni, the Vestini, the Frentani, all the 
mountaineers. And the Samnites joined ; till, in Central 
and Southern Italy, only Etruria and Umbria stood by 
Rome, which woke up to recognize its peril. It still 
kept the officials in the disaffected regions ; but all the 

32 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

farmers, all the substantial middle-class, were in revolt. 
And not even the colonies, Alba, Carsioli, Atria, Aesernia, 
were safe. But the impulsiveness of the Ascolani was 
not imitated. Envoys were sent with messages to the 
effect that the confederates would lay down their arms in 
return for Roman citizenship. The messengers sued in 

Then they defied Rome, B.C. 90. They would have 
their own Rome, a centre of the new national unity. 
For this they chose Corfinium of the Peligni. (Look 
for its meagre ruins to-day near little Pentima, about 
eight miles from Sulmona.) Citizenship on a Roman 
model was granted to all the burgesses, drawn from 
many tribes, and to all the insurgents. Strong walls 
were thrown up. A senate house was built. A senate 
of five hundred members was elected, and supreme 
authority in peace and war was given to two consuls and 
twelve praetors. The old Samnite language, then spoken 
by all save the Piceni and the Marsi, was officially 
recognized, and money was coined. Slow of incubation, 
the movement was now whole - hearted, essentially 
national. It was no mere question any longer of winning 
a political franchise they were debating. They re- 
nounced Rome. They were a separate state — Italia. 
Corfinium was Italica. 

Rome knew its danger at last ; tried to set its house 
in order, mended its walls, and sought everywhere for 
recruits, near home and far off, among Celts, among 
Numidians ; and collected a fleet from the cities of 
Greece and Asia Minor. It was able to put about ten 
thousand men in the field. The Italians gathered as 
many. The Roman Rutilius Lupus and Lucius Julius 
Caisar were great generals. But Ouintus Silo, the 
Marsian, was a leader of consummate genius, and Gaius 
Papius Mutilus, of the Samnites, hardly less so. 

The insurrection spread, and the first events were 


disastrous to the Roman arms. Silo was throwing him- 
self on the colony of Alba, and Mutilus- on yEsernia, 
which, after a desperate struggle, capitulated to the 
Italians. All Campania, except Nuceria, was lost to 
Rome ; and the strangers in the Roman army were won 
over. The Numidians deserted to the insurgents when 
they saw Oxyntas, Jugurtha's son, clad in purple among 
the Samnites, There were ups and downs ; but, on the 
whole, success was with the Italians. Caesar was routed 
by the Samnites and Marsi under P. Vettius Scato. 
Strabo, with a great force, was sent to Picenum, but the 
main part of the Roman troops remained under Lupus 
on the Marsian border, to guard the passage to the 
capital. Here a great battle was fought, Scato again 
the victor. The river Turano ran red with Roman 
blood, and Lupus met his death. Marius hastily came 
to the rescue and saved a remnant of the legion. 

What were they like, those mighty warriors that 
defied Rome .'' Here is a portrait by Silius Italicus of a 
Vestino : " Tall, handsome, strong of body, with long 
flowing locks, his face covered with thick black hair. 
Over his great broad shoulders he wears a rough bear's 
skin. He is armed with a light, crooked spear, and with 
a sling to bring down birds on the wing." 

Fortune wavered. Now the Peligni were cut down 
by Servius Sulpicius ; now the Marsi and Vestini, under 
Silo, had their revenge. Marius, the wily, pla}'ed with 
Silo, egging him on, yet refusing battle till he could 
administer a terrific defeat — when the chief of the 
Marrucini fell — and following this up by a rout of the 
Marsi. But the Roman forces were taxed beyond their 
strength ; and the supply of Italians seemed inex- 
haustible. The contentions within the city were so 
many and bitter, that, had the enemy knocked at the 
door, they might have bestowed the name of Italica on 
Rome itself. In desperation, the Senate offered terms at 


34 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

last, but terms which satisfied nobody ; and the war 
continued, Lucius Porcius Cato succeeding Marius in his 
command, and Strabo still endeavouring to hold the 
Picenian territory for Rome. A determined movement 
to divert the Roman attack from the Abruzzi by sending 
fifteen thousand Marsi to Etruria, was defeated by Strabo. 
Few ever came back ; but Cato, hoping to take advantage 
of the drain of men from the Fucine territory, advancing, 
there met his death ; and now on Strabo fell the full 

The turning-point may be said to have come at 
Ascoli (taken and retaken many times), where the 
Italian chief, Judacilius, forced to surrender, died by his 
own hand. The surrender of Theate of the Marrucini 
(Chieti) to Servius Sulpicius was not long delayed. Bit 
by bit Rome won round the Fucine lake and in the 
country of the Peligni ; till at last Italica was no longer 
Italica, but Corfinium once again. From an empty 
Senate house that mocked them, the remnant of senators 
fled to the south, whither Silo had gone to hearten the 
Samnites. From Samnium the flame might still have 
spread, had not Silo fallen at Bovianum, B.C. 88. That 
was the end. Roman arms had prevailed at last ; but 
the old Rome had been beaten. Internally weak, and 
the Mithridatic War begun, she needed allies ; and the 
Italians had proved superabundantly their worth. Resist- 
ance to their demands had cost her dear, at one time 
nearly her existence. Their demands were granted. 
All Italians were made Roman citizens. 

On the Romans the Social, or the Marsic, War 
made a profound impression. Latin writers are eloquent 
on the fiery bravery, the splendid qualities of these 
rebels, who had proved themselves the equals of their l 
best forces. The " embattled farmers " had shaken the 
ancient world. The old ideal of Italian unity, the dream 
of every age, so hard to realize, so constantly defeated. 


was made for a brief moment a reality by these moun- 

From such heroic tribes, then, come the main stock 
of the Abruzzi people. They have not forgotten the 
glorious pages in their history. The Marsic land is 
Marsica still. Italians ? Yes. Abruzzesi } Yes. But 
Marsi first of all are the people there. The strip of wild 
country behind the Sabine mountains, where the ^quiculi 
held out so obstinately in the Samnite War, is still Cicolano. 
Little Pentima in the Sulmona Valley will not let you 
pass through its sorry streets, each called after one of the 
confederated tribes, without directing you to the spot 
where rise the meagre ruins of Corfinium. On the 
neighbouring railway station you read not Pratola, but 
Pratola Peligna. 

Rome, no longer the mistress but the capital of Italy^ 
yet did its best to Romanize the provinces, with limited 
success. The tribal characteristics still remained strong 
as ever. Only to the aristocracy did the City set the 
fashion. Of course, there was give and take. Rome 
made new roads. The Romans built summer villas in 
the high pure air ; and the country was much better 
known than it is to-day. Something was done to make 
up for all that had been destroyed in the Samnite Wars. 
Roman culture penetrated ; and in return, to Roman 
literature Amiterno — the vanished Amiterno of the 
Vestini — gave Sallust, and Sulmona Ovid. Nor did the 
Marsian and Pelignian valour fail, but helped to give 
Rome the dominion of the world. Their aid, however, 
was exercised with a good deal of independence, and 
some caprice, especially in Roman civil strife. 

They never became infected with Roman aggressive- 
ness ; never identified themselves with Rome, as they 
never did with the invaders that succeeded. They had 
fought for their political rights and dignity. That gained, 
they laid down their arms and went back to their sheep 

36 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

and their cornfields. And that has been their history 
ever since. They have loved their country, and have 
desired to be let alone in it. They have not been let 
alone in it, for they have shared the common fate of 
Italy. One invader after another has come to their land, 
the gate — say, rather, the stairway — into Southern Italy ; 
and, since there has been little to share, has taken of the 
best. Goths and Lombards, Franks and Swabians, 
Spaniards and French and Austrians, have come. The 
Abruzzesi have sometimes resisted, and then let the 
stranger pass. And the moral of their political experience 
has been — Plus cela cha?ige,pl2is c'est la mcme chose. Per- 
haps something colder and more apathetic came from an 
infusion of Northern blood into their veins to temper 
their fiery valour ; and their poverty under every dynasty 
has bred political cynicism in them. They early shrank 
into themselves, pursued their own arts, learned their own 
lore, practised their own austere virtues. Christianity 
found a welcome in a land that had always been a great 
religious centre ; but it had to consent to live alongside 
the older faiths ; and so it lives still. 

Under the Swabian rule, especially under the great 
Frederic II., the Abruzzo had its best chance of a 
generous development. Northerner and Southerner in 
one as he was, he was well fitted to understand and to 
use this race, at once so reserved and so fiery. And if 
disaffection he treated drastically, as at Celano, yet his 
policy was, in the main, munificent and far-seeing. He 
had a clear motive in strengthening a province which 
could be a natural defence against the states of his arch- 
enemy, the Pope. It was Frederic who founded Aquila, 
and his son made it into a strong citadel. And it was in 
the Abruzzi that his grandson, the gallant young Conradin, 
dared his fortune, and challenged the Angevin Charles to 
deadly combat, seeking the heritage of his fathers. Near 
Tagliacozzo was the battle fought which Conradin so 


nearly won. When the boy was beheaded at Naples, 
there died a good hope of the Abruzzi. From the 
pietistic Charles the province got nothing save some 
ecclesiastical foundations. He flooded it with his French 
nobles, who got all the fat land there was. For one 
hundred and seventy- five years the Angevins ruled 
execrably. The kingdom knew no unity. Naples was 
continually disturbed. The mountains had only neglect, 
and were trodden under the heel of alien barons. Then 
came the Aragonese dynasty, five kings in less than 
sixty years, and the kingdom sank to the condition of a 
province. After the struggle between the Aragonese 
Frederic with the Crown of Spain, it fell to Ferdinand the 
Catholic ; and Naples was now only the seat of a vice- 
royalty. The vice-royal Government, which lasted two 
hundred and thirty years, was one only fit for slaves, and 
it bred many. Need one describe the rule of the 
Bourbons ? Think, then, of the lamentable history of the 
kingdom of Naples ; modify it, or intensify it, by neglect, 
and you have the story of the Abruzzi. 

That story is but an aggravation of the history of 
every mountain people that love their mountains, and 
are not aggressive, or greedy for the riches of the plain. 
There have flourished the hardy virtues and the love of 
local independence. Tradition has been a great power. 
The home arts have flourished. The strong religious 
instinct has given the Church a special hold. Feudalism 
had an easy growth and died hard. Isolation forced 
their culture to be largely home-made ; and civilization, 
save as the Church brought it, penetrated very slowly. 

This is not an altogether unhappy picture. The 
frugal, self-contained community, forced to labour in the 
open air, and with aptitude for the manual arts, is per- 
haps the happiest the world has ever known. And so 
far as this primitive happiness depended on themselves 
the Abruzzesi long enjoyed it. But that instinctive 

38 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

craving for local independence, that dislike of the 
meddling stranger, which they have shared with every 
mountain people, has been continually frustrated and 
defied. And especially in later ages has their fate been 
hard, when only neglect has alternated with the inter- 
ference of the worst government outside Russia that 
modern Europe has ever known. 

And the Abruzzi in the Risorgimento ? Here we 
have a very divided story. There are chapters full of 
fiery heroism, others of long apathy, others of ineffectual 
struggle, of furious reaction. The province has been 
called the La Vendee of new Italy ; but that is only one 
side of the tale. The pity that there should have been 
two sides, and these irreconcilable ! but that is just what 
the Bourbons succeeded excellently in producing. " La 
vergogna di essere ultimi mentre fummo i Precursor!," 
cried the patriot Poerio. And so they were, the pre- 
cursors, those quick-witted, quick-blooded Neapolitans. 
The victorious North has had its meed of praise. The 
South has rarely had its due — the South that should have 
been all servile and degraded from the policy of its rulers, 
and yet bred a great crop of heroes. 

The ideas of liberty came in with the echoes of the 
French Revolution ; and if the French invaders were 
hated, they spread free opinions, nevertheless, and 
developed them. Then came Carbonarism, and its birth- 
place was the Neapolitan kingdom. It was the Carbonari 
who first denounced the foreign yoke — all foreign yokes 
— on Italian necks. The movement spread through the 
kingdom like wildfire, and the Abruzzese Gabriele 
Rossetti gave it effective voice. All over the Abruzzi it 
took deep root. An intellectual movement at first ; outside 
its native boundaries, in Romagna, where Byron joined 
it, it grew fiercer. Save liberty and independence, it had 
no other binding watchwords, was not specially republi- 
can, nor did it specially seek the unity of Italy. 


Yet an Abruzzese was among the first to speak of 
Italy as one — Melchiorre Delfico, who sent from Turin, 
in 1 8 14, a message to Napoleon in Elba, offering him in 
the name of the " Congresso constituente dell' impero 
romano," the " rinascente impero corona " in return for his 
sword. He should reign, but over a free people. " Che 
Cesare sia grande," ran the message, " ma che Roma si a 
libera. L'ltalia, Sire, ha bisogno di voi ... la natura 
vi fece italiano. Dite come Dio alia luce ; si faccia ITtalia 
e l'ltalia si fara." 

It was on the Carbonari of the Abruzzi that General 
Pepe counted for resistance of the Austrian invasion. 
His campaign in the province began with high hopes. 
Everywhere he was received with enthusiasm, and at 
Chieti forty thousand people came out to meet him, the 
youths bearing olive branches and garlands. But for all 
the olive branches they were full of fighting spirit. Just 
when he was preparing to turn this fervour to military 
ends he was recalled. Had he been left he would have 
been fighting against tremendous odds, for in such a state 
of neglect was the country, and so ridiculous were the 
fortifications, that Tagliacozzo and Popoli would have 
been impossible to defend. The artillery had not shot 
enough for a single fight. It was Christmas-time, deep 
snow lay on the ground, and the men had neither coats 
nor shoes. The next time he went, in 1820, the Austrians 
were preparing to throw their whole force into the king- 
dom, and were on the Abruzzi frontier. To Pepe the 
moment had come for effective resistance, and he counted 
on the mountaineers to aid him — not in vain. He made 
his way to Aquila through deep snow, his men falling 
and groping all the way, without food, without coats, 
without provisions ; and no appeals could rouse the 
authorities at Naples out of their apathy and incapacity, 
though it was well known that the whole of the Austrian 
troops were at the gates. His men had come so far by 

40 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

a miracle of constancy and endurance ; but they knew 
the game was up, and Pepe knew it too, when he found 
the Neapolitan generals under him in secret treaty with 
the enemy. Naturally, the soldiers began to desert, and 
with those he had left he determined to give battle at 
Rieti. It was a hopeless attempt, for he was out- 
numbered many times. With a sinking heart for a 
frustrate chance, he gave in ; and the Austrians poured 
over the frontier. 

There were many readers of Gioberti and followers of 
Mazzini in the Abruzzi, and a constant propaganda, open 
and secret, was carried on. But they were too much 
isolated from each other and from the rest of the world. 
There were many valiant attempts at revolution — at 
Aquila, Penne, and elsewhere. Each was put down with 
an iron hand, and each had its martyrs. But by 1848 
the spirit had died out of the lovers of liberty. It was not 
so much the rebuffs from the Government, nor the perse- 
cutions of the /«/^«<^^//// — some of them ancient brigands ; 
but a cynical scepticism now bound their minds. The 
ideas of the Revolution and of Carbonarism were irreal- 
izable. They had known so many kinds of government 
since the name of liberty began to be whispered — the 
Parthenopeian Republic, and Joseph Bonaparte's and 
Murat's, and reaction, and a constitution, and reaction 
again. Nothing availed. But the chief cause of the dis- 
couragement was the plain fact that the revolutionary 
leaders could not speak in the name of the people. The 
Bourbons had seen to that. 

Their policy, and especially that of Ferdinand II., was 
to harry and torment the middle-classes and such of the 
aristocracy as displayed any independence, and to favour 
the people. This favour did not extend very far, no 
farther, indeed, than in levying few or no taxes on them, 
and ensuring that in any dispute between them and their 

cir. II.] OLD TIMES AND NEW" 41 

social superiors they should have the preference. The 
governors' instructions were clear on that point ; and it 
was their business, as well as that of the priests, to teach 
the doctrine that there was none above the people but 
the king. Not that the priests were invariably sub- 
servient to the Bourbons. There were patriots among 
them, and many a Franciscan friar was a missionary of 
liberty. Nothing was done for the development of the 
country ; but if a peasant went to church he was not 
meddled with, and what he made was his own. A brigand 
who wore an amulet and cast up his eyes at the name of 
the Virgin was counted a better citizen than any middle- 
class man not enrolled definitely among the defenders of 
Church and Throne. There was a time when a citizen 
of standing and repute might not leave his home without 
the consent of his wife and parish priest. Had he not 
been regular at mass, as likely as not the priest would 
refuse it. He might not send his sons from home to be 
educated ; and the local education was just what the 
clergy allowed it to be. He might receive no journals 
save the official gazette, which the police had edited. 
He might not dress as he liked, nor wear his hair as 
he liked. A little busybody of Chieti, Don Placido 
Picerone, a ridiculous personage, but well seen of the 
authorities, used to watch for citizens with an unorthodox 
cut of beard, and drag them to the barber forthwith ! 
Spies were everywhere. Spying was the only industry, 
besides brigandage, that the later Bourbons encouraged 
and paid for in these provinces. According to Queen 
Caroline, the Austrian wife of Ferdinand I., it was 
incumbent on priests " to honour spies ; they should 
make use both of the pulpit and the confessional to keep 
the people in check." But spies were by no means all 
clerical; and lay informers grew so dangerous to the 
liberty of reputable citizens, that neighbours practically 
gave up all social intercourse, and shut themselves fast 

42 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

in the little circle of their families. And the father might 
not even read the newspaper in the cafe ! 

We can conceive of Ferdinand II. as a "bon petit roi 
d'Yvetot," if Yvetot had never learned to read and write. 
The fantastic imagination of the Abruzzi peasants was 
perhaps not all out of sympathy with him when he 
appointed Ignatius Loyola a marshal in his army, with 
a salary ! In his early days it was his ambition to reign 
over a docile and happy people. He desired to be the 
most benevolent of autocrats ; but his benevolence was 
frustrated by wicked persons who would have opinions of 
their own — and he became Bomba. No need to remind 
English readers what his prisons were like. The fortress 
of Pescara, in the Abruzzi, was never empty of chained 
victims. Not that a large number of his subjects were 
actually put to death during the troubles. His advisers 
feared the outcries of the Neapolitan exiles whose voices 
sounded through Europe, especially the exiles in London. 
But the number will never be counted of those who 
suffered in dungeons, or by constant persecutions outside, 
for their refusal to be the Bourbon's creatures' creatures. 

Perhaps no kings have ever so deliberately waged 
war with human intelligence as Bomba and his venal 
son. " Mon peuple n'a pas besoin de penser," said the 
former. The history of the censorship in the kingdom 
of the Two Sicilies reads to us like a farce ; but the jest 
was a sorry one near at hand. The censor's corrections 
were those of an illiterate pedant. A work on galvinism 
was rejected, the author being reminded Calvin was 
among those whom no decent writer would name ! A 
grammar " for the use of Italians " was passed, with the 
title changed. The word " Italian " was revolutionary ! 
Of course the censorship was often fooled and defied. 
An attack on Ferdinand himself passed under the title 
of " II Cuore Trafitto," and Lammenais's " Paroles d'un 
Croyant " under that of " De imviacniato beaUe Virgiiiis 


Maries conceptu." There were clandestine presses, and 
the name of Brussels or some other foreign city appeared 
on the title-page instead of Naples. Students of the 
history of the Abruzzi, or, indeed, of any of the Neapolitan 
provinces in the early nineteenth century, cannot over- 
look one nauseous proof of the censorship. Not only 
are the dedications to the reigning prince of a servility 
rarely equalled before, but into the text are interpolated 
solid chunks of fulsome flattery, having no reference at 
all to the subject in hand. This was a recognized means 
of gaining an impriniaULr. 

Notwithstanding all this, in the poor, almost roadless 
Abruzzi, where difficulties of education were greater than 
elsewhere, where books were difficult to procure, even 
apart from the censorship, they read and thought and 
printed. Chieti was a fiery centre of propaganda. When 
one newspaper was suppressed, two sprang up in its place 
with lightning speed, though editors, writers, and readers 
went to prison. The peasants who could not read were 
for the Bourbons ; so far was the Abruzzi the La Vendee 
of new Italy. But outside the circle of officials — and the 
Government multiplied offices great and little — nearly all 
the educated persons were liberals. There was the 
tragedy : the long-drawn struggle, the want of cohesion 
that made it so fruitless, and gave them so poor a share 
in the triumph of the end. 

But from these words on the Abruzzi in the Risorgi- 
mento one dark feature has been omitted, and that is 



Disappearance of the brigands — Will they ever come back ? — Nature and 
causes of brigandage in the Abruzzi — Alarco Sciarra — Tasso and the 
brigand — Eighteenth-century brigands — Famous bandits during the 
French occupation — Paul-Louis Courier's journey — General ]\Ianhes — 
Bourbon encouragement of banditti — Brigand and guide — Brigands' 
arrogance — Brigands' songs — 11 Plebiscito — Foreigners in the bands — 
A brigand dandy — A carabiniere of genius — The Venti Scttcmbrc — 
The Legge Pica — Lingering memories of brigands. 

We were warned on all sides before starting not to risk 
our precious lives in the wild solitudes of the Abruzzi, 
the " home of brigands." I am sorry to have to break 
it to the young and adventurous that there are no 
brigands left ; that while Sicily can provide some, and 
Sardinia still boasts a few, that while in recent years a 
Musolino has ruffled it in Calabria, and Ruffolone round 
about Viterbo, you may wander now by night or day in 
the Abruzzi and never be asked for purse or life. The 
young and adventurous must be content with chance 
meetings of wolves, and these only on the higher levels. 
The carabinieri ride the mountains, ubiquitous, vigilant, 
efficient ; and were they less so, there is little likelihood 
of the old bandit plague cropping up again. In the 
Abruzzi the people condoled with us for living in so 
dangerous a place as London ; and when we came to 
think of it we owned (to ourselves) they were right. 
London is so much more perilous to life and limb. But 
this safety is a very recent thing ; and the middle-aged 



can tell you, if they will, of a very different state of 
affairs. They do not pour out these reminiscences to 
the first comer by any means. Rather will they give 
him the impression that they hear of brigands for the 
first time from his lips. They are not proud of that 
chapter of their history which ended almost entirely in 
1870. Till that date there had always been more or less 
brigandage in the Abruzzi, and generally more rather 
than less. 

To look at the country is to see that it seems destined 
by nature to be a land of outlaws. Even now, when it is 
cut up by excellent roads and railways, and when most 
of its forests have been cleared, it could still afford 
endless shelter for raiding bands. On its heights, in its 
hollows, its trackless wastes, its rocky recesses, a Dold 
captain and his men might defy the soldiers as of old, 
and dispersed, as they would be, spring up again and yet 
again. As the train toils painfully up the tremendous 
heights, say, near Campo di Giove, or Rocca di Corno, it 
should not be difficult for a spirited gang to board it and 
have their will of the spoil. I hasten to add that no such 
attempts are made ; and the spoil would often consist of 
but a few old market-women's baskets. Yet I cannot 
help informing the youth of the world, kicking over the 
traces of a tame civilization, that here still in Italy, but a 
short and easy journey from the Rome of the tourists, is 
a wild land made for wild exploits, where they could at 
least give the police many a pretty chase before the fun 
was over. 

And since of old the harassed and unhappy in the 
Abruzzi were always wont to take to the hills, and plan 
and work reprisals from there, one wonders will the 
discontent, which smoulders here as elsewhere in patient 
Italy, but here with special justification, ever use the wild 
opportunities at its doors as a lever to force some relief, 
some encouragement, some sustenance for energy and 

46 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

industry, out of the middle-class, lawyer-ridden Govern- 
ment that rules at Rome, and manifests itself in the 
southern provinces mainly in the pretty and well-kept 
uniform of the carabinieri ? I repeat again, there is no 
obvious sign of this ; only one cannot forget the history of 
this land when wandering through its tameless solitudes. 
Calm-minded judges, both native and outsiders, are 
generally agreed that the Abruzzesi are a frugal, hard- 
working, honest, patient race, neither predatory nor 
rebellious by nature, far more disciplinable than the 
Calabrians. Yet the three provinces of the Abruzzi 
have till recently never been free from brigandage ; and 
the chronicle of the bandits' exploits is appalling in its 
length and extent. Every mountainous country has had, 
of course, its robber bands. There have been special 
reasons why in this one they should have had longer 
power than elsewhere. Age upon age passed, and all 
the rulers of this wild land were strangers to the people. 
They came and went, Romans and Goths, Lombards 
and Franks and Germans, Spaniards and French, each 
with their own laws, which were set up and disappeared, 
all of them arbitrary and accidental in the eyes of the 
natives. The poor land had little to give the invader ; 
but what it possessed it was despoiled of pretty equally 
by all. Isolated in their mountains, the people learnt 
in the course of ages a resignation strongly tinged with 
cynicism, content to keep their sheep, to pursue their 
own little town and village life, glad when none meddled. 
There were princes and powers they could realize, 
strangers, too, for the most part, but naturalized — the 
Caldora, the Cantelmi, the lords of Sangro, and near the 
Roman frontier, the Colonna and the Orsini ; and 
the local wars of these princes were a fine school for 
bandits. So when the Grand Companies roamed the 
land, the people saw brigandage legitimized and re- 
warded. Sforza and Braccio and Piccinino were but 


brigands of wider range, with king or pope at their back 
to urge and recompense them. Even when order ruled 
in the townships there were ahvays the hills in sight, 
where the wild life could be lived, after which the heart 
of man hungereth world without end. Moreover, not a 
few of the population were nomadic — as they are to this 
day — and practically homeless. Down in the Apulian 
plains in winter they were far from their own hearths 
and the taming influences of wife and babes ; and in 
summer, camped up in the high pastures, they were but 
rare visitors to their homes in the towns below. For 
lack of proper means of communication the Neapolitan 
Government enlisted the Abruzzesi rarely in their 
regular armies, and thus they missed not only an 
obvious means of discipline, but also of identification 
with the central government. Personally brave even to 
recklessness, hardy and frugal, of the stuff the best rough 
cavalry soldiers are made of, born in the saddle, so to 
speak, they have known remarkably little military train- 
ing, and, remembering their glorious early history, have 
shown themselves peculiarly little belligerent. They 
have not notably withstood the invaders who menaced the 
kingdom from their frontier. " Only another stranger," 
they said ; and let him pass. In their mountains they 
would be little better off, little worse. Hardly have 
they ever been given anything of their own to fight for. 
Only when the priests preached a holy war, and cried 
that the Faith was in danger at the hands of the Gari- 
baldians, did they join with the Bourbon bandits to 
fight for what was indeed real to them and very dear. 
One thing more they have loved, though with an in- 
effectual passion — their independence. They let the 
stranger pass, but they never owned him in their hearts. 
Neglect gave them a measure of autonomy which 
strengthened their proud isolation. And some of the 
sporadic brigandage through the ages may be regarded 

48 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

as a negation of, and its toleration on the part of the 
orderly population as a half-conscious protest against, 
the central power. The Abruzzesi have never identified 
themselves with any of their Governments save the 
Bourbons', even with that very partially and loosely, and 
in the main from religious motives. And it was pre- 
cisely the Bourbons, at a time when brigandage had else- 
where become an outrage to public sentiment, who used 
it, fomented it, paid for it, gave it the sanction of the 
Crown and the Faith. Not all the later brigandage was 
political, of course ; but it existed under cover of political 
disturbance. Moreover, the brigands were by no means 
all native-born, were never so at any epoch, and especially 
was this the case in recent times, when the Bourbon 
Government over and over again emptied the galleys of 
Southern Europe, and poured malefactors into the 
country during the struggle for independence, to excite 
disturbance, to strengthen the party of " law and order," 
and, after their fall, to embarrass the Savoy rule. Then 
it was that the disbanded royalists of all countries joined 
with desperadoes, with wild shepherds and ignorant 
contadini, and, under the name of Abruzzesi, made the 
last stand for Francis II. 

The most famous brigand of old days was Marco 
Sciarra. He has two traditional reputations. According 
to one of these, his name was of such terror that mothers 
hushed rebellious children by whispering it in their ear. 
According to another, he enjoyed a wide and genial 
popularity, hardly less than our Robin Hood ; and his 
title, " King of the Country," was more real than 
that of the Viceroy who ruled at Naples. Without 
any doubt, Sciarra was a great captain, and that he 
was a brigand chief and not a condottiere honoured by 
kings, the founder of a noble house, was not so much 
an accident of fortune as due to a personal preference 


for independence — which leaves the greater romance 
with him. 

This is how Sciarra took to the hills. When a young 
man, his sweetheart, Camilla Riccio, gave her affections 
to a rival, Matteo de Lellis. Marco surprised Matteo 
singing under her window, Camilla listening, and heard 
the appointment, " A domani." The morrow never came 
for them. Marco, in his blind fury, slew them both with 
his knife. He laid their heads together on the same 
pillow, says the story, and wrote on the wall above 
them, "Thus does Marco Sciarra to those who betray 

Now for the hills. The outlaw was handsome, quick- 
witted, and of boundless energy — a born leader. A band 
gathered about him, daring and skilful depredators from 
the first. In 1584 the governor of Chieti took severe 
measures to repress them. He ordered all the horses of 
private persons to be placed at the disposition of the 
authorities, under heavy penalties. All the property of 
the bandits' kindred was sequestered, and their families 
banished to Salerno if at the end of eight days they 
had not prevailed on the outlaws to surrender. Such of 
the band as were caught were tortured or hanged. But 
always and everywhere Marco went scot free — re della 
canipagna in real truth. When the soldiers came on him 
they got the worst of it, till the Spanish troops of the 
Viceroy trembled at his name ; and the great captain. 
Carlo Spinelli, sent by the Viceroy with four thousand 
men, owed his life to the magnanimity of the brigand 
chief, who ordered his band to let him go. 

Cruel and gallant, infinitely audacious, he scoured the 
Abruzzi and Molise, at once the terror and the pride of 
the country. Tradition says he respected the honour 
of women, and restrained his men rather than urged 
them to violence. To his terrible gests there are pretty 
interludes. One day at Ripattone, near Teramo, he met 


50 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

a young bride going with some companions home to her 
bridegroom's house. Sciarra invited her to the dance, 
his men invited her comrades ; and then, cap in hand, he 
begged through his band for money to dower the bride, 
tie had one ally of exalted rank, Alfonso Piccolomini, 
Duke of Monte Marciano, who had fallen out with the 
powers that were, notably with the Grand Duke of 
Tuscany. Piccolomini and Sciarra rivalled each other 
in audacity ; but it was Sciarra who dared to go as far as 
the walls of Rome and skirmish there with the troops of 
da Monte and Virginio Orsini ; while one of his lieu- 
tenants, Prete Guerino, coined money with the sublimely 
insolent device, " A sacco Roma." Indeed, he was for some 
years virtually master of the Campagna, the Abruzzi, 
and the Capitanata — which was very annoying to the 
other, to the legitimized, brigands. Sciarra went on his 
merry way, the soldiers shyer and shyer of meeting him 
and his men, declaring that there was " little honour and 
less profit in warring against a band so brave and so 
desperate." But in time he met reverses. In 1591, 
Piccolomini was caught at Cesenatico, and hanged at 
Florence ; and a price of four thousand ducats was set 
on Sciarra's head. It was never enough to tempt a 
shepherd of the Abruzzo to betray his hiding-place. 
Pursued, however, with relentless persistence, he yielded 
to the flattering offer of the Venetian Republic, and 
in 1592 entered its service, with all his men, to fight 
against the Uscocchi. Careers were open to the talents 
in those days ! The future, with wealth and power, was 
his, and greater spoil than he would ever be likely to 
find in the old life. But Marco was of the true breed. 
He missed his mountains. He missed his freedom. He 
had no quarrel with the Uscocchi. Let those who had 
fight them. Even the short time he remained in the 
service of the Republic he was still at his old game 
on the frontiers of the Neapolitan Kingdom and the 


Pontifical States. It was then that Tasso crossed his 
path, and even wished to cross swords with him. The 
poet was on his way from Naples to Ferrara. When he 
reached Mola di Gaeta, Sciarra and his men lay there, 
near them the Viceroy's troops under Acquaviva, Count 
of Conversano, and another contingent under Aldobran- 
dini, sent by his uncle Clement VIII. The two generals 
were waiting for the bandit's attack, and Sciarra was 
letting them wait. For private travellers the way was 
blocked. Manso, Tasso's Boswell, says that the brigand, 
hearing that the poet was in the neighbourhood, wrote 
to him offering not only a free pass and safe conduct 
along his route, but whatever he might think to demand, 
he and his band being Tasso's most humble servitors. 
" For which Torquato rendered his thanks, but preferred 
not to accept the invitation, peradventure because he 
judged it unbecoming to accept it, as also because he 
would not have conceded the same to him. Where- 
upon Sciarra, perceiving this, sent to him saying that for 
honour of him he was willing to retire — which he did." 
This may be all romance, a mere imitation of Ariosto's 
veritable adventure with the brigands of the Garfagnana. 
Solerti, Tasso's modern, painstaking, and prosaic editor, 
laughs at the story, as he does at most of Manso's tales. 
But the imitation may have been on Sciarra's part. He 
was no uncultivated savage, and he loved to play, and 
knew well how to play, the beaiL rule. However, it must 
be confessed that Tasso does not speak of the brigand's 
courtesy in the letter which he wrote to Feltro at the 
time. Indeed, he mentions only his own desire for 
prowess. Amid the delays and skirmishes he grew 
impatient and angry. " I wished to go out and flesh the 
sword given me by your lordship." And at this, too, 
Solerti laughs, determined to strip Tasso of all romance, 
and deny him all instincts of manhood. 

Resolved, then, to quit the Venetian service, Sciarra 

52 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

left five hundred of his men behind, who were sent to 
Candia on regular soldiering business, and with a small 
band he set off back again to the Abruzzi. But in the 
band was a Judas, Batistello by name, between whom 
and Aldobrandini, the Pope's nephew, there was a 
treacherous understanding. Ere ever they reached their 
own mountains, on their way through the Marches, 
Batistello killed the chief, and by favour of Aldobrandini 
lived an " honest man " ever after. 

There has never been another Marco Sciarra. But 
in the long line of Abruzzi brigands, among the cut- 
throats, the savages, the gallows-birds, the legitimist and 
religious fanatics, the poor harassed wretches in trouble 
with local magnates or the police, and forced to the 
mountains, — among all these, native and foreign, there 
have been formidable persons, and some men of great 
talent and resource. Brigandage was always there, a 
menace and an opportunity ; but on a great scale it 
came in waves. Of political disturbance it was both 
symptom and result. At the time of the Revolution, 
and of the French occupation, the noxious plant sprang 
up strong and hearty in the kingdom of Naples. These 
were the days of Fra Diavolo, Mammone, Proni, Sciarpi, 
de Cesari. 

Hear Paul-Louis Courier's account of his journey 
through the country in 1805. He was on his way to 
Barletta, where he was to command the horse artillery. 

"After passing through Lore to I reached, on the 19th 
of October, Guilia-Nova, the first village of the kingdom 
of Naples. ... I was very well lodged and fed there by 
the Franciscans, whose convent is the only habitable 
house in the place. Everywhere I have been treated in 
the same way throughout the kingdom — always lodged 
in the best house and served with the best the place 
could furnish. The whole county is full of brigands, 
which is the fault of the Government, who use them to 


vex and pillage their own subjects. I have come across 
ever so many ; but, as they had no desire to pick a 
quarrel with the French army, they let me pass. Imagine, 
in all this kingdom, a carriage cannot venture into the 
open country without an escort of fifty armed men, who 
are often robbers themselves. I arrived at Pescara on 
the 20th. It passes for the strongest of this portion of 
the kingdom of Naples, yet the fortification is very poor. 
The house where I lodged had been sacked, with all the 
rest of the town, after the retreat of the French, five years 
ago. Those who distinguished themselves as bandits on 
that occasion are now the favourites of the Government, 
which employs them to levy contributions. The mob is 
for the king ; and every proprietor is a Jacobin : it is 
the haro of this country. On the 22nd I was lodged at 
Ortona, in the house of Count Berardi, who told me that 
the governor of the province was a certain Carbone, once 
a mason, then a convict, later a friend of the king, after 
the retreat of the French — and to-day, pacJia. This Car- 
bone sent him, a few days before I came, an order to pay 
12,000 ducats — about 50,000 francs. He got off for half. 
So is this country governed. It is the Queen who orders 
it in this fashion, for she flaunts her hate and contempt 
for the nation she governs. 

" On the 24th, at Lanciano, I found a French light 
cavalry regiment. One of the officers sold me for ten 
louis a pair of pistols, which I judged prudent to add to 
my equipment. The colonel gave me a guide to show 
me the way to Vasto ; but the guide lost the track, and we 
just escaped being killed in a village, where the peasants, 
stirred up by their priests as they came out of mass, would 
fain have performed the pious act of assassinating us. 
It was well for me I understood the language, and did 
not dismount." * 

Nor did his adventures end at the Abruzzi frontier, 

* P.-L, Courier, (Eitvrcs^ vol. iii. p. 37, 

54 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Among the brigands were all sorts — from the hustlers 
of poor peasants to the hired ruffians armed by the great 
for the embarrassment of the other side. In the Abruzzi 
the province of Chieti was their chief hunting-ground ; 
but from their lairs in the forests and the mountains they 
rushed out and terrorized both the seaboard provinces. 
For one taken, a hundred remained at liberty to laugh 
and spoil again. Starved in their mountains they could 
hardly be, for the terrified contadini refused them food 
at their peril. Where severity failed, sometimes treaties 
were attempted ; but the brigands were the more cautious 
of the two parties, for they had learnt by old experience 
that the police now would keep their pact and now would 
break it. Under the reigns of Joseph Bonaparte and 
Murat, brigandage was fomented by Bourbon influence, 
and for a time it raged like a very plague. Apart from 
spoil, there were regular salaries to be earned, and pen- 
sions too, for good service. Among the famous bandit 
leaders were Antonelli, Fulvio Ouici, and Basso-Tomeo. 
Antonelli, a native of Fossasecca, near Lanciano, was the 
most formidable, and every expedition against him failed 
ignominiously. His insolence and his daring were equal, 
and the messages he sent down to the emissaries of the 
French Government were couched in language of royal 
arrogance. For a time it was doubtful in the province 
of Chieti who was king — the Bonaparte or Antonelli. 
The bandit refused to treat with subordinates, and Joseph 
Bonaparte made overtures to him with as much ceremony 
as to a brother sovereign. He sent plenipotentiaries to 
him — one a distinguished Frenchman, General Merlin ; 
the other a local magnate, Baron Nolli, of a noble family 
still of importance in Chieti. Before agreeing to the 
meeting, the brigand demanded that he should receive 
military rank — that of colonel, at least. It was accorded 
to him, and even the uniform and epaulettes were sent. 
The meeting took place several miles from Chieti, and 


after the pact was made, the three entered the town, 
Antonelli sharing the military honours at the gate. 
Judge of the amazement of the people ! This is a fair 
specimen of the political education which has been given 
to the Abruzzi. The brigand remained quiet for a time, 
pardoned, flattered, and pensioned. But during Murat's 
reign he began his raids once more, and threatened to 
put the country to fire and sword. This time other 
measures were meted unto him. His past immunity 
may have rendered him foolhardy, for he was captured. 
One more entry he made into Chieti — seated on an ass, 
his face to the tail, which was his bridle, and a placard 
on his back for all to read : *' Behold the assassin Anto- 
nelli ! " He was taken to his native Fossasecca and 

Stamped out in one place it rose in another. Basso- 
Tomeo, who held out in the thick woods of Pedacciata, 
near the Trigno, was a merciless brute, one of whose 
proudest exploits was to fire a gendarmes' barracks when 
the men were absent and only women and children within. 
But the enraged Lancianesi made an end of him by the 
hands of the civic guards. 

Meanwhile Manh^s had undertaken the suppression 
of brigandage. The historian Colletta, who did not love 
him, said, " I should not like to have been General 
Manhes, but neither should I like General Manh^s not 
to have been in the kingdom in 1809 and 18 10." At 
that time the French held securely only a few fortresses 
in the Abruzzi. The citizens in the towns ordered their 
own lives as best they could in the divided state of public 
opinion — some favourable to whatever French influence 
reached them, which was liberal and enlightened in the 
main, others sceptical, mistrustful, and hopeless. Else- 
where the bandits ruled. Manhes, a French officer of 
great distinction, a native of Aurillac, who had served in 

56 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

the armies of France and Spain against the English, as 
well as in Sicily against the brigands, came to our pro- 
vinces in 1809 with full powers. It is not easy to judge 
quite fairly of this famous man of action amidst the 
streams of eulogy and the torrents of abuse that encom- 
pass his name. One biographer calls him suave. Execu- 
tioners have often been suave. There is no doubt of his 
unflinching bravery, his iron will, his perfect uprightness. 
Over his men — his " brave Cossacks," he called them — 
he had absolute power, and they followed him with dash 
into the very jaws of death. He "treated with" no one, 
and he would not have condoned complicity even on the 
part of the highest in the land. He had been sent to 
suppress brigandage, and he turned himself into an engine 
for that sole purpose, regardless of danger, of difficulty, 
of the claims of mercy, and of his own reputation. 

It was in Calabria, the year after, that he won the 
greatest execration. He is thought to have found his 
work in the Abruzzi comparatively easy, the ordinary 
population being less implicated ; indeed, his task was 
finished ere three months were over. But even here he 
used the methods that raised an outcry from all the 
philanthropists of Europe. The brigands' deeds were 
often terrible. It was no time for kid-gloved measures ; 
and Manhes was cruel of set purpose, and summary 
beyond description. He never admitted a doubt while 
there was a shot in his pouch or a halter within reach. 
To starve the brigands out, he ordered that no peasant 
might carry food out of doors ; and a woman who had 
never heard a rumour of such an edict was shot while 
carrying her husband's dinner across the fields. There 
was a reign of terror among honest contadini, as well 
as among brigands ; and Manhes, judge and executioner 
in one, had the soldier's incapacit}' for taking evidence 
and the soldier's contempt for it. 

But he seemed the man for the moment ; the 


authorities in the Abruzzi showed themselves grateful ; 
and Vasto put up a monument to him with this 
inscription — 

" Al forte guerriero di Aurillac, Carlo Antonio Manhes, 
membro della legione d'onore, cavaliere dell' ordine delle 
Due Sicilie, generale aiutante di campo di sua Maesta 
Gioacchino Napoleone, distruttore de' briganti, restau- 
ratore della publica quiete nelle contrade di Abruzzo, per 
voto universale acclamato primo cittadino del Vasto." 

The Vastesi dubbed him their " first citizen." The 
Calabrians paid him the ambiguous compliment of 
changing their common oath of " Santo Diabolo " into 
" Santo Manhes." The man of the moment is apt to be 
just the man of the moment ; and if Manhes brought 
peace for a time to the troubled " contorni " of Lanciano, 
Vasto, and Chieti, the mountaineers and contadini whom 
he raided were not the more civilized thereby ; for the 
legitimized ferocity of soldiers is more demoralizing than 
any bandit savagery. And neither Manhes nor another 
in his capacity could put down brigandage for long — 
symptom of a deep-rooted disease which no militar}^ 
surgery could cure. 

At each period of political unrest it became violent, 
and no party can be said to be entirely free from the 
taint of complicity in brigandage. In the province of 
Teramo there were " liberal brigands," headed by Zilli 
and Calaturo. They were used as messengers or as 
guides ; and sometimes the suspects were glad to take 
refuge with them in the hills. But it was the Bourbons 
that adopted it consistently as a handy method of 
unofficial warfare well worth paying for. Of course they 
also felt its inconvenience at times, but it was not their 
policy to take decided steps to destroy a weapon which 
might be useful on the morrow. They preferred to make 
pacts with the brigands. In 1844 Ferdinand gave 
Giosaffate Tallarico a full pardon and a pension of 

58 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

eighteen ducats a month. Giosafifate was no ordinary 
malefactor. He was a man of education, I beHeve a 
churchman in minor orders, and a small landowner. To 
avenge a wronged brother he committed a crime and was 
sent to the galleys. He escaped and ranged the moun- 
tains of Catanzaro with a formidable band ; and so secure 
did he feel that when wearied of mountain solitude he 
would come down for an evening's amusement at the 

After the powerful encouragement of Bourbon gold, 
nothing contributed more to the continuance of this state 
of things than the lamentable cleavage which existed 
between the poor country folk and the bourgeoisie — 
indeed, all the educated classes. These latter, whether 
they had been favourable or no to the French occupation, 
had been influenced by French ideas. The Revolution 
had awakened them. With every obstacle placed in 
their way, harassed, spied on, imprisoned, they sought 
continuously for light. The ferment among them was 
thrust underground, and any propaganda by them among 
the lower classes was made impossible. On the other 
hand, the poor mountaineers were taught nothing save to 
fear the king ; and the gendarmes and the priests were 
there to see that they did so. They had nothing to 
expect save from the king and the Church, they learnt ; 
and the bourgeoisie were impious and traitors. The 
Jesuits poured missionaries into the Abruzzi as to a 
heathen country ; but their mission was to preach 
reaction, and instil horror in the minds of timid humble 
folk of those who ventured to question the deeds of 
Government agents or churchmen. They were eloquent 
preachers, and their tales of woe told to an inflammable 
people had their due effect. Women fainted, or brought 
forth abortions. Men flagellated themselves for others' 
sins. Among such congregations the volunteers of the 


reaction were many. It was a holy war — and this holy 
war translated into plain fact was brigandage. Herein 
lay the strength of the bandits — that they could cluster 
round a political banner ; and no widespread and reso- 
lute step on the part of the orderly population could be 
taken while the affair was so involved, so diverse of com- 
plexion. Thus the criminal enjoyed his long opportunity ; 
and an honest, sober people got a bad name and an 
execrable training. 


To be a noted brigand chief needed concentration. 
But some of the less famous led double lives, working in 
the fields by day, and at night raiding the country with 
the bands, or at least helping them by keeping them 
informed of the whereabouts of the police. A traveller 
wishing to cross the Matese, the range that runs into the 
MoHse, took a peasant for a guide, and found him an 
excellent, even a sympathetic one. The two looked 
over the glorious stretch of hill and plain and sea, 
moved by the beauty and the grandeur. Going on their 
way, they passed a wooden cross set up by the path. 

" Why is it here } " asked the traveller. 

" I set it up," answered the guide. 

" Why ? " 

" Oh, I had a misfortune just here." 

" How } " 

" I was unlucky enough to kill a man." 

" You ! Not possible ! " 

" Yes, alas ! it was so," he replied, in a subdued voice. 

The traveller felt for the remorseful man by his side. 

On they went a little farther, and they came to 
another cross. 

" And that one .? " 

" I set it up, too," owned the guide. 

" You .? But " 

" Yes, alas ! a misfortune happened to me there also ! " 

6o IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. l. 

He had set up nine-and-twenty crosses on the same 
mountain ! 

In speaking of the complexity of brigandage I have 
mentioned only two elements, the honestly discontented 
(or fanatically alarmed) and the criminals, for the most 
part galley-slaves escaped, or purposely let loose. There 
were other causes and constituents. Secret societies 
have always been of strength in Southern Italy, an out- 
come of persistent misgovernment ; and the Cammorra, 
with its home in Naples and Sicily, had its emissaries in 
the mountains of the Abruzzi. Add to this that at 
certain epochs, and where the local authorities were 
particularly weak, the bandits organized a press-gang, and 
forced young contadini into their service. Judge of the 
demoralization when certain townships — little and remote, 
of course — were conscious of earning their immunity from 
sack and pillage and fire by suffering vigorous youths to 
be pressed into the gangs. There were honest fellows 
among these hostages, who refused to raid and waste. 
Then they knew the brigands' mercy : they were tortured 
and shot. As a rule, hardly were they in the power of 
the band than they were forced into some serious enter- 
prise, into the very van of it. Their good name gone, 
they might as well remain in the hills. A fine people's 
school ! The peasants went armed, but they dared not, 
singly, be even uncivil to the brigands, or refuse to shake 
them by the hand. Insolence could go no further, and, 
in a country practically roadless, they were all-powerful. 
The ruffians would carry off the head of a family, and 
come down in person with a letter from him asking for 
ransom. Of course the family paid. When they 
approached a village they have been known to send a 
peremptory message to the parish priest to come out 
and meet them. This he did more often than not, show- 
ing them an abject and trembling courtesy. But there 


were priests of another stamp, and there is a story of 
one of them I cannot forget. A band had long been 
harrying a village in the Marsica. One day a handful of 
them made a dastardly attack on some poor folk ; and 
the parocco faced them and shot the leader. His fall took 
the heart out of the gang, which dispersed, and the village 
knew peace. His parishioners kissed their deliverer's 
feet in gratitude, and he received honours and decorations 
from the authorities. But from the day the brigand fell 
by his hand he never smiled, he never spoke, save to say 
the office in the church' and in the ministration of the 
sacraments. He had shed blood ; and thenceforth he 
lived on, a melancholy shadow, a silent sacrifice, till 
death released him. 

When the urban guard was too troublesome, and 
safety was precarious for the ruffians, it was usually 
possible to get regular employment in the royal army, 
or sometimes pensions with semi-liberty — though once 
the band of Vandarelli were decoyed to Foggia on pre- 
tence of pardon and employment, and were shot down. 
Of course, during a political crisis there was no question 
of pardon. Then they had carte blanche to do what they 
liked ; and it was the orderly citizen who read Mazzini, 
or a liberal newspaper smuggled over the frontier, who 
went to gaol. 

With the fall of the Bourbons and during their desperate 
struggle to recapture the country, brigandage reached its 
height in the Abruzzi. Never had the hiring of bandits 
been more openly carried on. The criminal element was 
far too strong for it to be called by another name, yet 
from the reaction point of view it was a state of civil war. 
The mountaineers had .something definite to fight for. 
To them the Garibaldians were the brigands. All 
through the mountains they were up for King Francis. 
The hills resounded with " Viva il Re ! " " Viva la 
Madonna ! " Vasto was restive. Civita di Penne held 

62 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. I. 

out for the king. Gissi, Liscio, Monteodorisio were in 
a ferment. The brigand Piccione, who was annoying 
Teramo and the neighbourhood with his six hundred 
men, told, after his capture, how the clergy had preached 
to him a holy war, Contadini and brigands mingled 
freely, and in the strange chaos gendarmes joined them. 
Those of Civitella donned the Bourbon colours after the 
passing of Victor Emmanuel, rushed down to the plain, 
sacked the villages, menaced Teramo ; and Civitella, 
headed by these legitimist gendarmes, and aided by 
bandits, held out for Francis. The two most influential 
persons in the garrison were Zopinone, a brigand, and 
P. Leonardo Zilli, a priest. The Civitellesi, after a sturdy 
resistance to the Italian troops under Pinelli, would have 
given in, seeing victory impossible, and in the continu- 
ance of the siege a mere waste of life. But the brigands 
had everything to lose by surrender, and compelled 
further resistance, defying the governor. Zopinone and 
the priest, with Mesinelli, a sergeant, kept it up with 
obstinate vigour till they were seized and shot. 

In the Marsica was a state of war. When Luparelli 
with his gendarmes came from Francis at Gaeta, in i860, 
they brought with them a band of released convicts, who 
sacked and burned their way along, and cut off liberals' 
heads to send to their master Francis. There was 
not a shadow of discipline. Avezzano and the little towns 
round Fucino were terror-stricken. When the Italian 
soldiers came from Aquila they were always too few ; 
and, besides, the bandits could find temporary refuge in 
the inaccessible places near Civita di Roveto, above the 
Liris. Tagliacozzo, a strong centre of reaction, presented 
a grand opportunity for brigandage from its nearness to 
the frontier of the Papal States. It was in that neigh- 
bourhood that took place the astonishing exploits of the 
incomparable Giorgi ; but they belong to the story of 
the Marsica, and may be passed by here. In all the 


remoter places no one believed that the Savoyard had 
come to stay, and at Castel di Sangro the people of the 
high town came rushing down to overpower the bour- 
geois below with a Bourbon song in their mouths. 

" * lam a spass' a spass'. 

Viva ru Re e ru popolo bass.' 

Cia data la farina, 

Viva ru Re e la Regina ! " 

Through the Abruzzi, peasants and banditti sang 
Bourbon hymns with solemn fervour as they marched 
to the attack of those who had accepted the Italian 

"Co' la schioppetta e' la baionetta 
Alia campagna hemma da sci ; 
Gia che la sorte vole accusci, 
Nui pel Borbone hemma muri ! 

"Addio, addio ! la casa mia. 
La zita mia na' vede cchiu ! 
Gia che la sorte vole accusci, 
Nui pel Borbone hemma muri ! " 

This was known as the "Brigands' Song," perhaps 
dubbed so a little unjustly by the bourgeoisie ; but at least 
many of those who sang of dying for the Bourbon were 
determined to live as long as possible at the expense of 
other people. 

The Plebiscite concerning the union of the Two 
Sicilies under Victor Emmanuel was the occasion of 
wild disturbances. A police officer at Pratola tore off 
his tricolor and donned the red tuft, and when his chief 
remarked on it, he got a dagger-thrust It was the 
signal of revolt. The peasants of the Sulmona Valley 
flocked under a red banner, armed with spades, forks, 
scythes, and antiquated arms, sacking houses in the name 
of Francis, and crying, " Down with the Constitution ! " 
Reaction and brigandage mingled inextricably. At 
Caramanico on the day of the Plebiscite, October 20, 
i860, all the men of the district had voted in the Piazza. 

64 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

They waited for the peasants and the mountaineers of 
Majella, who came late. When, at last, they arrived in 
bands, an old fierce-looking fellow, his broad-brimmed 
hat pulled over his eyes, asked with a haughty gesture, 
"Where is the urn of Francis 11. .'"' "There is no such 
thing here. There are two urns, one for ' Yes,' and the 
other for ' No.' " " Then," cried the peasant in a loud 
voice, " I vote for Francis." A crowd gathered about 
him on the instant, as if he had given a signal. There 
were shouts for Francis, and waving of hats. The. 
National Guard tried to disperse them by firing in the 
air, whereupon the peasants rushed up to the castle. 
From the old Rocca they hurled down stones. They 
were joined by others, and soon were masters of the 
place. Messengers, riding for aid to the guards, were 
stopped and killed. A chief was needed for the revolt, 
and Colafella came. He was undoubtedly a brigand ; 
probably he was also a convinced Bourbonist, and he 
seems even to have had some authority given him by 
the ex-king. He brought pictures of Francis and his 
wife, Maria Sofia, which were placed on the high altar 
of the church as holy things, while they sang the Te 
Deum with wild jubilation. Colafella showed some signs 
of generalship and resource before the revolt was put 
down by a strong contingent of Piedmontese. 

Among the fomenters of dispeace at this moment, and 
for years after, must be counted the disbanded Bourbon 
troops of every nationality. As they could not be kept 
together and paid, they were let loose with distinct orders 
to annoy the Government, to set on travellers — and thus 
discredit the gendarmerie — and to stir up the peasants. 
An easy escape was always ready from the Abruzzi over 
the frontier to the Papal States. And in Rome pro- 
tection and money and arms were forthcoming for them, 
and Cardinal Antonclli was their chief and not very 


remote patron. In this chapter are incidents of various 
complexions, some with a strong admixture of the comic, 
like the gests of the famous Giorgi, others truly heroic 
like the campaign of the forlorn hope under the Spanish 
royalist, Borjes. But these belong to the history of the 
Marsica, where they will be found. 

Moreover, at the passing of Garibaldi there had 
been a general amnesty. Let out of prison, the convicts 
donned the red shirt out of gratitude, and some of them 
made good soldiers under discipline. On the disband- 
ment of the Garibaldians they hoped for employment in 
the national army. This was refused, and they were 
thrown back on their old life. With such an admixture 
of men of military training, no wonder the desperadoes 
were often more than a match for the soldiers sent to 
hunt them. Insolent and brave, they laughed at the 
infantry and cavalry detachments ; and the noted ones, 
on whose heads a price was set, dared to come down to 
the villages tricked out in gold rings and earrings, and 
coquettishly attired. 

The hat of Aspromonte was a favourite, though 
Cannone, who sported it, wore by night the full uniform 
of a commandant of the National Guards, a medal on his 
breast, and arms of excellent pattern, supplied by the 
Bourbon agents across the frontier. Here is a description 
of a brigand's dress — a brigand in a good way of busi- 
ness, of course. Long hair and a beard were de rigiietir. 
If they had no beard, they wore a false one. Above 
their flowing locks was set the pointed hat with a plume 
or a peacock's feather in it. Their cloth or velvet jacket, 
with narrow short sleeves, was worn over a red waistcoat. 
On the shoulders lay a large white linen shirt-collar, 
Byronic fashion. A gorgeous-coloured sash hung down 
one side, and round the waist was a leathern girdle called 
a padroncina, in which they carried their weapons, their 
ammunition, and their money. The breeches were 


66 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

adorned at the knee with brass buttons. There dangled 
from them, of course, horns of coral or silver to keep off 
the evil eye. A great blue or chestnut-coloured mantle 
hung about these exquisites in winter. So I have heard 
the dress described. But it was only the ordinary peasant 
costume smartened up and worn jauntily. You can see 
it in the valley of the Liris to this day. Some added 
earrings and magnificent-hued handkerchiefs to the 
decoration of their persons ; and none were without 
medals and amulets and images of the Blessed Virgin 
and the saints. 

" Madonna mia, protect this poor sinner, aid him in 
the last dangers, and save his soul," was written on the 
amulet of Pasquale Moreschi, shot at Scanno. 

So far as the suppression of brigandage in the 
Abruzzi is due to any one man, it is due to a carabiniere 
of genius, one Chiaffredo Bergia, a Piedmontese, born at 
Paesana, near Saluzzo. He knew mountain country 
well, for his parents were shepherds. Of a wandering 
habit, he went to France early in life in search of work, 
and on his return entered the service of the carabinieri 
at Turin. As a man of vigour, agility, and intelligence 
he was given a difficult post, and sent to the Abruzzi, to 
Chieti, and later, to Scanno, then suffering from the 
depredations of the band of Tamburrini. For the first 
time these brigands found some one braver and more 
agile than themselves, and he learnt to know the 
mountains as if he had been born there. His desperate 
encounters were many, and in each he was successful. 
Moreschi was caught and shot at Scanno. The Prata, 
the narrow green strip that runs from that little town 
south to the mountains, has seen ugly fighting ; and the 
women that now all the summer long go to and from 
the forests for the winter faggots, may well whisper a 
prayer for the repose of the soul of Bergia. When the 


valley of the Sagittario was cleared, he was transferred 
to other centres of disturbance, in 1864 to Pettorano, to 
Cittaducale, to Antrodoco. He was given a roving 
commission, and he was ubiquitous. The brigands could 
not match his alertness, and information of his where- 
abouts came, always too late, to Rocca di Mezzo, Rocco 
di Cambio, to Popoli, to Capestrano, Now he appeared 
as a beggar, now he was a friar, and now a nun. The 
bandits saw the end of their merry life not far off. One 
of his greatest captures was in 1868, when in the Macchia 
Carasale he took the assassin Giovanni Palombieri. 

Round Vasto the trouble still continued, though on a 
more restricted scale. The ordinary carabinieri were 
useless, and were made fools of by the contadini, who 
gave them false information. There was one band of 
brigands that, when hard pressed and tired of hiding and 
skirmishing, used to go into retreat in the prisons of 
Gissi, which were often empty, the governor in charge 
being their very good friend, and in their pay. The 
history of brigandage in the Abruzzi presents many tragic 
pages, but likewise abundant themes for comic opera. 
One of the last formidable bandits in the province of 
Chieti was Colamarino, taken in 1870 between Vasto and 
San Buono. 

But the province of Aquila (Ulteriore II.) was still 
much disturbed by Croce di Tola of Roccaraso, and Del 
Guzzo of Pediciano. Bergia rode the mountains till he 
drove them out of every hole of refuge. He had been in 
many desperate fights, but in none more deadly than 
when Croce di Tola was taken, in July, 1871, on Monte 
Pallotieri, near Barrea. The capture and death of Del 
Guzzo near Fontecchio followed in a few months. Bergia 
was made Cavaliere della Corona dltalia and Marischal. 
Honours were heaped on him ; he was raised to the rank 
of captain, and lived long after the Abruzzi had been 
cleared of the brigands, dying at Bari in 1 892. 

6S IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Brigandage never flourished after September 20, 
1870, which ended the possibility of easy escape 
into a foreign state. Thenceforward the Itahan Govern- 
ment became a real and formidable fact in the heart of 
the mountains. No more arms from Rome. No more 
passports stolen from honest peasants crossing to the 
Papal States, and given to brigands. No more help from 
the Papal Government and the Spanish Legation to 
escape across seas when the fame of their evil deeds grew 
too hot. There were desperadoes still ; but the heart was 
out of the enterprise, and the peasants could no longer be 
terrorized into helping them. The police made no more 
pacts with them. 

Then the Pica Law was passed. The Legge Pica 
was called after its originator, an Abruzzese lawyer and 
deputy, Giuseppe Pica of Aquila, who had suffered much 
in the long struggle for liberty, and was greatly concerned 
for the fair fame of his province. Its principal provisions 
were — (i) the institution of military tribunals for brigands 
and their accomplices ; (2) capital punishment for armed 
resistance to the representatives of the Government ; and 
(3) power to be given to the police to confine for a year 
the idle, the vagabonds, and such as a special commis- 
sion should declare to be Cammorristi, or receivers of 
stolen goods ; (4) the formation of a militia of volunteers 
for the suppression of brigandage. 

The Legge Pica did some good work — though it was 
not faultless. Its application was often harsh ; it gave 
power into some hands unfitted for it, and it flustered the 
peasants. But doubtless it was a contributory force in 
the annihilation of what had already received its death 
blow. The opening up of the country by roads and rail- 
ways was the next step. Roads, railways, the carabinieri, 
Bcrgia, the Legge Pica, all helped ; but it was Septem- 
ber 20, that cut at the root of the evil plant. There 
are doubtless pros and cons in the peasants' minds about 








the benefit of the unity of Italy. From their point of 
view there is something to be said for the old regime ; 
but at least a united Italy utterly destroyed brigandage 
in the Abruzzi. 

But memories are long there. And the stories seldom 
heard by strangers are still told round the fireside ; and 
something less than thirty years is a little bit in the life 
of a people. We walked the roads and the mountain- 
paths by twilight and in the dark with perfect safety and 
confidence. But I think we never once did so without a 
warning from some peasant. At Scanno, ere yet it was 
dusk, before the first twink of light was to be seen in the 
town above us or below, some little sturdy homing maid, 
with her faggot on her head, would say to us in peremp- 
tory tones, " Fai nott'. Andiam'." And she would wait, 
surprised we did not do her bidding. At Roccaraso, or 
returning from Castel di Sangro, or on the wild Piano di 
Leone, near Roccacinquemiglia, the hurrying peasants 
would bid us hurry too, to hearth and home, for the 
night was coming. These are the haunts of Tamburrini 
and Moreschi, of Croce di Tola and Del Guzzo. They 
all lie in their graves. They have no successors lurking 
behind the great rocks, in the thickets, on the beech- 
covered hillsides. But their ghosts walk, and still the 
warning is given. It sounds eerie ; and eerie, too, is the 
long backlook of the well-wishing peasant on your linger- 
ing amid the shadows or under the stars. 



The one reality — A home of hermits and mystics — B. Thomas of Celano 
— Earthquakes — St. Peter Celestine — Rienzi in the Abruzzi— St. 
John of Capestrano — St. Bernardino of Siena — The Messiah of 
the Abruzzi — " Representations " — Talami — Madonna, heiress of Ceres 
— Pilgrimages— The hermits of to-day. 

The onethingthat has remained an everlasting interestand 
power in the land is religion. It has been the supreme 
and permanent reality in a country where earthly powers 
and principalities have had no permanence. On the altars 
has never died the fire of the sacrifice to a deity conceived 
of many shapes and faces. " I will lift up mine eyes unto 
the hills, from whence cometh my help," said the old 
Peligni, when they built their temples to Great Jove on 
the spurs of Majella, as when, later, they reared houses 
of praise to Jehovah almost on the borderland of the 
summer snows, and gave the guardianship of the desolate 
places to the gracious Virgin and the friendly saints. 
The ancient mystic force of the Sabine peoples is not 
yet exhausted, and its manifestations to-day are some- 
times of a strangeness that brings widely severed ages 

The Church in the Abruzzi has been a power without 
a rival ; and if it be loosening its hold tliere as elsewhere, 
especially in the towns, nothing is adequately taking its 
place. You cannot explain it as a mere political force, 
though it has been that too. More or less, it has been a 



faithful symbol of an intense reality behind ; but notwith- 
standing their formal submission to it, the people have 
retained, with a large and unconscious independence, a 
belief in old secret lore, in magic, divination, and wizardry. 
The Faith in the Abruzzi still nourishes wild pagans and 
ascetic Christian saints, who live, very little perturbed, 
cheek by jowl with the new race of rationalists and 
materialists. The towns breed, of course, a sturdy crop 
of these last ; but then town life here does not count for 
much as yet. " 

Of old the home of oracles, diviners, enchanters, these 
provinces in Christian times have been the haunt of 
hermits, ecstatics, fanatics — of all to whom religion has 
been more than a circumstance, an incident in life. Here 
it has blossomed as a rose in the desert. It has come as 
a light in days overshadowed by the desolate hills. It 
has come, too, as a flame and as a sword — nay, also, as 
a darkness keeping the minds in gloomy, shuddering 
places. White magic and black magic have the people 
known. Now they have prostrated themselves before 
the fair Virgin of the Graces, and now before the 
death's-head, and have said to corruption, " Thou art our 

Among the countless recluses and manifestors of the 
spirit born here, or who chose these wilds for their home, 
some have stood out clear and shining. The Blessed 
Thomas of Celano was a native of the town that looked 
down, till lately, on the Fucine Lake — Thomas who was 
the friend of St. Francis, and the friend of Pope Gregory 
the Ninth. Learned doctor, saintly director he was, and 
also suave and courtly Churchman. The saint died, and 
the Order was full of warfare between such as desired to 
make manifest its power to the world as a potent militia 
for the Church, and such as willed it should remain a 
band of Francis's poor men, faithful unto death to Lady 

72 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Poverty. The little poor man was to be canonized, and 
for glorious proof to the world of his saintship Pope 
Gregory commissioned Brother Thomas, the saintly, the 
learned, the suave, to write the Life of the holy one. 
Thomas made his book — the first of his two Lives of St. 
Francis — the book of a good Latinist, of a saintly man, 
find a poet, yet the book, too, of a courtier. Hardly a 
word of the war and the turmoil which fill the rival 
Speculum of Brother Leo. Thomas's Life had that 
perfect and immediate success which attends the work 
of apt writers who meet with apt patrons. A little too 
prudent to be complete, it is exquisite, nevertheless, this 
collection of tales of the intercourse of Brother Francis 
with Christ and men and the creatures. 

This suavity is not of his race. But the Abruzzese 
in Thomas was uttered in his famous hymn, the Dies 
Irce, which he made out of various proses and lamenta- 
tions, giving the final form to the shuddering terror of 
the sinner in a world of death and danger, to his trembling 
hope, like the pale gleam of a star into some dark abyss 
of an earthquake-rent land. Was it journeying to Rome, 
or in the Foce di Caruso, or was it when climbing the 
rocky, calamitous track that led from his own Celano to 
tempest-swept Ovindoli, that the picture was fixed for 
ever in his mind of the terrors of the judgment "i 

" Dies irse, dies ilia, 

Solvet SKclum in favilla, 
Teste David cum Sibylla. 

" Quantus tremor est futurus 
Quando judex est venturus 
Cuncta striate discussurus ! 

" Tuba mirum spargens sonum 
Per sepulchra regionum 
Coget omnes ante thronum. 

'* Mors stupebit et natura 
Quum resurget creatura 
Judicanli responsura." 


No wonder that through the people runs a stern 
recognition of the end of mortal things. The King of 
Terrors has shown himself in awful guise. War and 
pestilence have raged in the old days. The wolf and 
the brigand have taken their toll. How many have fallen 
in the snow every year and never risen ! And then the 
earthquakes, those unforeseeable, awful calamities that 
have wrecked nearly all the old splendour and made 
thousands homeless. " Not unforeseeable, though," said 
the sternly religious. " They are a sign of the wrath of 
God with human sin." 

" With earthquakes doth angry Heaven awake thee, 
and because the weight of thy sins is great, the earth can 
no more uphold thee." This is the continual text of 
preachers and sonnetteers in the time of calamity. I 
have seen a list of appalling damage done in 1706 in 
places I know now as broken and seamed and patched. 

" Popoli in parte rovinato. Palena rovinato affatto. 
Valle Oscura [to-day Roccapia] rovinato intiere. Rocca 
Cinquemiglia non ve sono rimasto vestigie. Pettorani 
quasi disfatto. Sulmona distrutta intiera." This, the 
first report, was in some instances exaggerated. Sul- 
mona, for instance, was not razed. But the glory and 
much of the beauty vanished then. 

They had prayers or charms against earthquakes. 
" Christus Nobiscum State," written up on a house, was 
considered efificacious. It had been so at Antioch in the 
year 128. A specially potent icharm was — " Sanctus -f- 
Deus -f- Sanctus -|- Fortis -1- Sanctus 4- et -f Immor- 
talis -}- Miserere -f Nobis. I. N.R.I. Per Signum Sancte 
Crucis -f Libera nos Domine. Christus Nobiscum State." 
It had been imported from Constantinople, where it had 
worked miracles of deliverance in the year 132. 

The warning preachers and sonnetteers have had to 
change their text, for these disturbances have decreased 
much in area and intensity since the eighteenth century. 

74 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

The earth rocks now and then ; old houses fall. The 
menace rumbles and dies away. 

This wild land was the chosen home of St. Peter 
Celestine, of him who made il gran rifiuto, and was 
scorned of Dante therefor — who was, nevertheless, the 
worthy hero of a great spiritual crusade. The Sacred 
College once made the strange experiment of electing 
as Pope one who was in very truth a saint. Five months 
brought the experiment to an end with Celestine's renun- 
ciation ; and the world shrugged its shoulders. But the 
experiment was made when he was an old feeble man, 
worn out after a life of strenuous endeavour. Twenty 
years before, the initiator of the Reform of St. Damian 
and the Dove, the founder of a great order, the builder 
of the abbeys on Morrone and Majella, saint though he 
was, would have been a doughtier adversary of Gaetani. 
Peter of Morrone, whom kings and cardinals were to 
come to fetch out of his rocky cell on the mountain-side, 
was a native of Isernia, in the neighbouring province, but 
all his spiritual life and endeavours are connected with 
the Abruzzi, more especially with Sulmona, and when 
in our wanderings we reach there, I shall tell his tale. 

San Spirit©, the great abbey that lies outside Sulmona, 
under Celestine's hermitage, and San Spirito the ruined 
sanctuary, his earlier retreat on Monte Majella, remind us 
of that wave of contemplation that passed and repassed 
over Italy from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. 
It was the blossoming time of the universal heresy of the 
Holy Ghost — first uttered for those ages by the Calabrian 
Joachim de Floris — a heresy the Western world will not 
away with, a heresy that saps the foundations of our 
world, but eternally recurrent, that has been, and shall 
be till the end of time. It found a natural home in 
the Abruzzi, where, in the caves of the mountain-side, 
the sublime revolters waited for the great third age of 
the world — the age of contemplation. 


Celestine had been dead five-and-forty years when 
his sanctuary of San Spirito, on the Majella, sheltered for 
a time another illustrious wanderer, the great tribune 
Rienzi. It was in 1 349, after his first fall in Rome, that 
he came here, a sad and broken man, to the home of 
great dreamers. His visions of a new Rome came back, 
but amplified, etherealized. The hermits up in the 
mountain solitude found no apter pupil ; and to Cola the 
breath of the great heresy was like his native air. It was 
no longer Rome alone he would revive, not merely the 
ancient stones of the city he would give a fresh purpose 
to. He was called to bring in a new age of peace, when 
the Spirit should rule in the old world ; and he should 
be one of its three guardians. So he dreamt on the lonely 
haunted mountain ; and fired by Brother Andrea and 
Brother Angelo he set out to bid the Emperor at Prague 
enlist also in the army of the Holy Ghost. But Charles 
had not lived in the rarefied air of Majella ; and he only 
shut Rienzi up in prison as a very dangerous person. 

Some six-and-thirty years later, in 1386, there was 
born at Capestrano in the Abruzzi, a little town about 
halfway between Aquila and Sulmona, perhaps the 
fieriest spirit of the fourteenth century — a saint who took 
the road to Heaven fighting all the way. John dreamed 
of no age of peace at hand. The world was warfare, 
warfare — and he would ever be in the front of the battle. 
He should have been a soldier. Circumstances made 
him a lawyer ; and he became a famous doctor in civil 
and canon law at Perugia, learned, strenuous, and able. 
Trouble and sorrow emancipated him from this way of 
life to one where he found himself. Entrusted by the 
Perugians to negotiate a peace between them and his 
own king, Ladislas of Naples, he was imprisoned on a 
false charge, that of betraying the city. While he lay in 
prison his wife died. His ransom cost him nearly all his 
fortune. Stripped bare of earthly love and fame, he 

^6 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

gave away his remnant of property, and entered the 
Franciscan Order, as an Observant. Into his new Hfe he 
flung himself heart and soul, and his earnestness, his 
whole-hearted honesty burned their way to recognition. 
John emerged from his years of penitence as a leader of 
men. He was twice vicar-general. He was the Pope's 
envoy in Lombardy, in Sicily, in France, probably in 
England. His voice rang out clear in councils ; and to 
the reform inaugurated by San Bernardino da Siena he 
lent all his fiery ardour. Of the same age as Bernardino, 
he was his pupil in theology and his devoted friend. 
There never was a more splendid friend than John of 
Capestrano — nor a more formidable foe. When 
Bernardino was accused of heresy — his faith in the 
symbol of the Holy Name being accounted to him for 
such — this sworn enemy of all heretics fought for his 
vindication tooth and nail. John heard of the trouble 
while he was in Naples. Without a moment's delay he 
set ofif for Aquila, his home when he had one, gathered 
various papers to confute the evil tongues, and followed 
by frati and people began his triumphal march through 
the Abruzzi to Rome. The Pope had forbidden the 
exhibition of Bernardino's symbol — the famous I.H.S., 
set within the gold rays of the sun — but John had it 
painted on a great tablet, which he placed at the end of a 
pike, and marched along with it as a standard. Crowds 
of Abruzzesi followed, singing praises to the Holy 
Name, and they reached the gates of the Vatican like a 
triumphant army. And the Pope, moved by such zeal, 
turned the ban of the Church into a blessing on Brother 

John was given a great field by his friend to work for 
the reform which was to bring the Order back to poverty, 
simplicity, and love. He was given all Italy, and where- 
ever he trod a convent of the Observance sprang up. A 
learned man, he never shared the Franciscan suspicion of 


learning, and the " humility of ignorance " he fought 
sturdily, and wrote a burning treatise on the subject, 
De pronwvendo studio inter Minores. He was a preacher 
of genius. Even in Germany, where he had to speak 
to the common people in Latin, his heart and will spoke 
so clear in his face and accents that they understood 
him ; and the bells rang and folks sang all along the 
roads where he passed. 

The complement of his friend, he was made to guard 
his gentleness and smooth his way. Probably it was 
John who gave Bernardino so keen an interest in the 
Abruzzi, where he was well known. You can trace the 
missionary wandering of the Sienese saint there by 
the sign of the Holy Name on town gates and walls 
and houses of confraternities ; and there is a legend that 
he preached for a whole Lent at Scanno. That he was 
familiar to the people, a little folk-song remains to tell. 
Here it is, with all its simple faith in the grey brother as 
wonder-worker, one of their old magicians come to life 
again, and its naive statement of the doctrine of Holy 

" San Bernardino se jose a fa' frate ; 
Cerco licenzia alia mamma e allu patre ; 
Agli fratieje e tutta la signorije. 
Quand' arrevose a quije marenare ; 

— O marenare, se me voi passare ! — 

— Ce so denare ? te pozze passare. — 

— De glie denare non ne facce acquiste : 
Pe strade ji me recoglie bene e triste : 
Si glie truvesse 'mmiezze a una vije, 
Ne' glie raccugliesse pe' paga' a tije ! 
Se glie truvesse 'mmiezze dcUa strate 
Ne' glie recogliarije pe' te pacare ! 
Mettamme lu mantieglie sopre a st' acque, 
E sopre ce sagliemme nchi gli piete. — 

Non fu 'nu patrenostre ditte e fatte, 
E San Brardine steve 11a da I'acque : 
Non fu 'nu patrenostre fatte e ditte, 
E San Brardine steve 11a da le sicche. 

78 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Quand' arrevose a quell' Acuela bella, 
La messa subete la volose dire. 
Se San Brardine trecheve n' autr' ore, 
ly' Acuela bella la truveve sole : 
Se San Brardine trecheve n' autr' orette, 
L' Acuela bella la truveve nette." 

["It was San Bernardino would be a frate. He asked leave of his 
mother and his father, of his brothers, too, and of all the gentlefolk. 
When he met a boatman, ' O boatman,' said he, 'if you would row me 
over!' 'There's money to pay ere I can row you over.' 'Nay, as for 
money, I never gather any. On the roads I shut myself within myself 
with good thoughts and sad ; and if I found it in the middle of the street 
I would not pick it up to pay you. Let us throw my mantle over the 
water, and we shall step on it.' 

" A paternoster was not said and done, and San Bernardino stood 
on the other side of the water. A paternoster was not said and done, and 
San Bernardino stood over there on the dry land. As soon as he came to 
fair Aquila he would say mass. If San Bernardino had tarried another 
hour he would have found it solitary [i.e. destroyed by earthquake]. If 
San Bernardino had tarried another little half-hour, he would have found 
fair Aquila clean swept [of its folk]. "] ' 

The last flicker of Bernardino's fading life was given 
to the Abruzzi. His friends, knowing his w^eakness, 
would have hindered his journey ; but he crept secretly 
out of Siena, thence through Umbria to Terni, to little 
Piediluco on its lake, to Rieti,^and Cittaducale, on the 
frontier of the kingdom, where he was stricken with 
fever. But he would on, and the frail saint reached 
Antrodoco riding on an ass. After San Silvestro he was 
carried on a litter to " Aquila bella," where they lodged 
him in John's cell. He had been here before, and in 
presence of the King of Naples had delivered a sermon 
on the Blessed Virgin, while a star shone over his head. 
Now he came only to die, for his body was " melting like 
wax near a fire." The fire burned fast ; and on May 20, 
1444, laid on the floor of John's cell, and "like unto one 
smiling," he passed away. His funeral was greater than 
for any king ; and in vain did the Sienese clamour : 
Aquila would not let the precious relics go. For twenty 

' De Nino, vol. iv. p. 225. 


days did the body stand at the entrance of the Franciscan 
church, for the homage of the city ; and from far and 
near the mourners crowded, impassioned, exalted, sorrow- 
ful. During a quarrel between nobles and people the 
saint's nostrils bled ; and nobles and people straightway 
made a pact. In after years they built him a great 
church here ; and in the church is a beautiful shrine by 
a famous sculptor of the town, Silvestro Aquilano ; and 
to this day crowds come to the tomb of one of the best- 
loved saints in the calendar — the saint of the grey frock, 
the open delicate face, with the Holy Name and the 
sun's rays emblazoned on his bosom. 

John of Capestrano, his fiery friend, resolved he 
should be canonized at once ; and at Aquila he met 
James of the Marches as full of the business as himself. 
To their impetuous souls the inquiry dragged on too 
long. Rome does such things at leisure, be the dead 
man ever so clear of sin and great of soul. But John 
was not made for waiting. Were there any doubts as to 
his dead friend's merits ? He offered joyfully to submit 
himself to the ordeal by fire. Let a great fire be kindled : 
let Bernardino's body be placed therein. Nay, he himself 
would walk into the flames with confidence. If they 
spared him, it would prove the dead man's sanctity. Did 
he perish, it would be because of his own sins. And Pope 
Nicholas V. wondered greatly at such friendship. He 
would not allow the ordeal, but he hurried on the inquiry ; 
and on May 24, 1450, a procession started from Ara Coeli 
to the canonization of San Bernardino in St. Peter's. 

John's activity did not flag as age came on. " Meagre 
of body, frail and shrivelled, all skin and bone and nerves, 
yet cheery none the less, and vigorous in toil." So is 
he in the picture of him by ^neas Sylvius. Hard of 
fibre as the rocks of his native land, he went with bare 
and bleeding feet over the rough roads, begging his 

8o IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

bread, and clad in a tattered gown. We have seen him 
as a friend. He was no less good a hater ; and to him 
the arch-foe was heresy. His mind was clear-cut, un- 
hesitating, and his training in the law had strengthened 
his grip on authority. He could not away with the 
Fraticelli and their dreams of the age of the Spirit at 
hand, nor with any lax lovers of Holy Church. For the 
Hussites he had no mercy. To the Jews he would give 
ample chance of atoning to and praising the Master 
they had crucified— otherwise, short shrift to them. The 
Church knew his fiery missionary zeal, and after the 
taking of Constantinople, he was ordered to preach a 
Crusade against the Turks. Again and again did he 
try to rouse the German princes to combat Mahomet H., 
but in vain ; and in 1456, when he was seventy, the fiery 
saint collected an army — he, the Franciscan in his tattered 
robe, enlisted them, man after man, till 40,000 obeyed 
his call. Mahomet was besieging Belgrade and menacing 
all Christendom. Only Hunyadi would face him, and 
he was waiting in vain for reinforcements. They came 
at last, headed by a friar. John was by Hunyadi's side 
in the battlefield ; and it was he, crucifix in hand, and 
with San Bernardino's symbol on his standard, who led 
the troops to victory. Hunyadi died ; and the fiery 
brother followed him a few weeks later, dying of fever at 
Villach, October 23, 1456. 

This martyr of the faith left no one to urge on his 
own canonization as he had urged that of his friend. A 
widely different age beatified him in 1690 ; and he was 
canonized in 1724 by Benedict XHI. 

In modern life, religion has played the same prepon- 
derating part, now manifesting itself in pagan outbursts, 
now in spiritual ecstasy, now in a wild warfare for the 
Church, now in a fierce zeal in the service of this or that 
miraculous Madonna. The mental energies of the people 
and their originality have found here their best expression. 


In the Risorginiento they made a hymn to the Holy 
Spirit, the eternal conception of freedom in Heaven and 

" Vieni, O celeste Spirito, 
A visitarci in terra. 
Sgombra la rea caligine 
Che al lume tuo fa guerra." 

One ray from the Spirit, one descent of the Mystic 
Dove, and then would awaken V Italica virtu. 

" A Te Paraclito 
I popoli risorti. " 

But the Saints and the Paraclete have not had all 
the devotion ; for there was the ecstatic sun-worshipper 
Sulpicio di Rienzi in Sulmona, a sane man in ordinary 
matters ; but the sight of the sun was wont to bring on 
him a rapture, when present things were hid from him 
and the future was revealed. 

One of the strangest manifestations of the latter-day 
religious spirit was the mad mission of Don Oreste de' 
Amicis, called derisively the Apostle of the Abruzzi. 
Born at Cappelle-Monte Silvano, in the province of 
Teramo, in 1824, he became a Friar Minor under the 
name of Fra Vicenzo. In 1848, when revolution was in 
the air, he was hot for liberty. He had fed on the works 
of Rosmini, Leopardi, Gabriele Rossetti, and Ugo 
Foscolo ; and when news came that Naples had a Consti- 
tution he declaimed to the assembled frati Rossetti's 
ode, All anno 1831. 

" Cingi I'elmo, la mitra deponi,' 
O vetusta Signora del mondo, 
Sorgi, sorgi, dal sonno profondo, 
In su r alba del nuovo tuo di ! " 

He declaimed it all through the country, indeed, 
followed by a band and crowds of enthusiasts, and with 
two pistols in his hand, till General Flogy, backed by the 
order of his superior, forced him home to his convent at 


82 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. I. 

Penne. He escaped, went to Rome, and persuaded Pio 
Nono to secularize him. Now he was again Don Oreste, 
and in his native Cappelle acted the part of devoted 
parish priest. He practised charity every day. His 
scriptural " representations " on feast-days were famous ; 
and on Sundays, with perfect fearlessness, preached 
inflammatory sermons in favour of liberty. In one — but 
this was later — he described a vision of Hell, where he 
was on his trial before the Eternal Judgment Throne. 
Ferdinand II. and the Bourbons generally were his 
accusers, with black serpents round their necks, and 
chains on their feet. B^-utti ! BriUti ! Cavour and Victor 
Emmanuel defended him ; and St. Augustine was his 
special advocate, proving his innocence out of the Holy 

His manners were unconventional. He rode madly 
through the country like a reckless young gallant ; 
and he loved some ladies warmly, if not too .well. 
His cousin Rosalia, against the wish of her family, 
determined to take the veil. Don Oreste designed the 
mise en sdne of the entry, and headed a band of music 
which accompanied her and a friend to the convent at 
Chieti. He visited her often, and kept up her spiritual 
fervour ; but when she was unhappy and ill, he forced 
the gates and took her back to her parents. There 
she died. Don Oreste followed her to the grave, read- 
ing aloud on the way the poems of Leopardi. Her 
death struck him hard ; he haunted her grave, and went 
as a pilgrim to Celestine's sanctuary of San Spirito on 
Monte Majella. Dangerous air for him ! The heresy 
of the Holy Ghost had hold of him already. 

At Cappelle he became an ascetic, lived in a little 
cell, wore a hair shirt, scooped out niches in the wall 
and put skulls in them. " Memento inori " was now his 
device. He spoke no unnecessary word ; but when he 
preached he drew tears from all. But he was one of 


the born wanderers of the world, the gipsies of the spirit — 
" senipre sbattuto come Vacqua del mare" as he said him- 
self. After six or seven years his restless fit returned, and 
being advised by the prior of the Camaldolese monastery 
at Ancona that his vocation did not lie with them, he 
wandered through Lombardy, Piedmont, Switzerland, 
welcoming hardship, and paying his devotions at every 
noted sanctuary. Yet he still frequented men of the 
world, and kept a keen outlook on intellectual move- 
ments. When he returned to Cappelle, his austerities, 
his eccentricities, and his audacious attacks on abuses 
irritated the authorities, and he lost his cure in 1866. 
More wanderings followed, to Rome, to Casamari with 
the Trappists. Then he entered the Cappucini, and 
became a devoted missionary in Corsica. It was now he 
dreamt of a great religious reform ; and he determined 
to run through Italy and write on the gates of every 
city the name of the Virgin. '•'■Ho visto tma Stella tra 
folti alberi," he cried. So he asked leave of the Arch- 
bishop of Naples to preach a new religion, in which there 
were to be no more priests and no more friars. The 
Holy Spirit was to rule. But when the Cardinal Arch- 
bishop saw the red robe — part of the insignia of the new 
religion — he sent him wrathfully out of his presence. 
So intolerant are we of other people's symbols. 

Back in Cappelle, he refused to recognize his suc- 
cessor ; and the parish church became a battlefield. 
Both priests officiated at the same time, and preached 
against each other, and their factions fought over the 
elevation of the host. In vain did the mayor intervene. 
But Don Oreste had the larger following. No wonder. 
He was dressed in a red tunic and a blue mantle. His 
hair was long. He wore wooden shoes. In his hand 
he carried an iron club with a knob at the end. And 
he made hymns for his people of a strange exaltation, 
which suited their fervent state. He now called himself, 

'S4 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

or was called, the Apostle of Italy, later, the Apostle of 
Europe, later still, the New Messiah. 

But Cappelle was too narrow a sphere, for many had 
joined him, apostles and apostolesses. They went through 
the Abruzzi, which they called Galilee, and their mission 
was so exciting that often the authorities intervened, as 
they did at Chieti, when the prophet preached on the 
steps of the Duomo. It was the band of a new Fra 
Dolcino, or rather that of a modern Segharelli. Their 
food, which was called manna, was mostly nuts and 
honey, for they made a crusade against cooking, and 
broke up plates and saucepans ostentatiously — though, 
as degeneration set in, excesses of the table were not 
infrequent. Poor Don Oreste had to struggle with his 
naturally huge appetite — and sometimes he did not 
struggle. He composed for them the New Evangel. 
Now he spoke out of it, and now out of the Apocalypse, 
words which were accounted inspired, or blasphemous, or 
absurd, according to the hearer. " -E^^'o sum qui sum. 
Ego sum Jesu Christus et Filius Dei vivi. Ego sum Sol, 
Luna et Stellce. Ego sum Sponsus Coelestis." There 
were weary hearts who listened with eagerness to his 
promise : " And I free you from all your langours, and 
grant unto you all my graces." 

The apostle cured diseases. The country folk clung 
to him with fervent hope, though in the towns the priests 
interfered. They were not all peasants, however, his 
followers. He had adherents among the educated classes 
too, one of them a painter of Castellamare ; and the 
Duke of Tocco Caraciolo-Pinelli had faith in him, and 
tried his skill as a treasure-hunter. In the Duke's 
orchard a treasure was said to be hidden. The Messiah 
came and superintended the digging, but did not find 
the treasure. He said the seekers were all living in 
mortal sin. 

It was a strange intoxicated crew he led. Among 


them was the spirit of love, and every human weakness. 
There were ecstatics and charlatans and imbeciles ; and 
the world laughed, or was shocked, or annoyed. A few 
onlookers were impressed and a little sad, as at some 
good thing corrupted, as if some breath of the Holy 
Spirit had, indeed, passed over their land, but had been 
tainted by the poison of human egoism. A good many 
women were in the band. Christina the apostoless was 
with him in Rome the time he cried out in St. Peter's, 
" O te felice Rovia ! O te beat a ! Da te ^partita la luce 
e a te ritorna ! " 

After many collisions with the authorities, imprison- 
ment for vagabondage, and defections, the band dis- 
persed. Don Oreste was a sorry Messiah in the end. 
It was not so much that he was found out : he found 
himself out. His biographer, De Nino, went to see him 
at Cappelle in 1889, and found him old and broken and 
dying, but clear-headed and repentant. Just one touch 
of the old pride was left. " I recognize my nothingness 
before God, but not before men. . . . Chi troppo in 
alto sale, cade nell' abisso. I was not the true Messiah. 
Leviathan the proud spirit deceived me. E un mistero 
la vita mea." 

And it was a mystery indeed, in its bizarre admixture 
of impulses out of different ages and cults. The ancient 
Marsian enchanter, the worshipper of Cybele, the heretic 
of the Eternal Gospel, the mediaeval enthusiast — and 
each was native to the soil he sprang from — all mingled 
in this modern pseudo-prophet. Sorry, unstable, mad, 
not a little disreputable he was, yet from his kaleidoscopic 
visions he shook before distracted and hungry eyes some 
glints of beauty and the ideal. 

I have indicated a few of the outstanding influences 
and episodes in the religious life of the Abuzzi ; and in 
the tale of our wanderings others will present themselves, 

86 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

As supplement, I would send my readers for an interpre- 
tation of the religious spirit at its simplest and humblest 
to D'Annunzio's " Annali d' Anna," in his volume of 
tales, Sa?i Pantaleone ; and for a picture of religious 
extravagance and frenzy to his description of the 
pilgrimage of Casalbordino, in his Trioiifo della Morte. 
Neither is exactly sympathetic ; but both are first-hand 

Religious festas in the Abruzzi were once feasts for 
the eyes of the people and stimulators of the dramatic 
sense. Of the scenic performances with mystical intent, 
or with scriptural subject — " Representations," they are 
called — some still remain ; and the best, perhaps, in the 
province of Chieti. You may see them in Tollo on the 
first, and in Villamagna on the fourth, Sunday in 
August, There are many others ; and the best guide to 
their whereabouts and dates is Signor Tommaso Bruni 
of Francavilla. 

The feast of the Madonna del Rosario, in Tollo, is 
one of the most noted. It is also called the Festa dei 
Turchi, or of the Madonna della Vittoria, and is very- 
famous throughout all the neighbourhood. The chief 
actors in the " Representation " are fifty men of the 
village dressed up grotesquely, half of them as Christians, 
the other half as Saracens. They are all armed with 
long poles in imitation of ancient spears. The scene 
of the drama is a little piazza, where once stood an 
ancient tower. On its site they erect for this day a 
skeleton tower of wood, some six metres high, covered 
with canvas. The statue of the Madonna, attended by 
all the clergy, the confraternities, and the acolytes, comes 
in procession, and is placed on an altar in full view of the 
tower, which at the appointed time is manned by the 
Christian squadron. Then a trumpeter and a herald 
come forward, the latter bearing on the point of his 
lance a cartel, which he hands aloft to the captain of the 


Christians. It is read by those on the citadel ; then, 
with a cry of indignation, torn to shreds. The herald 
departs ; and his master, the captain of the Saracens, 
now leads his men to the siege of the tower. They 
reconnoitre ; find an opening, a foothold ; and in a short 
time are masters of the fort. But it is all a trick, as the 
Christians soon prove, for they have only enticed the foe 
to slay them. Then lo, the miracle ! The dead Turks 
spring to life again, and fraternize with the Christians. 
They feast together — a feast of love, on maccaroni — 
and then follow the Madonna home to her shrine in the 
parish church. 

According to Signor Bruni, this " Representation " 
recalls two historic events — the incursion of the Saracens 
on July 30, 1566, under the command of the Hungarian 
renegade Pialy Bassa ; and the battle of Lepanto, in 
which the Turkish fleet was completely destroyed by the 
Christians under Don John of Austria, on September 7, 
1 57 1, To this commemoration is added that in honour 
of the Madonna del Rosario, instituted by Pius V. When 
the great news of Lepanto was announced to him, he 
had been reciting the Rosary, and had come to the 
verse, " F?nt Jiomo missus a Deo ad nonien erat Joannes!' 
This plainly pointed to Don John, the Commander of 
the Christian fleet. 

In 1566, Pialy Bassa's fleet had blockaded Otranto, 
the garrison of which was commanded by the Duke 
of Calabria, son of Ferdinand II. of Aragon, King 
of Naples. An armistice of fifteen days was granted, 
and Pialy, with the main part of his ships, ran up the 
Adriatic, to seize on the Isles of the Tremiti, meaning 
to make them the base of future operations. The 
attempt did not succeed ; so he turned his ships towards 
the Abruzzi coast, and rounding the Punta della Penna, 
he anchored at the Foce del Sinello. A mile or so inland 
lay the famous and rich Benedictine Abbey of San 

88 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Stefano in Rivo. Among its possessions was one of the 
Tremiti isles. The Saracens sacked and burned the 
abbey, killed the monks, and then went on to Ortona, 
which could not withstand their onslaught. Worse 
damage still was suffered at Francavilla. From thence 
they went inland in two squadrons, one of which made 
for Tollo, the other for Villamagna. At Tollo they sum- 
moned the defenders of the place to surrender. The 
garrison congregated in the now demolished tower, 
allowed a band of the Saracens, by a feint, to occupy 
some part of the citadel, and then, having them in their 
power, killed them. The rest, renouncing their designs 
of pillage, hurried back to the coast. Such is the origin 
of the " Representation " of Tollo. 

The second division had reached the first houses of 
Villamagna, when suddenly a meteor, accompanied by 
thunder, lightning, and hail, burst on them. The com- 
mander retired to the nearest church, where he presented 
to the arciprete — in homage to the patron Santa 
Margherita — a diadem studded with many precious 
stones, which he had worn on his turban. This historic 
jewel was preserved for nearly two centuries, and then a 
priest sold it ; so that of the pennaccJiietto^ as it was called, 
there only remains a faint memory. 

This happening is commemorated in the feast of 
Santa Margherita at Villamagna. The statue of the 
saint is brought out of the church. Before it walk bands 
of women and girls, bearing on their heads copper pots 
filled with grain, and on the top a bunch of sweet basil. 
They are followed by youths armed with long poles 
adorned with ears of corn. A number of barrels form a 
7-eposoir for the statue ; and when she is placed there the 
" Representation " begins. About a score of young men, 
clad in odds and ends of ancient garments and uniforms, 
armed with daggers, scimitars, and bows and arrows, play 
the Saracens. Two of them on foot and two on horseback 


advance, to a discreet distance from the statue ; and 
there, with fierce mien and determined gesture, they set 
fire to a sheaf of straw, thus signifying danger to the 
saint, her temple, and her proteges. Then one gallops 
back to bring on the main body to the attack. There is 
much shooting of bows and arrows and whirling of 
swords and scimitars, when, behold, a wonder in the 
heavens ! Down through the air comes a long beam 
wrapped in tow and all in flames. The Saracens on 
foot fall prostrate to the ground, and the cavaliers fall 
over the necks of their horses. There is a pause full of 
well-simulated terror ; and then the procession takes its 
way back to the church, whither, after some showy 
perambulation of the streets, the Saracens also wend, 
throwing themselves before the saint in humblest adora- 
tion. Coming out, they mount their horses, and feign to 
flee as hard as ever they can from the village. So ends 
the drama. 

The " Representations " are mute drama in action. 
The talauii, on the contrary, are what we should call 
tableaux vivants. A talamo is a portable scenic platform. 
At the back of it rises a triangular wall on which is hung 
whatever little scenery is needed — for instance, a yellow 
wooden disc represents the light of day. In front of this, 
and well raised, sits a child Madonna, and at the sides 
are two children dressed as angels. These three appear 
in all talami. In the foreground are the personages of 
the scriptural story to be represented — nowadays nearly 
always children. As the talami are carried on the 
shoulders of men, who wear the robes of their confra- 
ternities, the little actors are tied on securely, though, 
indeed, they sit or stand with much solemn dignity, and 
would never disgrace the occasion by toppling over. 
Generally, at least half a dozen of these talami are 
prepared, stationed at various points of the village for a 

90 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

given time, after which the)^ are moved on in the pro- 
cession, headed by the particular virgin or saint of the 
festa, so that all the tableaux are gradually shown along 
the whole route, amid the singing and shouting of the 
crowds and the cracking of squibs. Here are some 
subjects often represented, taken at random from various 
programmes : Moses saved from the water. — Moses 
striking the rock. — Solomon leading the Queen of 
Sheba to his palace. — Abraham's sacrifice. — The Tables 
of the Law. — The Burning Bush. — The Annunciation. — 
The Adoration of the Shepherds. — The Flight into Egypt. 
— The Marriage of Cana. — The Ascension. — etc., etc. 

The progress of the procession is of necessity slow ; 
and besides, time for devotion, for wonderment, and for 
singing must be allowed. The tableaux are crude, and 
sometimes grotesque, but now and then forceful and 
original, and owe more to tradition and less to a taste 
deteriorated by bad chromo-lithography than one might 

One of the most interesting features of the ialaini, 
and one that is invariably present, is the distinct proof of 
their pagan origin, hardly concealed at all. The festa 
may be that of Our Lady of Refuge, or Our Lady of the 
Rosary ; but in reality Mary here is but the heiress of 
Ceres. The last ialamo always represents "The culti- 
vators and the women bringing to Mary the produce of 
the fields." After the procession of these living pictures 
there commonly follow a pair of oxen drawing a cart 
laden with sheaves, while youths mounted on it throw 
handfuls of ears of corn among the people. There is 
a wild scramble for these sacre spighe, which bring 
luck to all, and which mothers hold to be of special 
efficacy in certain children's maladies. In old times — 
there are still men and women who remember it — bands 
of peasants used to follow with picks and spades, pre- 
tending to dig, and to scatter grain in imaginary furrows, 


and hunters, too, with guns, who feigned to follow the 
game, and fired blank shots. All these are remnants of 
the ancient propitiatory feasts in honour of Ceres, who 
is now called Mary. The talaini may be seen here 
and there in the Abruzzi ; but the stranger will not hear 
of them unless he make it clearly and widely known that 
his interest in such things is genuine. It is probably due 
to the apathy of the clergy when they fall into disuse ; 
for the desire to realize history and scripture story 
through the eyes is as keen as ever among the people, 
and explains the vogue of the cinematograph in the 

I have named but two or three of the scenic festas of 
the Abruzzi. In my notes on the Scanno district I shall 
speak of the feast of St. Dominic of Cocullo, a popular 
saint whose day is commemorated in various parts of the 
province after a fashion that calls to mind one of the 
oldest powers of the Abruzzesi, that of serpent-charming. 
And there are many noted and fashionable festas in the 
larger places, where the municipal authorities and the 
railway companies exploit the devotion of the people, and 
where the religious and local aspects of the fetes are apt 
to be lost in the displays of fireworks and in the newer 
forms of popular amusements. 

This pictorial side of religion is a strong feature ; but 
it ministers to only one side of the Abruzzese nature — a 
nature with deeps and darks in it, and with a strain of 
morbidity, too, almost Spanish. Could it be otherwise 
in these mountain solitudes, where disaster has never for 
long hidden its grim face } The death's-head and the 
bleeding Christ, racked and distorted with physical 
sufferings, are familiar objects in the churches — and they 
bring their own kind of comfort. Nor is the conception 
of the Virgin and the saints as survivals of the lost gods 
and the fairies a complete one. Whole cycles of legends 

92 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

exist in which Mary and Christ and the apostles, and all 
the other holy ones, appear as laden with earthly 
troubles, marked by earthly toil, very brothers and 
sisters of the mountaineers hewing their daily bread 
out of the rocky hill and stony field. In these tales, 
grotesque and touching, the comic role is commonly 
played — I wonder why — by St. Peter. Is it solely in 
retribution for his denial of the Master that he is made 
to fib and pilfer, and get into continual scrapes } Many 
of the legends are pastiches^ in which wholly incongruous 
elements are combined. In one of them, a story in verse, 
or ballad, the mystic espousals of St. Catherine and 
Christ are foisted on an earlier tale of some amorous 
maiden of free manners and frankly sensuous desires — 
though the edifying comes out on the top. The result 
would be blasphemous, had the amalgamation been 
conscious. Had it been conscious we might call it — 
" modern." 

Wandering is a constant feature of these stories — of 
the sacred as of the secular. It may be the trace left 
of the old vagrancy after the ver sacrwn, or, earlier still, 
when they were Eastern nomads, made permanent by 
the yearly migration of the shepherds. And wandering 
calls to mind the pilgrimages. There are many local 
shrines, to which pilgrimages are made on foot, or on 
mule-back, or in market-cart, in one day, or two, or 
three. But there are also the great shrines of Central 
and Southern Italy, and the number of their devotees in 
the Abruzzi is very large. The noted ones, of course, 
are those of Assisi, the Santa Casa at Loreto, and St. 
Nicolas of Ban. Loreto and the Porziuncola can be 
both taken in one journey — a long and difficult journey, 
meaning more than three weeks' absence from home. 
But what are three weeks compared to the gain for 
eternity ? Such a journey is the event of a lifetime. 
Some of the richer go by train nowadays ; but the)' are 


a small, degenerate minority. The rest walk every step 
of the way, and take every bit of food they will want 
along with them — salmi, cheese, fruit, wine, even to 
bread in some cases. So laden, they trudge from the 
remotest recesses of the Abruzzi to the centre of Umbria, 
day after day, kinsfolk and friends tramping together in 
happy company, singing hymns and litanies. The nights 
are spent in hospitable churches. After homage has 
been paid at the shrines, after all the supplications have 
been sent up, and the privileges obtained, they trudge 
back again by hill and v'alley. The return home is a 
scene of wild triumph ; and they bring the fervour of 
the sanctuary to those who might not go. There is 
singing in the streets by night, and processions to all the 
churches. And they bring back something even more 
lasting than little holy pictures and newly blessed rosaries 
and scapulars. " Have you been to San Francesco ? " 
I asked a woman on a lonely mountain road, who was 
bringing her firewood down from the high beech woods. 
" To San Francesco ? Sicuro ! And San Nicola too ! 
And the Santa Casa ! See here ! " She whipped up 
her sleeve. " See here ! I have my marks." And there 
on her arms were plainly visible the signs of privilege — 
passport to show Peter at the Gate of Paradise — the 
blue tattooed image of the Holy House of Loreto, and 
the stamp of the holy place of Assisi, with the dates of 
her visits. They were some twelve years back. " Ah ! " 
she said, " I go no more. The times are hard — and 
there are the children." 

Besides the churches in regular use, and the vast 
number of abandoned ones, there are many chapels and 
sanctuaries in the Abruzzi of too holy fame to be left to 
the ruin of time and the chance care of the faithful. 
Frequently they are in the loneliest and most desolate 
places, like those of San Domenico, near Villalago, and 

94 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Santa Maria della Predella at the opening of the Piano 
di Cinquemiglia. They are placed in the care of one or 
more hermits, who live in a romitorio adjoining, ring the 
bell, and repeat matins and vespers. For the most part 
they are not clerics at all, but old shepherds approved 
for their virtuous lives by the arciprete of the district. 
They keep a simple rule, which enjoins reverence for the 
sanctuary, devotion in religious exercises, and general 
discretion of life. For material things, they live on the 
alms of the faithful. A box with a picture of the patron 
Madonna or saint stands on the altar. On certain days 
of the week the hermits visit, in turn, the neighbouring 
towns or villages, with licence to beg for food, or for 
pence, which go into the little pictured box. It is 
mostly from the poor they reap enough to keep them 
from want. Some wear their old shepherd's cloak, but 
generally they have a distinctive dress — a black or brown 
frock, with a leathern girdle, and a wide-brimmed beaver 
hat. You meet them toiling up the steep roads, with 
their wallet and their box, on their appointed begging 
days, and in the market-places, and in and out of the 
houses of the little towns ; and not a peasant woman will 
pass without kissing their holy picture, and giving it to 
her little child to kiss. Odd, rough, uncouth, are these 
shepherd hermits of the Abruzzi, and their lives through 
the long solitary winter are of the hardest ; but from the 
lonely scattered sanctuaries they would be missed. Their 
bell rings the herdsman and the labourer home. Their 
little chapels are resting-places and shelters along fearful 
roads, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary 




Pagan survivals — Demons — Treasure-hunting — Witches — The Malocchio — 
New Year, Easter, May Day, and St. John's Day celebrations — The 
Bond of the Comiiiare — The tede pagane — Evocation of the dead — Folk 
Tales — The Land where Death is not — The Creation of the 
World — Misery. 

Amongst a people still so largely primitive there is no 
clear distinction between their religion, so far as it is 
traditional, and their folk-lore. The stories of the saints 
are often refurbished legends of the rustic gods, of the 
vanished fairies, or of magic men of the antique world. 
San Domenico of Cocullo is a reincarnation of the old 
priest-enchanter of the Marsi ; and Ceres is now called 
the Virgin Mary. There has been no conscious accept- 
ance of the transference by the Church, of course ; but a 
natural process has gone on amongst the people, who in 
all primitive Catholic countries make their own religion 
to a much larger extent than Protestants do, or than they 
can understand. Pagan and Christian are not two rival 
worlds living side by side. They are to all intents and 
purposes the same world. Their division is a step on in 
sophistication, but their separation does not involve either 
being annihilated. The one born of the soil gives sub- 
stance to the other that has come on the wings of the 
spirit. That of the spirit softens the crudities and the 
grim rites of the old. But the process of degeneration, 
if slow, is sure ; and thus the mighty gods that dwelt on 
the Olympus of the Abruzzi, Monte Majella, are now 



demons of the storm ; and the daughters of Circe and 
Angizia are witches h'ving in a hillside hovel. The 
traveller will often fail to trace the old beliefs in the 
Abruzzi, or they will be denied. They vanish suddenly ; 
they reappear ; above all, they hide. The most finished 
latter-day sceptics are not rare ; but when you find one 
he will be living next door to a mediaeval Christian on 
one hand and a meddler in ancient magic on the other. 
The traditional lore of the people, the folk-legends in 
prose and verse, the store of wise saws, of remedies, 
of notions of history filtered through minds at once 
ignorant and imaginative, may not be all indigenous. 
^ Signor Finamore thinks there is little Abruzzese lore 
pure and simple. But whether borrowed or shared, 
or exclusively native, the store of it is rich and varied. 
And first of the deposed gods, soured by neglect 
and the wear of time. They are demons now, and 
so vengeful towards men you can hardly pity their 
sorry condition. Here is a story they tell of them in 
the Vastese. 

" On the top of Majella were gathered a crowd of 
devils, so many you couldn't count them. They all had 
shovels, and were shovelling up the snow and rolling it 
down the slope, while the wind was whistling shrill. The 
wind carried the snow through the air, and formed hail, 
which fell on the fields like waves of the sea. The devils 
gave themselves no end of trouble over it, saying, ' Haste ! 
Let us make haste, for if once the ciiicculalle begin we'll 
get nothing done.' 

"A good man was passing by, and he heard this 
saying of the devils. So he said to them, 'What are 
the ciucculalle f ^ The devils shouldn't have explained 
the word, but all the same they did, and said, ' The 
ciiicctdalle are the bells.' So you see that, though devils 
have their vices, they are not so sly after all ! 

" The good man hearing this, set off running to the 


village, while the hail was battering down worse and worse 
every minute, and once at the church he seized the rope 
of the bell and rung it like mad. At the sound of the 
bell the people knelt down and prayed, and the candles 
were lit for the feast of the Purification, and the chains of 
the chimneys were thrown out on the roads. Little by 
little the hail withdrew towards Majella, and the devils 
went back to hell." 

Many of these stories are of the order of Plutonic 
legends, the demons appearing as guardians of buried 
treasure. Indeed, the quantity of buried treasure in the 
poverty-stricken Abruzzi is surprising. The hunts go on 
still, in secret. Doubtless, rumours of wealth hidden by 
brigands have helped to keep up the belief among those 
who would be sceptical of demons. But it is not a few 
who hold, according to Finamore, that the treasures are 
guarded by spirits. Whenever wealth is buried, some 
one is killed, and the soul of the dead man hovers about 
it so long as it is not seized. As soon as it has been 
taken, the soul of the murdered man has peace. The 
treasures belong to the devil, and he does his best to 
terrify the seeker, who will take no harm, however, if he 
keep up his heart. It is very important, of course, to 
know the perfect spell— /czr^ uno scongiuro buono — but 
fearlessness seems to be still more efficacious. Not so 
easy, though, seeing that you may suddenly be confronted 
by a lady in white, or a huge toad, or the devil himself 
Moreover, a pistol may be fired at your entrance, and in 
the smoke you may lose your way ; or while all is calm 
outside, within there may be wind, rain, hail, thunder, and 
lightning to bewilder and stun you. In more than one 
place the treasure takes the shape of a golden hen and 
seven golden chickens. Everybody knows there is such 
an one in a well close to the Madonna del Palazzo, near 
Montenerodomo, where was once a rich Benedictine 
abbey, and in ancient days Juvanum, Jove's city, of the 


98 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Peligni. But the Government won't let it be meddled 
with. Another golden hen is under the stairway of Santa 
Maria Maggiore at Lanciano, an ancient temple of Apollo ; 
but the lady who is to own it is not yet born. Naturally, 
the spirits condemned to watch the treasure are often 
anxious to be released of the trust, so they tempt you to 
dig. Then your peace is gone. If you refuse, they beat 
and torment you. If you accept, you in your turn have 
to guard the treasure, and know no rest. The story of 
the bold priest treasure-hunter and his timid companions 
is common. There is a great deal of wealth buried all 
about Chieti. In the hill of St. Paul, between Chieti and 
Pescara, is hidden a chest of money. A certain priest, 
who had il libro del commando, took thirty persons with 
him, all chosen for their strength and courage. He warned 
them to be bold, bold, and yet again bold. They stood 
in a circle while he read from his book and made the 
scongiuro biiono. In the middle of the circle rose first a 
head, then a body, then the whole figure of a monk. He 
appeared and vanished, reappeared and vanished again, 
and every time there was a great noise like a hail of 
money. At last he came up with a gun, and was aiming 
it at the seekers. " Courage ! Courage ! " cried the 
priest. But in their terror some of them fell to the ground, 
where they were kicked and flouted by the spectre monk. 
And the kicks and blows were of such force that before 
they knew what was happening they found themselves, 
some at Bucchianico, some at Alento, some at Chieti, 
and — well, the whole country round seems to have shared 
their scattered bodies. At Pescocostanzo treasure-seekers 
were treated in the same fashion — one awaking on the 
top of Pizzalto, one on Porraro, one on Morrone, one on 
Monte Corno — a long leap that — -while still another died 
of fright. It was the tired spirit clamouring for his own 
rest, doubtless, that attacked the boy at the Tricalle 
of Chieti. (The Tricalle stands still — a little antique 


circular building, once the temple of Diana Trivia. You 
pass it on your way up by the electric tramway to the 
town.) The door opened as the boy passed, and some 
one appeared with a lump of gold in his hand, signing to 
him to take it. The little lad ran away, whereupon the 
spirit blasphemed horribly, rushed out, hit him a ringing 
blow, and knocked him down. He was ill for long, and 
he never had his wits again. 

There are treasure-stories, too, without any mention 
of the demon. The old Cappucino convent at Taglia- 
cozzo, near the Madonna delle Grazie, built in 1626, is 
said to owe its existence to the finding of a treasure. A 
lay brother of the earlier convent was sent by his guardian 
to gather goat-dung in a cavern on the side of Monte 
Salviano, near Avezzano, where certain Luco folks stabled 
their goats in winter. In the grotto he found an immense 
treasure. I do not know how he explained his sudden 
affluence, but he built a palace for his family — the degene- 
rate frate ! — and salved his conscience, I suppose, by 
building likewise a new convent for his community. So 
runs the tale. 

Treasure-hunting goes on to this day. The old 
hermitage of Sant' Onofrio, Pope Celestine's refuge on 
Monte Morrone, is reputed to have a mine of buried 
wealth somewhere about its rocky foundations — perhaps 
part of the hoard of the magician Ovid. To-day it is 
utterly deserted, and, according to a story told me — but 
after I left Sulmona, and thus I had not the chance of 
verifying it on the spot — deserted for a terrible reason. 
Till a few years ago it was inhabited by three hermits. 
One day, as none of them were met on their begging 
rounds, folks went to see what was amiss. No one 
answered the visitors' knock. The door was broken in — 
and all three were found murdered on the floor. 

To-day in the Abruzzi they laugh at the idea of 

100 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

witches : they laugh to you, and in many cases, of 
course, the scepticism is genuine. But Hve there, and 
you will hear strange tales that are not all of yesterday. 
It is the belief of many in the remoter parts that a male 
child born on Christmas Eve is destined to be a were- 
wolf, and a girl-child a witch. You can take steps to 
circumvent destiny if you are of a bold unflinching spirit. 
For instance, if the father for three Christmas Eves in 
succession make a little cross with a red-hot iron on the 
baby's foot, this holy sign will burn out the evil fate. 
Leave the child alone, and all may go well for a time. 
But the son or daughter will not pass twenty ere fate 
overtakes them. They will curse their parents. The 
son may keep a good face to the world during the day ; 
but at midnight he turns to a wolf, and goes out howl- 
ing. And if the nightly revels of witches be ended, it is 
in very recent days indeed, and within the memory of 
men and women who are still living. 

The witch abhorred, and yet secretly admired and 
propitiated in her lifetime, sick of her awful power, 
often longs for death. But she cannot die without first 
handing on her power — senza lasciare r7ifficio. Her 
agony may thus be indefinitely prolonged, if she has 
compunctions, or if those who tend her take shrewd 
precautions. But she may call to a woman and say, 
" Take my hand " ; and her hand touched at such a 
moment, the power is passed on — Vnfficio e passato. 
According to some, indeed, the last breath of a dying 
witch is contagious ; and the unholy art may be yours 
for an act of mercy. But such delay is very reprehensible 
in a witch who is sincerely desirous of release from her 
powers, which she may gain by the aid of a charitable 
priest, if on a Friday he lets down his stole on her from a 
^ The baby lying in the cradle is especially liable to the 
evil influence of witches, and so the careful mother will 


know potent spells ; and will commend it to certain 
saints, and sing — 

" Sande Cosem e Damijane, 
Ji' m'addonn e ttu me chiame. 

Sanda Lodo, a tte re le done. 
Lu jurne nghe ma, e la notte nghe tta. 

Sand' Ann' e Ssande Susanna, 
Huarde' stu fuejj a llat' a lu lett' a la mamma." 

But there are mothers that utter no spells. " Did 
ever a witch hold your child in her arms ^ " said a folk- 
lore inquirer to a woman with a meagre ailing infant. 
" The witch that harmed my child was Poverty," she 

If it be unfashionable now to believe in witches, there 
is no use denying the evil eye. The belief in the 
malocchio in the Abruzzi, as in all the South of Italy, is, 
of course, widespread and deep. You don't argue about 
it, or speak of it, but simply take every possible precaution 
against it. Men do so quite as often as women, and charms 
are not more generally attached to the necklace than to the 
watchguard, especially, I think, in the towns on the coast. 
The horn-shaped charm is not universal ; the hand- 
shaped one, with the forefinger and little finger open, 
is also very efficacious. So is a little golden fish, or a 
bunch of badger's hair, or the tooth of a wolf killed in 
the springtime. The fiore d'argcjito is highly thought 
of, but is not a common possession. It consists of a 
little tree with five branches arranged fan-wise. One 
branch ends in a flower, one in pincers, one in a serpent's 
head, and two in closed hands. 

If on Friday evening in the twilight a black cat 
comes in unseen by the man or woman of the evil eye, 
and you catch it fast by its two fore paws and make it 
mew seven times, the evil power is made impotent. 
This is no jester's remedy : it has its recommenders ; but 
it is acknowledged to be clumsy, and you would do 

102 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

much better, if you or yours are being injured, to call in 
the aid of a medic/iessa, or wise woman. Indeed, it is 
highly important you should do so ; for doctors' stuff 
made up by apothecaries with grand diplomas from 
Naples and Aquila may be all very fine, but it is well 
known that the malocchio is the real cause of every 
malady. A slight precautionary measure on meeting a 
person who is obviously a stranger, is to make the sign of 
the cross. A score of times, at least, I have seen this 
done at my approach — and a civil greeting followed. 

This is the darker side of the people's customs and 
lore. One need not dwell too much on it — though perhaps 
it may live as long as the local festivals. All that concerns 
ceremony has a tendency to die in the air of to-day, and 
ceremonial observances are dying in the Abruzzi, too, if 
more slowly than in most other places. Not so long ago 
there must have been a complete ritual in use for all the 
great acts of life, as for all the seasons and labours of the 
}'ear. Perhaps few of these ceremonies have actually 
vanished ; but they no longer survive simultaneously in 
the same place. What remains is not all degenerate. 
The fragments are sometimes grotesque, oftener still of 
beauty. They are broken poetry out of an older world. 

If you dare a winter there, you may still hear the 
New Year sung in, piped in, drummed in — though the 
drum may be a frying-pan. The singers and pipers are 
regaled at every hospitable house with cake and wine. 
The New Year is greeted, too, at the dawn ; and the 
singers enter, carrying large stones, a club, a knife, and a 
sack. If food is given, it is put in the sack ; if money, a 
knotch is made in the stick, and all is divided afterwards ; 
if nothing, the stone is left in the kitchen with the words, 
" May this be the head of the house ! " At Canzano 
Peligno, on New Year's Eve, the fountain is decked with 
leaves and bits of coloured stuff, and fires are kindled 


round it. As soon as it is light, the girls come as usual 
with their copper pots on their heads ; but the youths 
are on this morning guardians of the well, and sell the 
" new water " for nuts and fruits — and other sweet things. 

Here is a pretty Easter absurdity in Sulmona. The 
statue of Christ is placed on an altar under one of 
the aqueduct arches looking over the market-place. 
The statues of all the local saints are then brought out of 
the churches and made to defile round Him in adoration. 
Then their bearers set off with them at a run. They are 
hurrying to tell His Mother that He is risen. She, 
housed in the Church of the Tomba in the meanwhile, 
is now carried out and run hastily down to the altar 
under the aqueduct, and Mother and Son meet. 

The May greetings are still sung, and till lately were 
general. At Frattura, a village in the mountains, near 
Scanno, remote, high perched, yet so girt round by the 
hills that the most precious of all things is the light of 
the sun, this greeting of May is pathetic and signifi- 
cant. On the eve the young folks go out with cow-bells 
to meet the May. " Maggio ritorna ! " they cry. " Viva 
Maggio ! Ecco Maggio ! Oh ha ! " At dawn the cries 
are redoubled, and shouts greet the first glimpse of the 
sun above the mountain-tops. 

The St. John's fires are dying ; but the Precursor is 
commemorated in other ways. On the coast they plunge 
and swim in the Adriatic before dawn, or go out in barks 
to greet the rising sun, and then feast on the sands. The 
idea of purification, of renewal, on this feast, is nearly 
always present here and everywhere else. At Pesco- 
costanzo they wash with dew on St. John's morning. 
On the eve they have gathered herbs which have special 
virtue then. At Catanzano they gather herbs, too, and 
wash their faces and hands at seven fountains. From 

I04 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Introdacqua, near Sulmona, they go up to La Plaja by 
night, and sing and feast and gather armfuls of flowers, 
and tell the old story, how when the moon won't give 
way, the sun picks up a handful of mud and throws it at 
her — and that is why there are spots on the moon. 
The fight gets hot ; for the moon is very obstinate, 
and the sun insists on its disappearance. Then St. John 
the Baptist, who thinks there has been enough of this 
squabbling, comes and orders the lesser light to vanish ; 
after which the saint dips his face in the sea and goes 
about his business. Buckets of water are left out for St. 
John to bless in passing, and it is very good to wash in 
such water in the morning. Up in Majella the herbs are 
very potent that are gathered on the eve ; and bands of 
men and maidens, wreathed with briony, start in singing- 
bands at midnight up the sides of the great mountain 
and its spurs, to gather healing plants and flowers and 
to greet the dawn. 

Birth and christening, the bond of the commare tied 
in childhood — the bond exists between those who have 
been passed by their mothers as infants over the altar 
together, or sometimes such as have done homage at a 
certain shrine together after their first communion — 
betrothal, marriage, death, and burial, all have their 
ritual, here falling into disuse, there broken and in- 
coherent ; but enough is left to link together the dim 
old world and the new. At Roccapia, for instance, deep 
in the hollow of the great hills, they keep still a relic of 
the tede pagane. A bride and bridegroom in church 
receive two lighted candles, symbol of the domestic fire, 
the fire of renewal, of generation. 

Death has its grim usages, but likewise those that 
lift the heart and soften it. At Barrea, a dead youth is 
carried to his grave by maidens. On the Adriatic coast, 
on All Souls' Eve, they still go out with lights and bells 
to evoke the dead ; or they make all speed to the 


church, for the one who gets there first releases a soul 
from purgatory. There are old women who evoke the 
shadow of their dead kindred in a pot of water. They 
call to them, those whom they have known long ago. 
" The dead walk to-night," they say. And then, " Re- 
quiescant in pace ! " They are not very far away, our 
dead. When the last breath is passed, close well the 
eyes — else would they call and call one of their kindred 
to go with them on the dark journey. Nor might he 
say nay. Sometimes a piece of money is put in a pocket 
of the shroud to pay the dead man's way ; and you must 
make haste to wash the linen of the deathbed, else the 
soul will not rest. If the dead appear to the living in 
white raiment, it is well with them : they are in Paradise ; 
if in red, they are in hell ; if with nuts in their hand, be 
not sparing of money for masses for their souls. 

Whether the old stories that once were the possession 
of all, and now linger about the firesides and the pastures 
where the herds gather, be indigenous or not, there is a 
goodly store of them. And where they are not forgotten, 
the evenings are not too long about the hearth, nor the 
days too lonely on the hillsides. Only a few have local 
settings ; for a strong instinct in the midst of a hard life 
is ever — Escape, escape ! The bodily feet may linger and 
lag, but the heart and mind are agile to win — Heaven or 
Fairyland. Photography and newspaper reporting are 
the arts of smug prosperity. A life luxuriant in incident, 
not too soft, but without close limits — that is their 
favourite material ; and for heroes and heroines they like 
adventurous boys, wandering princesses, magicians with 
master-keys to treasure, to regions of infinite hope or 
infinite terror. Nearly all the personages are travellers ; 
for the natural heart of man is ever on the road. Some 
I cannot follow : they are framed by a different logic of 
life from ours, and yet they whet the imagination by the 

io6 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

inexplicable in them, and stimulate by simple audacity of 
statement. What is the meaning of // Re de Sette Vele ? 
And what is the end of it ? I shall never know, and 
always desire to know. 

But there are other tales, where the instinct of escape 
is not present, the makers of which have looked with 
clear, open eyes at life as it is lived in these mountains. 
They have not abated one jot of the harshness of the 
facts as they know them, but have looked steadily, and 
without rancour, on sin, toil, poverty, the passing of the 
years, and Death both as foe and as friend. By a simple 
process of generalization they have lifted these pictures 
of life to a region beyond petty accident, and given them 
truth for all the world — yet from essential detail none of 
the keen edges are rubbed. A grave dignity marks 
most of them, and a clear, cold-eyed resignation. They 
neither flatter life nor whine over it. I do not know 
their date, nor whether they be native to the Abruzzi, 
but they are current there ; and if I know the grave- 
eyed mountaineers, these stories utter with marvellous 
exactitude their outlook on human life — save as it may be 
modified by the kind caprice of Heaven and the saints. 

Here is a homely version of the everlasting truth, 
" By one man sin entered into the world, and death by 
sin." For all its homeliness, its idealism could hardly be 

" There was once a young man. Oh, but he was ugly, 
ugly, ugly. A fairy kissed him, and he grew beautiful, 
beautiful, beautiful. Then the fairy said to him, ' Go, 
seek for a world where death is not.' So the young man 
went about looking for the world where there is no death ; 
and nowhere did he find it. When he came to a village 
and heard the death-bell ring, he set out again at once 
on his travels. There seemed no end to his seeking. 
One day he came to a wood, where the trees were old, 


oh, but old, old ; and he said to himself, ' Would this be 
the world where death never comes ? ' But then he found 
a tree fallen on the ground, and there was a great coming 
and going of ants about it. So he concluded, * If trees 
die here, so must men too.' On he went again, and he 
entered a valley. There were a great many beasts about, 
and all of them old, old, so old. Said the young man, ' Now 
this, for sure, is the world where there is no death.' But 
it was not true, for hardly had he made a step ere he 
saw a dead lion. So he went on again, and came to a 
great plain. There an old man, so old, old, was plough- 
ing the ground. Said the young man to the old, ' Could 
you tell me where is the world where folk never die ? ' 
The old man answered, ' Go you on a little way, and 
you'll meet my grandfather. Perhaps he'll be able to 
tell you.' And so the young man went on still, and 
found another old man, old, but so old, and he too was 
ploughing the ground. The young man asked the same 
question. ' I am looking for the world where folks never 
die. Be so good as to tell me the way there ! ' The 
other answered, ' Ih-h-h ! Who knows ? But you might 
ask my grandfather who is ploughing a little farther on.' 
The young man came up to this third old man, old, old 
he was ; asked the same question and had the same 
answer. And so did he have from a fourth, a fifth, and a 
sixth, all of them old, old, old. The seventh had a white 
beard, long, long, long, that came down to his feet. Said 
this old man to the young one, ' Here in truth is the 
world where folks never die. If you would stay among 
us, you must earn your bread by the sweat of your brow.' 
Just think of it ! The young man began to dance on 
one foot, so great was his joy. Then the old man said, 
' Go to that house you see up that mountain, and say 
to my grandmother there to prepare two plates of soup 
and a boiled hen, so that this evening when we all come 
home, we shall find everything ready. Off set the young 

io8 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

man ; but by the way he thought to himself, ' Two plates 
of soup and just one hen, and seven old men who work 
from morning to night ! Besides, who knows how many 
sons and grandsons and great-grandsons there may be ? 
And now there's another mouth to fill. Am I to eat 
nothing to-night ? Oh, but this is a poor kind of house- 
keeping ! ' So when he went into the house of the seven 
old men, he said to the grandmother of the old man with 
the long, long, long beard, * Your grandson bids me say 
that you are to prepare four dishes of soup and two hens.' 
The old woman crossed herself with her left hand. But 
all the same she prepared the two hens and the four 
dishes of soup. 

" Evening came, and into the house came a whole 
caravan of people. The seventh old man said to the 
grandmother, ' Who bade you make ready all this ? ' She 
answered, ' This fine young man told me.' And the old, 
old carle said to the fine young man, ' Bravo ! You have 
begun well. 

"'Ours is the world without any sin; 

Be off to the cheaters — they'll let you in. 

" ' Ah ! you know nothing, nothing ! 

" ' Ho mangiato senipre broccoli, 
Ho portato sempre zoccoli, 
Poco cervello alia mia perlencocola.' 

["I have always eaten cabbage, I have always worn clogs, and tliere's 
little wit in my head."] 

" And so the young man took his long way back ; 
and if he isn't dead by this time, he'll die one day. 

" ' Patre nostre de ji senze 
Alia trippe se cumenze ; 
Se fernisce a ju spedale : 
Sette libbre noss' a male.'" 

[" Pater noster of the senses. Give in to the stomach and it's at the 
hospital you'll end. Sed libera nos a 7nalo."'\ * 

' De Nino, vol. iii. p. 368. 


And what of the fairy who had kissed him into 
beauty ? What did she think of a world where death 
never entered, but only at the price of such austerity ? 
Or did he come back to her again, brutto^ briitto, bruito, 
and give her an excuse for running away ? 

The next one I shall give is grimmer, bitterer to the 
taste. The text of it is — 

" I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the 
sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that 
they might see that they themselves are beasts. For 
that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts ; 
even one thing befalleth them : as the one dieth so 
dieth the other : yea, they have all one breath ; so that 
a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast, for all 
is vanity. All go unto one place ; all are of the dust, 
and all turn to dust again." So says Ecclesiastes. Com- 
pare the statement with this folk-tale. Life .'' " All is 
vanity, saith the Preacher." Life ^ " Who has had it 
has had it," says this unknown maker of folk-tales. 

" After the creation of the world the Eternal Father 
went in to His palace to rest. And it wasn't little He 
had had to do, was it .-' To create all the animals just ! 
Well, He had gone in, and flung Himself down on a seat. 
Then all the beasts came to pay their respects to the 
Creator, and to ask a favour of Him. 

" The ass came in : ' I thank Thee who hast created 
me, and I kiss Thy hands and Thy feet.' 

" ' Don't speak of it ! ' replied the Eternal Father. 

" And the ass went on : ' I would fain know what is 
my destiny.' 

" ' Your destiny ? I'll tell you at once. You must 
work from morning till night, and patiently put up with 
it however they belabour your back, and not murmur 
either. Otherwise there'll be nothing to fill your belly. 

no IN THE ABRUZZI [rx. i. 

And it will be a feast day for you when they give you a 
little straw.' 

" The ass bowed its head, and began to reflect. ' To 
work all the time ! Little or nothing to eat ! To be 
beaten, and then beaten again ! What a life ! ' He turned 
it over in his mind, and raised his head. ' I would know 
for how many years this weary life of mine shall last' 

" ' Twenty years,' replied the Creator. 

" ' Twenty years ! Twenty years is too long. I am 
not worthy to kiss Thy hands and feet ; but one grace 
Thou should'st grant me.' 

" ' Well ? ' 

" ' Let me get out of it a little sooner.' 

" ' And how much would you have cut off ? ' 

" ' Ten years would still be too much ! ' 

" ' This grace is granted.' 

" The ass went out and told everything to the dog 
waiting at the door. The dog entered. 'I have come 
to thank Thee for having made me, and I would fain 
know what is my destiny.' 

" ' Your destiny is to stand barking and often chained ; 
you must be faithful to your master ; and if he beats you, 
then you shall lick his hands. As for eating, you may 
look for a bit of black bread, and now and then they'll 
throw a bone out of the window to you.' 

" The dog put his tail between his legs and hung his 
head, thinking. ' Always barking ! Often chained ! To 
love him who hates me ! Dry bread ! A stray bone ! 
Ah, Father Eternal ! ' 

"The last words escaped him so loud, that the Eternal 
Father said, ' What's the matter } ' And the dog 
answered — 

" ' I throw myself at Thy feet. I would know how 
many years I have to live .-' ' 

" ' Twenty years.' 

" ' Too many. O my Eternal Father, cut some off ! ' 


" ' And how long would you have ? ' 
" ' The half ; and the other ten blessed years some 
other comrade can have.' 
" ' This grace is granted.' 

" Hardly had the dog gone out ere he began to bark 
out of desperation ; and by his barking the other beasts 
that stood at the door knew of the dog's misfortune. 

" Entered the ape, swinging his tail. ' I thank Thee, 
Father Eternal, for having made me.' 
" ' Well, and what else do you want .'' ' 
" ' I would know the fate that awaits me.' 
•"You shall never speak. You must live hidden in 
the woods, and feed on leaves and grass and beech-mast. 
In short, your mouth will often water. Man — you will 
either not see him, or you will flee him.' 

" Then the ape's legs began to shake. ' Always silent ! 
Alone ! Nothing but wretched food ! ' 

" The Eternal Father looked on with amusement the 
while. And the ape said, ' At least I would know if my 
life has to last long.' 
" ' Twenty years ! ' 

" ' Oh, in mercy ! But I shall die before then.' 
" ' It isn't your business to order the feast. You shall 
not die.' 

" ' I am not worthy to kiss Thy hands and feet. But, 
for charity, make my days shorter.' 
" ' Will ten years content you ? ' 
" ' Yea, my Lord.' 

" The ape went out and told all to a child, who was 
the last to go in. He entered, and knelt before the 
Eternal Father, who gave a long, deep sigh, saying, 
' Well, this is the last of them.' 

" The child began, ' I thank Thee for having made me 
in Thy image and likeness. Now tell me what is my 

" ' Your destiny is the best of all. You will be master 

112 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

of all the things about you, and free to make and to un- 
make. You alone shall enjoy life and shall rule over all 
the other animals. Are you content .'' ' 

" ' I am overjoyed. Oh, what more could I desire ? 
But tell me, how many years will this good time last .'' ' 

" ' Twenty years.' 

" ' It is too little, my Eternal Father. A little longer. 
Find me at least another hundred years.' 

" ' There are no more.' 

" Oh, but that is not true. Are there not the ten 
years that the ass wouldn't have, and the ten years of the 
dog, and the ten years of the ape ? ' 

" ' Would you have them ? Take them,' 

"And the child went out grumbling also, because to 
have only fifty years of joyous life was a foolishness. 

" All the words of the Father Eternal came true. 
In the first twenty years man is master and can do 
whatever he will. He listens to no one's reproofs. He will 
have a wife, and he takes her. Then his father says to 
him, ' Get out of the house and bear your own burdens. 
Work, work, work, if you would live.' And then man 
passes those ten years which the ass would not have. 
And children come. One is crying here, and another 
there, and he scolding and shouting all the time. Often 
he is forced to stop the whole day at home so that no 
harm may come to them. Often that his family may eat 
he touches nothing himself. And these are the ten 
years that the dog would not have. Then the sons grow 
up, take wives to themselves, and thrust the father aside. 
And when the father makes an observation, his sons say, 
' Be quiet ! ' And when some visitor comes to the house, 
' Don't you see how dirty you are ? Keep to your own 
room.' These are the ten years that the ape refused. 
And after fifty years, what is life worth to you ^ Who 
has had it has had it ! " ^ 

' De Nino, vol. iv. p. 3. 


And of what date is this tale I find in Finamore's 
collection ? The bitterest revolutionary of to-day could 
find no apter illustration. But it is not revolutionary, 
and it is not bitter. It has only the ascetic cynicism of 
long and ingrained experience of hardship. It sounds 
very new. One suspects something of the self-conscious- 
ness of the modern. But you find the same note in the 
old tales. It was not yesterday men began to talk like 

" There was once a village called Misery. In the 
wretchedest household there a son was born. Said the 
wife to the husband, * What name shall we give him } ' 
And he answered, * Misery.' 

" When Misery had grown to be a young man, he set 
off to beg his bread. Folks said to him, * Why don't you 
work ? At least you could go as a servant.' ' I'd do so 
willingly,' replied Misery, ' if I could find a just master.' 
' Oh, come, come ! ' they said. ' Is that so very difficult .'' ' 
' Yes,' he answered. ' I don't believe there is one any- 
where. Tell me, what master is there who shares his 
wealth with the poor ? ' 

" One day he met a prince, who said to him, ' I never 
saw any one so young and so wretched. Why, if you 
can't do anything else, don't you find a master .-' ' ' Be- 
cause no master is just,' ' Will you come with me .'' ' 
' No ; you are a prince.' ' Well, what of that .'' ' ' Because 
you are a prince, and I am a poor man, and we should 
not be equal.' 

" Begging his way from place to place, Misery reached 
Rome. There the Pope said to him, ' Will you come 
into my service .-* ' ' No ; because you are not just.' 
' What ! I not just ? ' ' No ; you are the head of the 
priests, and you say you are just.' 

" So off he set once more ; and he met One who called 
him by his name, and who said to him, ' Will you come 

114 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

into My service ? ' ' And how do you know about me ? ' 
asked Misery. ' I know all things. I am the Eternal 
Father.' ' Then you are the most unjust of all masters.' 
' What ! I unjust ! . . . ' ' Yes ; because you do not 
make all men equal.' The Eternal Father went back 
to Heaven, and straightway ordered Death to go forth 
and meet Misery. 

" Death went, and said to Misery, ' Is it true that you 
are looking for a master .-• ' ' Yes.' ' Will you come with 
me } ' ' And who are you }' 'I am Death.' ' Ah-h-h-h ! 
. . . Yes, with you I will go, for you alone are just, and 
treat all men alike. But you'll have to give me good 
wages, you know.' ' As for pay, be easy on that point. 
You'll come with me to the sick folks. If you see me at 
the head of the bed, it means the sick man will die ; if at 
the foot, he'll get better.' 

" So Misery began to play the doctor ; and he never 
made one mistake. Did he see Death at the head, he 
ordered the sacraments ; at the foot, he ordered cold 
water ; and he won much fame and lots of money. One 
day, Death said to him, ' Now let's go to your country.' 
' No, no ; there's too much misery there.' ' And what 
does that matter .'' ' asked Death. ' Well, well,' said the 
other, ' we'll go if you like ; but we shan't do good 
business there. Where there's little to eat, and less to 
drink, there's a health ! . . . ' 

" So it turned out ; and they left again ere long. On 
the way said Misery to Death, 'Where are we going 
now ? ' * To my home.' After three days' journey they 
came to a big house. There was a great hall in it full of 
crosses, some big, some not so big, and one single huge 
one. ' What do these crosses mean .-* ' asked Misery of 
Death. ' They are the crosses which each man has to 
bear.' ' And what is that very big one .-* ' 'It is the 
cross of Misery.' On they passed to another hall still 
greater than the first. It was full of little lights. ' And 


these little lights ? ' ' These little lights,' said Death, 

* are the lives of men. Each time one goes out a man 
dies.' ' And that little, little light just flickering out ? ' 
Said Death to Misery, ' Comrade, that is your light.' 

* And so I have to die .-' ' ' Yes, comrade.' ' Ah, but 
before dying, I beg one grace from the Eternal Father. 
I would fain say three Ave Marias.' The Eternal Father 
yielded this grace — but Misery has never yet said those 
three Ave Marias. And so he is still above ground." 



No museum cities — Classic remains — Christian architecture — Sculpture — 
The lovely lady of Aquila — Present-day aspect of churches — The 
master-craftsmen of the Abruzzi — Modern painters: F. P. Michetti. 

An Italian sky, mountains, glorious air — and no art. So 
may one lightly recommend the Abruzzi. It is not true, 
of course — Bindi's ponderous volumes are an overwhelm- 
ing protest against the statement. It is true only to the 
extent that there are no museum cities, and that the 
scattered monuments of a great time are mutilated. 
The artist and the casual wanderer will find things 
worth laborious searching after ; and the three fiends, 
earthquakes, poverty, and vandalism, have had much to 
spoil, though the second of the three has often had a 
beneficent influence. 

The remains of the art of the classic ages hardly 
count, at least not as art. Roman walls, bits of Roman 
columns, Roman substructures are common enough ; 
but as for buildings in any sense complete, when you 
have named the little Tricalle at Chieti, once the temple 
of Diana Trivia, and the Church of San Pietro at Albe, 
you have named the best. The ancient busts and 
statues dug up in temples and villas have long ago found 
their way to Rome. 

But in Christian architecture the province has been 
very rich. Even in this poor mountainous place the 
Church found means to build gloriously to God, 
the Virgin, and the Saints. Aquila had ninety-nine 



churches. Counting the number in places that are half 
dead now, one tries to revise all one's notion of history ; 
but probably there never was a civil life in proportion to 
all the ecclesiastical display. The land is covered with 
convents, chapels, hermitages. To-day it is difficult to 
point to one completely beautiful and in perfect pre- 
servation. San Felice of Pescocostanzo, San Marcello 
of Anversa, Santa Maria in Valle, Santa Maria in 
Moscufo, San Pietro d'Albe, the ruined abbey church of 
Casauria, rise to the mind, all of special interest or grace. 
Many with beautiful exteriors, such as San Bernardino 
and the Badia of Collemaggio, both of Aquila, and the 
cathedrals of Atri, Ortona, and Chieti, are hopelessly 
spoilt inside. Still, in broken words, you may read, in 
the monuments of the province, the whole story of 
architecture from the ninth century — Lombardic, Italo- 
Byzantine, Angevin, Renaissance, down to our own evil 
days. The best belong to the eleventh and twelfth 

The art of sculpture in the Abruzzi was always 
subservient to ecclesiastical architecture. Much of the 
finest work has vanished. Niccolo Pisano worked here ; 
but Santa Maria della Vittoria, the splendid church he 
planned for Charles of Anjou, is now a heap of shapeless 
stones. Of native architects and sculptors there were 
some of exquisite and very individual talent, whose 
names the world has never heard. And in sepulchral 
monuments, if not rich, it has at least one masterpiece 
by Andrea dell' Aquila, a pupil of Donatello. 

I do not like Aquila. Up there, under the Gran 
Sasso, it is hard and clear-cut and prosperous. It has 
had a stirring history, and its bright, intelligent people 
have made the best of a proud but naked situation, and 
a climate with terrible rigours of heat and cold. Once 
it was a treasure-house of beautiful work in stone ; and 
even to-day the antiquarian can find abundant material 

ii8 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

for his researches. But I did not wish to linger there, as 
at Chieti, with its glorious outlook on mountain and 
plain, nor as in soft, sleepy Sulmona, nestling in its 
happy valley. Yet I shall remember Aquila for that 
thing of exquisite beauty, the monument in San Ber- 
nardino erected by Maria Pereira, the Spanish wife of 
Count Lalli Caponeschi, to her infant daughter Beatrice, 
which commemorates both mother and child. The 
mother gazes out gently towards you, her hands resting 
on a book. She is young and gracious, a very noble 
lady. Underneath the sarcophagus lies the little child 
like a tender flower. The exquisite work was long 
given to Maestro Silvestro, the son of Giacomo da 
Sulmona ; but it is almost certainly from the hands of 
Andrea dell' Aquila. The great and interesting, yet 
inferior monument in the same church, the shrine of San 
Bernardino of Siena, is the work of Silvestro and his 
pupil Salvatore, both of Aquila. Who knows the lovely 
lady of the Camponeschi that lies here .-' A few critics. 
She is named in the handbooks. But Aquila is far 
away, and her lovers are few. 

The present-day aspect of churches, in the Abruzzi 
will certainly make a purist very unhappy indeed, and 
some who are not purists. Everywhere has the baroque 
invaded. After the terrible earthquakes in the beginning 
of the eighteenth century, there were so many churches 
ruined that repairs on a huge scale were doubtless 
necessary, if the fabrics were to last another fifty years. 
This gave a lamentable opportunity for vandalism ; and 
even those left unharmed followed suit. There was one 
pattern ; and energy and ingenuity were strained to 
their utmost to make the most diverse structures conform 
to it. Alas ! in the eighteenth century, so calamitous for 
ecclesiastical art, there were riches in the Abruzzi — 
hence all those plump curves, those bloated cherubs, the 
vulgar voluptuousness, the gilding, the gilt-edging. 


The terrible result is too well known to need description. 
In the poorer churches, however, though the purist may 
again be offended, the artist may often find something 
to delight or to amuse him. They are, indeed, people's 
sanctuaries, full of poor treasures j faded and worn with 
time and kisses. The stiff, formal roses that deck the 
home of the Virgin are blanched almost to silvery white- 
ness ; and even when brand-new pink ones are bought 
by the meagre pence of priest and people, they are 
arranged with a barbaric profuseness from which the 
commonplace touch of the bourgeois is entirely absent. 
Tawdry in themselves, they glow in dark, age-worn places 
like spots of living fire. A few years ago Mr. Francis 
James, the water-colourist, painted some of these humble 
Abruzzi shrines with excellent effect. There may be 
few statues one would look at twice for their art's sake, 
yet one carries away a sympathetic impression of some 
of the images. They are called " Our Lady of the 
Graces," or " Our Lady of Sorrows," or " St. Lucy," or 
" St. Appollonia " ; but, frankly, they are dolls, nothing 
but big dolls. The recent ones are as vulgar as new satin 
and wax and simpers can make them ; but the old ones, 
dressed in bombazine or antique brocade, have often a 
charm indescribable in words. To strangers' eyes they 
present nothing spiritual. The ideals of the church 
doll-makers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth 
centuries were three — the meagre prim virgin, the sub- 
stantial dignified housewife, and the jewelled court lady. 
None of them have the insipid vulgarity of the images 
of to-day. 

It was in the minor arts that the Abruzzesi shone. 
As goldsmiths they were unrivalled throughout Europe in 
the fifteenth century ; and Sulmona was a great school 
that trained many masters. Of the work of Niccolo 
Gallucci of Guardiagrele, one of the most accomplished, 
a good deal is left in the province. But Bindi names 

I20 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

these artists by the hundred. Hardly less skilful were 
they as potters, their most famous faience being made at 
Castelli in the Valle Siciliana. There had been potteries 
there from the time of the Romans ; but in the sixteenth 
century the art of majolica was brought there to a pitch 
of perfection under the Di Grue family, especially under 
Carlantonio and Francescantonio of that house. Speci- 
mens of Castelli ware are to be found in all the great 
museums of Europe; but in the Abruzzi none, save 
perhaps a piece or two in private collections. The 
bric-a-brac dealers of Rome know the embroideries of 
the province ; but the art is lost. Out of old cupboards 
and chests I have seen bits and scraps produced, feasts 
for the eye and the touch. To judge from the deft 
fingers of the women and their love of colour, the art 
might easily be revived — as lace-making has been to 
some extent. But the whisper from the outside world 
has come : the machine will make it cheaper. What is 
beauty ? What is the craft of the hand ? Will it sell for 
bread ? And life is hard. 

If the crafts have disappeared, since the opening up 
of the country there has been a rush of energy towards 
the pictorial and plastic arts. In painting, the Abruzzi 
during the Renaissance produced no artist worthy to be 
named with its sculptors. II Zingaro is too legendary 
for discussion. But several of the best known modern 
painters of Southern Italy have been natives of the 
province. Indeed, one of the most powerful and original 
of living Italian artists is Abruzzese, Francesco-Paolo 
Michetti, born at Tocco Casauria, near Chieti, in 1852. 
He was early influenced by Morelli and Fortuny ; but he 
soon found his own inspiration among his own people. 
His subjects — "peasant idylls scorched by Southern sun," 
they have been called— are nearly all of his native 
Abruzzi, and mostly from his own province of Chieti. 
You will hardly think of the Abruzzesi as a staid, 


reserved people after you have seen Michetti's interpreta- 
tion of them. He has painted them with sun-heated 
passions of love and mysticism, in a whirl of light. In 
his treatment there is an intoxication of energy ; and if 
his touch is sometimes brutal, it is always alive. His 
first great success was, " The Procession of the Corpus 
Domini at Chieti," in 1876. Since then he has shown 
the peasants abject before the divine, as in " II Voto," 
and exalted as in "The Feast of San Domenico of 
Cocullo." It was his picture, " La Figlia di Jorio," which 
inspired D'Annunzio's play of the same name. Indeed, 
his friend D'Annunzio has been his untiring and 
enthusiastic eulogist in prose and verse. Another 
Leonardo he has called him, for his vigour, his colour, 
his universality. 

" Tu che come Leonardo 
hai la dolce facondia allettatrice." 



Folk-Song in the Abruzzi — Love-Songs — " The Shepherd's Return " — 
Songs of Labour — Songs to Madonna and the Saints — A literature 
of improvisation — Serafino Aquilano — "The ploughman poet" — ■ 
Gabriele Rossetti — The English Rossettis — A forgotten romantic 
— Gabriele D'Annunzio. 

They sing still in the Abruzzi. At least the poor folks 
do, and not only those who work out-of-doors. Young 
Italy is a little inclined to be depressed at this persistence 
of song ; for he is secretly of opinion that it is incom- 
patible with intelligent occupations. Singing in a factory 
now ? Intolerable, of course, he reflects. But while he 
is thus reflecting, the croon of an old litany is mingling 
with the birr-r-r of some antiquated loom in the rocky 
streets of Scanno. Down to the bleak plain of Cinque- 
miglia fall the long calling songs of the shepherds, who 
have become but wandering voices on the heights. 
Under the glaring sun of the Campi Palentini the 
harvesters sing to the rhythm of their scythes and sickles. 
In the mellow valley of Sulmona, and on the vine-clad 
hills overlooking the eastern sea, lovers sing to each other, 
and answer each other in song from field to field, cease- 
less and without effort like birds, bending at their work 
the while, only rising now and then to breathe out a 
longer note. These are the stornelli (Abruzzese sturjijele). 
As Signor Finamore points out, they have no emphatic 
invocation, but are sung alternately by men and women, 
and often there is a little melody between the parts. 


D .1 

, '•> • 1 ' ' ' ' 

' ) ' 3 'j 3 3 3 3^ 

c C C C O b 

O C «.*''€ c 

« c r c -^ f r 

C C ' r ' - r 


The sweetest singer I heard was a Httle damsel of 
perhaps fifteen, whose occupation was to carry loads of 
bricks on her head for the masons who were building a 
new villa on the sands of the Adriatic. Her comrade 
was a slim lad, perhaps a year or two younger. To and 
fro the children went in company, singing bravely under 
their loads. On their return journey now one took up 
the tune, now the other. In rest times they dabbled 
their feet in the sand, or in the water, letting the sea 
sing to them. Then back to their work again, to the 
monotonous journeys to and fro with the bricks, and to 
the sweet singing they had learnt on their hillsides. 

Like nearly all folk-music the tunes are mostly in a 
minor key. I have heard some of marvellous beauty 
chanted only to the sky above and the Madonna by an 
unseen singer in a vineyard. But not all the solemn tunes 
have solemn words. For the tunes are old, old, and un- 
spoilt ; while many of the words have degenerated. Muti- 
lated ditties, out of which most of the sense has gone, or 
frivolous, or amorous fragments, may be sung to the 
same religious chant. All the chapters of the book of life, 
and all the works of all the seasons, doubtless had once a 
song ritual, stray fragments of which wander still in the 
mountains and the plains. But love is the chief theme. 
Once the love-songs were always accompanied by the 
pipe, and they are so to-day in the remoter parts of the 
Vastese. Elsewhere they are sung mostly alone, or with 
the guitar, or the chitarra battente, a kind of lute. 
The older songs are finer, subtler, than the new ones. 
Perhaps they are not all relics of shepherd and peasant 

" Quanno nacesti tu, nacqui pur ijo ; 
Nacquero li distini tra de noi," 

[" When thou wast born, then was I born too ; and the fates that bind 
us came into being."] 

124 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Again — 

" Vijate chi te da lu prime vace, 
Vijat' a cehela cas' addove trace ! 
Questo se cand' a tte, dolg-i-amor mije : 
Ca I'ombre che ffaje tu, quella so' jije." 
["Blessed be she who gave thee the first kiss. Blessed the house that 
shelters thee. This is sung to thee, sweet love of mine ; for the shadow 
which thou castest, it is I."] 

But it is not only the sweets of love that are sung — 

" Vaj' a 11' infernu, spenzieratamende, 
Trov' nu vecchiu, ch' era stat' amande, 
E jji me jj' accosto, ssecretamende ; 
Ji' isse : — Bhon vecchiu me, che ppene fati ? 
— ^Ji cambo mejje mo', quand' er' amande. 
Le pene de 11' infernu non zo gniende 
A cquelle che ppate tu, pover' amande." 
[" With heavy heart I made my way to hell, and there I found an old 
man who had been a lover. And I whispered to him secretly, ' Good old 
man, what pains dost thou suffer ? ' And he, ' I fare better now than when 
I was a lover. The pains of hell are nothing to those thou sufferest, poor 
lover.' "] 

And this of the love of an old man for a maid — 

" L'amore di li vecchi 
Mo te 1' accente come va ; 
Nu fasce de rame di ficura, 
Fa lu fume e lu foe' nin fa." 
[" The love of old men : now I will tell thee what it is : — A bundle of 
fig-twigs. Smoke it makes, but no fire."] 

Among a nomadic people the farewell songs are many. 

"Addij', addij', e 'n' aldra void' addije, 
La lundananza tue, la pena mije." 
["Adieu, adieu ! thine the distance, mine the pain."] 

This is the burden of half of them. 

I have heard "The Shepherd's Parting Song," and 
much oftener, "The Shepherd's Return," at Pescoco- 
stanzo, at Scanno, and elsewhere. But when they were 
written down for me, I found the words transformed 
into something with a rather modern sound — not quite 
modern, for we do not allude to Cupid in our most 
up-to-date lyrics — but at least not very rustic, or pastoral, 


according to Northern ideas. Perhaps this was out of 
kindness to the Inglese. They certainly have not the 
air of having been sung " when vines grew in the market- 
place," as they say of the oldest ditties. But the airs, at 
least, are traditional ; and sung to the guitar or fiddle by 
lusty mountain voices, they stir and haunt. And because 
" The Shepherd's Return," is one of the songs you may 
hear any summer evening in the mountains, I give it as it 
was given me at Scanno. 


MOTIVO DEL Canto {accompanied by the instrument only at the under- 
lined passages, 

Molto largo {appasstonafo). 

'Egi g^g^£EEijg^^^!=^^r^g: 

Ec - CO - mi, bel - la mi - a, son ri - ve - nu - to 









^ \ r IF 

tue bel-lez - zemihan-no ri-chia-ma - to - - - o (i] 

(l) Here begins the appennesella, or ritornello {i.e. burden), played by 
the violin or guitar. 

126 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

Eccomi, bella mia, son rivenuto. 
Le tue bellezze mi hanno richiamato. 
Ora che a te vicino sono tomato 
Fidele a te saro all' infinito. 
Quando nacesti tu, fior' di bellezza, 
II sole ti dono il suo splendore ; 
La luna ti dono la sua chiarezza, 
Cupido t' insegno a far' 1' amore. 
Quanto sei cara, fior' di Diana ! 
Tieni le bellezze della luna ; 
Porti i capelli alia fuggiana. 
II cuor mio per te si consuma. 
Bella, che delle belle regina sei, 
L'unico oggetto dei pensieri miei. 
Fiore di ruta, 
II mio cuore innamorato ti saluta." 

In the songs of labour the signs of decadence are very 
apparent, in the words, at least. Tradition has worn too 
thin. Memory has failed, and several have got tagged 
together, without fusion. Deep and solemn chants come 
across the fields to the passers-by. But ask the singers 
to tell the words, and this is what the song-gatherer 

gleans — 

"Ji' meta meta e la faggijja mete, 
Ca la patrona ha ma da di la fijje. 
Ni I'a prumess', e nni' mmi li vo' daje 
Tutto lu grane je vijje scippaje." 

Or this, which is a jumble of old tags — 

" Fiore de lemon e ffiore de lemone, 
La pan a' cummattute ghe la fame, 
E le vedeille me va 'm brecissione, 
O bella, bella de la cicia custte, 
Puorrem' a bbeve, ca me s'e' remboste ; 
E dda' mme I'acque, ne mme da' lu vine : 
Damme 'na rama de truzzemarine. 
Truzzemarina, vatten' a la Rocche ; 
Va wide la bella mi s'e' vviv 'o morte. 
Se e wive, bacittel' armlui' ; 
Se e mmorte, facettel' asseppelli'. 

Next to songs of earthly love come songs of heaven and 
the saints. Even to-day the Abruzzesi are a very lonely 


people. Husbands and sons and lovers go for more than 
half the year down to the plains of the South, nay, for 
years, across the sea. And the winter is very long. And 
the hills become walls of separation. And even good 
neighbours have their own troubles without bearing other 
folks'. Only the Madonna is ever there — she of the 
graces, best beloved, perhaps ; or she of the many sorrows, 
who knows theirs ; or she of the Orient, who shines like 
the morning star out of the darkness. And the saints 
are near, very near, indeed, in the wild Abruzzi. Out of 
their heaven of blue, and from their fleecy couches, they 
come to hard rocky places, and their light feet keep time 
to the patter of little maidens on their way to the well, 
to the tread of the mules up the stony ladder path, to 
the staggering run of the old under burdens they would 
fain lay down at last. They are very near and com- 
panionable, almost brothers and sisters, for all the gold 
crowns and the garlands they wear in church. Some- 
times these songs of the saints are long narrative 
ballads. Others are invocations. Many are sing-song 
rhythmic phrases, repeated and varied, made to lull the 
singer and her little world. The mother bending over 
her sick child, whispers and sings — 

"Vieci, Madonna, vestite dcbianchi, 
purteje lu suonne e liveje lu piante ; 
viece, Madonna, vestite de rusca, 
purteje la suonne, e liveje la tosce : 
viece, Madonna, vestite de nire, 
purteje lu suonne, e liveje le pene." 

I have it on the authority of an Abruzzese — his infor- 
mation is twenty years old — that you will never find a 
viandriano of the Marsica without a book of poetry, 
Tasso or Arisosto, which he learns by heart in entirety, 
sitting up against a tree. As a good many cannot read, 
the statement is a rather sweeping one. I doubt if the 

128 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. l 

observer would say the same to-day ; but I do not 
entirely disbelieve it. Whatever there is of culture in 
the Abruzzi belongs to the past ; and the peasantry are 
its best guardians. The bourgeois may be intent on the 
new, but not very strenuously ; for the new does not 
present itself to this race of peculiar gifts and limitations 
in an appealing fashion. 

Like all the Southerners the Abruzzesi have ever 
been great improvisatori. Of improvisers by profession 
they have had notable examples, among them that 
Serafino Aquilano (1466-1500), so famous that his 
epitaph in S. Maria del Popolo in Rome pronounced you 
in deep debt to your eyes only to have looked on his 
tomb. Serafino was a vagrant of genius, known at all 
the Courts of Italy — Milan, Urbino, Frederic of Aragon's, 
Caesar Borgia's — the delight of them all for his admirable 
extemporary songs, which he sang to his lute, and not a 
little feared, too, for his satires, which were free and 
courageous. He passed, and the wind swept away his 
traces. The nobles, the bourgeoisie, the scholars, the 
peasants, the shepherds, all improvised ; and they all, 
but chiefly the peasants, improvise to this day. One 

night last spring, after a little festa in S , the 

musicians serenaded the host and his family under 
the window ere they went home. To the air of the 
Shepherd's Partenza, the singer made a song half old, 
half new, with allusions to the events of the evening, 
with separate greetings to each member of the family, 
and a stanza specially made for the Inglese — all with 
a surprising readiness and a faultless sense of rhythm, 
while the guitar did its part, no less gallantly, emphasizing 
each sentiment, gay or serious, with equal promptitude. 
The improvisatore in this case was a yellow-haired, 
blue-eyed, ruddy-faced young fellow, own brother to a 
Northern Scot, a contadino, who did odd jobs about the 


village, and had lately been working in the brickfields 
near Pittsburg, U.S.A. 

The genius of the people has expressed itself largely 
in improvisations — has wasted itself, some one will say. 
But improvisation is one art, and literature is another. 
Sometimes they are combined. Improvisation is like 
acting : the next generation knows of its triumphs only 
by hearsay ; but its triumphs were none the less real. 
If the stuff of great literature is in a people, they will 
not choose iinprovisatori solely for its outlet ; and the 
easy triumphs of these may divert the energies from 
the harder task of finding the precise, the ultimate 
expression. But at least it is something to have a 
ready means to speak out what is in your heart, be it 
praise of your mistress, or love of the saints, or hate 
of the tyrant, or a compliment to your neighbour who 
has sent you a bottle of his best wine. This special 
talent Tasso never had, in spite of his Neapolitan 
mother, The.Marchese Manso, in 1588, took Torquato 
with him to Bisaccio to enjoy the pleasures of the autumn 
season. The host wrote to the Prince of Conca, " Tor- 
quato has become a mighty hunter, and overcomes even 
the hardships of the season and the country. The bad 
days and the evenings we are wont to pass listening for 
long hours to playing and singing, for he has the greatest 
delight in hearing those improvisatori, envying them 
that readiness in versifying, of which nature, he says, has 
been so sparing to himself." 

That the Abruzzesi have ever had this talent in a 
marked degree is a fact of much significance in dealing 
with whatever literature they have produced. Where 
improvisation has been modified only by learning, the 
effects are more striking than happy — as in the case of 
Benedetto de' Virgilii, " the ploughman poet." It was by 
his improvised shepherd songs he first became known- 


I30 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

They are all lost now, though one would give all his 
printed volumes, inspired by Jesuit fathers, for one scrap 
of the early untaught verse that brought the shepherds 
about him, and gave him fame in his native Alfedena. 
When he left his mountains he became a ploughman 
on the lands of the Jesuit College at Orta. His love of 
learning attracted the attention of the fathers ; and they 
stuffed him with Latin and theology. In return, he 
wrote a long poem on Ignatius Loyola, and others on 
religious themes, all of which were printed and gained 
many admirers. Ariosto and Tasso were his masters, 
and he attained to elegance. But it was his great 
namesake he would fain have imitated ; and under his 
picture — painted by order of the Pope — was written this 
epigram and apologia — 

" Non impar ego Virgilio, si vel mihi civem, 
Vel illi nasci sors dabat agricolam." 

The " ploughman poet " of the Abruzzi had rooms 
assigned to him in the Vatican by Pope Alexander VII., 
and he was made a Cavaliere di Cristo. But his works 
are now mere literary curiosities. Had the good fathers 
left him alone, he might have expressed something of 
the soul of his people, as did the far greater ploughman 
poet of the North. 

There is plenty of minor verse in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries ; but it is trivial, and after a fashion 
that was fated to die utterly. It was the emancipation 
of the spirit that came with the French Revolution and 
with the French occupation that lifted the hearts and 
loosened the tongues of the lettered Abruzzesi. And in 
that dawning age of liberty the most outstanding name 
among the liberators or the singers is one that makes 
special appeal to us English — the name of Gabriele 
Rossetti. In the beginning of one of his lectures on 
modern literature, the great patriot, Luigi Settembrini, 


said, speaking of his own young days, " In Naples there 
was conspiracy, and art was its vehicle. When we were 
young fellows each of us kept a notebook, which was 
secret and dear to him, wherein he wrote the finest 
patriotic poems he could find, not being able to have 
them in printed form ; and he got them by heart and 
recited them in company. In 1831, five of us had gone 
out one day to the country, and all at once an 
Abruzzese recited a new hymn — 

" ' Su brandisci la lancia di guerra, 

Squassa in fronte quell' elmo primato, 
Scendi in campo, ministro del fato, 
Oh quai cose s' asppettan di te ! ' 

" The hymn set our hearts beating ; and I remember 
still the voice of that youth as he cried, * Cursed be the 
Abruzzese, who shall ever forget Gabriele Rossetti ! ' 
To-day I repeat that no Italian should ever forget him." 

And, indeed, Don Gabriele was a great force in his 
time, before ever he set foot on English shores. After 
that he was but an exile calling home over the sea, 
calling in hopeless times to his own people, unhappy and 
distraught. The improvisatore of Naples had lifted their 
hopes, and his songs had run through all the kingdom, 
setting their hearts alight for liberty. Gabriele Rossetti 
was born at Vasto in the Abruzzi in 1783, the son of 
Nicola Rossetti, blacksmith, and Maria Francesca Pietro- 
cola. These poor parents were honourable folks of great 
intelligence, though unlettered. Nicola held he was of 
good ancient stock, belonging to the Delle Guardias, a 
well-known Vastese family, Rossetti being but a sobri- 
quet. The sons were all in their way distinguished. 
Andrea, the eldest, became a priest, and canon of Santa 
Maria in Vasto. He was a well-known improvisatore. 
Domenico became in course of time a lawyer, and settled 
in Parma. He also improvised, once notably in front 
of the tomb of Virgil ; but some of his poems were 

132 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

committed to paper, and a volume was printed. Antonio 
did not contrive to follow his brothers into the learned 
professions ; but at Vasto, where he was a barber, none 
was better known for his lively rhymes on gay occa- 
sions, and his extempore parody on the Dies IrcB is 
remembered to this day. Gabriele was educated first 
by his eldest brother ; but his mind was open to many 
influences, and he picked up a wonderful amount of 
varied learning before he left his father's house. Vasto, 
the natural birthplace for a poet, hangs on its cliffs 
overlooking the sea. Behind and to the south lie the 
beautiful fertile plains and olive groves, and back of them 
the great mountains. Gabriele, as a youth, wandering 
about the valleys of the Casarsa and the Trave, im- 
provised his songs to the sea and the sky and his friends 
— on an out-of-date Arcadian pattern, the only one the 
provincial youth as yet knew. When he was about 
nineteen there was a more than usually serious dis- 
turbance in the town, stirred up by the Calderai (rivals 
of the Carbonari), in which the brigands took part. 
The podesta was killed. When the youth heard that 
"this was a revolution in favour of legitimacy and the 
Catholic religion now attacked by the Jacobins," he 
reflected that the throne and altar were being defended 
in a more than doubtful fashion ; and from that moment 
his political principles began to take definite shape. 
There were republican ideas afloat, and even in Vasto 
a cap of liberty had been hoisted. French, which he 
had learnt from the invaders, became a medium of 
emancipation. For family reasons he might have hated 
the invaders, since his father never got over the insults 
of some French officers who had fallen foul of him for 
not furnishing certain provisions. Nicola was a man of 
strong feeling, and, like all Abruzzesi, very proud. This 
is how his grandson, Mr. W. M. Rossetti, translates an 
epitaph made for his tomb by a relative. 


" Nicola Rossetti, blacksmith, poor and honourable, 
lovingly sent in boyhood, to their first studies, his sons, 
carefully nurtured in childhood. If Fortune neglected 
him, provident Nature ultimately distinguished, in the 
obscure artizan, the well-graced father, who, to the 
strokes of his hammer on the battered anvil, sent forth 
the sonorous and glorious echo beyond remote Abruzzo, 
into Italy and other lands." 

Vasto had always had a stormy history, invaded by 
Turks and French and English and Austrians, now at 
the mercy of the foreigner, now of the brigands — for 
Manhes had not yet come to clear them out, and the 
town lived in daily fear of attack. With brigands 
without and feuds within, life was neither calm nor 
pleasant in the Vasto of those days. The studious and 
ambitious youth needed a larger sphere ; and he said 
adieu to the "collini ove scherzai bambino, ove adulto 

His priest brother, Andrea, procured for him an intro- 
duction to the great Abruzzese magnate, the Marchese 
del Vasto, armed with which he left his native place 
when he was twenty-one. He never saw it again, and 
he never forgot it. The poor blacksmith's son from the 
remote seaboard town, seems to have taken a prominent 
place from the beginning among the cultivated circles 
of Naples. He received a small appointment in the 
museum, but literature was to be his profession. Life 
in a great city and among men of thought and intellectual 
striving, stirred him, shook him out of his early Arcadian, 
insipid style. Besides, he had now something to say. 
It was to awake Italy he sang ; and let us remember, as 
we scan his lines coldly to-day, that he did awake it. 
He joined the Carbonari, and became their heart and 
soul in Naples. He, the Government official, had the 
boldest voice of them all. This was all very well during 
Murat's rule, but on the Bourbon's return, what was to 

134 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

happen to an employe who wrote and sang out of his 
heart, and whose theme was Hberty ? 

But it was still as an improvisatore he was greatest 
and most potent ; and the sonnet, not reprinted among 
his poems, which he rang out in the Caffe d'ltalia while 
they were waiting for Ferdinand's lagging hand to sign 
the Constitution, is improvisation at white heat and of 
splendid power, 

"Sire, che attendi piu? Lo Scettro Ispano 

Gia infranto cadde al suol, funesto esempio 

A chi resta a regnar ! Vindice mano 

Gli sta sul capo, che ne vuol lo scempio. 
Sire, che attendi piu ? I'orgoglio insane 

Ceda al pubblico voto : il fore, il tempio 

Voglion la morte tua — resiste invano 

II debil cortigiano, il vile e I'empio ! 
Soli non siam ; fin da remoti lidi 

Grido di morte ai Despoti rimbomba , , . 

Passa il tempo a tuo danno, e non decidi ? 
Sire, che attendi piu ? gia il folgor piomba . , . 

O il tuo regnar col popolo dividi, 

O sul trono abborito avrai la tomba." 

There were spies in the cafe, and the sonnet was 
never forgiven. There were other counts against him, 
and when despotism was redoubled after Ferdinand's 
return from Laybach, Rossetti was a marked man. A 
warrant for his arrest was sent out. A friend hid him in 
the port of Naples till he was taken on board an English 
steamer. In Malta he lived for over two years, befriended 
by John Hookham Frere. Then he came to England, 
and he never saw Italy again. The improvisatore of 
power was silent. True, his later poetry was all more or 
less improvisation, but no longer to an inflammable 
audience, eager for the breath of life from his lips. He 
sent messages over the sea, and knew hopes and despairs, 
and hopes again. But '48 passed away ; and, tied to 
England, he grew old and ailing and blind. For the 
sake of his gifted children he had borne with foggy 


London — "O che notte bruna, bruna, Senza stelle e 
senza lume"— while longing for his own keen air at 
home, and crying, " Salve, O ciel d' Italia bella." 

In England he saw all his countrymen of liberal 
opinions who came there. Poor himself, he was the 
generous friend of all, and his little house was ever open 
to them. Among the refugees were many Abruzzesi. 
The children knew them and the other Neapolitans 
because they called their father Don Gabriele. One of 
them was the distinguished painter, Smargiasse, Another 
painter, Rulli, gave Dante Gabriel some drawing lessons, 
and Mr. W. M. Rossetti has a picture of Vasto painted 
by one of them. They kept green in Don Gabriele's 
memory the home of his youth. " He could readily 
throw himself back," says his son, " when he liked, into 
the Neapolitan dialect, or the Abruzzese." 

Towards the end of his life he was engaged on his 
laborious Dante commentary, in the study of Kabbalism, 
freemasonry, and mysticism of every kind. Intensely 
religious by nature, he had broken entirely with his early 
faith, and had brought his children up, or allowed their 
mother to bring them up, as Anglicans. At the end he 
was a perhaps not very coherent mixture of freethinker, 
Protestant, and mystic — but the last predominated. His 
highest praise for a book was, " un libro sommamente 

Gabriele Rossetti died in 1854, and lies buried in 
Highgate Cemetery. The medallion on his tomb is the 
work of a sculptor of his own province. In Santa 
Croce, Florence, he is named with honour, this singer of 
unity, this prophet of a free Italy. And in Vasto he is 
not forgotten. The Central Piazza, once del Pesce, was 
renamed in 1883, at his centenary, Piazza Gabriele 
Rossetti. The old name has died out there. The last 
of the Vasto Rossettis, Vincenzo, died there in 1894. 

136 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

" Since the close of my father's life, my knowledge of 
Italians in England is practically a blank, and the same 
was the case with my brother." So wrote Mr. W. M. 
Rossetti. They honoured their father, but none of them 
—save perhaps Maria Francesca — had ever been much 
interested in their father's kindred or his early or his 
later inspiration. Born in safe and happy England, they 
were content to stay there. Italy was a long way off. 
Many of the exiles they had seen in childhood they 
had looked on perhaps as rather ridiculous persons ; for 
children are wont to fix on the ludicrous out of the 
dimly comprehended sum of a grown-up stranger. The 
Italian call had to them nothing of novelty. They had 
their own intense individualities and interests. The 
younger son, who had the stronger political instincts, 
was tied to his Government office ; and Dante Gabriel 
was claimed by his art. He thought it ridiculous when 
some one suggested he should go and fight for Italian 
liberty. Their father's mystic studies seem to have 
bored them. None of them went back to his old town 
or province ; and had not the Vastesi, proud of their 
son, and of their son's sons, written from time to time, 
and had not the genial cousin, Teodorico Pietrocola — 
who later took the name of Rossetti — been a link 
between them and Vasto, there would have been no 
communication at all. But Vasto celebrated its great 
man's centenary ; and Mr. W. M. Rossetti sent certain 
of his MSS. to the Vasto town museum. 

The English strain of the Pierces may account for 
some of this indifference. The English strain and the 
English education account for the insularity of their 
superficial tone and manner, and for a contempt, which 
at least the greatest of them was wont to express, for all 
foreigners. Even Mr. W. M. Rossetti seems to rejoice 
that his father was not like the conventional Southern 
Italian. The English dislike of expressed sentiment 


and fuss was strong in them all ; and their friends doubt- 
less held that the austere honesty and uprightness of the 
air of their childhood's home was due to English in- 
fluences. Settembrini thought the mystical writings of 
their father's later days the result of English Protestantism. 
But Gabriele Rossetti, first and last, and through and 
through, was a Southern Italian of the Abruzzese type, 
proud and austere, with his passionate nature well under 
control for the most part, yet subject to sudden and 
unforeseen bursts of expression. He had all the re- 
spectable virtues, fitted well into a bourgeois life ; yet 
was ever the potential revolutionary who had, in his fiery 
youth, declaimed, " Sire, che attend! piu .'' " in the Caffe 
d'ltalia. His literary style was, to the end, tainted by 
the old-modish artificiality of South Italian Arcadian 
models ; and he was always the improvisatore. He 
knew this ; regretted it ; and even said that improvisation 
had damaged his health. And the mysticism of his later 
days was assuredly neither British nor Protestant, but an 
unconscious, instinctive return, in uncongenial surround- 
ings, to the spirit that has ever haunted his native province. 
A sense of the divine is native there, and baffles its con- 
tinual seekers, now hiding in secret recesses of the 
mountains, now lost in demon-ridden dreams, brooding 
over the high-set plains, and whirling in the glory that 
blazes and dazzles in places made out of the hardest and 
harshest of earth's material. There is something in the 
land that never all pleases, and never cloys, that has 
made the race cling to their mountains, and left them 
unsatisfied, homesick even at home. How sympatheti- 
cally apt is the verse they wrote on the exiled Don 
Gabriele's tombstone at Highgate, " But now they desire 
a better country " ! 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was well content with England. 
His bluff geniality of manner in his best days was called 


particularly English. They have pointed out a physical 
likeness between him and Chaucer. Once he thought of 
visiting Italy, got as far as Paris, and turned back. But 
the English Pierce strain had done nothing for the making 
of his mind or temperament ; and even the Pre-Raphaelite 
movement did not shape him, but only gave his special 
gifts a chance. Ruskin called him " a great Italian 
tormented in the Inferno of London." The Italian 
element in his genius has, of course, often been touched 
upon, though mainly in connection with his painting, but 
its force has been denied because they could point to no 
Italian resembling him. In a ponderous German critique 
of his genius ("Dante Gabriel Rossetti, der Maler und 
der Dichter, von Wolfram Waldschmidt ") we read, 
" Rossetti steht in England nicht ohne Vorganger da, 
und in seiner mystischen Kunstrichtung ist er iiberhaupt 
mehr Englander als Italiener." And again, " Nicht in 
den Praraphaeliten, sondern in die Reihen der Englischen 
Visionare gehort er." To what English visionaries does 
the critic refer .'' Who are his English forerunners } In 
poetry I can only think of the ballad-makers, from 
whom he learnt something. And assuredly he is not 
Tuscan, in spite of the Polidori blood and his study of 
Dante. The discipline of the Tuscan spirit he under- 
went during his translation of Tuscan poetry counted for 
something in his making. But the Tuscan intellectual 
grip and clear-cut precision were not gifts of his. Save 
in pictorial vision he is not precise. In all, save a few of 
his poems, there is a sense of the incomplete. There are 
loose ends. The final word is there when the vision is 
rapidly translated — or it is never there. Rossetti had 
great artistry, of course, but it failed again and again. 
He, too, was improvisator e, disciplined by living among 
conscious artists. And for his pictorial vision, expressed 
in art and poetry, it is of the race that still utters its 
religious faith and experience in " representations," that 


must bring heaven and the saints on to a Httle earthly 
stage to vivify the dry bones of everyday living, and 
make ballads about them, to utter the conviction that 
saints and " blessed damozels " are more present and 
living companions than kinsfolk and neighbours. He 
is a mystic of a more primitive type than his father. 
Assuredly he is of the race, a race often undemonstrative, 
yet hot and fantastic in love, incorrigible mystics, ever 
seeking to pierce the Veil, or project pictures on it. 

As for Christina Rossetti, she was iniprovisatrice ^Xvsxo^X. 
pure and simple. Her Goblin Market, a little work of 
exquisite spontaneous genius, is perfect improvisation. 
No second vision disturbed the first. No pruning was 
needed, and the utterance was adequate. For better and 
for worse she was improviser ; and she poured out much 
undisciplined stuff when her brain and heart and imagina- 
tion were not working in unison, and when her inspira- 
tion came from the English hymn-book. Perhaps her 
emancipated father never told her a single demon-story 
of the Abruzzi, and yet the matter of the poem might 
well have come out of the folk-lore of his province. 
Moreover, her Anglican training and all the anti-popish 
principles she had imbibed from a father who had known 
the evils of a priest-ridden Naples, did not go very deep 
down. She and Maria Francesca are daughters of the 
race. They are own sisters of the large-eyed, lonely-eyed 
women you see every day in the Abruzzese churches and 
mountain sanctuaries, to whom religion is the one reality, 
who find their full life only in adoration of Christ, His 
mother, and the saints. Christina in England is only a 
little sadder, more homesick that there are no holy feet 
to kiss, no holy relics to brood over, for love of the great 
companions unseen. 

Improvisation was a great force during the Risorgi- 
mento, and almost every young liberal was a poet. But 

I40 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

one of these patriotic improvisers had vaster aims than 
his fellows. His name is probably quite unknown to 
English readers, as it has nearly died out of the memory 
of his compatriots to-day. His works — five volumes 
there are of them — are now unread. Nevertheless, Pas- 
quale de' Virgilii — born at Chieti in i8i2 — was once the 
hope of the romantics, and Victor Hugo wrote to him 
" le souffle du vieux Dante a traverse votre esprit." A 
romantic of the romantics, he desired to expand his world 
limitlessly, and grasp all that was great and beautiful. 
Byron was his first inspiration ; and not only did he 
translate his dramas, but he followed in the track of his 
leader's footsteps — throughout Europe, to Greece, and 
the East, ever hungering for new experiences and the 
contact of diverse minds ; became the friend of Mehemet 
AH, of Reschid-Pasha, and of Mavrogordato, and talked 
over the New Italy with Pius IX. His love-story was 
stormy and tragic. An impassioned lover of liberty, he 
sang for it, suffered for it, fought for it. His ideas and 
faith he threw ceaselessly on paper in prose and verse, 
headed the liberal literary and journalistic movement in 
Naples, and composed dramas indefatigably — Masaniello, 
I Vespri Siciliani, Rienso, and a host of others. His 
Condamiiato perhaps suggested Victor Hugo's Dernier s 
yours d'nn Condanmi ; and the Conimedia del Secolo, full 
of ideas, of poetic inspiration and brilliant flashes, was 
hailed by an elect few as something greater than Southern 
Italy had yet produced. In 1866 Pietrocola, writing to 
his cousin, Mr. W. M. Rossetti, says, " As regards poems 
here among us all is still regulated and conformable to 
the rules of the Ars Poetica, if we except one Abruzzese, 
a friend of mine, Pasquale de' Virgilii, who has broken 
the Horatian dykes, and goes ahead, untrammelled, pro- 
ducing excellent things, but little appreciated. Lately 
he wrote an historical drama, Niccolb de' Riejizi, worth 
its weight in gold." Lighter spirits won recognition, he 


none. He was an improvisatore weighted by too much 
thought and matter for his artistic powers. But one satis- 
faction De' Virgihi had. He Hved to see the Hberation 
of his country ; and it was he that welcomed Victor 
Emmanuel into the Abruzzi. 

To-day the province is very proud of its living poet — 
Gabriele d'Annunzio. The stern, austere mountains — 
and D'Annunzio ! It seems impossible to think of them 
together. But under the rock there is the fire ; and behind 
the mountains are sheltered, perfumed valleys. And if 
passion and sweetness do not sum up all that is in this 
child of our own time, then let us add that he is Pescarese ; 
that Pescara is built on the low marshlands by the sea, 
and is not above the suspicion of malaria. D'Annunzio 
bears in his heart a strong love for his native province, 
and in his countrymen's pride in him there is not the 
shadow of criticism. They feted him and their great 
painter Michetti the other year at Chieti ; and if there 
was such a thing as crowning on the Capitol nowadays, I 
am sure an enthusiastic band of mountain and seaboard 
folk would storm Rome to see that the laurel was duly 
and thickly enough wreathed about their poet's brows. 
They play his plays, even in the little towns, especially 
the two with Abruzzese backgrounds — La Figlia di Jorio 
and La Fiaccolo sotto il Moggio ; and in the little wooden 
Teatro d'Ovidio at Sulmona there is such deafening 
applause as almost to bring the crazy structure about 
your ears on a D'Annunzio night. 

In the train from Roccaraso one day, a young man, 
a little employe in Naples— a mixture of monkey and 
mountebank and spoilt child, withal a clever youngster — 
set about amusing a carriageful of market women and 
ourselves with his quips and cranks and teasings and 
airs and graces. As his manners were not those of the 
countryside, they flung " Neapolitan " at him. Whereupon 

142 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. i. 

he wrapped solemnity about him as a mantle, drew 
himself up to his full height, swelled till he nearly filled 
the carriage, and with a declamatory gesture to the 
mountains and to us, rolled out, " Non, non io vi dico ! 
lo son' Abruzzese — io son' del paese di Gabriele 
D'Annunzio ! " 

I am not writing a critique of D'Annunzio — am only 
considering him as Abruzzese, the one voice in modern 
poetry that has reached beyond the rocky frontiers of the 
province, out to the world. And he, too, is improvisatore 
— more so than all the others — a literary artist, of course, 
exquisite and subtle, but essentially an improvisatore. 
La Fiaccolo sot to il Moggio is, in the literal sense of the 
words, an improvised drama. But, besides, this character- 
istic accounts for much that his severer critics call " gush," 
for his uncontrolled stream of words as of a man drunk 
with language. Judging him by certain classic models, 
they say, " How un-Latin, how un-Italian [meaning 
un-Florentine], how wanting in grip and terseness and 
lucidity ! " But he is no Latin, he is no Tuscan. He is 
a Southerner — impetuous, luxuriant, and sensuous. In 
fine, he is an Abruzzese improvisatore of genius, who 
has wandered to far-away courts, got tainted with foreign 
corruption, become enamoured of strange beauties, but 
who charms the big world outside oftentimes with songs 
from his own seashore and his mountains. 




The Valerian Way — The earliest Tahts Cotium—'Y\\^ body of the 
Blessed Thomas — The Orsini and Colonna — The Valerian Way 
within the town — The Soccorso — The Calvario — The gests of 
Giorgi — Jose Boryes — A mild scent of brigandage — Benvenuto 
Cellini at Tagliacozzo — The Castello — Home from the hills — The 
Madonna dell' Oriente — The Battle of Tagliacozzo — Young 
CONRADIN— Santa Maria della Vittoria. 

Follow the ancient Valerian Way from Tivoli to the 
Adriatic, and its chief arteries, and you need never step 
very far aside to see what is best and most characteristic 
in the Abruzzi. You can tread some portions of the old 
road still, and the new ones made yesterday do not 
widely diverge from the ancient course planned by the 
engineers of Imperial Rome. In the main it is our 
course through the rest of this book. 

The Via Valeria started from a richly carved column 
in the Forum, and ran eastward, up and down the moun- 
tains, to the sea. It was not all made at once. The 
first portion, from Rome to Tivoli, was known as the Via 
Tiburtina. The Dictator Valerius continued it to Cor- 
finium, and from him the whole length of the road 
ultimately took its name. Later, Tiberius Claudius 
brought it to the Adriatic, at the spot where is now the 
river port of Pescara. Its principal stations can all be 
traced to-day, and to set down their ancient alongside 


144 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. it. 

their modern names is to write a skeleton history of 
vicissitude and ruin — Tibur (Tivoli) ; Carsioli (Carsoli) ; 
Cuculum (Scurcola) ; Alba Fucentia (Albe) ; Cerfennia 
on Mons Imeus (to-day Monte Caruso) ; Staticle (Gori- 
ano Siculi) ; Corfinium (Pentima) ; Interpromium (San 
Valentino) ; Theate (Chieti) ; Ostia Aterni (Pescara). 
All, save the first and the two last, have sunk into abject 
insignificance or vanished utterly. Yet Alba was a 
proud place, and Corfinium dreamt of absorbing Rome. 

At Carsoli you are in the Abruzzi ; but there is no 
sudden change to announce it. You have already been 
making your way among the mountains ; and the brown 
villages, waked from their long winter sleep in the snow, 
are looking down and blinking at the railway to which 
they have never grown used. Up you crawl, the brown 
wall rising higher and higher, till the last remembrance 
is shut out of sunny Rome, little more than an hour 
away. Then the mountains engulf you for miles upon 
miles in their dark chambers, and daylight is sparing 
and fitful till you are shot down into a narrow green 
plain, and the train stops under a great rock with houses 
and towers clinging to it right up to the summit. And 
here, if you would make a good beginning in the 
Abruzzo, you will get out. The wedge of green plain is 
the extremity of the Palentine fields ; and the great 
rock with the ruddy dwellings clinging fast and thick 
about it, tier on tier, as far as the grey fragments of ruined 
castle on the peak, is Tagliacozzo. 

The place smiles on you at the start. There is an air 
of suavity about the little avenues that wind round the 
green enclosures where the children play, and where the 
visitors from Rome sit to receive their friends. You can 
watch half a dozen salons being held at a time on a 
sunny morning in July. There are old mellow convents 
on the flat, and new villas ; and if the latter offend your 
aesthetic eye, they at least suggest well-being and comfort, 


till you begin to conceive of the mountains as merely 
scenic, or hygienically contrived for shelter ; or, should 
you pant for higher air — though down on the plain you 
are 2500 feet above the sea — adapted for health-giving 
expeditions. The mountaineers patter along on their 
mules, simple folk who have not yet learnt the use of 
trains, and with their touches of colour and bits of 
ancient costume, a rose-hued kerchief, a string of gilt 
beads round a dark throat, a jaunty feather in a weather- 
worn hat, and sandalled feet, they are part of the stage 
show ; they are the picturesque supers. We and Baede- 
ker, and the out-pourings of the villas on the green, and 
the ladies in villeggiatura, with their sunshades and 
novels and embroidery — we are the real actors, bringing 
" some life " into the old place. And, indeed, as a 
theatrical background, the town on the rock is superb. 
You feel that the scene-painter's romantic imagination has 
run riot, that never did town grow with such flaunting 
defiance of the ordinary, though you cannot wish him to 
have docked an inch of his wild dream. Only it makes 
one a little uneasy lest the tame adventures on the green- 
sward should shame their setting. 

And the picture thus composed will be all wrong. 
The pretty avenues, the suave plain, the villas and the 
new-made gardens, and the Roman ladies and gentle- 
men, and ourselves — these are the illusion, and one that, 
looking back on Tagliacozzo, is almost impossible to 
recall. Nowhere else in all the Abruzzi did we feel the 
tang of the wild as here at the point nearest Rome 
where the traveller is likely to get down. Above the 
railway and the summer visitors, the old town hangs, a 
magnificent and a sinister reality. Round the rock it 
climbs in a series of twining ladders, with successive 
ledges for palace, or church, or convent ; till it pauses, 
out of breath, at the Calvary. But beyond that rise the 
fragments of the castle that once commanded all the 


146 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

hills and valleys of the Marsica. In beauty of detail a 
hundred cities will claim precedence. For sheer pictu- 
resqueness, for heroic defiance of all modern conditions 
and demands, for surprises in the shape of prison-holes 
habitations, and noble outlooks, Tagliacozzo is hard 
indeed to rival. There are streets in it to make the 
most uncompromising philanthropist stay his hand before 
tampering with their beauty, and almost to tempt the 
ordinarily inhuman artist to sweep them away in horrified 
pity. As for the dwellers — we met many agreeable 
persons in Tagliacozzo, and went our ways freely all 
round. Yet nowhere else — not in the remote valley of the 
Sagittario, nor in the solitudes round Roccaraso, nor in the 
wind-swept, top o' the world plains about Ovindoli and 
Rocca di Mezzo — did we feel the same suggestion of 
humanity untamed as here. Singly, the traveller will 
find the people trustworthy and serviceable ; but stir 
them up in the name of their old gods, their old 
memories, and thirty years of training and schooling will 
pass from them like a frail and tattered garment. . . . 
Add a great many more bizarre and original character- 
istics, and you have Tagliacozzo, whose name is hardly 
known save as that of a battle of long ago — which was 
not fought here at all, but over yonder to the east, by 
Scurcola, full six miles away. 

Look up at the place from the green below to under- 
stand the name. Tagliacozzo is Talus cotmm, the cleav- 
age of the rocks. Some great cataclysm rent the hill- 
side asunder from peak to plain. The left-hand portion 
has been little built on. Only a few lines of houses 
straggle up to the ledge where are what are called the 
sources of the Imele — though the little river rises far 
behind among the mountains. Every place has its point 
of local pride ; and it is here the Tagliacozzesi would 
like to lead you, to sit in a cave amid the spray and 
watch the water in the pools outside, or see it rushing 







past over the stones to work the little mills on the way 
to the lower town. So fine a place do they think it, 
that the fancifully minded have dreamt of it as the haunt 
of the gayest of the Muses, and have read their town as 
Thali(E othim, Thalia's rest ! But there in front of you 
is the great cleft of the rocks that plainly gave the place 
its name. 

The town clusters about the right-hand rock, because 
one of the arteries of the Valerian Way ran down there, 
to join the main road at Scurcola. Probably the place 
did not exist at the time of the Samnite wars, but sprang 
out of the ruin of Carsioli, destroyed, or reduced to a 
colony for its resistance to Rome, about B.C. 300. The 
refugees fled eastwards to a spot where they could over- 
look the plain, to the Place of the Cleft. And when the 
Valerian Way was cut down here, other hamlets in the 
neighbourhood were gradually deserted, and their inhabi- 
tants amalgamated with the exiles from Carsioli, to be 
near the new road and the rushing Imele, which would 
turn their mills. Here, under the castle rock, archi- 
tecture can have changed little since those days. The 
rows and tiers of cave-boxes of to-day might be the 
hastily thrown-up shelters of the flying refugees. 

To see Tagliacozzo historically one should come over 
the mountains on foot or on mule-back, not be shot out 
of the train on the green plain below ; for it began here 
at the top, and made its way down very slowly, very 
shyly. It was the end of the twelfth century before it 
ventured as far as the Piazza. But the normal route is 
upward ; and we must gather what history we can on our 
mounting way. First through the Porta de' Marsi to the 
Piazza of the Obelisk, whence we climb steadily, with 
breathing spaces where in old days they scooped ledges 
deep enough for church or convent. Tagliacozzo may be 
described as a Via Crucis ; at least, you can say your 
prayers to many a saint on many a level ere you reach 

148 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

the Calvary at the top. On one of the first ledges is 
San Francesco. The cloister is now used for public 
offices and for a school ; and there is a constant tread 
of feet under the arches and round the old well, where 
once the frati walked in meditation. All round the 
walls are frescoes, not of the good time ; and art in 
austere mood has nothing to say to them. But the f rate 
who painted them must have been a young light-hearted 
brother, one who knew all the fairy-stories of his Order, 
and not only the common ones. Most of all he liked 
the gay young St. Francis, the romantic dreamer of 
chivalry ; and youth on horseback with hunting horns 
and in bright raiment he prefers to emaciated old friars 
with a sense of sin. The interior of the church shines 
with ugly modernization ; and St. Francis must be a 
stranger here, if ever he enters this place of his name. 
I doubt if he comes beyond the steps where the poor 
folks sit. I saw a brown frock lingering amongst them. 
But one relic of beauty and grace remains from a better 
time — the great wooden crucifix hanging on the wall, 
carved by a pious brother. In the jubilee year of 1600, 
it was carried to Rome in procession ; and it roused the 
Romans to such a pitch of piety that they stole it. But 
some of the Tesi family were persistent, and Tagliacozzo 
got it back again. And here is the mummified body of 
him who was the Blessed Thomas of Celano, the 
biographer of the Saint, and the writer of the Dies Ires. 
After the death of St. Francis, he was sent into the 
Marsica, his own land, and amongst other pious works 
of his there, he inaugurated the convent of this town. A 
scholar, a man of elegant Latinity, a noble of fine manners, 
he was a perfect director for cloistered ladies. And 
the Clarisses of Valle de' Varri had him for their 
spiritual guide. It was there he died, somewhere about 
1250; and, in spite of his beatification, his relics were 
left where he probably desired they should be left, in 


the convent graveyard in the woods. They lay lost and 
forgotten for more than two hundred and seventy years. 
Nowadays his writings are edited and commented, and 
there are hot disputes over them ; and Franciscan students 
nearly come to blows on the question whether he was the 
sole source of truth for the history of his master, or whether 
he was but a cold literary person with a correct style and 
an official mind. Nevertheless, his remains lay neglected 
for two and a half centuries ; and then the abbess of the 
day revealed his resting-place. Three years after, in 
1530, the ladies went to Scanzano, their place in the 
woods no longer safe, being, indeed, a special mark 
for invaders and robbers. Scanzano was well disposed 
to welcome the ladies for the sake of so precious a 
relic ; for the cult of the Blessed Thomas suddenly 
woke up from its long sleep. They were preparing for 
the solemn translation of the bones, when Tagliacozzo, 
getting wind of it, held secret council thereon. By night 
came a furtive band of citizens and frati, and took the 
body without a by-your-leave. It seems his own town 
of Celano put in no claim to them at all, nor ever 
honoured its son by a single attempt to steal his dust ! 

Winding up to a higher level, we come on the 
palace — the old Orsini-Colonna, now the Barberini 
palace, a plain, solid, bulky pile, blossoming out in a 
single carved stone loggia overlooking the plain, Goths, 
Lombards, Saracens have held the heights of Tagliacozzo, 
and tumbled down its precipitous sides to pour through 
the Marsica. The first lord whose authority it widely 
acknowledged was of Charlemagne's race, Berardus, son 
of Pepin II. He and his descendants were Counts of 
the Marsi, with sway all round Fucino, till the thirteenth 
century. Then they sided with Otto IV. against the 
great Ghibelline Emperor Frederic II., who turned his 
arms against them and swept them out of their fief 
In 1250 he gave the investiture of it to his son-in-law, 


Napoleone Orsini. The rule of the great Roman family 
gave Tagliacozzo, till the end of the fifteenth century, 
constant opportunities of shedding its blood, and the 
ancient Marsian valour was at the service of the restless 
Orsini ambition, now conspiring with the barons of the 
kingdom, now fighting the Pope, now the Colonnas, 
whose stronghold of Palestrina, on the Sabine heights, 
had a jealous, sleepless rival in Tagliacozzo of the 

Roberto Orsini built the palace here, with its chapel 
frescoed in Giottesque fashion, in the fourteenth centur}', 
and its dungeons. Save for a few periods of neglect, it 
has been inhabited ever since. The Orsini were caus"ht 
at last in the meshes of the net spread by Charles VIII. 's 
invasion of Italy ; and when Virginio Orsini died in a 
Naples prison, Tagliacozzo reverted to the crown, until 
the Colonnas, finally triumphing over their old rivals, 
got it, and with it the title of Duke. The story of raids, 
sieges, and faction fights repeated itself under them ; 
and with the death of Marc-Antonio, the hero of Lepanto, 
their great days were over, and the great days of their 
fief in the Abruzzi. But the name has only recently 
passed from their palace, lately restored, and occupied in 
summer by a Princess of the Barberini. Here it stands, 
with hardly a trace of modernization on its exterior, 
cheek by jowl with the dwellings of the poor, a grim 
fortress still, though dismantled, and gardenless, so that 
the Principessa's guests, .in their light summer raiment, 
with a dignified simplicity which the populace under- 
stands and never abuses, seat themselves on a great heap 
of broken stones on the roadway outside to enjoy the 
evening air. 

The new road creeps up by wide zigzags ; but you 
can mount by a rough, short cut, and reach the ledge 
where is the Porta Valeria. Inside, the Via Valeria 
appears in the shape of a mediaeval street that serves 


the inhabitants of the upper town as their chief thorough- 
fare. We climbed it first by twilight ; but, indeed, there 
are portions that daylight hardly visits. It is still the 
mountain-side : the displaced cobbles, the jagged steps 
on which you tread are only the broken rock. Every- 
where it is narrow — two outstretched arms could almost 
span it, and the low houses are set thick, but irregularly, 
so that the breaks in the lines make crevices and caverns 
for lurking shadows. Here is a shrine under an archway, 
and there a chapel with children swarming on the steps. 
Through open doors you get glimpses of low, vaulted 
rooms, like caves. From the wooden balconies above 
your head the stab of dark eyes pierce you as you pass. 
The place is alive with humanity — uneasy, restless, curious 
folk, whom your presence has called out. The beggars 
scent you and begin their plaints ; but otherwise there is 
a deep silence as you pass. Squalor and dirt are here as 
you hardly find them now in great cities — and beauty 
too. It is a street run back to the wild — a wedding of 
untamed crag and dilapidated hovel. Eveiy other step 
you try to efface yourself against the wall, for the Angelus 
has rung from the belfries ; and down from the moun- 
tain, along the narrow way, come trains of mules and 
donkeys and cattle and goats, with their herdsmen and 
riders. Now a beast and man disappear beneath an 
arch, to be housed and stabled there till dawn calls them 
up to the heights again, and the rest pass on and vanish, 
among the other shadows, into the uneasy night behind. 
Such is the ancient Valerian Way at twilight in Taglia- 
cozzo. Amidst its dark, unholy beauty we may not 
linger, but it is unforgettable. 

Once out at the Porta Romana — or the Porta del 
Soccorso — save for a few scattered houses, the town is 
behind us. We are facing the little Longobard church, 
whose beautiful portico and campanile we looked up to 
from the plain below. This is a favourite church ; but it 


is not very often open, save on its Feast Day, August 
15th, when a holy picture of the Assumption, with the 
arms of the town, and the emblem of the Colonnas, comes 
up here from San Francesco in procession, and rests awhile 
for the veneration of the faithful. But its devotees are 
not discouraged on other days by closed doors. The 
wide, deep portico, with the faded frescoes on the fagade, 
does well enough. Our Lady of Help will hear, if they 
kneel on the threshold, or with their hands on the sill of 
the little shuttered windows, or just outside at the base 
of the old carved stone cross. A friendly place this 
threshold of the ancient church on the edge of the 
mountain. Mothers sit there and suckle their babes, out 
of the glare of the rocks. It is a nursery and a children's 
club. While an old grandmother is at her devotions, 
half a dozen little girls keep up a long sing-song and 
dancing game, and wheedle pence out of the stranger. 
It is very dramatic ; and in a wooing scene a little maiden 
of eight, with the subjugating air of a gallant of twenty, 
tells to a four-year-old mite how it is " bello dormire sul 
letto de' fiori," and many other sweet things, ending in 
"amore," entreating her, "Bella biondina, dammi la 

Tradition has it that the Soccorso was built by the 
pietistic Charles d'Anjou. Down in the plain, from near 
Cappelle, he saw on these heights the advance of Con- 
radin, and he vowed a church to Madonna, did she stand 
by him. Reading his victory as the answer of the Queen 
of Heaven, he built a temple here to the Lady of Help. 
There may be some truth in the tale ; but if so, the fa9ade 
and the door are much later. The atrio is of the end of 
the fifteenth century, as the inscription on the architrave 
shows — " Santa Maria de lo Socorso ora pro nobis A.D. 
M542 a di xxiii agosto." 

Just above the Soccorso stands the Calvario. A rough 
path lined by " stations " — with frescoes for the most part 


mercifully obliterated, if they resembled the few left — 
leads to the little chapel whose pretty loggia and tiny 
campanile are visible all round and from the plain below. 
The whole town seems to lead up to this hermitage and 
sanctuary. It dates from 1702, and was built by a Bene- 
dictine oblate and hermit of the Madonna del Oriente — 
one Angelo Santariga — in honour of the Passion. Later 
were added the living-rooms and the garden. The stations 
are of more recent date, when a Franciscan missionary — 
Leonardo da Porto Maurizio — chose this rocky hillside 
as his preaching-ground. On his shoulders he carried 
up the great wooden cross that stands at the rear. His 
pulpit was a huge stone, and round it the people of the 
wide hills all about, and the thick town beneath, gathered 
to listen ; and, fired by him, they built the crescent of 
stations below the perching chiesetta. The treasure of 
the place is a portion of the True Cross, exposed to the 
veneration of the faithful on Fridays in March. Inside 
it is the homeliest of holy places, this shrine of the Gesit 
Morie, all the colour and almost the shape withered out 
of the altar finery. A door leads through to the dwelling 
of the hermit — a tiny, wizened atom of humanity, a frail, 
fusty-looking bundle, save when, in full dress, in his new 
beaver, his best brushed-up frock, new leathern girdle, 
and his wallet over his shoulder, he goes down to the 
town for alms. He is gentle-faced, with crinkled smiles 
about his old eyes and mouth. His life is not gay. When 
the winter winds sweep down the gap in the hills they 
must whistle cruelly about his little body ; and in summer 
the path is steep indeed from the lower town whence 
most of his pence must come. But he is not solitary. 
He is a married hermit. The Church is merciful, and 
does not hold that the Angelus is rung in vain for the 
presence of an ill-favoured wife. She looks faithful, if 
uncomely. The pious little creature struggling up the 
stony path under his bisaccio, or his little pail of " good 

154 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

water " from the well below, has his dreams of the world. 
He is no old shepherd. Once he was " a merchant " in 
Rome. It has a high sound ; but perhaps he has lost 
no princely fortune. It is far back into his childhood he 
looks with longing awe, when he lived with his mother in 
" a house with two loggias ! " Some relations who had 
been benefactors to the sanctuary got him the hermit's 
place ; and dreaming of his childhood's palazzo, he 
accepts soldi with gratitude. Still more does he like a 
bit of company, and he will sit for hours in the roadway 
below the hermitage for the sake of a word or two from 
the passing herdsmen and labourers. They have nothing- 
else to give him. I have seen him quivering with impotent 
rage when holiday-makers used his Via Crucis as a short 
cut by which to gain the castle track ; and he would have 
broken his feeble limbs in vain pursuit had we not dis- 
tracted him with questions about the guardian mountains 
behind. For one of them he has great veneration — Monte 
Midia, from which you can descry, he says, Rome and 
the Tyrrhenian Sea. For him it is Mount Pisgah. Go 
up there, he says, by night, and you will see the blaze of 
light about St. Peter's — that is, all the splendour of earth 
and the glory of heaven. 

Up here at the Calvario you seem above the world, 
and at peace ; but a harsh note is struck when in his 
infinitesimal garden the hermit points to the ruined shrine 
of Sta. Scholastica. Ruined by the Piedmontese, he says. 
To him the Piedmontese remain what they seemed then 
to all the Southerners, heathen barbarians, foreign dogs ; 
and it is doubtful if he ever connects their passing with 
the advent of a time which has brought peace to him and 
his, or with a Government to which he is probably not 
disaffected. But the ruin of Sta. Scholastica awakes one 
from the peace of the hills with stormy memories. 

Fighting in Tagliacozzo did not cease with the feudal 
quarrels and raids of Orsini and Colonna. It has ever 


needed but the slightest ferment to set the bells a-ringing, 
and bring out the folks of the high town with knives and 
cudgels. The French occupation caused much excite- 
ment and roused ill blood. The cleavage between the 
educated population and the lower classes was complete ; 
and the Bourbon conspiracies which stirred and bribed the 
populace to reaction, bore unhappy fruit here. The see- 
saw of tyranny demoralized a fiery population, and made 
Tagliacozzo a troublous place during the Risorgimento, 
It is just up here by the Calvario and the Soccorso, both 
battered in the skirmishes, on the road from Rome into 
the Marsica, that we can best recall the stormy time. 
Throughout the town, among the substantial citizens 
and the artisans, liberal ideas were rife. The liberals 
were, in the main, persons of standing, and their houses 
well worth sacking, which gave a peculiar zest to the task 
of persuading them to correct opinions. Mazzinians 
had suffered much and heroically ; but among all the 
cultivated gentlemen and intelligent artisans who made 
private sacrifices for the sake of a free and united Italy, 
there was a lamentable lack of leadership. And the 
people of the high town and the shepherds from the 
mountain villages were flattered into thinking they were 
divinely appointed avengers of Church and throne and 
morality. Likewise, there were good pickings to be had 
in reward of zeal. Even when the rest of the world 
knew that the cause of united Italy was won, they did 
not know it here. The lying rumours were louder than 
the truth. 

Then came Giorgi's opportunity. It is difficult to 
think of him now without laughing ; but Giorgi had his 
great hour, when distracted mayors and solemn persons 
of worth lost their heads and took him at his own estima- 
tion. He was a native of Tagliacozzo, though brought up 
at Aquila by the Jesuits. He was bred to the law, and 
early in life embraced liberal views, but discarded them 

156 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

for reasons doubtless satisfactory to himself Having 
got into trouble for cattle-lifting and other offences, 
he suffered a period of forced retirement in Chieti ; but 
in the excitement of the time this " misfortune " was 
forgotten. He said he had a commission from Francis 
at Gaeta, which was not unlikely. The price of such 
commissions was proof of willingness to make a row and 
annoy the other side. Giorgi joined La Grance's royalist 
troops at first ; but his was a proud spirit, and in his own 
old home and the neighbourhood he was nobody's man 
but the Bourbon's. His procedure was simple, and for a 
time effective. At Avezzano, for example, he proclaimed 
himself Intendente of the district, and with this dignified 
name, and riding on a horse he had stolen, and with 
a scratch troop behind him of deluded shepherds, of 
brigands from the hills, and of men much better than 
himself, he cut a very fine figure indeed. He was 
resisted, of course ; he was thought worth while resisting. 
The mayor and councillors of Avezzano were scared, 
sent for troops in all directions, but finally gave in. 
Keys of cities were handed to him abjectly ; he levied 
taxes on the liberals, which were paid. He sacked 
houses. Avezzano, Scurcola, Cappelle, and Magliano 
were practically his. In Tagliacozzo his band shouted, 
" Garibaldi is dead ! " and were believed ; " Long live 
King Francis ! " and were echoed. He had to flee some- 
times, when news of Capua came, for instance ; and he 
took with him spoil of money and valuables, which never 
reached Gaeta. But he came to the top again, and had 
a merry time while it lasted. At Carsoli he entered in 
grand style, and from there came on for a determined 
attack on Tagliacozzo. The Italian soldiers were waiting 
for him just here at the Calvario. Giorgi's men made a 
great show ; but those spread about the castle rocks and 
the opposite hill were mostly shouldering staves and cud- 
gels for guns. There were enough armed ones, however, 


for a stiff fight ; and men of both sides He buried 
behind the hermitage. The Italian soldiers had orders 
to move on to Avezzano, and left the town but little 
defended from Giorgi, who stirred the crowds to sack 
and plunder. The lawless were just breaking out at the 
word of the " Intendente," when a handful of belated men 
of. the 40th, hurrying down after their regiment, multi- 
plied themselves to the excited mind of the populace 
into a new army, and cleared the streets. Giorgi moved 
on, well in the rear of the Italians. Enthusiasm still 
reigned among his followers ; and one of them, a priest, 
proclaimed him " the Christ of '61." But his hour was 
passing ; and at Scurcola, which he was counting on for 
plunder, there were cries of " Morte a Giorgi ! " " Fuori 
i briganti ! " It was now or never for spoil, for a new 
detachment of troops was expected. The general in 
charge let him have his will for a time, pretending to 
retire. But attacked in the open, the Giorgian valour 
oozed. He flew back to Tagliacozzo, leaving seventy 
dead behind him, including the priest who had proclaimed 
him "the Christ of '61." At dawn he escaped to Rome, 
seeking reinforcements. He skulked about there for a 
time ; but pay was not forthcoming. There were too 
many counts against him ; and his jest had turned sour. 
So he travelled to the East, to Smyrna, playing a beau 
rolesWW., I suppose. Caught, however, and brought back 
to Aquila, he was sentenced to penal servitude in Elba, 
and died before the end of his term. 

In Tagliacozzo it was long before they ceased to 
expect his return ; and there were many who suffered for 
fidelity to the jester-Intendente. Colonel Quintini was 
about to bombard the high town, from S. Cosma up to 
the Soccorso, and only desisted at the supplication of the 
liberals ; but he declared a state of siege ; and every 
house or hovel backing on the rock, and in the long 
dark street as far as the Valerian Gate, was searched for 

I5S IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

arms. Still the peasants waited for Giorgi, even after 
Gaeta had capitulated, and there were more skirmishes 
up at the Calvario ; and the sentries by the Roman Gate 
knew no rest till the contadini went back to their flocks 
and fields again, and left " the cause " to the brigands. 

But the Bourbons had a more imposing witness in 
Tagliacozzo than the rascal Giorgi. Why have writers 
of adventurous romance neglected the career of Jose 
Borjes ? I hand over the suggestion to them hoping 
the theme may be handled by one who knows the 
wild country the Spaniard sped through in his last ex- 
pedition. Borjes was a royalist of Catalonia, who had 
fought valiantly in the legitimist war in his own country. 
After that his sword was ready in defence of " the cause " 
anywhere. He was an old-world soldier of adventure, 
and minute scrupulosity of means and methods was not 
a feature of his school. He was no hired ruffian, how- 
ever, but a fervent Catholic, a royalist of intense con- 
viction, and brave and audacious to the ultimate demands 
of romance. Called to Rome and hired by the Bourbons, 
he undertook an expedition through Calabria and the 
Basilicata to raise volunteers and organize an effective 
attempt at Bourbon restoration. He had with him a 
number of Spanish gentlemen, soldiers of tried valour. 
Borjes began his recruiting work with ability and en- 
thusiasm, and kept up the courage of his men through 
a constant discouragement lit by hardly one gleam of 
luck. The information given him was utterly mislead- 
ing ; the money and support promised were not forth- 
coming. Only the poor folks followed him who could 
not feed them. Throughout the hopeless expedition 
Borjes kept a journal, an interesting document which 
exists now, a most poignant revelation of a brave man, 
never for a moment blind to all the odds against him. 
" The rich," he writes, " with very few exceptions, are 


everywhere bad," — by which he means that they were 
not Borbonesi, or at least not disposed to make any 
sacrifices for the cause. He, or L'i\nglois, who was 
nominally in command of the expedition, resorted to 
means for which they had the sanction and example of 
kings and cardinals ; that is, they leagued themselves with 
the brigand Donatello Crocco and his band. Crocco, a 
ruffian of the most brutally criminal type, professed 
correct Catholic and legitimist sentiments, of course ; but 
if any one was duped by this, it was not Borjes, as his 
Journal testifies. " We lodge the band," he writes, " and 
the chiefs go off to steal whatever they please." And 
again, " Crocco has left us on the pretext of finding 
bread, but I fear it is only for the purpose of hiding the 
money and the jewels he has stolen." They parted at 
last ; but the expedition was doomed ; and Borjes made 
up his mind that retreat with the few followers that 
remained was the only thing left. The Italian soldiers 
were on his track. He made for Rome through the 
Abruzzi by forced night marches. Winter had set in, 
and the cold was an enemy that could not miss them. 
The route of the little band, a handful of Spaniards and 
a few Italian volunteers, lay from the Terra di Lavoro 
over the terrible plain of Cinquemiglia, where vaster 
bands than theirs had perished before. When they 
gained the Avezzano road hope must have stayed them, 
for the frontier of the Papal States was nearing. Turn- 
ing aside to avoid the town, they passed Cappelle and 
Scurcola ; and in the guise of chestnut merchants going 
to Sante Marie, got through the gates of Tagliacozzo. 
Now they were on the threshold of safety. On the Sante 
Marie road, worn out and starving, in a night of terrible 
cold, they halted for food and a fire near the Mastroddi 
farm. But on the way they had been watched by a 
shrewd man, who knew Borjes was being looked for, and 
suspected the chestnut merchants. He gave information 

i6o IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

to the carabiniers at Avezzano, who galloped in pursuit 
on fresh horses, and soon came up with the weary 
remnant at the farm. The fight was desperate, and the 
resistance of the Spaniards gallant to the end, which was 
never doubtful. Their guns, horses, and papers seized, 
they were taken back to Tagliacozzo, the coolness of 
their bearing winning them their captors' admiration. 
Of their plans they would tell nothing. Only one bitter 
word escaped Borj^s. " As for my business in Rome, I 
was on my way thither to tell King Francis that there 
are only rascals and ruffians left to defend him ; that 
Crocco is a blustering coward and L'Anglois a brute ! " 
Save for that, it was — 

" Sae ranting! y, sae dauntingly, 
Sae wantonly gaed he " ; 

Wantonly ? No. They were Spaniards, and their high- 
hearted dignity stopped short of mirth ; though on their 
way to execution next morning in the Largo del Popolo 
of Tagliacozzo, they chatted with charming courtesy to 
their guards, and smoked as if it had been a party of 
pleasure. " Courage, my young fellows ! " cried Borjes 
to the Italian soldiers. " Love Italy ; defend her, and 
do her honour — and, I beg you, do not aim at my 
face, but aim well." They all confessed, embraced the 
leader, knelt while he sang a Spanish litany, and met 
death singing. One of them had written on the eve, 
" We are all resigned to be shot. We shall meet again 
in the Valley of Jehosaphat." A cry went up even 
among the liberals against this summary justice, and it 
was echoed throughout Europe. Victor Hugo was 
among the protesters. But Borjes had never hidden 
from himself the end of a leader of a lost cause. 

The royalist fervour was for the moment hotter than 
ever in the Marsica ; but it died out for want of a head, 
leaving well-conditioned folk to settle down slowly to 


a new state of things, and adapt their minds to the 
thought of an Italy in which the old kingdom of Naples 
was henceforth a mere province. But a heritage of 
turbulence and suspicion was left behind. Smuggling 
over the Papal frontier was a source of considerable 
profit and a cause of much fighting till, along with 
brigandage, it died of the obliteration of the frontier and 
the union of the Papal States with Italy. 

There is a mild scent of brigandage in the air here 
still. The little boys of the upper town emulate the 
bandits in spirited fashion ; and alone with them on the 
hillside one day, I found my virtuous refusal of soldi had 
such serious consequences that I wished I might have 
demoralized half the population with alms rather than 
encounter the volley of well-aimed stones which showed 
their opinion of foreign meanness. They sit on the 
rocks up there, with their one goat or their two sheep, 
well out of the schoolmaster's reach ; and doubtless tell 
each other tales of the exploits of Crocco or Ninco- 
Nanco, and dream of reviving the good old days. And 
maybe they will grow up law-abiding and civil-spoken 
persons like most of their fathers — and maybe not. For 
human nature here is vivacious, and sometimes a little 
sinister — and poverty is very evident. 

In our lodgings they boasted how Roman visitors 
besieged them in summer time, willing to pay anything 
for the privilege of a corner. But on the eve of our 
departure we found the whole family known to us madly 
gloating over our mountain-worn-and-torn, discarded 
boots and garments. At our approach they seized them 
and fled ; but came back to present unknown members — 
with " Niente per questo bambino ? Ah-h-h ! Niente 
per questa poverina } Ah-h-h ! " It was difficult to escape 
from the clutching hands and greedy eyes with our 
travelling garments intact. We felt the breath of the 


i62 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

brigands. This was at Tagliacozzo, and nowhere 

And speaking of genial ruffians — for such was Giorgi 
— I am reminded of one who came here a long time ago, 
Benvenuto Cellini. The goldsmiths of the Abruzzo were 
famous, and Ascanio, one of his cleverest apprentices, 
was a native of Tagliacozzo. II Vecchino, as he was 
called, was a talented little imp of twelve or thirteen 
when Cellini took him into his employment. Taking 
example by his master and beating the shop boy, he was 
thrashed by Benvenuto and ran away. Of Benvenuto's 
wrath, and how the father came down from his mountains 
to entreat the great man to leniency, is it not written in 
the wonderful Vita ? When Cellini went to France for 
the first time, Ascanio insisted on going with him ; he 
kept his master's shop when he was in the fortress of 
St. Angelo, visited his master very often, and was, indeed, 
a faithful little plague. On Benvenuto's refusal to give 
him his blue satin vest to make a coat of, he bade him 
adieu for ever in a frenzy of rage, and Cellini begged the 
castellan never to let him in again. " The castellan was 
much distressed, for he knew the boy to be wonderfully 
talented, and, besides, he was of so fair a shape that no 
one could see him without falling deeply in love with 
him. The lad went away weeping. He was carrying, 
I must tell you, a little scimitar, which sometimes he 
wore secretly under his garments. When he left the 
castle, his face all tearstained, he met with two of 
my worst enemies. One of them was Jeronimo, the 
Perugian, and the other was called Michele, and they 
were both goldsmiths. Michele, who was a friend of that 
rascally Perugian, and none to Ascanio, said, ' What is 
the meaning of Ascanio weeping .<• Perhaps his father 
is dead. I mean that father of his in the castle.' Where- 
upon the boy replied, ' He is alive, but you're a dead 
man ! ' and, lifting his hand, he struck twice at the man's 


head with his scimitar. At the first blow he knocked 
him down, with the second he cut off three fingers of his 
right hand, though he had aimed at his head, and the 
fellow lay there for dead." (Ascanio is Tagliacozzese all 
over.) The affair was likely to be serious for Benvenuto, 
who cleared himself with some difficulty. " Ascanio 
fled home to Tagliacozzo, and from there he wrote ask- 
ing my pardon a thousand times, saying he knew he had 
been wrong to add to my vexations and my great trouble. 
But, he went on, if by God's grace I got out of prison, he 
would never leave me any more. I sent him word that 
he was to go on learning his trade ; and I promised, if 
God ever gave me my liberty, I should certainly call him 
back to me." 

Later, when a free man, Benvenuto came to Taglia- 
cozzo for the benefit of his health, and to visit his pupil. 
" There I found him, together with his father, brothers, 
sisters, and stepmother. For two days I was entertained 
by them with the utmost hospitality ; and then I departed 
on my return journey, taking Ascanio along with me." 

Ascanio had a distinguished after-career. He went 
to France again with his master, received a salary from 
Francis I., took part in Benvenuto's triumphs and his 
broils, fell in love, and — with that bizarrerie which is a 
constantly recurring note in the true Abruzzese — housed 
his lady in the head of Cellini's great statue of Mars, 
when her movements, seen through the eye-holes, revived 
in the people of Paris the legend of the spectre Maine 
Boicrreau. He was left behind with Pagolo, another 
apprentice, in charge of Benvenuto's property when he 
quitted France, after which Ascanio, once his " first and 
dearest," is called "that traitor, Ascanio." But the 
charges of faithlessness to his former master's interests 
are by no means surely founded. It seems the lads had 
much to suffer on the great man's account after his 
departure. Later, Ascanio de' Mari became goldsmith 

i64 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

to Henry H., married a daughter of the Delia Robbia 
family, and became Seigneur of Beaulieu. 

From the Calvary it is still a stiff climb to the long- 
deserted castle. The lower portions of the central fort 
are standing ; there are fragments of outworks running 
down the hill ; and the whole circuit of the place can 
still be traced, as it rises over a superb rock, a magnificent 
fortress of nature. No one knows its earliest history. 
Probably it was first thrown up long before Pepin's son 
was lord here. It sheltered Conradin on his way to the 
tragedy of the plain below. It withstood the Tiburtines 
in their constant feuds with the Orsini. Ladislas re- 
fortified it in his struggle for a kingdom. Long, long it 
has lain in ruins, and now it serves to shelter a shepherd 
from the midday rays, or a dreamer looking from it over 
a wonderful world. A great theatre scene lies out to the 
east — the plain of the Marsica, and under Scurcola the 
battlefield where the boy Conradin played for a kingdom 
and all but won ; the little hill towns thrown up aloft, 
or nestling in the folds of the mountains — Cese, San 
Sebastiano, Poggio Filippo, Antrosano, little, ruined, 
once-great Albe, You are far above the world here, and 
in touch with many mountains, Velino, Sirente, Monte 
Bove behind to the left, and, onward, the ranges across 
Fucino. It is very lonely and very quiet, yet humanity 
is not far away, and from the edge of the outer wall you 
can watch its comings and goings and its labours. Below 
is the Soccorso, and from here you can watch the whole 
process of primitive threshing that goes on in the cobbled 
threshing-floor behind it. One day they burn away all 
the grass, endangering the church and filling the glen with 
smoke. Next you watch a white horse and a brown, tread- 
ing the corn, and the severing of the chaff from the grain, 
and the sweeping up of the straw, and the sacking and 
carting of the grain. Young Italy shakes his head, and 


tells us to a bushel how much the farmer has lost for want 
of a machine, and how brutalizing and how wasteful is his 
labour. But they were busy and expert husbandmen 
those fathers and sons down there. What they lost is 
calculable ; what they gained not so. 

The hills are sudden and quick-change actors. Re- 
turning by the Cappadocia road, we are stayed on our 
way by enchanters in the shape of two little shepherd 
boys. One babbles to us with the confidence of those to 
whom all the world is friendly, and gives us wild goose- 
berries out of his wallet. The other has no words. A 
ragged-locked wild thing of the hills, he pipes shrill, 
sweet melodies to us on a wooden pipe of his own 
fashioning. They are gone, and we are in a new world. 
The range behind, in which is engulfed the road to Rome, 
is black and awesome. But in front all is glory and 
wonder. The far hillsides are of pearl and opal and 
kingly purple, the long crags of living gold. The near 
hills run with us while we hasten, but the far ones retreat 
and are proud ; or they sink into a soft slumber ; and the 
towns we had an hour ago pointed to and named, are but 
as handfuls of coloured dust about their eternal steeps. 

A soft bell rings out from the Calvario : the little 
hermit has seen the sun set behind Midia ; and now the 
hillside becomes alive. Down the craggy paths in a slow 
rhythm come the men and the beasts, herdsmen with 
their flocks of sheep and goats, labourers with loads of 
wood from the forest, or from some high-set stony fields. 
Now and then a mule-hoof rings out sharp on the rock. 
It is the only sound, for incredibly soft is the tread of the 
sandalled feet on the homeward track. Obeying some 
law of the twilight sky, no man speaks. White or light- 
clad, they move on like ghosts, each man a unit in the 
long procession, or each group curiously isolated in the 
clear, quiet air, as if all unconscious of the rest. So 

i66 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

would it be in a dream. And this is a dream, that 
annihilates the ages — after the heat and stress of the 
day, immemorial labour going downward to its rest. 
But the riders have a proud seat, and are knights, if you 
will, returning from raid and foray, should your fancy 
play that way. At the Gesu Morte, and at the stone 
cross of Our Lady of Help, the old ones bare their heads. 
And now their ways divide. Some go in at the Roman 
gate, and there is a clattering of hoofs down the narrow 
Valerian Way, and a vanishing there into dark holes till 
morning. The rest, and we with them, take the long 
white road to the left, under the castle, that folds and 
writhes and turns to make an easier track on the hill- 
side. A star shoots a gleam on us from above, and there 
are sparse lights here and there in the town. They are 
coming on behind us. We, too, are constrained to silence, 
and fall into the slow rhythm of the homing feet on their 
way to the plain and into the night. 

The neighbourhood of Tagliacozzo is so beautiful 
and, in its softer as in its wilder aspects, so perfect an 
epitome of the Abruzzi, that there is no reason save 
restlessness for moving on. Behind, in the high valley 
near Cappadocia, where are the entrancing springs of the 
Liris, or among the vineyards and cornfields, where the 
Imele flows, there is every temptation to linger. The 
Imele is but a poor little willow-bordered stream after it 
tumbles down the hill ; but its course is an interesting 
one. It rises near Verrecchie, behind Tagliacozzo, has a 
course of nearly a mile in the open, then rushes into a 
grotto under Monte Arunzo, continues a strange under- 
ground career for about two miles more — which it spends 
twenty hours over — and issues on the hillside of Taglia- 
cozzo. In the plain it runs below San Sebastiano to the 
Campi Palentini, then north, under the name of the 
Salto ; finally joins with others to form the Marmore ; 
and thus the little trickling torrent that turns the humble 


mills of Tagliacozzo, gives itself up in the vast uproar 
and volume of the famous falls of Terni. 

Wandering by the Imele near San Sebastiano, you 
will see a vast convent building finely placed on a hill. 
The building is quite modern, but it holds the famous 
shrine of the Madonna dell' Oriente. It takes its name 
from an ancient picture of the Virgin, which a legend 
declares to have escaped the iconoclastic fire of the 
Emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726. By the way, it is 
an oil-painting ; that is part of the miracle. It hailed 
from the East, but was deposed in the exarchate of 
Ravenna ; and two faithful rescued it and bestowed it 
here. Ever since it has worked wonders, and faith in 
it is still strong. Many pilgrims seek the aid of this 
Lady of the East ; and in times of public calamity and 
on extra solemn occasions it is brought to Tagliacozzo. 
Then it is that the temper of the Tagliacozzesi is tried. 
They, with all their fine-clad priests and dignitaries and 
congregations, naturally suppose it should be given over 
to their hands freely. Not a bit of it, says Villa San 
Sebastiano. And over and over again there have been 
free fights as to who should carry it, and who should 
walk first in the procession. From threats and insults 
the men of the Villa have come to blows, nor have the 
priests always been spared ; and it has needed the 
intervention of the mayor and the carabinieri to bring 
about a semblance of peace. They take their religion 
seriously in Tagliacozzo and the Villa. 

Just beneath and around Scurcola, the little town on 
the slope with the tower of the old Colonna castle, is 
that portion of the Palentine Fields, where was fought 
the great battle to which Tagliacozzo, six miles behind, 
has given the name. Later historians have tried to call 
it the Battle of Scurcola, or of Albe, of Ponte, or Palenta ; 
but the old name has stuck. 

i68 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

It was the year 1268, and a boy in Bavaria of restless 
heart took a great resolution. His grandfather had been 
the Emperor Frederic II., who, when a boy himself, had 
crossed the Alps and won an empire to add to his 
Sicilian throne. What had been done before should be 
done again, with a southward course this time. Conrad, 
his father, was dead, Manfred, his brilliant and unhappy 
uncle, killed at Benevento. And now the Angevin 
Charles, blessed by the Pope, had seized the kingdom 
of Naples. " It is my throne," said Conradin, " and I will 
have it back." He was sixteen at the time, a handsome 
lad of brilliant promise, already a scholar and a poet— 
his grandfather come to life again. So Conradin, with 
his dearest friend, Frederic, Duke of Austria, one 
year older than himself, riding by his side, and with a 
few knights, set off to make appeal to the Ghibellines 
of Italy. He seemed to be irresistible. No one called 
him foolhardy. They acknowledged the young captain ; 
and at Pisa he got men and money and horses and 
weapons. At Siena, too, they flocked to his banner ; 
and it was with an army of five thousand knights he 
made his way to Rome. There he was hailed as the 
coming saviour. The Senator and the great awaited 
him on the slopes of Monte Mario. At Ponte Molle 
he was greeted with garlands and waving branches 
and with songs. The city was decorated in his honour, 
and Roman maidens played airs on the guitar as he 
passed with young Frederic by his side. The Roman 
Ghibellines were with him, heart and soul — Jacopo 
Napoleone Orsini, the Annibaldi, the Count of Sant' 
Eustachio, Giovanni Arlotti, and all the best of them. 
And a worthy hero of such a triumph seemed the 
" giovinotto . . . con la chioma d'oro, con la pupilla 
del color del mare." 

But meanwhile Pope Clement was calling the blue- 
eyed Swabian boy " the sprout of a cursed tree." And 


Charles of Anjou was commending himself to all his 
saints ; for Sicily stirred at the coming of a prince of the 
ancient race ; Calabria was in insurrection ; and the 
Pisan fleet, with Conradin's friends on board, had set 
sail for the mouth of the Tiber, whence they were to 
rouse the Terra di Lavoro, It was in that province 
Conradin thought to meet Charles ; but the astute 
Angevin dashed from Foggia north to the Abruzzi. His 
available forces were scanty, and he could not give the 
enemy the choice of the ground. On August 9, 1268, 
Charles was at Scurcola. 

Conradin and his friends set out from Rome, ten thou- 
sand strong — Germans, Italians, Spaniards. The Senator 
was with him, Guido da Montefeltro, and many eminent 
Ghibellines ; and for two days they were convoyed on 
their way by enthusiastic Romans. In vain they tried 
to draw Charles into the mountains ; and so along the 
Valerian Way they came, by Tivoli and Carsoli, and 
halted at the old castle of Tagliacozzo. The legend 
that Charles from below saw them coming, and called 
to Mary Virgin to aid him in return for a new church, 
is contradicted by another, which declares he had lost 
all trace of the enemy, and thinking they had turned 
north towards the valley of the Aterno, he acted as his 
own scout, and was up at Ovindoli seeking for news of 
them, when messengers came to tell him they were 
at Scurcola, and had camped by the bridge near the 
Valerian Way. He returned and took up his position on 
the hills of Albe, He had but six thousand men ; but 
his generals were wily. Eight hundred of the best were 
hidden the night before between Antrosano and Monte 
Felice. The rest were in two divisions : one, under the 
Provencal Jacopo Cantelmi, advanced as far as the Salto ; 
the second was under Enrico da Cosenza, who was 
the living image of the king, and for the occasion wore 
Charles's armour and crown. Charles himself stayed 

lyo IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

in the rear, well hidden among the thick woods of 
Cappelle — woods that have all vanished now. He was 
no sixteen-year-old boy, and as a responsible monarch 
he thought his person worth preserving. Antinori says 
that sham ambassadors came down to Conradin bearing 
keys in their hands, the keys of Aquila, they declared, 
which was his for the asking, and quite ready to betray 
the Angevin. Charles heard of this, and was shaken 
with a sudden fear. By night he rode fast and furious 
up the heights past Ovindoli and Rocca di Mezzo, got 
entrance to Aquila, and demanded its fealty. The 
governor swore to him that he was true, that the offer 
of the keys had been but a feint to put Conradin off 
his guard ; and next day the Aquilesi, men and women, 
came down to the help of the Angevin, dragging loads 
of provisions. Yet the young Swabian was not left with- 
out sympathy from the people round about ; and Albe 
and other places suffered savage reprisals for the same. 

The first division of the Ghibelline army was led by 
the Senator, with three hundred Castilians, Lombards, 
and Tuscans ; the second by Conradin, with whom 
were young Frederic of Austria and all the Germans. 
They crossed the Salto and set on the Angevins with 
dash. Their attack was irresistible, and after some 
obstinate fighting, the enemy scattered in all directions 
among the hills and woods. Cantelmi fled with his 
men up the road to Aquila, Da Cosenza, wearing 
the royal armour, was slain. Conradin was dancing 
in to victory ; and Charles in the shade of the woods, 
with his priests about him, was hearing mass, and 
calling on Our Lady for succour. But his captain's eye 
was not asleep ; and hearing that Orsini and several of 
the other leaders had left the field with their men, in hot 
pursuit of the Angevins, he — or as Dante and some 
historians say, his general Alardo (Erard de Valery), 
thought it was time to make use of the concealed eight 


hundred. An hour ago they would have been but a 
mouthful for the conquerors. Now they were enough to 
rally his armies, call back flyers, and simulate a mighty 
force. Conradin's men had exhausted themselves in 
pursuit. They were scattered now and disorganized : 
and ere they could grasp the change of fortune, they, the 
victors, were the flyers. Struggle as they might, one by 
one the chiefs were taken. Even the Senator only 
escaped capture by desperate flight. Conradin and 
Frederic, the two brothers-in-arms, were hurried from 
the field that had been theirs. Of the two armies four 
thousand had fallen, and the Swabian prisoners were 
countless. Thus was gained and lost the battle of 

"Ove senz' arme vinse il vecchio Alardo." 

" Now let the Church, my Mother, rejoice," wrote 
Charles to the Pope, " and set up a cry of exultation for 
such a triumph, which from on high, through the service 
of her champion, is vouchsafed to her. At last hath the 
Omnipotent Lord put an end to all oppression, and freed 
her from the greedy vengeance of her persecutor." Where- 
upon he set to beheading and torturing and mutilating 
the prisoners with a fury which surely, even for the satis- 
faction of the Church, was not strictly needful. 

On Conradin's march from Rome it had been " roses, 
roses all the way." There were no roses now. Towns 
whose people had crowded to cheer him, hustled him 
through. Even in Rome there was a sudden panic 
among the Ghibellines, and they would shelter no van- 
quished enemy of Anjou ; and, indeed, such of his 
followers as stayed only met their fate the sooner. It 
was still possible he might escape by means of the Pisan 
fleet ; but Angevin spies were everywhere ; and he and 
Frederic took a roundabout route to the coast, seeking 

1/2 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. il. 

a moment's shelter at Castel Saracinesco with Orsini. 
From there they made their way through the Campagna 
to Astura on the coast of Romagna, weary and worn. 

The golden-haired Swabian and his gallant comrade 
could not look like the humble folk they gave themselves 
out to be. The lord of Astura, Giovanni Frangipani, 
recognized the two watchers for the saving ships, and 
took them prisoners. Hurried back to Rome, they 
graced the conqueror's triumph ere they were taken to 
Naples for their mock trial. Not that the men of law 
were not in earnest. Charles's highest legal advisers 
spoke for Conradin, and judged him guiltless of treason. 
But nothing availed, and on October 29th, two months 
after the battle of Tagliacozzo, the two boys were 
executed in the market-place of Naples. Their de- 
meanour was proud and composed ; but one cry was 
heard from Conradin's lips, " O mother, what terrible 
news shall you hear of me ! " Their bodies were thrown 
on the shore, as if they had been cast up by the sea. 
Some faithful friends raised a cairn of stones above them ; 
and Charles's son made no protest when a Carmelite 
chapel was raised there. 

So vanished Conradin, " like smoke," said the victor. 
He was the last of a great race. 

Come dilegua una ardente stella, 
Muto zona lo svevo astro e disparve, 
E gemendo I'avita aquila volse 
Per morire al natio Reno. 
Ma sul Reno natio era un castello, 
E sul freddo verone era una madre, 
Che lagrimava nell' attesa amara : 

Nobile augello che volendo vai, 
Se vien' de la dolce itala terra, 
Dimmi, ai veduto il figlio mio ? 

Lo vidi, 
Era biondo, era bianco, era beato, 
Sotto I'arco di un tempio era sepolto. 



In thanksgiving, Charles built a great church and 
abbey some little way from the battlefield, near Scurcola, 
on the Tagliacozzo road, called Santa Maria della 
Vittoria ; and gave it into the hands of French Cistercians. 
He spent profusely on the building and its decoration ; 
but there was economy in his profusion, for most of the 
stone he stole from the ancient Roman ruins of Albe. 
Niccolo Pisano had the planning of the place, and the 
great artist carved stones here with his own hand. Not 
a vestige of his work remains. A few fragments of wall 
are all that is left to tell of the Church of the Victory. 
Earthquakes, neglect, and a dangerous situation worked 
its ruin, and it never lived to be old. One thing has 
survived — a painted image of the Virgin in a case studded 
with the lilies of France ; and now it is in the parish 
church of Scurcola. And according to Corsignani, this 
is how it comes to be there. The long-venerated image 
was lost and almost forgotten, when, in 1524, a Taglia- 
cozzo woman dreamed that it lay in a certain spot in the 
ruins called the Abbadi, near the river Salto. She told 
a priest, who set diggers to work, " a heavenly melody " 
directing them to the place. There it was, intact, with- 
out stain, unblackened, in its casket of gilded wood. 

Said the Tagliacozzo folks, " It is ours. The 
dreamer is one of our women." " Nay," said the Scur- 
colesi, " it was found in our territory." They fought 
over it ; but finally asked the Bishop of the Marsica to 
decide. The said prelate, inspired by God, ordered it 
to be placed on a litter drawn by mules, the beasts to be 
left free to go whithersoever they would. Whereupon 
the Tagliacozzo men threw up their caps, for the mules 
were theirs, and would go back to their stables. " But as 
was the will of God, once outside the gate which leads to 
Tagliacozzo, that is, the Porta Sant' Antonio, and past 
the hospital, they turned to the right and upwards, and 
went and knelt down above the piece of land where 

1/4 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. it. 

stood a cona [i.e. a chapel with an icon], which had a 
picture of the Most Blessed Virgin of Providence. And 
there was built a church, and there is now the image, an 
object of much applause and no little devotion to the 
said land and the neighbourhood." But it does not 
enjoy the great repute of Our Lady of the Orient, whose 
power remained undimmed even when Cese hard by 
owned a picture painted by St. Luke. 



Ancient FUCINUS — The Claudian experiment — The Claudian pageant — 
Success of the modern scheme — High cultivation and vanished beauty 
— Mythical origin of the ancient Marsi — Marsi enchanters and 
serpent-charmers — Avezzano — The ruins of Albe (Alba Fucentia) 
— Santa Maria in Valle. 

Where was once the great Lake of Fucino (or of Celano) 
are now the vast corn-fields of Prince Torlonia. From the 
heights of Celano, or from the hillsides above Avezzano, 
you recognize the fact with horror, or satisfaction, accord- 
ing as your interest in landscape or agriculture predomi- 
nates. Five and thirty years are not enough to make a 
thing of beauty of a dried lake, of course ; but a hundred 
would be insufficient on the chosen plan, that of geo- 
metrical precision of design over an area of sixty-five 
square miles — endless parallelograms edged with spiky 
poplars, the whole like a fancy chessboard. Even its 
glorious fields of waving corn lose their beauty by the 
neat measurement to which they have been subjected. 
It is no use talking of a formal garden. You cannot 
have a garden twelve and a half miles long ; and it is no 
place for a garden, this space in the great circle of giant 
hills. Seen from above, Fucino to-day is a blot on the 
beautiful Marsica. The agriculturist will allow us to say 
so, seeing that his point of view is now embodied in an 
accomplished fact. 

The drying of Fucino had been a dream which 
practical men had striven to make a reality ever since 


176 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

the time of Julius Caesar — possibly before that. The 
lake was an uncomfortable and dangerous neighbour, 
which changed its area and its level with such suddenness 
that it swept away the towns on its banks, and worked 
havoc on all the country round. Ortucchio on the 
southern shore was often an island ; and Avezzano nearly 
swamped over and over again. In its quiet moods a 
useful lake, it supported a population of fishers on its 
banks, and its fish were famous. But once the hidden, 
and never-understood, springs were agitated, then rose 
the cry, " Dry up, Fucino ! " The Marsians appealed to 
the Roman Senate, but the senators thought it was no 
concern of theirs. Julius Caesar, however, considered the 
matter seriously, but he never found time to take it in 
hand. That was left for Claudius. " Fucinum aggressus 
est, non minus compendii spe, quam gloriae, cum quidam, 
privato sumptu emissarios se repromitterent, si sibi siccati 
agri concederentur," is the rather grudging acknow- 
ledgment bestowed by Suetonius on his initiative. 

The first plan was to find an outlet for the lake by 
means of a canal connecting it with the Salto. Then the 
waters would have found their way to Rome in a round- 
about way, via the Velino, the Nera, the Teverone, and 
the Tiber ; but the Senate, fearing floods in the city, for- 
bade the undertaking. So the Liris was chosen instead. 
The engineer was Narcissus, a man of great talent ; but 
a sensational report of the time says he got the post 
because Agrippina, who hated him with a deadly hatred, 
felt sure he would make a mess of the business and thus 
disgrace himself. An aqueduct was made under Monte 
Salviano, on the western side of the lake, and under the 
Campi Palentini, by which the waters were to flow to the 
Liris below Capistrello, where you can see the structure 
of the wonderful Claudian emissary to this day. For 
eleven years, a.d. 43-54, thirty thousand slaves were 
working under the direction of Narcissus. At last the 


work was nearly done. Once again, said Claudius, should 
the people see the lake, amid splendid circumstances, and 
then no more. A great sham naval battle was organized 
on it, a feast of tyranny on a sublime scale. A hundred 
ships were launched on Fucino, and to make this 
Claudian holiday, twenty thousand slaves were doomed 
to fight in deadly earnest. It needed a Claudian heart to 
look on ; but if you had one, the scene was splendid : 
Claudius and Agrippina on the slopes above, and thou- 
sands and thousands of spectators from the proud towns 
on the hills, Cliternia and Alba ; the Imperial galleys 
on the blue water; the struggling, desperate men — and 
all encircled by the giant hills. 

This is Tacitus's description of the scene — 
"About the same time the mountain about Lake 
Fucensis and the river Liris was bored through, and that 
this grand work might be seen by a multitude of visitors, 
preparations were made for a naval battle on the lake, 
just as formerly Augustus exhibited such a spectacle in 
a basin he had made on this side of the Tiber, though 
with light vessels and on a smaller scale. Claudius 
equipped galleys with three and four banks of oars, and 
nineteen thousand men ; he lined the circumference of 
the lake with rafts, that there might be no means of 
escape at various points, but he still left full space for the 
strength of the crews, the skill of the pilots, the impact of 
the vessels, and the usual operations of a sea-fight. On 
the rafts stood companies of the Praetorian cohorts and 
cavalry, with a breastwork in front of them, from which 
catapults and balistas might be worked. The rest of the 
lake was occupied by marines on decked vessels. An 
immense multitude from the neighbouring towns, others 
from Rome itself, eager to see the sight or to show 
respect to the Emperor, crowded the banks, the hills, 
and mountain-tops, which thus resembled a theatre. 
The Emperor, with Agrippina seated near him, presided ; 


1/8 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

he wore a splendid military cloak, she, a mantle of cloth 
of gold. A battle was fought with all the courage of 
brave men, though it was between condemned criminals. 
After much bloodshed they were released from the 
necessity of mutual slaughter. 

" When the sight was over, the outlet of the water 
was opened. The careless execution of the work was 
apparent, the tunnel not having been bored down so low 
as the bottom or middle of the lake. Consequently, 
after an interval, the excavations were deepened, and to 
attract a crowd once more, a show of gladiators was 
exhibited, with floating pontoons, for an infantry engage- 
ment. A banquet, too, was prepared close to the out- 
flow of the lake, and it was the means of greatly alarming 
the whole company, for the water, in the violence of its 
outburst, swept away the adjoining parts, shook the more 
remote, and spread terror with the tremendous crash. At 
the same time Agrippina availed herself of the Emperor's 
fright to charge Narcissus, who had been the agent of 
the work, with avarice and peculation. He, too, was not 
silent, but inveighed against the domineering temper of 
her sex, and her extravagant ambition." ^ 

Efforts were made to repair the disaster ; but some 
years later a fall of rock dammed the opening ; and the 
project was abandoned till Trajan's reign, when again it 
failed. During the barbarian invasions great public 
works were out of the question ; and not till twelve 
hundred years after Claudius was any serious thought 
given to it, by the Emperor Frederic H. But like 
Caesar he died ere he found time to take it in hand. 
Alfonso v., in the fifteenth century, revived the scheme ; 
and, in fact, all the great kings dreamt the dream of 
Claudius. But ages passed, and the thing was forgotten, 
save by a few scientists. Then some French engineers 

' Annals, ,\ii. 56, 57. Trans. Church and Brodripp. 


formed a company, and a royal decree of 1853 conceded 
to them the right of restoring the Claudian emissary. 
The work had been going on for over ten years when 
Prince Torlonia of Rome, already the largest shareholder 
in the company, bought the whole concern, and undertook 
to finance the vast undertaking, on condition that the 
reclaimed territory should be his at the end. It cost 
millions ; and for years, when Fucino was spoken of, people 
said, " Either Torlonia will dry up Fucino, or Fucino will 
dry up Torlonia." But Torlonia's millions proved the more 
obstinate; and in 1876 the gigantic undertaking was 
finished, and through the new emissary the waters of the 
lake joined the Liris under Capistrello. The cultivation 
of the soil began at once. Roads were made, trees planted, 
and high farming taken in hand over the 26,000 hectares. 
And Avezzano is much more prosperous, and bands of 
labourers and teams of great white oxen work now in the 
bed of Fucino. At first the drying of the lake caused 
malaria ; but that has passed away, and save that the 
fruit-trees on its banks no longer bear, in kind or 
quantity, as they did, there is no reason to grumble, save 
from a landscape point of view. Get down into it, and 
you forget even that grievance. We have never seen 
such corn — high above us it grows, and thick, with 
monster heads. The patchwork pattern is not evident, 
for the lines of trees that are like spiky palings from 
above, are hung with garlands, and the flowers have 
sprouted and clung. And, indeed, the bands of women 
working in the fields in their coloured dresses, are like 
beds of flowers too. The grassy banks of the canals are 
edged with poplars already shady and tall and decorative. 
Close by a bridge over the lock of the Emissario has been 
erected a huge statue of the Madonna of the Immaculate 
Conception, a colossal enormity, a terrible example of 
modern sentimental art, hailing from Rome. The 
inscription vaunts first the patronage of Our Lady Maria 

i8o IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. il. 

sine lahe concepta ; and goes on to say that what kings 
and emperors had failed to do had been done by 
Alexander Torlonia, Prince of the City, "by the 
immensity of his mind and force of money " ! There is 
no mention made of the engineers. 

A vast, rich granary it is ; but we shut our eyes and 
see the sails, and hear the plashing of the oars, and watch 
the reflections of the little towns on the southern edge. 
Some that were are utterly vanished. Of Marruvium, 
once the capital of the Marsi, there are but a few poor 
remains in the miserable little village of San Benedetto. 
Valeria, Penne, Archippe, are below the waves. Save 
Avezzano, the only place that has remained a town is 
Pescina, which has the dignity of a cathedral, and fame 
as the birthplace of Cardinal Mazarin. Yet the Abruzzi 
can hardly claim Mazarin for its own, nor his genius as 
at all characteristic. His birth here in 1602 was some- 
thing of an accident, though doubtless he spent a portion 
of his childhood in Pescina. His father, a Sicilian of 
Genoese origin, had an important post in the service of 
the Colonnas here. Where did Dumas get his notion 
that Mazarin was the son of a poor fisherman .-' In the 
Vicomte de Bragelonne the Cardinal says, " Le fils d'un 
pecheur de Piscina je suis devenu premier ministre du roi 
de France." 

The ancient Marsi were not only fighting men of 
valour ; not only did they wring the heartiest admiration 
from Rome, which they shook to its foundations in the 
Social War ; but they were likewise a race of peculiar and 
fascinating mental gifts. Their mythical origin is signi- 
ficant. According to one legend, their ancestor was 
Marsyas, the Phrygian flute-player who challenged 
Apollo to a contest of musical skill, nor was overcome 
till Apollo added his voice to the music of his lyre. The 
fauns, the satyrs, and the dryads wept at his cruel fate at 
the hands of the victor. Marsyas was a follower of C}'bele, 


goddess of liberty. In the fora of ancient cities it was 
usual to place his statue, to betoken the freedom of the 
state. A not unfitting ancestry this for the race that so 
stoutly resisted Roman oppression. But Cybele signified 
more kinds of liberty than one ; and the image of Marsyas 
in Rome was a rendezvous of courtesans, who wreathed it 
with flowers. Nor has the cult of Cybele been entirely 
alien to the genius of this hot-blooded Southern folk. 

According to another account, the ancestor was Mar- 
sus, the son of Circe ; and this is maintained to be the 
more plausible, inasmuch as Angitia, Circe's sister, held 
her mystic court in a wood near Luco, on Lake Fucino, 
which became a famous school of occult learning. 

Legend gives to all the earlier descendants of Marsyas, 
or of Marsus, the gifts of art and magic. " The magic 
song of the Marsi transforms hags into birds," says Ovid. 
Their fame as doctors and as serpent-charmers was tra- 
ditional. And so Virgil : " There came, moreover, from 
the Marruvian [Marsian] nation Umbro the priest, bravest 
of the brave, sent by his chief Archippus, his helmet 
wreathed with leaves of the auspicious olive ; who by 
charms and by his hand was wont to lull to sleep the viper's 
race, and hydras of foul and poisonous breath ; their fury 
he assuaged, and by his art disarmed their stings. But 
to cure the hurt of Trojan steel surpassed his power ; nor 
soporific charm, nor herbs of Marsian mountains availed 
him aught against its wounds. For you, Angitia's grove ; 
for you, Fucinus, with his crystal waters ; for you the 
glassy lake lamented." ^ 

An old writer (Mazella, Parthenopceia) says, " Giulo 
Capitolino writeththat the Emperor Heliogabalus gathered 
a great company of serpents with the incantations of the 
Marsi, the which he caused on the sudden to be thrown 
in the place where the people assembled, to see their 
publique sports ; whereupon many being bitten fled with 

' ALneid, vii. 750-760, 

i82 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

great terror. Neither is it to be held as a fable which 
is written of these Incantations, because the prophet 
David . . . makes a similitude of the deaf adder, which 
stoppeth her ears to avoid enchantments. And St. 
Augustine expounding it saith, That that similitude was 
meant of the Marso, which maketh his charm to draw 
the adder out of his dark obscure hole into the perfect 
light ; and the serpent which loveth darkness, to avoid 
the sound of the charm, which he knoweth will inforce 
him, layeth one of his ears to the ground, because he 
would not hear, and the other he covereth with his tail." 

The historian of the Marsi, Muzio Febonio, writes : 
" In the parts which lie about Lake Fucino, and especially 
about the roots of Monte Penna, there is such an abun- 
dance of serpents that in the summer heat they are wont 
to come out of the mountain, and go down to the water ; 
and they may be seen coiled up like bundles of vine 
twigs on the stones, or sitting on the rocky ledges above 
the lake. And albeit their fangs are not poisonous, yet 
have they so deadly an odour that it may be called 
poisonous. This we learnt, to our misfortune, in the 
person of a certain religious. When they came out of 
the caverns in the hot hours, he was wont to amuse him- 
self by killing those he could with a stick. He continued 
this play through the summer till, overcome by their 
odour, he little by little fell into a malady which increased 
and raged, till the matter being referred to the judgment 
of the doctors, they assigned it to poison, and he was 
cured. Which thing happened to many others who were 
in the habit of catching or killing them. And out of the 
same mountain earth is dug, what is vulgarly called terra 
sigillata, which overcomes poison by its wonderful virtue, 
and is judged by the skilled to be far better than that 
which comes from Etruria and Greece." Febonio quotes 
the classic writers that have told of the Marsian magi- 
cians, and adds from his own knowledge that Don Paulo 


Ciarallo, archpriest of Bisignano, of the old race of the 
Marsi, had, with all his family, the power of catching 
serpents, and of curing their bites merely with the saliva 
of the mouth. On their shoulders they bore the effigy 
of a serpent. 

This faculty of the Marsi is well attested, and is by 
no means lost. Charmers from the Marsica used till 
lately to be met with in all parts of the kingdom of 
Naples. They carried boxes full of snakes, which they 
played with ; or they offered to render the spectators 
innocuous by scratching their hands with a viper's tooth 
divested of its venom, and then applying a mysterious 
stone to the puncture. Afterwards they gave their clients, 
now ingermati, a little image of San Domenico di 


In D'Annunzio's Abruzzo tragedy. La Fiaccola sotto 

il Moggio, the villainess, who is called after the sorceress 

Angizia, is the daughter of a serpent-charmer, and the 

father, the man from Luco, comes on the scene with his 

bags of creeping, venomous things. 

" Sopra Luco evvi un monte erto e serposo 
Nomato Angizia . . . 
. . . dove salgo per far preda. E v'era 
una cittk, nei tempi, una citta 
di re indovini, E son vi le muraglie 
di macigni ed i tumuli 
di scheggioni pel dosso. E quivi su 
cercando in luogo cavo, 
trovai dintorno ad uno ossame tre 
vasi di terra nera coperchiati." 

To-day the art is mainly to be seen in religious 
festivals. At the festa of San Domenico di Cocullo, at 
Cocullo, at Villalago, and elsewhere too, serpent-charming 
forms a main feature of the ceremonial. On the hermit 
saint who lived in caverns in the rocks, and made friends 
with the wild things of the mountains, has fallen the 
mantle of the early enchanters. For the rest, something 

i84 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

of it falls about the shoulders of all the religious 
enthusiasts. In Marsica, as throughout the Abruzzi, the 
Church took so fast a hold because it used the pagan 
rites, and never shut out the hope of penetrating the 
dark. That is one part of the explanation of the convent 
on convent, the church on church, the chapel on chapel, 
that lie thick on every hillside, in every valley. And 
the " backwardness " of the people is but a dumb, instinc- 
tive resistance to a modern life which offers them nothing 
that ministers to their most primitive need. 

At Avezzano we are in the full Marsica. And 
Marsica it remains to-day ; the name is no romantic 
revival. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction has always kept 
up the ancient racial demarcations, and the Bishop of the 
district is, and always has been. Bishop of the Marsica. 
There is an old pride of race left which adverse modern 
circumstances have never eradicated, and a consciousness 
of their early history among the people which you will 
hardly find to the same extent elsewhere in the Abruzzi. 
Coming here from Rome, the distinctive type of the 
peasants in the market-place is very noticeable. The 
exuberant handsomeness you do not find, nor the heavi- 
ness ; and the male Southerner will not so often apply 
the words of praise, " bel pezzo" to a woman of these 
parts. They are a slender, wiry, agile race, dark for the 
most part, with quick-moving eyes, not a little mysterious, 
and now and then just a little sinister. I speak more 
of the hill people than of those of Avezzano, who are 
thicker and sleeker, perhaps owing to their recent 

As for Avezzano, we used it only as a lodging for 
the night, though it is by no means an ungenial place. 
There are no slums, and it is restful after climbing the 
ladder streets of other places. It is very ancient, but 
has done its best to hide all traces of its history, and, 
save the fine facade of San Bartolommeo, built on the 


site of a temple of Augustus, and the strong, squat 
fortress of the Colonnas, built by Gentile Virginio Orsini, 
and strengthened by Marc- Antonio Colonna, which now 
drags on a dowdy, meritorious existence as a school, 
there is little to arrest the seeker of the picturesque. 
The town is growing after an ugly fashion, and looks 
distinctly prosperous. 

Febonio says his native place was made from the 
ruins of Albe. It probably grew, like Tagliacozzo, out 
of a conglomeration of villages. The name of one of 
these has been interpreted as Pantheon Jani. Hence, 
Ara Jani, Ara di Giano, Aveano, Avezzano. This sounds 
doubtful ; but that there was a temple of Janus here is 
attested by many coins and medals found, with Janus 
Bifrons on one side, and a ship, which is called Noah's 
ark, on the other. In the people's belief, Noah and 
Janus were one, because the patriarch looked before the 
Flood and after ! Noah came twice to Italy, they say. 

If the town offers little of great interest, the wild 
upper valley of the Liris, reached by train from this point ; 
the dead cities of Fucino ; the ruins of Albe, and, if he 
be a climber, Monte Velino — will keep the traveller for 
some time in the neighbourhood, which is enchanting, 
even with Lake Fucino turned into a vast field for 
agricultural experiments. 

Avezzano is now the chief town of the Marsica. As 
the residence of the Dukes of the Marsi and of Tagliacozzo, 
it gained official dignity early ; but its position on the 
verge of the drained lake, now turned to fruitful fields, has 
developed it at the expense of its neighbours during the 
last thirty years or so. But even in its prosperity 
Avezzano does not take itself very seriously as a lodging- 
place for travellers. This fact was emphasized to us by 
the extreme depression of a waiter at our inn. He was 
a Roman, and his standard was doubtless too lofty. 
Still, we owned he had reason for lowness of spirits. 

1 86 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

when we found him hour after hour, day after day, sitting 
in a dark passage on the landing, that he might be ready 
to calm the fury of guests rushing out of bedroom doors 
after trying for the twentieth time to ring bells that had 
never rung within any one's memory. " Tutt' h rotto 
qui ! " he moaned, in a voice that might have heralded 
the death of an empire. Now, the native waiter down- 
stairs was a more philosophic person. When, morning 
after morning, you could get no coffee, because the 
coffee-pot was broken and the new one expected from 
Rome every day, he announced the fact as a simple 
happening of nature. The leaves fall in autumn ; and do 
not coffee-pots, too, have their seasons of decay and 
death ? He was sympathetic, but not so to any lowering 
degree. Thus did he disarm complaints, and was almost 
as good a stimulant as the missing coffee. 

I should be telling of ruined Albe instead of ruined 
coffee-pots, and I shall do so presently. But even my 
great exemplar, Mr. Keppel Craven, was not above the 
mentioning of trifling topics. He would have read the 
downstairs waiter a seemly lecture ; condoled, and, I 
hope, handsomely tipped, the melancholy Roman on the 
dark landing. Mr. Craven liked Avezzano, but, on his 
departure, he made the following sententious reflections : 
" The inhabitants of Abruzzo, though considered a 
hard-working, laborious race, appear totally insensible to 
that avidity towards gain which characterizes those of 
the northern districts, and which supplies in some degree 
the deficiency of better-regulated habits of speculation 
and industry : this, I apprehend, is attributable to a 
constitutional slowness of organs, both physical and 
mental, which assimilates them to some portions of our 
northern tribes, and renders an intercourse with them in 
the ordinary matters of life far from agreeable." 

This, because he couldn't get all the mules and 
muleteers he wanted — though it would have been 


profitable to the inhabitants to leave their own miserable 
avocations to serve a gentleman like him ! It is annoy- 
ing, of course, when you rattle the money in your pocket, 
and find no one eager to run for the sixpences. But 
why expect the shopkeeping instinct in the Marsica of 
all places ? 

Albe lies four miles north of Avezzano. A road at 
the east end of the public gardens leads you to the railway, 
which you should cross to the west of the station. The 
way after that is little more than a cart-track, and when 
you have cut the upper high-road, it continues as a 
mountain-path. We footed it one early morning in the 
time of harvest ; but the yellow corn was still standing 
in the uplands, and the world was resplendent and 
singing to itself and the birds. We met only one little 
band of outlandish mountaineers riding down on their 
mules to their reaping in the plain. Their coloured 
jackets were thrown over their shoulders like the rem- 
nants of an ancient mantle, and their feet were encased 
in sandals of hairy skin, turned up at the toes and tied 
with leathern thongs. Dark, mysterious eyes questioned 
us from under the battered sombreros as we passed. 

Ancient Albe (Alba Fucensis) stood on three hills. 
On the first of these, Monte d'Oro, an oblong mound, 
planted with corn and almond trees — probably an earth- 
work — makes a magnificent outlook, or a place for 
meditation on the ruin of things. In front, on the 
neighbouring hill, stands the little Albe of to-day, superbly 
placed under the twin peaks of Velino, that change, as 
we watch, from blue to dove colour and opal. Set high 
and steep, it commands all the country round, and the 
plain that once was Fucino, whose waters of old came up 
nearly to its rocks. Left of the golden hill is a third, 
with San Pietro on its height. All round is a solemn 
circle of great mountains that darken as we sit, for a 

i88 IN THE ABRUZZI [PT. ii. 

wind from the north rises and blows through the gaps a 
cold breath from regions of unmelted snow. 

After all their digging and searching, the archaeo- 
logists are not very sure yet about the history of Alba 
Fucensis — the white town on Fucino. Were its people 
Equi or Marsi ? It lay on the borderland. Says Strabo, 
" Alba Marsis finitima in excelso locato saxo." It is 
said to have been founded by the Pelasgi, whoever they 
were, an uncountable number of years B.C. At least, 
it probably had a long history before the Romans made 
it a colony and one of the strongest fortresses in Southern 
Italy. This was after its revolt in the Samnite War. 
The Roman colony consisted of six thousand persons ; 
but, according to one computation, its inhabitants 
numbered ten times six thousand. It had an amphi- 
theatre, and baths, and aqueducts, and temples, and 
statues, and all the dignity of a highly developed city. 
Its walls, built by the Pelasgians or the Romans, are 
still a wonder. There are few finer specimens anywhere 
of these cyclopean walls, and the traces of the triple line 
of the vast circuit are still plain and formidable. Even 
to-day they strike into one a kind of fear of the men 
who built like that, of the giant world that needed such 
masonry. Nor is it strength alone they suggest, but 
sumptuous beauty, too, by their choice of material. 
Poor dismantled Albe, like a dead king, was good to 
steal from. When it had been sacked and burnt by 
Goths and Saracens, there was still enough left of its 
ancient grandeur to tempt the greedy ; and Charles of 
Anjou found it a rich quarry from which to dig marble 
and granite to build his abbey and church of Santa 
Maria della Vittoria. The great statues of Hannibal 
and of Scipio Africanus were taken to Rome by the 
Colonnas for their palace ; and the contadini have had 
their pickings too. 


There is something sinister in the memories of Albe 
in its strongest days. When these walls rose high and 
formidable, they shut in dark tragedies. The place was 
used as a state jail for Rome, and ruined captive kings 
came here and looked up to the great free hills from 
behind these grim stones. Here were brought Bituitus 
King of the Arverni, Syphax King of Numidia ; and here 
came Perseus of Macedonia with his young son Alexander, 
after they had graced a Roman triumph in the year of 
the City, 583. According to some, Perseus survived his 
disgrace and exile four years ; others say only two. 
Diodorus Siculus declares that a dream came to him 
that his kingdom should be restored ; whereupon his 
guardians said he must dream no more. So they would 
not let him sleep ; and of this he died. They gave him 
a great funeral. His son Alexander was a humble- 
minded person of nice quiet tastes, who gave no trouble. 
He was content to serve as a clerk in the office of the 
magistracy at Alba, and did metalwork in his leisure 

In the wars between Octavius Csesar and Mark 
Antony it favoured the latter ; and a marble statue of 
him, set up in Alba, sweated, and continued to do so 
however much it was wiped dry, as warning to him of 
coming disaster. Alba was always independent, and 
not a little capricious ; it turned against Mark Antony 
later, and in revenge he killed the centurions of the 
Marsica who were in Brindisi. But it won the praise of 
Julius Caesar. 

Albe lost importance after the third century of our 
era, though in the eleventh and twelfth it was good 
enough to shelter the decayed fortunes of the anti-Pope 
Gilberto and of Pasquale II. Many envious lords 
struggled for it, Guelfs and Ghibellines, Aragonese and 
Angevins, ere it fell into the fief of Tagliacozzo. To-day 

190 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. it. 

there is hardly a poorer village in the Marsica. All that 
is left of it, apart from the cyclopean walls -and San 
Pietro, runs along the ridge of the hill nearest Velino. 
The church, San Nicola, is set on strong walls that have 
served an ancient secular purpose. The apse gives on 
a cobbled threshing-ground, where men and women are 
wielding the flail as we pass. Through a great arch we 
come into a little piazza that has lost all pride in itself. 
The church has a fine rose window and a fresco on its 
fagade, but inside is the poorest of humble places. I 
only remember a strangely pagan picture of a gaudily 
attired lady, with an arrow in her hand, to whom cherubs 
are -bringing an anchor and other gifts. No Madonna, 
I warrant. The one street is broken, irregular, insuffi- 
cient ; yet something relieves it from squalor. It is a 
bit of patchwork. The material is worn, but not shoddy ; 
and at every step you are conscious of the great site and 
the majesty of the setting. It is Sunday afternoon. All 
the world is out of doors ; but it is the scantiest world. 
Once past the old dismantled castle, you strike on some 
round towers, and that is the end. There the rock runs 
sheer down. 

We have a guide to San Pietro, in the person of the 
keeper of the keys, one of the ancient Marsi come to 
life. Nearly sixty, and his hair tinged with grey, slender, 
graceful, well-knit and sinewy, lithe as some wild thing, 
he steps lightly and swiftly in his leathern sandals worn 
over linen hose. His head is well-shaped, and his 
features finely cut ; the large, dark eyes are deep set in 
a strong-lined face. An austere person, very silent and 
mysterious. His movement over the stones, down one 
rocky path and up another, is a light run. But once on 
the top of the third hill, and near San Pietro, he thrills 
with enthusiasm and finds words. He can tell us about 
it. He has books, and at his fireside of an evening he 
reads and reads. 


He has brought us, indeed, to a strange and wonderful 
place. Even purists in architecture who will gasp at the 
marriage of incongruous elements, must breathe deep 
and thrill at the history written here, each chapter 
incisive and alive. Not even ''n the Pantheon of Rome 
have diverse ages and fashions dared so boldly to clash 
as here. The foundations of San Pietro are cyclopean. 
They are like the fortress walls below in material, 
strength, and probably date. On these were raised a 
Roman temple which exists substantially to-day, almost 
unique in its state of preservation. The naves are 
upheld by eight fluted Corinthian columns of the 
original sixteen, stately and beautiful. The richly 
carved door is fine twelfth-century work. The apse 
is of the thirteenth. Frescoes of every Christian 
age are on the walls, half obliterated. The hands of 
the primitives have worked here ; and some that have 
learnt in a Sienese school ; and others of late date. 
There are no masterpieces, but many fragments of 
charm. The pulpit is a splendid specimen of inlaid 
Gothic work, marble and gilt, porphyry and serpentine — 
" a not inelegant kind of labour," says Mr. Keppel 
Craven, in a fit of expansiveness. The eighteenth 
century has added altars to Saint Francis and Saint 
Bernardino of Siena — for the convent attached to the 
great church, originally Benedictine, has often changed 
hands, and the Franciscan Conventuals have had it 
From the prehistoric to the rococo, all is here ; but the 
dominating things are still the great columns. The 
marble mosaic and the delicate fresco fragments fill up 
the picture lightly. The rest, whatever space it takes, is 
nowhere in the memory. 

The place is a national monument, and is well cared 
for. Since 1866 or 1867, on the suppression of the con- 
vent, it has been the property of Count Pace. The 
convent buildings are now a farm. In the cloisters are 

192 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

ancient inscriptions set into the wall, and old carved 
stones, by no means all of a Christian pattern. What a 
strange subject of meditation must that siren have been 
to the frati! In the tiny neglected garden we were 
given roses. The rest of the flowers have died since 
the brothers ceased to tend the place. 

Our companion preserved an attitude of rapt devotion 
in the church. But it was not the simple devotion he 
feels in San Nicola. This peasant of a little ruined 
hamlet in the hills is thrilled by the great stones. San 
Pietro, and the ancient fragments all about, have been his 
only school. He loves them all, touches every bit with 
reverence, knows every corner, every inch of storied 
carving within and without. His name is Carmine 
Santacasa ; he is the sacristan of San Nicola, and his 
sandals are very worn. But he has the instincts of an 
artist and a scholar. Once outside the holy place, he 
runs us up and down the hills pitilessly ; for he is not of 
those who say difficult roads are not for signore. Signore 
who come here must see Albe. Albe is worth seeing. 
So, then, up and down, to see the walls. He has studied 
their plan in his book by the fireside, the aqueduct, the 
traces of the Valerian Way, the places of the gates, with the 
marks where they hung still to be seen on the stones. 
What an antiquary this peasant would have made ! His 
dark eyes gleam and flash as he revivifies old dramas, 
made out of his book and his own strong imagination. 
Curious, he makes no apology for poor Albe of to-day, 
as his like are wont to do. Albe is rich to him — rich in 
great stones and memories. He has the self-forgetting 
look on his face of the born enthusiast. Carmine loves 
his country-side, too ; and he is almost the first we have 
met who openly regrets the draining of the lake. He 
regrets the fishing ; for he is old enough to have fished 
in it ; but he also regrets its beauty. It has brought 
riches, we suggest. Riches ! Riches ! He values riches 


coolly, this peasant of the threadbare coat and the worn 
sandals. " Yes. Torlonia got riches. And then he died." 
He seemed to be weighing wealth and death together 
for a moment or two ; and he concluded, " The best gift 
the good God gave to this world was death ; and that He 
gave to poor and rich alike." 

Carmine has a son in America, who wears a black 
coat, and sits at a desk, and gets good pay, and sends 
some of it home to Albe. But I can hardly imagine him 
the equal of his threadbare father, the free man of the 
hills, with his entry into another world through the ancient 
stones and his book. By " threadbare " I do not mean 
poverty-stricken. Carmine owns his own house and some 
land. His picturesque threadbareness is but the sign 
of a man distracted from himself by impersonal things. 
Did he never think of going to America .'' No, the idea 
had never come into his head. When one is " appassionato 
pella famiglia " 

It is very easy to miss S. Maria della Valle, for it lies 
far away from the high-road to anywhere, and cannot 
be "taken with" other monuments of importance. It is 
known to archaeologists and some architects, but guide- 
books dare not star anything so inconveniently placed. 
The road to it lies through Cappelle, which you reach by 
train from Avezzano, and thence by the posta to Magliano. 
Magliano de' Marsi is an ancient place set on a hill to the 
west of Albe, much the worse for wear, but imposing still, 
and cheery ; and its inhabitants keep up their old reputa- 
tion for strength. The air is inspiriting, and the view of 
the beautiful Valley of Porcaneta draws us on. We leave 
many stares behind us at our refusal of a carrozzella to 
Rosciolo ; but it is good to foot it upwards through this 
golden country, exuberant and suave, the bare hills on 
each hand softened by the shady trees that walk along 
and keep us company. In the porch of the. /rati' s church 


194 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. II. 

we can rest and take possession of the valley beneath. 
The road to the temple of the Guardian of the Vale lies 
under, not through, the village, and thus we never saw 
the fine church there. Rosciolo is the place from which 
climbers start by night for the ascent of Monte Velino. 

Monte Velino is a favourite and a kindly mountain. 
The German climber we met at Sulmona, who had 
" done " all the Alps, scoffed at the Apennines, pronounced 
the Gran Sasso and Majella puny and dull, had still a 
good word for Monte Velino. Easy, of course, a thing 
to be sauntered up ; but he owned the beauty and charm 
of the surroundings. To all the folks round about Velino 
is a friend. They gather medicinal herbs on its slopes, 
and look up to it for guidance. If the first snows of 
the year cover only the three peaks (Velino, Cafornia, 
and Sevice), a stern winter is to be looked for ; a mild one 
if the snow comes halfway down. And so the old 
rhyme — 

" Quando il Velino si mette il capello, 
Vendi le capre ed acquista il mantello, 
Quando il Velino le brache si mette, 
Vendi il mantello e compra le caprette." 

["When Velino puts on his hat, sell your goats and get you a cloak. 
When Velino puts on his hosen, sell your cloak and buy little goats. "] 

From Rosciolo the road is rough, but not shadeless, 
and just when we seem to be running against the back 
wall of the valley, we find our Santa Maria. There it 
lies, close under the steep, wooded hill, at the end of the 
world, and very solitary. There are not more than two 
houses near it, where once was a flourishing town, the 
Villa Maggiore, rased by Charles of Anjou, presumably 
for the support it gave to Conradin. Its people fled to 
Magliano. All that is left of the church looks little 
remarkable, a barn-like structure with a pretty apse and 
a window looking to the south. The porch is open, and 
seems to be used as a casual stable. A most convenient 


shelter in the storm, doubtless, is this " national monu- 
ment." Above the door, in a lunette, is a delightful fresco 
of Our Lady with an angel on each side, of the early 
fourteenth century. A travelling Englishman passing 
here thought it wasted in this wilderness, and offered 
to buy it. He bid quite high, and was surprised he did 
not have his way. One might well be alarmed for its 
safety ; yet the herds who stable the cows and mules 
underneath have respected it. The door of the church is 
locked ; the houses near are empty ; but far down in the 
fields we see some peasants working, and we make for 
them. Yes, there used to be a key here, but not now. 
There is a volunteer, however, to fetch the one at 
Rosciolo. Little Antonietta jumps on her shabby donkey 
and jolts over rough craggy fields and stony paths, and 
is back in an hour. The family, father and four daughters, 
convoy us back to the church ; and on the strength of 
the lira earned by Antonietta, they all feel dispensed 
from further labour that day. We have their company 
for the rest of the time. 

What is left of the interior is little and exquisite. 
The place was begun in 1048 by Berardo, Count of 
the Marsi, who made it rich by giving it the castle 
and town of Rosciolo before he gave the whole to the 
Benedictines of Monte Cassino, in 1080. From the begin- 
ning of the fifteenth century it began to decay ; but the 
decay was very gradual, and Febonio says in his time 
it was still unharmed. Even now Mass is said several 
times a year, and at Easter a procession comes up to 
greet Our Lady of the Vale. It is very broken. A 
blessed poverty, and its remoteness in these wilds, have 
hindered restoration. The floor is gone. The walls are 
crumbling. Now it looks like an old wan and shrunken 
face, with the glamour of beauty still about it : chastened, 
rarified, menaced by death, but serene. Menaced it has 
been, indeed. It is cracked and seamed by earthquakes, 

196 IN THE ABRUZZI [rx. ii. 

the latest fissures but three years old. On a column 
of the porch is an inscription in honour of the founder. 
Opposite is a rough Latin verse to the glory of the 
architect Nicolo — 

"hoc opus est clari 
manibus factu nicolai 
gui laus viventi 
gui sit reqes morienti 
vivus onoretur 
moriens sup astra lo 
cetu . vos quoque psentes 
et fag tu tale videntes 
lugiter oretis . quod 
regnet in rge qetis." 

["This work was made by the hands of the famous Nicholas, to whom be 
praise in life, to whom be rest in death. Alive let him be honoured. Dead 
he shall win his place above the stars. And you here seeing this deed, pray 
without ceasing that he may reign in the city of peace."] 

Nicholas found in the Vale his entry into peace, and 
was laid to rest in the church. His tomb is in the right- 
hand corner. The efifigy is gone. Only the half-ruined 
inscription remains — 


What is left is probably of the twelfth century. 
There is now but one aisle with mutilated arches ; but 
the pulpit of white stone is a masterpiece. The carving, 
of intertwined designs, with grotesques, and a vigorous 
presentment of the story of Jonah, is nearly the same as 
that of the ambone in Santa Maria del Lago in Moscufo, 
though not so well preserved. Bindi says both are the 
work of one Nicodemus, an Abruzzese sculptor of re- 
nown, and that his name is to be read in a mutilated 
verse in the pulpit. The pillared screen is from the 
same hand. The little place is not quite stripped bare 
of objects of devotion, nor reduced to the cold condition 


of a specimen. It is still a much-loved sanctuary. 
Between the columns on the right of the screen hangs 
the Crucified, young, slender-limbed, patient ; not think- 
ing any more of earthly pain. To the left stands a red- 
robed Santa Constanza wreathed with flowers, a thing 
of no artistic worth, but graceful and warm in this old 
white place. The hand of the mysterious Nicodemus is 
perhaps to be seen in the canopy over the altar-piece, 
above the late and faded picture of St. Luke painting 
the Virgin. The walls are tinted with the remains of 
frescoes ; and where these have not been completely 
mutilated, the colour has kept well. Antonietta, an 
active cicerone, shows me what she calls the fratis 
prison, under the altar, where they did penance. She 
knows the place as her own father's house, and is full of 
stories of the " molte grazie," done by the Madonna di 
fuori — the lady of the lunette, whom the Englishman 
wished to carry away — to those in peril of death. But 
still more potent is she of the side chapel, whose 
miraculous image was dug up in 18 14, and has had 
many devotees ever since. Antonietta shows me some 
brown stains in the vault underneath, where the blood 
of Christ was shed. I cannot follow the legend, but 
divine that when the blood was dispersa qui, it was not 
as a relic, but in some visitation of the Man of Sorrows 
to His brethren in this remote valley of Porcaneta. No 
use questioning her. She is definite about her main 
facts, but to minor circumstances and ramifications she 
is indifferent. 

She lies very lonely, St. Mary of the Valley. Not 
very often is her lamp lit now, since the key is gone from 
the cottage hard by. The peasants speak to her in the 
porch, looking up at her image in the lunette above ; 
and the porch is very hospitable to the shepherds, the 
cowherds, and the swineherds of the hills, who have a 
favourite rendezvous just above at the well of clear cold 

198 IN THE ABRUZZI [ft. ii. 

water from the rocks ; hospitable to their beasts, too, and 
doubtless to the prowling wolves that come down in the 
time of the snows from the steep beech-covered hill 

There is some talk of bringing the railway up this 
road from Avezzano to Rieti. Meanwhile let the 
pilgrim take his staff in his hand and go up the lovely- 
valley, and its Lady will give him what she has, beauty 
and peace, while these are left to her. 



A splendid ruin — Old disasters — The story of the Castle — The Church as 
hospice — S, Francis in Celano — Our padrona — Deserted Ovindoli — 
Rocca di Mezzo — A nightmare of light and of stones — Wolves — Bettina 

Above the lake towers Celano, Celano claimed a great 
part in the lake, to which it gave its name except in 
ancient and in quite modern times. " The fishy lake of 
Celano," says Mazella. Once it was the chief place in 
all the Marsica, and it bears the signs of past grandeur, 
still rearing itself proudly aloft in its tattered russet and 
gold. Avezzano has stepped well in front of it ; and 
there are few signs of its deriving any benefit from the 
cultivation of the lake. If it deigned to compete, one 
would think it might throw out some new sprouts below 
the rock near the railroad ; but it holds aloof and rots in 
splendid scorn. There is a low wall in the Piazza, where 
beggars and philosophers, or both rolled in one, are wont 
to loll and meditate. And here in Celano we should be 
driven to philosophy lest the tragedy of the place should 
overcome us utterly. A pungent scorn is helpful, too ; 
and among the loungers by the parapet are some one 
may imagine as having taken a great vow never to go 
down to the plain that cannot use their noble Celano — 
the plain once a far-spreading mirror for mountain and 
sky, now laid out with the teasing regularity of a chess- 
board. The careless beggars and philosophers are 
reasonably protected from the north winds by the slopes 


200 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

of the Sirente chain ; they face the sunny southern 
fields ; and have, for setting to their dreaming or their 
dreamless content, the glorious amphitheatre of hills, 
double and triple lines of these, serrated, crested, and 
changing from dove colour and dim peach-bloom to the 
purple of the storm. For closer incident there lie the 
little dots and patches that once were fishing towns 
round Fucino, and, nearer, the tree-clad slopes and 
gardens — for Celano, hanging on the edge of the wild, 
has yet its soft and kindly aspect. 

More than once after fell disaster it has begun again 
a new career ; and the philosophers of the parapet can 
tell themselves that their city was thought much of in 
better days than ours, and may yet have its revival, 
even its revenge, in the whirligig of time. Here in old 
Roman days was probably Cliternia, and the flourishing 
colony may have replaced an Italian city recalcitrant to 
Rome in the wars of independence. The Lombards 
occupied it as a strong place, and it was the chief seat 
of the Counts of the Marsi. As it sided with the 
Guelfs, Frederic II. sacked it ruthlessly, and expelled 
its inhabitants, banishing them with characteristic 
thoroughness to Malta, Sicily, and Calabria. But they 
were hard to exile ; the Pope intervened, and a good 
number of the banished came back. Meanwhile 
Frederic was building up a new city on the ruins of the 
old, whose name he determined should never be heard 
any more. This city was to be Caesarea. But the new 
name dropped from it lightly, and Celano it became 
again, under its old inhabitants. It was involved, too, 
in Masaniello's revolution in the seventeenth century, 
yet again survived sacking and burning, only to be 
shaken to its foundations about fifty years later in the 
earthquake of 1695. 

The castle that stands now is of the fifteenth century, 
the chief portion built by Leonello Acclozamora. It has 

» 3 3 ) i ^, 3 . J , ,' , 5,3 3 3,' 

^.,5^%r3 3? i >3' 3 S' '5 '' 




CH. X.] CELANO 201 

known many fickle changes and chances of fortune, and 
there are dark stories cHnging to its walls. Even now it 
is the finest in the Abruzzi, substantial still, of bulk to 
keep a province in awe, and with its main walls intact. 
On the western side of the town it is piled, looking 
down on the beautiful Valle Verde, on the drained lake, 
and over all the country which once it ruled, golden 
brown in colour, and glorious in the evening sun. The 
battlements remain, and, seen from the vineyards on the 
hillsides, it cheats you into a belief that it is still alive 
and dangerous. The houses fall from its sides like 
humble vassals to be trampled on, or used as props, 
according to its temper. Now it is very easy of 
access. Thread the steep street from the Piazza, and 
you will find the great gates open, and no one to 
challenge your entry. To all appearance the place is 
restorable, and Prince Torlonia tried to buy it for a 
residence ; but it belongs to several owners, who all 
neglect it, and evidently cannot combine to sell it profit- 
ably. So now it is let out in tenements, and houses 
besides a boys' elementary school. In the great vaulted 
chambers poor folks lead their humble lives, and in the 
huge chimney-places make their frugal blaze of twigs ; 
their children swarm and wrangle below round the well 
in the pillared, arcaded courtyard ; and little boys 
scribble over the frescoes in the galleries. Nobody, save 
it be a rare visitor, ever mounts to the battlements. An 
eerie place it must be when the children and their tired 
elders are asleep. There should be unquiet ghosts there, 
and some of them ugly. Rugerotto, for instance, greedy 
and dispossessed. He belongs to the Covella story. 

Giovanna, or Covella, of Celano, was its mistress, a 
woman of strong passions and of strong will. She had 
married a Colonna, the nephew of a Pope ; but she gave 
him up, and without a by-your-leave to his uncle, 
Martin V., she wedded her own nephew, Leonello 


Acclozamora. After his death their son Rugerotto 
quarrelled with his mother, disputed her rights, took 
the other side in the dynastic struggles of the time, he 
favouring the Angevins, she the Aragonese, and de- 
manded to rule at Celano as master. " Not till my death," 
said she. Finally Rugerotto besieged the town and 
castle ; and found a formidable ally in the great Con- 
dottiere Piccinino. For months she held out with 
bravery and skill in the citadel ; and in the meanwhile 
her son had his will of the lands, though the Celanese 
sympathies went with the lady, as genial as she was 
stout hearted. She cheered her men, telling them Ferdi- 
nand was at hand with help. Now he was at Chieti 
with troops, she said ; or now at Sulmona. But 
Ferdinand delayed ; Piccinino was an obstinate besieger, 
and Rugerotto was merciless. At last she had to 
surrender. The walls of the Rocca were thrown down 
on November 25, the palace sacked ; and not a little of 
the spoil, jewels and money, and raiment and wool, fell 
to Piccinino's share. The wool alone was sold at 
Aquila for 4000 ducats. Giovanna was thrown into the 
dungeons below, and there she lay for long dark years. 
It was the Piccolomini Pope who intervened at last, and 
procured her release ; and she ruled again in her own 
castle. Before her death she willed the place away from 
all her kin to the Piccolomini, who were masters here 
till they died out. 

Other houses famous in the annals of Rome and of 
the Marsica held the castle, the Peretti, the Savelli — 
whose escutcheon is still fresh on the walls — and the 
Bovadilla, who lingered on to a hideous close. The last 
of them, in the eighteenth century, was a monster, 
physically and mentally. Yet his kindred married 
him, by proxy, to a little Sicilian princess ! When 
she rode up to the castle, she was without a thought 
of ill to come. As soon as she set eyes on her 

CH. X.] CELANO 203 

husband, she called for the horse that had brought 
her, and rode away on the instant straight to Rome, 
to the Pope's feet. He listened, good man, in horror, 
and prohibited the Bovadilla's marrying ; -which did 
not prevent a certain Cardinal Arezzo from persuading 
his niece to take the monster for husband — with her 
eyes open — and all the lands and fortune in his keeping. 
When he died, as he had never had wits enough to make 
a will, there was endless confusion. The property, was 
divided. The Arezzos got one part, the Torres of 
Aquila another. But the place was abandoned ; and there 
are still several owners whose claims and disputes bar 
the way to the restoration of the grand old place, fast 
running to decay within its stout outer shell. 

And so is the town. A little faubourg running round 
the hill is half deserted, and there seems to be no 
prosperous quarter at all. The market-place, where the 
beggars and the fruit-stall women and the philosophers 
congregate, has bright spots, but there is no general 
gaiety. Yet the place has a life of its own, and its own 
joys. As we sit in the vineyards under the castle, up 
the road from the plain comes the sound of singing. 
It is the pilgrims from a shrine in the valley of the 
Liris, coming home to Celano, and to Ovindoli, and San 
Petito, and Rovere, in the mountains behind. They 
have been two days on the way, long bands of them, 
on foot, or packed into market carts. Through the trees 
comes up an interminable song to the Virgin. Now 
the men sing apart, and now the women answer in 
chorus — 

" Evviva Maria, 
Maria evviva ! " 

The town is soon full of them. In the caf^s or the 
churches, according as they have soldi or not, they take 
their rest. 

The churches of Celano have been great. To-day, 

204 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

if you thread your way among the heavy rubbish under 
which later ages have buried their ancient beauty, you 
do not seek in vain for gems of a purer day — the door of 
the Celestines' church, for instance, though inside you 
find a gilded parlour with the audacious inscription, 
" Restored and beautified by the Celanese in 1903." 
But our aesthetic standards are for ourselves, and answer 
to no needs of the people who come to pray here. These 
gilded parlours are homes of ecstasy. Our horror and 
indignation, our thrill of interest in some trace of past 
simplicity, still faintly descried through the heavy 
trimmings, have no power to call back the spirits of the 
suppliants kneeling here. Nay more, the gilded parlours 
are very hospitable. One of them at least, which we 
find swarming with women and children, has served as 
refuge for the night. It has been a station on the 
pilgrims' road. The children play about the floor with 
a discreet but confident cheerfulness. Others are sitting 
on the altar steps eating their breakfast, near a mother 
suckling her infant ; and the respectable citizens and 
citizenesses who come in for their devotions, show no 
repugnance or impatience. . . . As I write, a bitter 
wind has been blowing for a week past, and the news- 
papers tell of the wandering, shivering shadows on the 
embankment, and of crowded lodging-houses shutting 
their doors fast against them. But the churches and 
the chapels do not give the shelter of their roof-trees 
to these guests of Christ. If they were only clean, we 
murmur. But the guests of Christ are often not clean 
• — and our English cleanliness is very cruel. 

As for beauty, crude hearts find it in strange places. 
We are dragged round the town by an eager woman, 
who tells us Celano has one thing we must not miss. 
Oh, but it is beautiful and famous ! And she plants 
us before an awful black-walled chapel decked with 
skulls, a hideous pile of iiioviento niori's, a ghoulish 

CH. X.] ' CELANO 205 

altar to King Death. But she transmutes the horror 
into something great. This awful show of dead bones 
she has faced, till she has grown to love it, as the nether 
side of peace. And as we move off, we are touched 
by a gaunt woman who, without preface, bids us, if we 
are bound for Rome, go to Queen Margherita and beg 
for the release of her son lying now in a German prison. 
Yes, he did use his knife ; there is no denying that, 
he being quick tempered, and his provocation great. 
And the other man has died since. But of what good 
is it to anybody that her son should waste his days in 
jail while his wife and children starve ? Margherita will 
understand. She is good, and a mother ; and she has 
suffered herself. 

The devotee of the chapel of the skulls and the 
mother of the homicide, give the old brown place a 
sombre hue. Celano, with the trees growing gracefully 
about its feet, but hanging on the edge of a fearsome 
wild country, has ever been a mark for disaster, and 
known close acquaintanceship with death. It was 
Thomas of this town who, looking back on past con- 
vulsions, and foreseeing those to come, read the warning 
to the world, and sang the hymn of judgment. Dies Ircz. 

The poor have always been in Celano, and one of 
their best friends, he who aspired to be poorer than 
themselves, once stayed in the town. It may have been 
then that Thomas, perhaps the son of the Count of the 
place, first set eyes on the Poverello. He tells one 
incident of the visit in his " Second Life of S. Francis." 

" It happened at Celano in winter time that S. 
Francis was wearing a cloth folded like a cloak, which a 
friend of the brethren, a man of Tivoli, had lent him ; and 
when he was in the palace of the Bishop of the Marsica, 
he met an old woman asking alms. Immediately he 
unfastened the cloth from his neck, and though it did 
not belong to him, gave it to the poor old woman. 

2o6 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

saying, ' Go and make thyself a gown, for thou art in 
sore need of one.' The old woman smiled, being over- 
come either by shyness or joy, took the cloth from 
his hands, hurried off, and fearing that it might 
be asked for again if she delayed, cut it up with her 
scissors. But finding that the cloth she had cut would 
not be enough for a gown, she was encouraged by his 
former kindness to go back to the holy man and point 
out that there was too little cloth. He looked round 
at his companion, who had just such another cloth on his 
back, and said, ' Hearest thou, brother, what this poor 
woman is saying ? Let us bear the cold for the love of 
God, and do thou give her cloth to finish her gown with.' 
Whereupon his companion gave, even as he had given, 
and both remained naked that the old woman might be 
clothed." 1 

I would not have you believe that all the Celanesi 
walk about with tragedy in their eyes. There are the 
philosophers of the parapet ; and there are the proud — 
the haughtily and the complacently proud. Of the latter 
was the padrona of the inn. I gather that she believed 
the fact of the existence of her inn to be known in Rome 
and Jericho and even to the uttermost parts of the earth. 
At least she would not stoop to emphasize it to the 
ignorant. What was the name of her inn } Name ? It 
had no name. It was the inn. Why should it have a 
name .? There were no recognizable signs of a hostelry 
outside — nor anywhere else for that matter — not even 
a bunch of shrivelled twigs stuck out of the first-floor 
window. Well ? Everybody knew it was the inn. But 
were a passing traveller to demand accommodation as a 
matter of course, there was a volte-face. Inn ? Yes, it 
was an inn in a manner of speaking — but not an inn 
for everybody. She was willing to convenience certain 

' Celano Vita II. 53. Trans. Ferrers Howell. 

CH. X.] CELANO 207 

persons — ingegneri e signori, now. Always quite willing 
to do them a favour. We inferred that a marchesa from 
Rome on her way to " take the air " of Rocca di Mezzo 
— a frequent occurrence, evidently — would not be refused 
lightly ; and we were honoured by her not rejecting us. 
As for her favours — it is better to dwell on her bearing, 
which almost hypnotized us into humble gratitude for 
the least and the worst of them ; on her manner, 
betokening boundless leisure in which to bask in the 
sunshine of her own beneficence ; on her unruffled dignity, 
which squalor could not stain. Her point of view is that 
of many innkeepers in the Abruzzi. Innkeepers — but 
they can hardly be said to keep an inn. (And why 
should they, they might reply, as their inns do not keep 
them T) As for their attitude of selection, real or feigned 
— the " engineers or gentlemen " test, or that of " persons 
whose faces please me " — it is a survival of the time when 
travellers in the province were guests all along their route. 
In those days the native nobility were starved of society 
in their mountains, and were said to fight for the honour 
of showing hospitality to the stranger. 

The pride of our padrona was a personal, not a local 
matter. Her house, not Celano ; and herself, her large, 
portly, unkempt self, were its sources. But she was 
independent of our patronage, and sped us willingly 
enough to Rocca di Mezzo — where all Rome — noble 
Rome — went in villeggiatura. With a word or two — she 
was not voluble — she built up in our minds an imposing, 
an alarming idea of the grandeur of this new health- 
station. We felt our pockets anxiously, but " the inn of 
Celano " was calculated to give us a hunger after some 
place and some enterprise new enough to be forced to 
make an effort. 

From the box of the little diligence we feel pity for 
the eight persons squeezed inside ; but as they are not 
7narchese or contesse, not even signori or ingegneri, they 

2o8 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

bear it cheerfully. The coachman has gathered us a good 
hour too soon, perhaps more from a love of ceremony 
than from any delay of the postman in handing us 
the letter-bags. A large portion of the inhabitants of 
Celano gather round, give us messages and packets, 
examine the skinny horses, and hold a kind of social club 
all about us, bidding us long and leisurely farewell — for 
unless we are to be dropped very soon we cannot catch 
the return coach that day. Aquila is the goal of the 
diligence, and ithere our coachman will spend the night. 
Jingling and cracking, a scurry of children, last messages 
and precautions, and we are off by half-past seven. 
Round we swing to a full view of the great old castle ; 
and Celano, russet-brown, stands 'Out in its frame of 
mountains and green plain. On and up, above the 
beautiful Valle Verde, climbing, climbing, till below us is 
a dim fairyland of glinting torrent and toy feathery trees. 
Above, the mountains grow in bulk, giant walls of furnace 
red and slaty blue. The sky is of an infinite height that 
flees the world and draws it on. San Petito is passed. 
Our meagre horses show their mettle, and our driver 
proves himself a famous whip. The fairyland below has 
vanished ; there is only the abyss, and we are clinging 
like flies to the side of Sirente, and across the gulf lies a 
long bulwark still spotted and streaked with snow. Here 
begin the tales of the road, tales of days when the summer 
sun is not whirling there aloft. For three months last 
winter the posta never ventured, so deep and lasting were 
the snows. Letters were delivered by an occasional 
horseman. With December winds sweeping down these 
gullies and driving the snow to a smothering mist, the 
postman has need to be hardy and venturesome. And 
here at this point a great rock, loosened in some earth- 
quake, fell down last year, and — the saints be praised ! — 
missed the postd, but only by a hair's breadth. So 
cheerfully do we beguile the wa}-, telling of ventures and 

CH. X.] CELANO 209 

escapes, till the road becomes a sharp-angled wriggle, 
fivefold at least ; and all, save the old and very patient, 
get out and climb up the face of the mountain, cutting 
the road over and over again by a path which is a ladder 
of uncertain footholes and loose stones. Far below, the 
diligence crawls like a beetle on its winding way. 

At the top we are in Ovindoli, a grey, forsaken place 
of the dead, surely. In the nearer houses there is no one. 
Even the approach of the posta calls nobody out. Where 
are they all t Son' tiitti ftwri. And " fuori " does not 
mean in the harvest-fields below, but across the sea, in 
America. What is there to do here t Life is at its barest 
in this grey village at the top of the world, girt on three 
sides by the mountains, and with the great upland stony 
plain in front stretching away to Aquila. There are a 
few women in the street as we penetrate further, a young 
sleepy priest, and some boys driving cows to pasture. 
Why did people ever choose such a place, 4800 feet 
high, wrapped for more than half the year in snow } 
This year the snow lay well into June ; and in the winter 
it was sometimes ten feet deep. A usual mode of 
entrance to your house was by the first-floor window. 
When the posta did not come you were left to your own 
resources. What resources ! The town is topped by an 
old tower, called Roman. Once it was a strong place, 
commanding the pass to Celano and the upland plain and 
the road to Aquila. Its terrible barrenness is a thing of 
yesterday and to-day. Its flocks and herds were famous, 
and there were woods to give shelter and some gracious- 
ness to life, beside winter fuel, which now has to be 
fetched from a considerable distance. Ovindoli woods 
were all cut down because they gave cover to wolves and 
brigands. Were there brigands now, they would surely 
be in a piteous case did they see anything worth robbing 
here. But the wolves have not died out ; and in the 
winter they are daring and clamorous enough to require 


210 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

to be kept in check ; and a wolf-hunt presents some 
sport to the few adventurous men-folk left in the neigh- 
bourhood. But even in its frozen decrepitude Ovindoli 
makes efforts. In what stands for a piazza we saw a few 
shaky poles, from which hung meagre coloured rags, in 
evidence of a recent festa. Even ruined Ovindoli says 
it is a poor heart that never rejoices. 

On, and a little downwards, over the bare plain, past 
Rovere to Rocca di Mezzo. We are on the alert for 
touting porters from the new hotels, and other signs of 
the villeggiatura of the Roman nobility. They seem 
rather remiss in coming to meet the posta, though we 
swing in in fine style, with great cracking of whip and 
jingling of bells. Hotels ? The driver points to a non- 
descript tumble-down place, evidently in the hands of 
the masons. With some persuasion a lad takes a hod of 
bricks from his head, and hoists our baggage instead. 
Carried inside, it brings consternation. Travellers! 
Inn ? Yes, this is the inn — if it was only rest or food 
we wanted— but, to tell the truth, the town had had a 
misfortune in the winter. The snowfall had been so 
great that the municipio had fallen under its weight, and 
was now a useless ruin. And so the inn was housing the 
municipio, and the mayor, and the councillors ; and of 
spare room it had none. But the town afforded a choice 
of the best accommodation. We had never come across 
more amiable hosts. Up in this wild plain, open to all 
the winds of heaven, we find tempers of almost flower- 
like sweetness. We eat our macaroni with the contadini, 
and set off with our genial landlord as guide. The 
streets we climbed and the stairs in search of the perfect 
quarters recommended by the Roman doctors ! As for 
the town, the catastrophe of the winter that befell the 
municipio was plainly a visitation of God on the mayor 
and councillors for the condition of the streets — and they 
have not recognized it ! A slum or two in such air is of 

CH. X.] CELANO 211 

little consequence ; and the contesse and inarchese, if ever 
they are anywhere about, probably take little harm. But 
that is an after-reflection. On the spot we must have 
felt differently, for, not on account of interior defects, but 
for the outlook on ancient grime, we declined all. There 
seemed to be nothing for it but the sign of the Belle 
Etoile, and up here the night accommodation is chilly. 
Then mine host cried " Bettina ! " And mine hostess 
echoed " Bettina ! " To Bettina we were led. 

Bettina lives outside the area of muck, and with 
nothing- between her little house and the mountains. 
She keeps a cafe of a humble kind, where homely folks 
of an evening come and talk over her fire on the hearth, 
and take a hand at cards, and sing a bit, and tell old 
stories, and drink a penn'orth of wine, and then go home 
to an early bed. By day she tends a little shop, sells 
hap'orths of groceries, or oil, and spoils the children of 
her customers. Our guide introduced us as Inglese from 
London. " Londra ! " said Bettina, opening wide her 
blue eyes, " Cosa c'^, Londra ? " " Inglese ! Cosa c'e." 
London having been defined as a bundle of houses 
somewhere over the mountains, beyond Naples even, 
and ourselves more vaguely explained, we were passed 
into the sweet, serene atmosphere of Bettina's home, and 
to the spotless purity of Bettina's upper chambers. We 
are strange museum specimens to her for a little quarter 
of an hour, and then her curiosity melts in her humanity, 
and we are guests not only to be served with the fine 
capacity that lodges in her blonde, blue-eyed person, but 
to be spoiled and made much of in return for our opening 
a few chinks into an unknown world. 

And thus the imposing hotels of Rocca di Mezzo 
resolved themselves, and very gratefully, into well- 
scrubbed, sweet-smelling cottage garrets. If Rocca di 
Mezzo desires success as a health resort, let it make 
Bettina mayor ! 

212 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

All round is a vast clean plain, walled to the west 
by Velino and Puzzello, to the east and south by 
Sirente. It ends far away to the north at Aquila in 
the jagged range of the Gran Sasso, its horn clear 
cut and blue — blue, in the dazzling air. Great meadows, 
thick with mountain flowers, stretch on to Rocca di 
Cambio and to Fontecchio. In one of them a troop 
of ponies are scampering wild and free. The sun sinks 
behind Monte d'Ocre. Keen winds blow. Here in the 
highlands the summer nights are austere ; and the stars 
come out like steelly gems. On the road asses and 
mules, shapeless under their loads of scented hay that 
stretch from marge to marge, move on their slow 
way home. The driver stops his song, and sends them 
off at a heavy trot. The clatter of hoofs in your ears, 
and the falling night about you, an old tale becomes a 
reality of yesterday, the tale of the Angevin riding fast 
and furious along this road through the starlight, the 
looming horn of Monte Corno his guide, on to Aquila 
to test the faith of the Aquilesi. Was it his, or 
Conradin's ? And following fast on his returning foot- 
steps come the men and women of Aquila, a wild, dis- 
ordered band, on foot, on muleback, laden with stores, 
filled with a sudden fury of help to the Angevin, and of 
hate to the unknown gallant young grandson of the 
founder of the greatness of their city. 

At night, from our windows, we see lights up in the 
near wooded hills above us, and they are still there just 
before dawn. They are shepherds' fires, not for warmth 
alone, but to keep off the wolves. 

Next day's walk is still a nightmare of light and of 
stones. Our way lay about the hillsides above the town, 
low spurs of Sirente. From a point here and there we 
see the whole range of the Gran Sasso, so clear defined, 
it seemed as if we could touch every crag and summit. 

cii. X.] CELANO 213 

Not a cloud ! Were there ever any clouds ? With 
Bettina, we say, " Cloud ? Cosa c'e ? " The light intoxi- 
cates. The sun is not yet high, yet it dazzles us into 
restlessness, and we must on, from rock to rock. There 
are points where the great range with its uplifting force 
is lost, and we look out on an endless waste of stones — 
stones — stones ; and the light above is like myriads of 
circling piercing discs and wheels. A terrible land, its 
aridity mocked by the sun that has split itself into 
glinting diamonds whirled in space. The beech copses 
behind are almost too steep to give a footing, but on the 
margin we sit, glad of the slightest shade to veil us from 
the mighty light and the wide waste of stones. Some 
peasants pass down with their loads of wood. Two men 
w ith a gun are challenged by the giiardia. This rural 
guard, a gay, jaunty young fellow, with a meek, aged 
attendant, satisfied his immense curiosity about us, and 
then waxed rhapsodical on the glories of his life. There 
never was such a life 1 Ever in the woods and on the 
hills ! Indoors — it would be death ! " Wolves .^ Oh, 
yes, no end of them. Why, yesterday, where you are 
sitting, they killed a donkey. But they don't want you 
now, and would run if they saw you. In the summer 
there are plenty of sheep in the mountains. In winter 
it would be another thing." 

Back to Rocca di Mezzo by a precipitous path. We 
stumble down, glad to look to our feet, for the 
whirling intoxication is up there again, and the endless 
outlook on stones, stones. The world is stripped very 
bare here. You see its skeleton. If you could live at 
all, you might live lustily. But something like madness 
might seize on you in this air that has the purity of 
spears, where the face of day has no overhanging 
shade of locks, no lashes on its gleaming eye. 

Bettina's little home is as a cool cavern, and we rest 
in her serenity. Her own light burns low at times, and 

214 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

she sits in the shadow of a living sorrow. There is a 
son very far away across the seas, who has lain month 
after month in prison without trial, a suspect, accused 
of having taken life — the gentle creature, she says, he 
who never hurt any one. It is so far, so far ; Rome 
from where help might come, is far, too. Giovanni, her 
husband, has gone there twice ; but Rome forgets. 
Meanwhile there is a busy life to be lived, and old habits 
of cheeriness and duty to help the day along. And 
strangers now and then do not come amiss. Besides, 
they widen your experience. " I am glad," says Bettina, 
" to see the English before I die. I always thought 
they were black." 

j' J ) J 3 

3,) 3 3 3 




Ifortus inclusus — Mellow Sulmona — A stormy past — Legend of San Pan- 
filo — Market-day — Badia of Pope Celestine- — The Santone in the 
Abruzzi — San Spirito in Majella — Sant' Onofrio— Rienzi as hermit— 
Ovid's villa — Ovid as magician — Celestine and the treasure — Cor- 
finium to-day — Rajano — The trattiiro. 

The Valley of Sulmona lies, in summer, soft and smiling, 
half asleep, caressed by dreams, as if confident in its 
guardians, the giant hills, that make for it a world apart. 
Its eastern boundary is the long wall of Majella and 
Morrone, stretching with hardly a break to the Gran 
Sasso. West is the range that shuts out the Marsica 
from this Pelignian country, with the lower hills that join 
Monte Sirente to Monte Grande. The slopes of Genzano, 
with Pettorano on their face, close it to the south. The 
valley is watered by the little Gizio and the turbulent 
Sagittario, which give themselves up to the greater 
Aterno, near Popoli. It lies here, a long oval cup, made 
as if by two different artificers, the sides rough-hewn and 
of barbaric pattern, the hollow of fine and exquisite 
detail, and soft and rich of surface. Winter lasts long, 
for the valley is high set — more than thirteen hundred 
feet above the sea ; but the snows form a warm protective 
covering. When they melt in the sun of the late spring 
the flowers below are eager for release, and they rise up 
with quick joy like blessed souls on the Resurrection 

I hardly know from which point the valley looks its 


2i6 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

best ; but two views of enchantment I remember. One 
is seen as the train tumbles down out of the mountains 
from Aquila. Then, beyond Rajano, the eyeballs, hot 
with gazing on the red rocks, rest and bathe in a soft 
mist of green, in long vine-slopes, on verdant lawns and 
festooned hedges, in trees set out in ordered lines of 
beauty. The Sulmona Valley is an old, mellow, high- 
walled garden — a Jiortiis incliisiis for the softer senses to 
expand in after the savage grandeur of the mountain 
country round about. Another meets you coming back 
from Pettorano, looking north along the grassy vale of 
the Gizio across Sulmona to the far blue peaks of the 
Gran Sasso. The sense of the garden is lost ; but the 
eye revels in the great sweep of the hills, in the bounding 
road, with its green margin of sheep-walk. Here beauty 
does not sit and brood in groves and gardens, but is 
swift and has wings. 

The town of Sulmona is set on a little height above 
the valley in the midst of orchards and vineyards — an 
old-modish place of discreet and unassuming charm. 
Fifty other places in the Abruzzi give you keener sen- 
sations at first sight by their bold piling and grouping. 
Sulmona, despoiled of most of its towers, has no jagged 
edges left ; and, anyway, set right under Morrone as it 
is — for the mountain seems to rise sheer out of the public 
gardens — it would have little chance of wearing a tower- 
ing aspect. It has grown to a fitting harmony with the 
valley round. Long ages have smoothed it, and turned 
it to soft old hues, ivories, ochres, rosy browns. It is still 
nearly all set within its gates, though the walls are mostly 
down. There is no rich quarter ; and if there are slums, 
they are on the edge of the green country, and swept by 
the winds from the mountains. No obvious picturesque- 
ness meets your eye. Earthquakes have destroyed all its 
finest monuments, save the Annunziata, and the beauty 
is everywhere of a shy discretion — almost unconscious. 


There is something cloistered about it, something aristo- 
cratic ; and though it be threadbare and out-at-elbows, yet 
prosperous Aquila seems plebeian by comparison. You 
imagine to yourself how in this hidden house or that, up 
a dark alley, or in some first floor overlooking one of the 
piazzas, live the elderly barons and the counts who have 
never found their place in the new regime, who dream 
away their days here, or do a little archseological digging 
about Corfinium, or once a month add a paragraph or 
two to the work on the ancient Peligni, which is never 
quite ready to see the light. 

What the place lives on it is not easy to make out. 
Its staple industry is sugar-plums. Every other shop- 
window in the Corso is full of huge bouquets, thick chap- 
lets, and crosses, and garlands made of gaudily coloured 
sweet-stuff. These are not for the delectation of children. 
On birthdays, christenings, weddings, and all anniversaries, 
compliments take this form ; and a bouquet made of 
globulous scarlet and yellow sugar-flowers, tricked out 
with green, spiky foliage, is an elegant gift to a lady, 
especially if accompanied by a sonnet. Is it this industry 
that feeds the not very buoyant life which flows through 
its veins, and keeps alive its numerous clergy, its semi- 
nary, its college, and its markets .'' 

Sulmona in its time has endured many knocks and 
blows of fortune, for it is a very ancient place indeed. 
Ovid, its most brilliant son, says it was founded by a 
companion of ^neas, one " Solymus, who, quitting 
Phrygian Ida, came here and gave his name to cold 
Sulmo, our birthplace." It has barely escaped a hundred 
deaths, suffering in the wars of the Italian confederates, 
at the passing of Hannibal, in the struggles between Marius 
and Silla, between Caesar and Pompey. It opened its 
gates to Caesar after a stiff siege. In spite of all, it grew 
into a place of importance, and in the twelfth century was 

2i8 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

the seat of justice in the Abruzzi. From its defiance 
of the Papal army under Jean de Brienne it found 
favour with Frederic II., who founded here a chair of 
canon law ; but this was abolished in 1308, owing to the 
jealousy of Naples. Nevertheless, it opposed Conradin, 
and, in return, Charles of Anjou endowed its Franciscan 
convent. Still it continued to attract misfortune, ever 
involved in dynastic strife, or in the quarrels of neighbour- 
ing nobles like the Caldora and Cantelmi, or the squabbles 
of its own rival houses, or at the hands of the condottieri, 
Braccio da Montone, and Piccinino. The last became 
Prince of Sulmona. In the wars between Louis d' Anjou 
and Carlo di Durazzo it upheld the latter, who made it 
his favourite residence, and granted it the privilege of a 
mint. Its coins had on one side, " S.M.P.E. " {Sulmo mihi 
patria est), and on the reverse the head of Pope Celestine. 
Minting ceased when the town passed to its new prince, 
Lannoy, the hero of Pavia — passed only in name, for he 
never enjoyed its ownership. The all-absorbing Colonnas, 
into whose house he had married, got it ; and to-day you 
see the double arms of Lannoy and Colonna cut in the 
brilliant ochre- coloured stone of the picturesque Porta di 

Sulmona in its best days was a home of artists and 
skilled craftsmen, and its goldsmiths were famous through- 
out Europe. The names of Barbato, Di Meo, Maestro 
Masio, Andrea di Sulmona, makers of processional crosses, 
croziers, and chiselled chalices, stood for noble and ex- 
quisite design, and some of their work is still identifiable. 
The place was rich enough to employ artists and architects 
from outside, and at one time a colony of them came 
here from Lombardy. Above the Chapel of St. Elizabeth, 
in San Francesco, was this inscription : " Sacellum Visi- 
tationis Deiparae ad Elisabeth a Lombardoru natione 
A.D. MDVIII. constructum." 

Now the monuments are sadly broken, for the earth- 


quake of 1703 was specially disastrous at Sulmona, and 
the restoration has been as unhappy here as elsewhere. 
The cathedral stands outside the town proper, above the 
steep banks of the Gizio, and near the bridge that leads 
to the Badia of Celestine. It is built on the site, and its 
foundations are the remains, of an ancient temple of 
Apollo and Vesta. The first Christian church was 
dedicated to the Virgin ; but, later, a local saint, San 
Panfilo, was chosen as patron of the town. This is the 
legend of the bishop-saint and the building of his church — 

" San Panfilo, protector of Sulmona, was born at 
Pacino, which is a place between Sulmona, Petterano, 
and Canzano. San Panfilo had embraced the religion 
of Christ, but his father was a heathen. And so they 
didn't agree in the family. The father hated the son, 
and thought how he could make him perish. He ordered 
him to mount on a waggon, and from Pacino, which 
stands on a steep rock, he had to go down to the valley 
in the direction of the Gizio, The son obeyed. The 
father thought, * Now he'll tumble down that rock, 
waggon and oxen and all, and so much the better ! ' 
But the angels guided Panfilo. Slowly, slowly he came 
down on the waggon, without any hurt. On the rocks 
are still to be seen the imprint of the oxen's feet and the 
ruts made by the wheels. 

" Panfilo was made Bishop of Sulmona, but he had 
to stay six months at Sulmona and six months at 
Pentima, among the ruins of Corfinium. When he 
died, he was at Pentima, and four canons of Sulmona 
were with him. Said one of these canons, ' Ah ! but we 
are unlucky ! Now the body of our holy bishop will 
remain at Pentima ! Why should we not take it back to 
Sulmona .-' It is night, and no one will see us.' And 
the other three answered, ' Yes, yes ! Put him on our 
shoulders and let us go.' 

" And so they did. They were near the city, when 

220 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

in the Ficoroni's place they could go no further, for their 
great thirst. One of them touched the earth with his 
hands, and said, ' Ah ! if only there were a fountain 
here ! ' Hardly had he said it when he found his hand 
wet. A fountain of fresh water had sprung up. And 
that fountain is there still to-day, and it is called the 
fountain of San Panfilo. 

"When it had passed the Ponte della Vella, the 
corpse became heavy as lead, and they could get it no 
farther. So they stopped, and in that spot was built the 
church." 1 

The story of the rivalry between San Panfilo and 
San Pellino of Corfinio is not mere legend. For ages 
there raged a bitter war between the two chapters as to 
which church had authority in the district. Finally it 
was decided in favour of Sulmona. To-day, San Panfilo, 
with its little red domes, and without a tower, has not 
much to show outside save its beautiful doors. Inside 
it has been modernized in the usual barbarous fashion. 
But there is something in it to tempt you to linger. It 
is a church of beautiful proportions, with fine choir and 
ambulatory, and interesting crypt. Here the eighteenth 
century has offended, but in its grandiose style. Our 
own mean quarter of an hour has done worse. In what 
purgatorial fires can be expiated the ecclesiastical 
decorations of the modern Catholic .'' The eighteenth 
century made a state-room for its God, if not a sanctuary. 
The nineteenth has for its model the front parlour of the 
little grocer's wife, or the local linen-draper's advertise- 
ment. There are some treasures left, however, which 
have had narrow escapes in the various burnings and 
restorations : the tombs on each side of the central door, for 
instance, especially that of the bishop. Only at Mass do 
the poor folk linger long under the brand-new simpering 

' De Nino, Usi e Costumi, vol. iv. p. 227. 


angels of the choir. Their place of recollection is below 
in the crypt, where the shabby old things are kept that 
are not good enough for the best parlour above. Here 
the heart of the old cathedral still abides. The curious 
old (Byzantine .'') Virgin has her adorers now, as for ages 
and ages past ; but it is the Crucified the poor folks 
come for. The person of refined sensibilities will turn 
away in horror from this representation of Christ, which 
is a very common one in the Abruzzi. It is a terrible 
realization of physical pain. The artist's whole soul has 
gone out into the expression of the marks of pain ; the 
emaciation, the stretched tendons, the bleeding sides, 
the falling mouth, the dishevelled hair, the sweat upon 
the brow, the head that cannot hold evenly the crown of 
thorns. This Christ cannot help, but knows all pain, 
and so is companionable to souls in agony. He is utterly 
pitiable, and so they can be friends with Him. A young 
thing is there as I enter. Her figure tells her youth. 
She clings so close about His feet I cannot see her 
face. Every time I go back to the dim crypt she is 
there. I cannot see her face, so close she clings to 
His feet. 

Past the narrow green strip of public gardens, where 
the fountains play so prettily, pitter-patter all day and 
all night long about the feet of Giant Morrone, you reach 
the town gate. The narrow Corso leads you to the 
Annunziata, now mostly turned into the municipio, with 
its beautiful fifteenth-century carved fagade — the best 
specimen of civic architecture left in the Abruzzi. In 
front of the college is the so-called statue of Ovid, a 
crude figure of uncertain date, but no antique. Once it 
stood against the wall of the Praetorian palace, now 
destroyed, and there, in old days, it used to be decked 
with garlands every St. John's Day. Some say the 
statue is that of Petrarch's Sulmonese friend, Marco 
Barbato, the Angevin courtier and man of letters ; some, 

222 ' IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

Remigio Fiorentini, translator of the Heroides ; others 
declare it to be a genuine, if worthless, antique. 

Onwards, to the left, is the thirteenth-century aqueduct, 
one of the most picturesque features of the town. It 
still serves its ancient purpose, and its row of Gothic 
arches forms the western boundary of the great piazza, 
the centre of the life of Sulmona. On summer market- 
days the piazza is like a vast garden of blooming flowers 
of every hue. The site is magnificent — topped to the 
west by the old distowered, earthquake-riven church of 
San Francesco, railed by the Gothic arches, from which 
fall a wide flight of steps ; and, to the east, snow-capped 
Morrone. Santa Chiara at one end, San Martino at the 
other, have the place in their special keeping. Here, 
twice a week, the folks pour in from all the country 
round. Nowadays the Sulmonese have mostly given 
up their costume ; but the women of the mountains and 
the valley come still in their traditional splendour — 
women of Pettorano, of Pacentro, of Introdacqua, of 
Roccapia. The Saturday market here is one of the 
gayest, the most coloured sights in the Abruzzi. The 
place swarms with life and swims in light, and the hum 
of the selling and chaffering rises to the terrace of Santa 
Chiara like a chorus. Round the playing fountains in 
the centre gather the horses, the asses, and the mules. 
At the western end, so spacious is the place, there is 
room for out-of-door smithies and rope-walks, and for all 
kinds of occupations and industries to be carried on 
irrespective of the market, which is concentrated near 
the steps and the aqueduct. Petterano lends the 
greatest magnificence to the scene. The white head- 
dresses of the women falling down behind below the 
waist ; the green and the red and the purple of bodice 
and apron are splendid and brave. There is a dash of 
orange or yellow in ribbons or embroideries, and some 
other vivid note in stocking or stay-lace. Red corals or 


thick gold beads, and the heavy, massive, barbaric ear- 
rines set off the dark faces, the bare throats and bosoms. 
The Introdacqua dress is handsome, but Pettorano is 
always the best. The local male costume — known as the 
Spanish dress — once general in the Abruzzi, now fast 
disappearing, but still seen on market-days, and often in 
the fields, consists of a blue coat, red waistcoat — or, if none 
be worn, a red sash, and white knee-breeches. The shirt 
is wide open at the neck, and its deep collar falls about 
the shoulders. The stockings are of a vivid blue. Buckled 
shoes replace the sandals left behind in the Marsica. 

The fruit-stalls are splendid with cherries or golden 
apricots, or ruddy " nespoli," or green and purple figs ; or 
they are hung with the sashes and the handkerchiefs and 
the apron stuffs which the country-folk throng to buy. 
But indeed, as the sun gleams on the great space, it gives 
value to mere nothings. A pedlar carries a long stick, 
from which is hung what seems a waving rainbow. It is 
but a bunch of long gay stay-laces, green, and blue, and 
pink, and red, and yellow. Or a stall-keeper has hoisted 
the tricolor, and beneath it he stands like a splendid 
figure in a pageant. 

The famous Badia of San Spirito, founded by Pope 
Celestine, lies rather more than two miles north of the 
town. You reach it by the road to the right at the back 
of San Panfilo. Now the place is a penitentiary. You 
cannot enter it without a very special permission ; and it 
is doubtful whether this be worth any effort to obtain. 
Outside, were it not for the soldiers clustering about the 
door, and the edifying inscription above it, " Parum im- 
probos incarcere nisi probos efiicies disciplina," there is 
little to suggest a prison. The walls of a golden yellow, 
the green shutters, the noise of the warders' family life, 
and the faces of children at the window, give it a cheerful 
front to the world. 

224 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

This is not Celestine's first San Spirito. Let us trace 
shortly his wanderings in the province. 

The Santone, the big saint, so is he called throughout 
the Abruzzi, was a native of the neighbouring province 
of Molise, born near Isernia, about i2i5,Pietro de' Ange- 
lerii by name. He entered the Benedictine Order, but 
while still a youth he felt the need of greater isolation 
to gain a knowledge of his own soul. So he crossed the 
river Sangro, and his after-history, save for the few 
unhappy months when he was Pope, is mostly concerned 
with the Abruzzi. He sojourned a little at the church 
of San Nicola, which stands still near the bridge at 
Castel del Sangro ; then mounted the steep hillsides 
above, where the lust of the world tempted him in the 
shape of demons of lovely form. They fled before his 
spiritual valour, and he knew peace. In his next cell, on 
Monte Palena, he was wakened every morning to Matins 
by a mystic bell. An old woman gave him a cock. It 
crowed him awake ; but he heard no more the mystic 
bell. It was on Monte Palena, too, that he was seen 
hanging his cowl upon a sunbeam. In 1238 he went to 
Rome to be made a priest ; but ere two years had passed 
he was in the Abruzzi again. This time he made his 
cell above Sulmona, just below the present hermitage of 
Sant' Onofrio. Brethren gathered round him. They 
worked and prayed ; and under their care the barren 
hillside blossomed. Again his soul said, " Away — away 
— and higher! " and he fared off to Majella. Up there in 
the wild mountain, the haunt of wolf and bear and wild 
cat — and not in his days only — he built himself a cell on 
the spot where a dove alighted that had guided his 
steps. It was here he dreamt of the great Reform 
of St. Damian and of the Dove. The friends of 
his soul gathered about him ; and so dear did the 
place become to him, and so loud grew its call, " Lift 
up your hearts ! " that he was moved to build a 


church and abbey. The scheme was approved in signal 

This is the legend — 

" While the Holy Father was thinking of consecrating 
his church, already a beautiful and spacious place, the 
Lord, who was its Architect, signified His desire that 
it should, with all due ceremony, be dedicated to the 
Holy Spirit. . . . Our Father the Pope then was at the 
window at dawn, reading in a spiritual book . . . when 
he saw a numerous company of angels and of blessed 
ones, clad in shining and glorious raiment. Among 
them he perceived an old man, whom he divined to be 
King David, who announced it to be God's will it should 
be dedicated to the Holy Spirit. All the company 
followed him, and sang the songs and the office of the 
dedication. Said Peter, ' What is this ? Now I do not 
sleep. . . . These are no dream visions.' Then the 
glorious company entered the church, going round and 
round several times, and with resounding voices sang, 
* This is a terrible place ! This is the House of God, 
and the Gate of Heaven ! It shall be called the Court 
of the Holy Spirit. The work of God's hands it is, and 
cannot be taken away.' Then St. John the Evangelist 
served the Mass ; and at the beginning of the sacrifice 
appeared in a great light all the glorious host of Heaven, 
and the omnipotent majesty of the Son of God, with the 
Blessed Virgin and St. John the Baptist. The benedic- 
tion was given by God the Father Himself, and the 
multitude of angels sang, ' This church is consecrated to 
the Holy Spirit, as a medicine to the sick, as a light to 
the blind ; and here all the faithful contrite of Christ 
shall have their sins taken away ! " 

Peter was rapt. When he woke from his ecstasy he 
found his garment changed to a shining white one. An 
angel took it off, and the vision faded. 

After Peter's day, this temple and convent, built on 


226 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

the terraced crag and out of it, grew in fame. A blessing 
had descended on Majella, the home of the old pagan 
gods, the haunt of demons. Pilgrims came for many 
ages to the wild spot, tamed by the resting of the Holy 
Dove ; and privileges were granted to the place equal to 
those given to Subiaco and Monte Cassino. Only a 
little remains now — some broken walls, one arch of the 
portico. The pilgrims have long ceased coming. Long 
since, whatever was left of value has been housed in the 
neighbouring church of Rocca Morice. 

It was on Majella he planned the great home for his 

Order. Nearer the world it must be. The Majella 

house would remain for the contemplatives. His fame 

as a teacher, administrator, and saint had grown. Money 

poured in, and the great Badia, near Sulmona, was built. 

He was here, setting the place in order, teaching his 

monks to be good farmers as well as men of prayer, 

when word came to them that his congregations were 

in danger from the decree of Pope Gregory X., which 

suppressed many new orders and communities. From 

Sulmona, the sturdy old mountaineer of fifty-eight went 

on foot to Lyons, received the Pope's reassurance, and 

walked back. In 1293, an old tired man — he was 

seventy-eight, and had earned his rest — he went up 

above the Badia to Sant' Onofrio with his dear disciple, 

Roberto di Salle. The path to Sant' Onofrio is steep 

to-day, and strait and rough. You will find it to the 

right at the top of the Badia village ; and it will land 

you, if you persevere, on a narrow ledge of rock, with a 

steep precipice on one side. His rocky cell is still there 

behind the little hermitage, which, of recent years, is 

deserted. A stern place in itself, and terrible when 

Monte Morrone has its white mantle on, and storms cut 

it off from the world below. But once Spring comes, 

she brings a smile even here, and leaves it. The rocky 

path has a flowery margin. Sulmona and its pleasant 


vale and the great Badia lie below. The kindly world 
of men is not so far away ; and if too near, by moments, 
then the great ranges lift the hermit's eyes to Heaven. 
They never blundered, those old hermit builders ; and 
Peter Celestine, whom they have treated as an idiot, had 
the soul of a great poet. 

It was up in Sant' Onofrio that he said farewell to 
peace. It was for the visions of peace he had known 
here that he made // gran rifiiito. A ragged, unkempt, 
and most happy saint, he was here when the dispute 
about the papacy was being fought out at Rome and at 
Perugia. The conclave sat and sat, full of bitter envy 
and hatred ; and then a cry arose, " Peter of Morrone 
shall be Pope ! " It sounded like a jest. It was no 
jest. It was an affair of politics ; and to his rocky cell 
came up two kings, Charles of Anjou and his son, and 
cardinals and bishops ; and, against his will, dragged 
the old hermit down to be crowned. The crowning, a 
ceremony of uncommon splendour, took place at Aquila, 
at the Badia of Collemaggio ; and at Aquila, in his own 
Abruzzi, he would fain have stayed. But Charles forced 
him away to Naples, to be tormented by the rival factions, 
the prisoner of the king, and the butt of Gaetani. For a 
little time, nevertheless, he was the hope of the Spirituals 
and of the simple, the giver of liberty to the Franciscan 
zelanti, who said, " Lo, the fall of the kingdom of the 
proud is at hand ! " Then Gaetani's machinations had 
their way, and he made il gran I'ifiuto. To Monte 
Morrone he would fain have fled back at once ; but 
Gaetani, now Boniface VIII., sent him elsewhere under 
guard. He escaped, however, to his rocky cell, where 
prayer grew like a flower ; but warned that harm was 
meant him, he left it, purposing to go beyond seas. For 
two months he wandered about the secret desert places 
of the Abruzzi, this old frail man of eighty, who only 
desired peace. In Apulia he was taken, when his boat 

228 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

ran ashore near Viesti. " Let him go back to Morrone," 
said some of the pitying cardinals ; but Boniface, who 
would not believe himself safe while an old man prayed 
in the freedom of the mountain-side, gave him a fortress 
for a cell. Then followed the tragedy of Fumone. But 
Aquila that had crowned him got back the bones of the 
Santone, the treasure of Collemaggio. 

To return for a moment to the Majella sanctuary. 
In the year 1 349 there were living there a little company 
of remarkable men, Franciscan Spirituals, Fraticelli, all 
of them ascetics, contemplatives, visionaries, with the 
daily prospect before their eyes of being dragged away 
from their solitude, and imprisoned or exiled beyond 
seas for daring to conceive of the Church as a spiritual 
power, and visible signs and symbols and pomps as 
time-ruined things, soon to drop away like a worn 
garment. In that year there came to them a wanderer, 
sick, distraught, dejected, to do penance, to find shelter i| 
and peace in their wild retreat. He gave no name, but 
his name was Cola di Rienzi. The name of Rienzi is, 
by the way, a common one in the province. Had Cola 1 
fled back to the home of his race when he sought for ' 
peace among these mountains 1 Rome behind him was 
a nightmare. He, the dreamer, had made his dream a 
reality for one glorious hour. He had been the tribunal 
who was to bring back the great age and kindle the 
soul of Romans to a new and nobler life. But after the 
miracle of his first success the dream was shattered. 
The great age was still afar, and he a fugitive from 
shame, craving only the peace of the mountains and the 

At San Spirito he found the home of his sick heart's 
desire ; and all that year he lived there, an unknown 
penitent, his eyes turned from Rome to the towers of the 
New Jerusalem. Was he really unknown } He believed 


so, when Frate Angelo one day called him by his name, 
and said, "Thou hast lived long enough in solitude. 
Thou art not of us. Thy place is out in the world, 
which the Lord God calls thee to regenerate. Once it 
was nearly saved by Francis and Dominic ; but their 
successors have been only as other men ; and the world 
is sick and under a ban. One is wanted to lead men 
into light. Thou art the man ! " And Rienzi's mind 
swung back again from the New Jerusalem to Rome. 
But the chosen of the Lord must work with the 
Emperor ; and both combine to cleanse the Church and 
the world. Men would rise from the dead to help — 
martyrs of wicked Popes and despotic kings. And the 
new pastor, the new Francis, should build a great temple 
called Jerusalem, and there should be none on earth, 
Christian or heathen, but should come there to worship 
and adore. All Cola's visions returned, and were fed 
by the fiery minds of Frati Andrea and Angelo. But 
he loved the peace of Majella, and they would have 
him out. " Thou art the man ! " they said ; and when 
he told of his doubts, they fortified him with prophecies, 
Joachim's, the Carmelite Cyril's, and — Merlin's ! But, 
indeed, the hand of destiny was thrusting him out. His 
enemies, once his friends, the Orsini, had got wind of 
his retreat. At any moment he might be seized and 
imprisoned. Giovanni Orsini urged him to come to 
Rome for the Jubilee and the absolution of Clement. 
His keen-sighted hermit friends persuaded him against 
this ; and he made his way to Prag to the Emperor 
Charles IV., to whom he prophesied strange things, 
pouring out to him the visions that had visited him on 
Majella. The present Pope would die. In 1357 there 
would be but one religion on the earth. Then the new 
Pope, the Emperor, and himself would be a Trinity, 
representing the Godhead to men. No question what 
person of the Trinity Cola was to represent, seeing 

230 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

where he had been Hving — though afterwards he de- 
clared he had but claimed to be the " white-clad 
defender of the Holy Ghost." 

The Emperor stared ; said he didn't want to be a 
third in any such Trinity ; that Rienzi was a dangerous 
man, and his advisers in the Abruzzi were most repre- 
hensible persons. If he would only give them up. But 
he hotly declared their holy inspiration. As proof, had 
they not emancipated him from all hate .-* But Charles 
clapped him into prison to please Clement ; and from 
there it was that Rienzi wrote his Responsoria Oratio 
Tribimi ad Ccssm'em, in defence of the hermits who had 
rekindled his visions and his hopes for the remaking of 
Rome and of the world. It is a noble defence. 

The dreams dreamt on Majella haunted him in 
prison ; when he was set free they followed him to 
Rome, and brooded about him in his new lease of 
power. But these dreams of the reign of the Holy 
Ghost are ill to translate to the understanding of a 
carnal world. Other visions more earthly strove with 
them. Frate Angelo was far ; and to the world the 
"white-robed defender of the Holy Spirit" was but 
an upstart tribune fighting for his life with a capricious 
populace. They killed him like a dog on the steps 
of the Capitol. The visions whirled before his eyes 
and dazzled him. Yet perhaps no more than Petrarch, 
who had earlier looked to Rienzi with hope, was Frate 
Angelo of Monte Majella deceived when he looked 
in his eyes and said, " Thou art the man ! " 

Beyond and to the left of the Badia lies the little 
village Lof Bagnidura. Through it, and just under 
Morrone, runs the old mule-track to Roccacasale. It 
remains in my memory as unforgettably lovely. Above, 
all the way along, rise the steep mountain, dark blue 
and craggy. On each side of the stony track is a 


fringe of oaks, widening here and there into Httle 
groves. Hedges hang with honeysuckle and wild roses, 
and summer lies about our feet, holds out hands to 
us as we pass, and dangles garlands above our heads. 
Below are the sunny vineyards, where bronzed men 
and women in cool white raiment are working, and 
singing at their work, and beyond is the soft valley 
swimming in light. In front, on the mountain-side, is 
Roccacasale, the shaft of its castle lifted high into the 
air. Above this track, on a little conical hill, an 
excrescence of the lower slopes of Morrone, lies what 
is known as Ovid's Villa. Every one knows the " villa " 
and the " Fonte d'Amore." The ruins are the remains 
of a Roman settlement. From below they are imposing ; 
seen from above they are of some extent and interest. 
They might be Roccacasale, or many another town in 
the country-side, left neglected for a few score years. 
Below them, near the path, sits a little farm, near the 
oak groves and at the gate of the vineyards. Who 
would not desire it for a hermitage .<• The path here 
is made for meditative pacing. It was this path surely 
the poet saw and yearned after in his Scythian exile. 

Ovid was born at Sulmona, and if there be anything 
in persistent tradition, near this spot, in B.C. 43, the 
second son of a minor noble of the province, a country 
squire of no great fortune. "The first of my house," 
he says, " was a knight. My fields are not turned up by 
innumerable ploughs. My father and my mother were 
both perforce of frugal habit." Again, " I am of ancient 
equestrian nobility. ... It is not in the tumult of arms 
I have gained my rank as knight." He left Sulmona 
early, when he was nine years old, to be educated at 
Rome ; but he often returned, perhaps to recruit after 
the pleasures of the capital ; and he never forgot it. 
Again and again he describes it, not in very precise 
terms, perhaps, but he is eloquent on the beauty of 

232 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

its fertile slopes and limpid streams, and very insistent 
on the coldness of its winters. " Sulmona retains me, 
one of the three cantons of the Pelignian country, a little 
place, but the streams that water it are health-giving. . . . 
Rich grows the corn here, richer still are the grapes ; nor 
is there wanting the olive dear to Pallas. The running 
waters give yet another harvest after the hay has been 

Sulmona's chief claim to respect, he held, was that it 
had given him birth. " Sulmo mihi patria est." " Lucky 
Sulmona ! " is his burden. " I am the nursling of the 
Pelignian land. Mantua vaunts Virgil, Verona Catullus. 
They shall call me the glory of the Pelignian nation. . . . 
Some day, contemplating the walls of Sulmona, a 
stranger will say, ' City which could give birth to such a 
poet, little though you are, I proclaim you great amongst 
cities ! ' " 

The fame of Ovid has left deep traces round Sulmona. 
As he foretold, he is the Pelignian pride and glory. He 
was not as other men, and so they have made of him 
a demi-god, or the greatest of the magicians. Every 
peasant knows his name and legendary history ; and to 
swear by him is one of the oldest and strongest of the 
local oaths. " When the Sulmonese peasant," says 
Finamore, " wants to bring out a big blasphemy, worse 
than cursing San Panfilo, he throws his hat on the ground 
and cries, ' Mann' aggia Uiddiu ! ' (Abbia un malanno 
Ovidio !)." Here is the local legend of " II gran Mago 

" Ovid fled away from home and disappeared. At 
last he was found in the wood of Angizia — that is, in the 
mystic grove of the sorceress near Luco, on Lake Fucino. 
There he was learning magic from an astrologer, or a 
witch of the Marsica. When they had brought him home 
he began to work wonders unspeakable. Hardly had he 
opened his mouth when all were enchanted at his words, 


for he knew how to imitate the singing of birds ; and each 
heard the song that pleased him best. When he grew 
up he resolved to be a great magician. In one night he 
built on Morrone a magnificent villa, surrounded by- 
gardens, vineyards, and orchards, and watered by a 
spring which to this day is called the Fount of Love. 
The villa was very beautiful. It had porticos, loggias, 
terraces, baths, and the loveliest pictures. And because 
the place had before been a rocky hillside, with jagged 
peaks and precipices, a great many people now ran to 
see the marvel. So, to punish their curiosity, Ovid by a 
single word changed the men into birds, and the maidens 
into a long file of poplars. When this was known, the 
whole countryside was seized with terror ; and many 
people went and prayed his mother to beg Ovid to have 
pity on the place where he was born. Then Ovid caused 
a great chariot to appear with horses of fire, and mount- 
ing in it, he was at Rome in a trice. There he worked 
his magic for a long time. From the teeth of a great 
monster, and from sparks of fire, he created warriors, 
gave living breath to statues, changed men into flowers, 
and stags into black swine. One woman's hair he changed 
to snakes, and turned the legs of others into fish's tails ; 
and some there were he made into islands. At his word 
stones spake, and all he touched was transmuted to gold. 
Plres devoured the land ; and the sea was peopled with 
lovely ladies. But one day the daughter of the king fell 
in love with the wizard, and the wizard with her ; and her 
father was not pleased about it. Then Ovid said to the 
king, ' If you do not consent I'll turn you into a great 
billy-goat with seven horns.' The king made no answer ; 
but one night he sent his soldiers to the wizard's house, 
where they stole his magic wand. Then they chained 
him and took him away to a far, far land, where there 
were only wolves and bears, where the snow always lay 
in the woods and on the mountains, and where it was 

234 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

never warm. There the poor wizard died. But after his 
death he came back here to his villa ; and every Saturday 
night he goes off with the witches to the nut tree of 
Benevento." ^ 

This is an uncommonly complete legend, which 
contains a version of all the main circumstances of the 
poet's life. 

There are other stories of him of a more broken kind. 
For instance, he foretold the coming of Christ — though 
he also professed Christian doctrine in the Church of the 
Tomb, and liked hearing Mass in San Francesco. Per- 
haps that was towards the end of his life, when he forsook 
wizardry, and made his villa into a hermitage. He could 
read with his feet, and when he wished to extract the 
marrow of a book he stood on it, and that is why in his 
statue he is represented as standing on a big volume. 
All his writings are lost. One that survived was borrowed 
by a French general of Napoleon's army, who never gave 
it back. And the French have done pretty things by its 
help ! It was by the Fonte d'Amore he met his love. 
Opinions differ whether she was Caesar's daughter or an 
enchantress from Santa Lucia. All the wealth he amassed 
by magic he hid somewhere about his villa. It has been 
seen sometimes on the Eve of the Annunciation ; but 
evidently only one man has ever had the efficacious libro 
del commando ; and that was St. Peter Celestine. And 
he, after all, did not exhaust the treasure. 

This is the legend of the hermit Pope and the treasure 
of Ovid the magician — 

" While he was Pope, San Pietro Celestino studied the 
works of Ovid ; and he learned that amongst the ruins 
of the poet's villa on the slopes of Monte Morrone was 
hidden a great treasure. He thought of building the 
Badia di San Spirito near Sulmona, and had a very fine 
plan of it made. People who saw the d^ign said, ' Holy 

■ Finamore, Archiv. per le Trad. Pop., iv. p. 293. 


Father, how ever will you build so great a building as 
that ? ' The Pope answered, ' Stones and lime may fail ; 
but we shall not want for money.' Nobody knew that 
the Pope had at his disposal a treasure without end. 

" The Pope gave up being Pope. He left Rome, and 
returned to the slopes of Monte Morrone, where he had 
done penance. Then, by night, he went to dig for the 
treasure, and began bringing money to the place where 
the Badia was to be built. The building commenced. 
They needed coins by the shovelful, but they never failed. 
Every Saturday, when San Pietro had to pay the labourers, 
he went and fetched three bags of gold and three of 

" When the Badia was finished the treasure withdrew 
itself from sight. And no one since has ever known the 
precise spot where it is, or how to set about getting 
possession of it. The Badia finished, what did San Pietro 
want with the treasure ? The treasure of the soul he 
already possessed, and that sufficed him." ^ 

From Sulmona, or from the vineyards above on the 
way to Introdacqua, you see the valley dotted with little 
towns, set remote and isolated on the hillsides, mere 
patterns and decorations at this distance, hewn out of 
Morrone by a master carver. Some of them reward a 
visit, and, in any case, the road to them is always worth 
the effort. But the person of sincere archaeological tastes 
must go to the ruins of Corfinium. Every one will tell 
him so. Every one told us so, and we went prepared for 
thrills. We dropped out of the train at Pentima, and 
made our way up the hill to the village — a poor and 
insignificant place to the eye, but with a high sense of 
its position, nevertheless, on the threshold of the sacred 
spot. The humble streets, with their cottages and cow- 
houses, go by such names as the Via dei Peligni, Via dei 
Marrucini, Via (^i Vestini ; in fact, by the names of all 

' De Nino, iv. p. 230. 

236 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. il. 

the tribes in the ancient confederacy. Our curiosity was 
whetted, and we hastened on some half-mile or so to 
where, quite isolated, rises San Panfilo's rival, San Pel- 
lino. The cathedral has a lonely, incomprehensible look 
out here in the open country, with no dependencies near 
it to explain its position. But once Corfinio stood round 
about it, for Corfinio of the great hopes lingered still 
when all its hopes had died. The patron San Pellino 
was Bishop of Brindisi, martyred at Rome under Julian. 
His disciple Ciprio brought his body here, and the ghost 
of the holy man seems not to have been infected with the 
rebellious spirit native to his new home. For when a 
revolt arose in Valentinian's army there, he appeared to 
the Imperial generals besieging it, and announced victory 
to them. In thanksgiving a temple was raised to him, 
and Valentinian allowed the ruined portions of the city to 
be rebuilt. The cathedral has known many vicissitudes. 
The earlier church was besieged by the Saracens, and 
burnt by the Hungarians. The actual building belongs to 
Swabian times, but has been extensively and disastrously 
modernized. The eastern portion, however, with its 
beautiful apse and fine cornices, is untouched ; the pulpit 
is of particular interest ; and, indeed, the ancient cathe- 
dral of Valva is still imposing enough to be worth a 

And Corfinium } We had been saving up our emotion 
to spend it there. From the remains we had hoped to 
reconstruct a picture of the ancient place, to feel the 
thrill of " Italica " come out to us from the old stones of 
the birthplace of Italian unity and liberty. But one might 
as well make the effort sitting comfortably at home, for 
all the help the stones give. Such stones as are there are 
concentrated in two tall, fairly massive blocks, one on 
each side of the high-road. That is Corfinium to-day ! 
There are bits, perhaps, in the neighbouring fields, but 
nothing more for the general passer-by. 


If you have come out by the very slow train from 
Sulmona on a burning day, and are not a sincere 
archaeologist, your wrath may be roused. There is one 
way of appeasing it, if San Pellino fails to satisfy you. 
Make your way onward to Rajano, not for the sake of that 
forlornest of villages — which will account for your presence 
on the supposition that you are some new kind of pedlar, 
or will not account for you at all, and possibly view you 
with morose suspicion. But the walk back to Sulmona 
along the trattojo is a delight at the time, and a 
blessed memory ever after. Just beyond the washing- 
place at the stream, where the women gather, you find 
yourself in a wide, grassy tract — a kind of never-ending 
common, delicious to the tread and to the eye. On each 
side the great hills walk in step with you. The strips of 
fertile country fringe the green all the way, and along 
your path there are singing riders and idle shepherd-boys, 
and flocks huddled in the shade, and groups and lines of 
decorative trees — for the place is at once a vast avenue, 
a pasture, and an eight-mile-long track. You may meet 
no one on foot save yourselves and the herds, for none 
walk here who can get the sorriest nag to ride, and 
mounted on such a contadino will take on the airs of a 
D'Artagnan. It was here we met our beplumed yokel 
urging his mule to a fiery pace to the tune of " All' America 
maladetta, non ritorneremo piu ! " 

A little way along this green delicious trattiiro you 
will pass a little pond, a favourite bathing-place. It has 
been explained variously as the crater of an extinct 
volcano, or as the tcrme of Corfinium. But the country- 
folks have another tale about it. 

The place was once a barn, and one St. Anne's Day a 
farmer and his men were threshing there. A passer-by 
reproved them, and they laughed and whipped up their 
horses again. " Qua-qua," and again " qua " — the sound of 
the impious work was heard. The barn sank and became 

238 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

a lake, and up from the water came the voices of the 
drowned men. " Quaqua-ra, qua-quara!" Hence the name 
of the lake — La Quaglia. Whoever is without sin may 
still hear on St. Anne's Day the voices of the threshers ; 
and it is not seemly on that day to disport yourself in 
the waters of the lake. 

Near Sulmona the wide green road rises and spreads, 
then falls. On the edge of the last slope, on the green 
lawn, the i^ocks are kept by earth-coloured shepherds, too 
old to go up any more to the high pastures. Singing 
comes up from the valley, and the old shepherds and 
their fierce white dogs under the trees seem the last 
guardians of Arcady. 



A wild glen— Scanno — The beautiful Scannese— The beginning and the 
end of life at Scanno— Santa Maria del Lago— The hermits' Rule- 
San Domenico di CocuUo, serpent-charmer — Tasso in the Valley^ 
Anversa and its memories — Italy again ! 

Even guide-books devote a line or two to the Valley of 
the Sagittario. Local patriots cry indignantly to the 
travelling Neapolitans and Romans, "Why go all the way 
to Switzerland, when you have such scenery near home ? " 
Indeed, there is " scenery " here, and no mistake ! My 
heart has gone out more to other valleys ; but there is 
wonder and terrible beauty in this wild glen. At Sul- 
mona they will bid you go to Scanno to admire the 
beauty of its women and eat of the trout of its lake ; and 
it would be to miss much not to see that curious mountain 
town. The Sagittario rises below Monte Godi ; under the 
name of the Tasso it tumbles down past Scanno, and in 
and out of its lovely lake ; receives some minor streams ; 
hurls itself in a cascade over the rocks under Villalago, 
where first it is called the Sagittario ; then through a glen 
like the very jaws of hell, the Gole del Sagittario, about 
four miles long, it pours its turbulent waters down to the 
placid Pelignian vale, carrying destruction with it many 
a time after the melting of the snows. There it joins the 
Gizio, and both fall into the Aterno (the Pescara) near 
Popoli. Its course from Villalago to Anversa is one to 
strike horror into the beholder, or fill him with a savage 


240 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

"E bello il Sagittario, sai ? E ronipe 
e schiuma, giii per i macigni, mugghia, 
trascina tronchi, tetti di capanne, 
zangole, anche le pecore e gli agnelli 
che ha rapinato alia montagna. E bello, 
sai ? " 

In a little while this splendid force of water must be 
seized by some enterprising financier from Turin or 
Milan, and made to turn great mills. Such store of 
" white coal " cannot be wasted long in mere " scenery " in 
modern Italy. And yet it would be but a narrow strip 
of industrial country any number of financiers could 
make here. The country is eternally untameable ; and 
in the sheer rocks overhead there is everlasting sanctuary. 
Should Anversa ever rear giant electric works to make 
of Sulmona a little Manchester, the hermits need hardly 
shift their cells. To Villalago and the eagle nest of 
Castrovalve the smoke would rise but as faint incense, 
and on the crags above the loudest din be as a far-ofi"song. 

In all the upper valley the only possible place of 
sojourn is Scanno, reached by railroad from Sulmona to 
Anversa, thence by diligence along ten miles of climbing 
road. From your cramped seat in front of the posta you 
crane your neck at a sign from the driver, and you are 
aware of Scanno. It is broad, crude midday, unless you 
come hardily on foot, or like a lord in a carozza, and so 
can choose your hours. There is a very blue sky over- 
head. There is a very white snow-peak behind. Rocky 
hills fall down on each side, with every seam, every cleft, 
every bush staring at you relentlessly. The patches of 
cultivation, ruddy brown or vivid green, shout at you 
details of every furrow, every fence ; and the town itself 
seems but another mass of broken brown crags arrested 
in their fall into the valley of the rushing Tasso. The 
fall, the arrest, were finely guided, you will own all the 
winding way along the serpentine road that eases 
the steep ascent. One day the sticks and stems by the 

^ ^ \ ■> = \ 



margin will sprout to a graceful shade, but till then, 
during a bright midday approach to Scanno, hard facts 
will be hurled in your face. Where is kindly Italy with 
its mist of olives, its garlands of vines ? This is no play 
place, it seems. 

The posta winds you round into the one street which 
is carrozzabile, and sets you down at the top of a cobbled 
ladder. All the youthful and leisurely population of the 
town will be your guide, shaming your uncertain and 
stumbling footsteps by their graceful agility, to the inn of 
Signor Orazio Tanturri, a hostelry that hangs out no 
sign, that never expects and never rejects a guest. From 
the dark cavern, which forms the entrance to every 
Scannese dwelling, you ascend to a level, from which, if 
rocky ladders or rock-dwellers scare you, you can hence- 
forward survey a good portion of the life of the town. A 
stay of several weeks gave us something of the nimble 
agility of the black goats, which are as common a feature 
of the streets as of the mountain-side. 

The last walk through Scanno, as the first, is a sur- 
prise. It is not a town of picturesque bits and corners ; 
it is all a survival ; and if antiquity be your desire, it is 
all ;good. In ithe eighteenth century it was refaced to 
some extent, and the fine doorways are mainly of that 
date ; but the plan and character of the place were 
settled once for all in the Middle Ages ; and when the 
Via Paliano, the centre of the old city of Paliano or 
Pagliaccio, disappears — it is doomed, they say — there will 
still be all the rest to make mediaeval as good a name as 
any to apply to this town, so dark, so austere, so apart. 
The Renaissance opened out some airy loggias ; the 
eighteenth century, with money to spend, destroyed the 
churches, and the nineteenth knocked down its walls and 
all but the last of its gates. You do not linger for this 
or that architectural gem — there are none — but for the 
whole. The great high houses in the narrow precipitous 


242 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

streets, the archways spannhig the mysterious alleys, the 
balconies under the overhanging eaves, all are sombre, 
sunless, and sad, save where a green bit of mountain-side 
gleams at the end of a lane. You may shiver there in 
June, and the August brands need never smite you. 

But in Scanno, sombre and old, there is a constant 
hum of life. Life speaks loud here. Children swarm. 
Only the footfalls are soft ; for save on festas, the foot- 
gear is a sole and a toecap made of skin and sewn to 
the stocking. Yet you might spend days there and wake 
up to ask, " Where are the men ? " You have a dim notion 
that they exist, that they are not all exterminated ; but 
their insignificance is astonishing. Says a native anti- 
quarian, writing fifty years ago, of the inhabitants, " La 
bassa taglia sembra preponderare fra gli uomini ; I'alta 
fra le donne." This physical fact is but a shadow of the 
moral one. Scanno is a city of women. Their reputa- 
tion for beauty is amply deserved. Nearly all are comely. 
For nearly every third one it is worth while turning 
round ; but she will return your gaze with a haughty 
serenity as she trips to the fountain with her copper conca 
on her head. The Scannese is dark, or she is fair ; she 
is blue-eyed or black-eyed. But dark or fair, her colour 
is good and fresh, her eyes wade apart, and if she be 
young, wonderfully fearless and serene. Her features 
are often cut with special fineness ; her teeth are good, 
and her smile fleeting but sweet. She has none of the 
obvious, exuberant, sensuous beauty of the Roman 
women, and hers appeals more to a Northern eye. Her 
reserve has something of mystery, which fits her sombre 
clothing and her dark and melancholy streets. She will 
give you a quiet welcome ; but behind her smile is no 
little indifference. Some curiosity she will display about 
the country you have left behind ; but she will rarely 
envy a lot that she must know softer than her own. 
She is a mountaineer, proud, independent, largely self- 


sufficient, a great maintainer of tradition. You may not 
like all the ways of her town ; but with a quiet precision 
which ends the matter, she answers, " Cosi si fa a 

Her peculiar dress — it is now worn nowhere else — 
she gives no sign of resigning. It consists of a dark 
green, almost black, skirt {casacca) of thick cloth, made 
in what women know as accordion pleats. Inside the 
hem is a narrow border of red, which shows when the 
skirt sways. The bodice {comodind) is of darkest blue, 
close fitting, with large sleeves thickly gathered on the 
shoulders and at the wrist, and decorated with silver 
buttons of various devices — holy symbols being among 
the favourite patterns — and arranged in sets with rigorous 
precision. The ample apron {mantera) is generally of 
some blue woollen stuff; but here variety of colour is 
allowed, and green, purple, or brown, are to be seen. 
At the sides are slits {carafocce), into which the hands 
are thrust in cold weather. At the neck appears the 
lace trimming of the chemise, made by the wearer, and 
often of delicate design. As in the apron, so in the 
stockings, choice of colour is allowed, and to them are 
attached the goat-skin soles {scarfiioli). But the head- 
gear is the most individual part of the Scannese dress. 
First, for the hair. It is divided into two long tresses, 
each of which is entwined with a treccia. Correct treccie 
are fourteen metres long ! everyday ones of twisted 
wool ; those worn on festas of silk, of every conceivable 
colour — scarlet, or rose, or green, or blue, or russet, or 
purple. So closely are the treccie interwoven with the 
tresses that no hair is seen. The twisted ropes are 
firmly bound about the head, and then fall with some 
amplitude in a coil at the back. Two or three times a 
week — never on Friday — are they redone. Above this 
fits the turban {cappalletto), worn indoors and out. 
Eastern in effect, black, close fitting, flat-topped, with 

244 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. il. 

two little peaks in front, showing a patch of white at 
each side, and a short tail of the black stuff falling 
behind. It is worn tilted ever so little. Examine it, 
and you will find it to be of two parts ; first, rolls of 
white home-spun linen, made to fit the head, then a 
black merino handkerchief (fascia iojo) folded and pinned 
so as to cover the front of the brim, the crown, and 
make the tail behind. For mourning, the white linen is 
veiled by black. An additional sign of woe — perhaps a 
remnant of an Eastern veil — is the thick, black handker- 
chief (abbruodaUiro) bound round the chin, concealing 
the mouth, and tied upwards over the turban — though 
this uncomfortable arrangement is also used as a pro- 
tection against cold in winter. In this dark guise, which 
is de rigueiir from the age of ten or so, winter and 
summer, Sunday and weekday — save only at weddings 
and on high festivals of the Church — do the Scannese go 
about their daily business. 

The ancient costume, worn till less than a hundred 
years ago, was a much grander affair. One fine sample 
I have seen : a dress of scarlet cloth, bordered with 
patterned moss-green velvet, the sleeves slashed with 
red and green ruches of ribbon, the apron of woven 
tapestry, and its strings of rich and beautiful embroidery, 
the turban of coloured and tinselled silk. The gold 
jewelry of the time, the beads and crucifixes, are massive 
and of fine design. To-day the brides, and all the 
women on a great festa and at a sposalizio break into 
colour in their turbans and aprons ; and the little 
maidens at their first communion wear the festal dress 
instead of the conventional white frock and veil. Most 
of the well-to-do women to-day own a gold pendant 
with I.H.S. in the centre surrounded by the sun-rays. 
It is often worn under the dress, and by nursing mothers 
as a charm. From its design a tradition has arisen that 
it was first made in commemoration of San Bernardino 


of Siena, who, according to common belief, preached for 
a whole Lent in the church of San Rocco here. 

For work-a-day purposes they kilt their pleated 
skirts high, bunching them about the hips with a long 
woven girdle. Their gait along the mountain roads, 
faggots on their heads, or along the rocky streets with 
their water-pots, is peculiarly their own : erect, hands 
on hips, or beneath their aprons, toes inward, with a 
swinging, swaying motion. Mites of three will girdle 
their pinafores and totter about in imitation of their 
elders' elegance. The strength of these women is 
astonishing. They carry burdens with ease under which 
a London porter would stagger ; and it is a curious first 
experience to see your luggage borne to your room on 
the head of a lady of advanced age. A full list of the 
unlikely objects which I have seen a Scanno woman 
carry on her head, moreover, with a gallant bearing, 
would be too long ; but it would include bundles of fire- 
wood which an ordinary person could not lift half a foot 
from the ground, huge sacks of grass, great bales of 
home-made linen, enough to fill a large chest, copper 
tubs piled high with the family wash, a wheel-barrow, 
barrels of wine, a wooden plough, a washing-boiler, a 
feather bed, an iron bedstead ! These burdens thicken 
the neck ; but there are no bent backs among the women 
of Scanno. And thus the hands are left free to carry 
a baby, or knit a stocking. It is entirely against 
tradition to carry your baby on your head. 

If Scanno were cut off from the rest of the world, it 
would be sufficient to itself Nay, it is almost true to 
say that each household would be self-sufficient. The 
amount of imported goods is infinitesimal, to the fastidious 
traveller sadly so. Its fuel is grown on its wooded 
hillsides, its wheat in the thin soil that coats the rocks. 
Each family makes its own bread. The little gardens 
running down the hills, the pigs, and hens, and goats, 

246 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

that are housed mysteriously in dark back alleys, and 
wander the streets by day, account for the rest of the 
food. The sheep, in Foggia all winter, here in the high 
pastures of Monte Godi or the Montagna Grande in 
summer, furnish the clothing. At home the wool is 
carded, and dyed, and spun, and woven, out of which 
are made the clothing, the checked blankets and coverlets, 
the stockings, the treccie. Only wine and oil would 
Scanno have to forego, if Sulmona stopped supplies, for 
up here grow neither vine nor olive. This sufficiency is 
due almost entirely to the varied capacities of the 
women. The Scanno woman bears children abundantly. 
She bakes, she weaves, she knits, she dyes, all as a 
matter of course. In summer she gathers the fuel 
needed for the long winter — a terrible task ! She works 
in the fields ; she keeps sheep or cattle. She is mason 
or bricklayer. I used to watch a handsome group of 
women masons day after day. Among them were girls 
who seemed to find the work as amusing as making 
mud pies, bigger ones who scaled ladders as if mounting 
thrones, and elderly women, who carried their loads of 
bricks and stones with not too great an air of resignation. 
Work of slaves, you may say ; and there is something 
to be said for the judgment. The wood-carrying from 
the mountains is a terrible task, and it begins in child- 
hood. But the Scanno women look anything but slaves. 
Their air is regal, rather. I have never seen so many 
queens. They are fully aware of their worth and their 
power in the family. They are the pillars of the place, 
and they have the air of knowing it. Extreme poverty 
is rare, and good health nearly universal. 

Even of the wood-carrying the young ones make a 
pleasure. In summer they start off" any time after two 
or three in the morning, long before the sun is up ; in 
very hot weather, if possible, by moonlight. You wake 
in the night alarmed or startled. There is a rat-tat at a 


neighbouring door, and a cry of " Giulia ! " or " Maria 
Giuseppe ! " loud and strident, and all unconcerned for 
the neighbours' slumbers. It is the gathering cry of the 
comrades of the quarter. Dark figures are assembling 
on the steps below, chattering and laughing, and there is 
a concerted teasing of Marias and Antoninas still abed. 
Then silence. They are off, armed with their hatchets, 
a cheery band of sisters, glad of each other's company ; 
for this wild land has its wild stories, and the darkness 
has terrors. Up near the snow they cut the wood in the 
beech copses, tie it in huge bundles, load it on their 
heads, and then down they come in a tripping and 
swinging run, singing and chattering, and reaching home 
about six or seven. They often make two such journeys 
a day ; for the winter is seven months long, and wood is 
their only fuel. Back from the mountains, there is much 
going to and fro to the wells with the cone he ; there are 
the household chores ; there is ceaseless knitting and 
spinning and making of pillow-lace, or weaving of treccie 
with a spindle. Light is a precious thing in Scanno of 
the dark houses ; and in the streets and doorways nearly 
all the industries, save cooking, are carried on. The 
ladder-ways always provide seats for the family and the 
family acquaintances, however numerous. The sexes 
keep much apart, and on festas, you can count the 
women in turbaned groups of ten or twenty, veritable 
clubs of them, on the stone steps, gossiping and telling 
tales. Women here do not seek soft dalliance with the 
men in their hours of relaxation ; and even when the 
gorgeous carabinieri cast amorous eyes from their balcony 
opposite the fountain, the answering looks from under 
the copper pots are mostly disdainful. 

The travels of the hardy are mainly limited by the 
distance of a shepherd husband's hut in the mountains, 
or by the high beech woods. Sulmona is far. The 
diligence costs money, and any vehicle other than a 

248 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

mule's back is to the elderly too much of an adventure. 
Walking takes too much time — save for a pilgrimage. 
So that almost the sole diversion is provided by the 
church. An evening service in the parish church, or in 
San Rocco, is a curious sight. The floor is carpeted 
with dark squatting figures. The Scanno women never 
use chairs, except at meal-times. Their favourite 
attitude when at rest, their universal attitude in church, 
is squatting, cross-legged, Turk-fashion, on the floor. 
Only the small handful of bourgeoisie, the mayor's and 
the doctor's wife, and such like, and the men-folk, of 
course, use chairs. From this lowly Oriental posture, 
then, the women, assisted by the boys dotted about the 
altar steps, assault the Almighty with as strident praise 
as it has ever been my lot to hear. Are they Orientals ? 
Archaeologists fight over the point. Descendants of 
Frederic II.'s Saracens, say some. Others declare their 
ancestors to have been a nomadic tribe from Asia Minor. 
The infant population has a keen struggle for life at 
the beginning, but the survivors wail themselves into a 
hardy childhood. Their first steps are a weary pain in 
contact with rocky cobbles and broken stony stairways, 
for there are no level playgrounds out of doors. But 
they come through it straight limbed and active, and 
with tempers of sweet serenity. The little soft-eyed 
girls, like beguines in their dark dress, deft and active, 
are preparing at ten for the life of labour and responsi- 
bility which will be their future, learning to balance 
the conca, to keep step with the elder sister on the 
mountain, or to turn the wheel at home. And the 
boys have a native candour and simplicity of much 
charm. The tiny ones on Sundays are like little 
Romneys, with their long trousers, short jackets, flat 
caps, and frills ; while to the dress of all of them to the 
age of ten or eleven, the shirt tail sticking out behind 
gives a certain piquancy. Good luck to Andrea and 



Luco, to Gaetano and Filippo, and to Beppino the eight- 
year-old charmer ! One evening we looked up for the 
bird that chirruped on the rock above us. The chirrup 
framed itself articulately into " Von, two, tree, for, fyfe, 
sairteen, twenty, Buona sera, signorl ! " and it came 
from the mouth of a youngster perched on a crag. It 
was our first meeting with Beppino. After that, inter- 
course was easy, and he introduced us to his friends, the 
above-named Andrea and company, all older than him- 
self. They formed our guard up the green prati, and by 
the banks of the Tasso many an evening. When twilight 
came on, and our faces were still turned from home, 
they would find excellent reasons for hurrying back, 
which they did not call wolf, or bear, or hipo-mannaro. 
But they never all abandoned us to the perils of the 
dusk ; and next day the band would be gathered about 
the town gate, and would greet us, " Dove tu vai, 
Beatrice ? " and " Dove tu vai, Anna ? " Then they 
would join on, a cheerful, sturdy, chattering escort. 
They were very autobiographical, and bragged much of 
their sins. Oh, such sins ! Northern boys would have 
shouted in derision of their innocence. Their fathers 
were all in America, and their own eyes were already 
turning there ; for work begins early — when they have 
done their "quinta." To reward us for our company 
they scrambled among rocks and boulders, and found us 
things "good to eat," handfuls of wild sorrel, grasses 
with succulent ends ; or they produced these out of little 
pockets, where with much self-restraint they had kept 
them against our coming. There are few soldi for 
sweet-stuff at Scanno ; and it is only the old who beg. 

But the bare life has its compensations. Between 
the age of three, when you are already solid on your 
legs, and six, when school claims you, there is a golden 
time. Life now for Carmel', aged three, is a round of 
joy. He lives in a room little better than a cellar with 

250 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. II. 

his mother, who earns their bread by weaving coverlets 
on a hand loom. He has never seen his father, who went 
to America before he was born. The mother is a large, 
melancholy-eyed woman, with a voice that always seems 
tuned for chanting litanies for the dead. Carmel' is a 
miracle of solidity and health ; and, even leashed by his 
mother's apron-strings, finds a fine society in the mules 
and muleteers that pass the open door, the goats and 
goatherds, and the great wandering pig that roams 
masterless and free about the Scanno streets, and the 
children, and the hummers on half a dozen spinning- 
wheels at neighbouring doors. He never speaks, but 
his smile is a whole gamut of expression. He breaks 
his mother's apron-string at times — and he knew one 
glorious hour. Carmel' will make his way. He is only 
three years old, but he had read the signs of the times 
that morning, and darted off to the sacristan of San 
Rocco, and demanded the cross. The sacristan did not 
say no. As well Carmel' as another. Then we saw 
him tottering down the precipitous street, clasping the 
cross, as tall as himself, firmly to his blue pinafore. It 
got entangled in his fat legs, and he fell half a dozen 
times, but each time he picked himself up bravely, and 
without a word to friend or foe, vanished into the Sant' 
Anton' quarter. A little later we heard the bells of the 
mother-church ring out, and the bells of San Rocco 
answer ; and the peal went round the hills, and into their 
crevices, and the echoes wandered hither and thither like 
a song. Is it a festival ? we ask as we hang over the 
parapet in front of the chiesa viadre. In a sense it is : it 
is a going home. Amid a monotonous chant come priest 
and acolyte, and the banner of the dead man's con- 
fraternity. There is no great pomp, for the homegoer 
is poor. Then comes the coffin, borne on the shoulders 
of four friends, without any signs of woe. A gay 
cloth of red and green is thrown over it — a household 


property, which covered his father and his father's 
fathers. The relatives follow, a handful, mostly old, and 
some dozen friends, half of whom drop off at the church 
door and go back to work. And amid the mournful 
chanting, mocking it, not stridently, but as birds might 
mock a sombre passer-by, peal the bells round the 
hills and back again, and up and down the valley. An 
irregular clatter is heard, and now come a train of very 
small boys — the big ones are in school. To this extreme 
youth is entrusted a traditional ceremony. They are 
headed by Carmel', a fierce frown on his red chubby 
face, as he staggers under the cross. Those behind him 
carry smaller wooden crosses, to each of which is attached 
a gay coloured handkerchief, red, or red and blue, or 
green, or orange. Like little flags they float in the air 
along the street, and then, still headed by Carmel', 
vanish into the church. The bells stop ringing during 
the office within, at the end of which the procession 
re-forms, and takes the long winding hill path to the 
campo santo under the hermitage of Sant' Egidio, As 
they wind and wind, the bells are ringing and echoing, 
and running about the air in a song, the song of the tired 
old man who goes home. There is no pomp, no 
solemnity, no inspiring beauty in the ceremony. And 
yet one discovered then a little why, though America 
be " a fine country," there is a terror of too long a stay 
there. They would sleep less well if the bells of Santa 
Maria and San Rocco did not ring about the hills in a 
song, did not ring them round the hill-path, and under 
the sod at San Michele. 

Up, far up the hillsides, are the cultivated patches ; 
and when the snow melts the labourers are but as little 
moving specks. It is well there is weaving and spinning 
at home ; for field work, either for yourself or a master, 
is not very remunerative. Yet there is not too much 

252 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

depression even about the " Americani " back here and 
digging in the rocky soil. Now and again you find a 
man who tells you what a poor place is Scanno ; but 
rarely one who ever thinks of marrying a woman from 
anywhere else. Yet one such bold spirit greeted us as 
we passed the steep field where he was digging. It is a 
point of honour with them, by the way, always to speak 
English to the stranger. It impresses the women work- 
ing by their sides as magic would. Here is our con- 
versation — 

He : Where you go } 

We : Up the hill for a walk. 

He : It is ver' bad. Go back. 

On our return. 

He : What country you come ? England .'' Not 
New York ? Why not } She — patting his own breast — 
she is from five year America. She like that. She not 
like this. Too much work. 

We: And not so much money. How much a day ? 

He: Twenty-two soldi. And wine. Wine too strong. 
She like beer. She go back. G^ior si ! 

We : With a wife from Scanno .-' 

He : No. She not like the suit. 

We : What .? 

He: She not like the suit. She like hat of yours. 
(Here it dawned on us he was referring to his dislike of 
the costume of his native place.) Have you man over 
here .'' 

We hastily declare our " man " is in England, and 
withdraw, lest he should too openly prefer our " suit." 

The good road stops at Scanno. After that there 
are only mountain tracks to the high beech copses, and 
over to the Piano di Cinquemiglia and Roccaraso, these 
impassable more than half the year. Wait till you hear 
that the cattle have come back from Foggia to the home 
pastures before you try the road that by rock and scaur 


and torrent, will land you on the other side of Monte 
Pratella. There is an isolation in this Valley of the 
Sagittario that you will not find in places of higher 
altitude. It is very narrow, and you must not let your 
heart wander, else the great hills will be as prison walls. 
Climb to Sant' Egidio, or on the hillsides above the 
Prati, and you will see higher, and ever higher walls. 
To have wanderlust and be tied here would be pain 
indeed. For the Scanno folk every season has its 
distinct toil, and the home crafts pass the long winter 
months away. In the summer there are pilgrimages. 
The Scannese are much given to these. In July, for 
instance, the pious will go to the Santa Casa at Loreto, 
and on from there to Assisi for the Indulgence of the 
Porziuncola. In August at Gallinaro in the Terra di 
Lavoro, there is the feast of San Gerardo, Confessore, an 
English saint who dispenses no graces till the Scannese 
come. But you are very rich, or very free, or very gad- 
about, if you go so far frequently. There are nearer 
shrines. There is the special shrine of Scanno, Our 
Lady of the Lake. 

The little mountain lake of Scanno, something less 
than a mile below the town, is a place of enchantment, 
and of relief, too, in this wild valley. High set among 
the hills, it has stern, towering walls to mirror in its 
placid surface ; but it has gathered about it slim feathery 
trees and flowery borders, and the southern end has 
turned to a bosky fairyland. It is only a few miles 
round, but in its smile the narrow valley seems to break 
into an infinity of soft opal and blue. Its stillness is 
sung by the nightingales that nest on its edge ; and 
though the high-road runs along its eastern side, quiet 
always remains here. The two hermits sleep on its 
banks in the sun. Fishers spend long days dabbling a 
rod in its waters, hoping for the prize of one of its famous 
trout. The villagers come down and spread out their red 


254 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. it. 

handkerchiefs for the Httle wriggHng crabs that the boat- 
men sell ; and the Scanno women come to pray the 
Madonna in her sanctuary that spans the road and hangs 
over the water, 

A lady of many graces is Santa Maria del Lago ; 
and her chapel is never empty of women, prostrate, 
adoring, or resting ; and the votive offerings, silver hearts 
and hands, or old crutches and bandages, are eloquent 
pendants. Madonna was wise to draw the mountain 
folk here for prayer and rest ; for, of course, that is what 
she did. The story is well known, and was put into 
verse by Romualdo Parente, the Scanno poet of the 
eighteenth century. Once the rough mule-track from 
Anversa ran high above the lake across the towering, 
jagged rocks. In wild winter weather there were many 
accidents. But the gracious Lady was watching, and 
lives were snatched from peril by miracles. So an image 
of her was set up on the rock above the present chapel, 
in the middle of the sixteenth century. More than a 
hundred years later, a herdsman, Forlone by name, was 
gathering his cows on the margin of the lake in the dusk, 
when he saw a strange light all about the image ; and 
the tree-stems were golden with its reflection. Every 
evening he saw it, till he told his priest Don Placido. 
Others, too, had felt a kindly presence there ; and Don 
Placido read the signs to mean that Our Lady desired 
to have a home there, to which .she could draw down the 
poor folks of the mountain for rest and peace. So the 
chapel was built. To-day it is a little over-restored ; 
but nothing can spoil the soft grace of the home of 
Madonna of the Lake. To her festa in July all the 
neighbourhood flocks. Then the lake is gay, and the 
little first communicants come in procession, the girls in 
their festal turbans and aprons, and before Madonna, 
each pledges herself to love and cherish, in the bond of 
the covimare, all her sister communicants of that year. 


Our Lady had a predecessor, powerful, but less 
gracious, a certain maga Angiolina, of uncertain date, a 
great magic woman, by common repute ; but I have 
failed to find the ancient volume which contains her 
story. She is credited with having formed the lake by 
her huge bulk falling across the River Tasso. But the 
origin of the Lago di' Scanno is suggested a little farther 
on the road. Aloft, on the right, on a stony hillside, lies 
the half-dead village of Frattura, with no link to the 
lower world save the bed of a torrent, wet or dry, accord- 
ing to the season. In the cataclysmal " fracture " of the 
mountain behind, the ledge was formed on which the 
village sits. The rest of the rock was hurled down on 
the Tasso. 

Beyond the lake the road turns and twines, and then 
Villalago throws itself up against the sky. I am glad 
that nothing I know of ever happened there. It leaves 
it as a place of dreamland. The little town of shepherds 
and cowherds drags out a slow and precarious existence 
above the world. My most distinct impression of the 
inside is that of a churchful of women and children in the 
dusk, listening to the exhortations of a little young priest, 
who was telling them edifying tales which sounded as if 
they had come out of the Gesta Rovianorwn. But I 
have heard whispers that there are still some in the place 
who are accounted very wise in an ancient wisdom, and 
that secret consultation of them is not unknown. Seen 
from the opposite hillside, or the high-road below, the 
place is of inconceivable sublimity. Sheer up from the 
abyss soars its rock, and from its rock it rises like a 
flame. What pride was nursed there once, what projects 
of revenge ! What loneliness pined, what ecstasy was 
bred ! Once see it, and henceforth it remains as the 
background of all the ballads of imprisoned ladies 
looking out of lonely towers, and of fighting men sped 
home from the wars to release them. 

256 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

Villalago has fame as a holy place, but to reach its 
shrine you must pass along the road where the red rocks 
tower higher and higher. A little side lane lined by 
" stations " leads to the ancient chapel of San Domenico 
of Cocullo — more properly San Domenico di' Foligno, 
for he was Umbrian by birth, this Benedictine hermit. 
But he adopted the Abruzzi as his home of penitence 
and retirement ; and there, to this-day, he is one of the 
most sought-after of protectors. You meet his statue, 
with his emblems of wolf and serpent, throughout 
the whole province. His story is in the accredited 
authorities ; but his votaries do not read the Acta 
Sanctorum. He has come to them out of a far older 
time, and with a double sanctity ; the reincarnation, in a 
mediaeval hermit, of an ancient priest of the Marsi ; 
ascetic and saint, but still more enchanter and thauma- 
turgist. The Cocullo folks, across the mountain, have 
their own San Domenico festa, and scorn Villalago ; for 
they had the saint longer among them. But what does 
length of time count ? Is not his rocky cell here, and the 
molar tooth he gave to the mayor, and the horseshoe 
with which he worked a miracle .-• 

The little church is a model of a rustic sanctuary, old 
and bare and frugal. There are no votive offerings of 
price ; to the statue of the saint only the prayers offered 
up about it have given value. From the sacristy a door 
opens on a stair in the rock, leading to the cell where 
the saint spent years of penitence and exaltation. The 
pillared loggia outside is painted with scenes from 
the life of the patron, of a delightful absurdity, by 
the hand of a hermit. Here are the subjects of some 
of these storied chapters. 

San Domenico, on his departure, leaves to the mayor 
of the Villa his right tooth. 

The parish priest with the holy relics of San Domenico 
banishes the venomous serpents from the neighbourhood. 


San Domenico commands the fierce wolf not to 
devour any more mothers' sons. 

The outlook from the loggia is on a terrible place — 
sheer rock above and roaring torrent below. What 
demons the saint must have fought with here ! What 
a rage for the sublime must he have had ! The hermits 
to-day keep a little garden green in the summer, and 
the wilderness blossoms, sparingly. The desolation of 
the winter must be unspeakable. In summer they are 
not often alone. Folks wait for the posta here. And 
the shrine is so famous that many strangers come, and 
some of the Villalago women are always at the altar, 
pouring out their entreaties. Ah, a shepherd's wife has 
need to entreat one who can make wild things tame ! 

The hermits keep a simple rule, of which these are 
the principal injunctions — 

"Our hermits of the Desert: (i) Giuseppe B , (2) 

Mattia di P , (3) Pietro G , that they may model 

themselves on the life of our glorious saint, in whose 
name they beg their bread, shall lead a life devout and 
retired in God, . . , and to that end they shall attend 
scrupulously to these articles. If they transgress them, 
they shall be punished by the Most Reverend, the Arci- 
prete of Villalago, the first time with the suspension of a 
whole week of begging bread, afterwards by expulsion 
from the hermitage, for the Place of the Desert is 
eminently holy." 

There follow rules about hearing mass, receiving the 
communion, and confessing in Villalago. From these 
sacred duties they must return straightway, since each 
hermit " should love his hermitage as the bird loves his 

Every evening they shall recite the rosary in common, 
and at the sound of the bell of the parish church, from 
May to October, light at least two candles in the church. 


258 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

From November to April, whether they hear the bell or 

not, they shall light them in the hermitage. 

They are to live like brothers in holy concord ; to 

welcome the country-folks and strangers graciously, not 

to blaspheme nor to use foul words, to avoid strong 

drink, and all such games as are disapproved by honest 


They are never to wander far from the romitorio 

without precise motive ; and the days for begging in 

certain localities are defined. 

They are to divide equally the alms in the box on 

the altar, unless it should be money for a mass in honour 

of the saint. 

They are to serve mass, to take care of the grotto and 

of all the church furniture, the silver chalice, and other 

belongings of the sanctuary, to sweep the place, including 

the Holy Stair and the hermitage every Saturday, and 

the loggia once a month. They are to ring the bell for 

Matins and the Ave Maria. 

They are to provide wood for winter, and not to sell 

it, even at a profit. 

The great day is August 22nd. Then the gorge is full 
of folk from the whole valley and far beyond. In the 
little chapel, round the statue of the saint, press, but not 
too close, a crowd tense with excitement for a spectacle 
that never palls. Round the neck of the saint, hanging 
over his dark robe, and twined about his arms, are live 
serpents, common snakes and adders of the rock. They 
are still now, dazed perhaps by the hum of the crowd, or 
made torpid by the " wise men." But they draw the eyes, 
the cold, mysterious things. There is a sense of shudder- 
ing, mingled with exultation in the power of the holy one ; 
and through all the office runs something of the old pagan 
thrill. This is no Christian festival, instinct with the 
sweet spirit of St. Francis towards the creatures, though, 
doubtless, the hermit saint won his power, too, from 


friendliness and trust in the wild things of the mountain 
and rock. There is a dark force present, incarnate in the 
cold reptiles ; and were not the saint there to absorb the 
adoration and to claim the worship, these might wander 
into strange channels. Then the statue, rose-crowned 
and serpent-girt, is hoisted on trestles, and borne out 
of the chapel. In the open there is a moving and a 
writhing ; and people crane and stand on tiptoe to see 
the gleaming evil eyes, and then shrink, and peer again. 
With cries and with singing the crowd moves on, up to 
Villalago, to the church ; and the shuddering thrill never 
dies till the ancient rite is all gone through, and the 
saint, rose-crowned and serpent-girt, is back again in his 
sanctuary. At the end the serpents, are let loose among 
the rocks. They creep away to crevices and holes ; and 
for all that day in Villalago territory none of them will 
do any hurt. Glory be to San Domenico ! 

Past the little lake of San Domenico the gorge widens 
for a space, then narrows fiercesomely. In the " traforetto 
delle Capareccie " the unkindly rock is tunnelled by the 
road. On a midsummer noon the whole foce is like a 
corridor in hell ; and the bridge that crosses the stream 
is known as the Ponte dell' Inferno. In the evening 
glow, and at dusk, the place takes on a demoniac beauty, 
and the torrent has in its voice the music of a world of 
battle. When spring bursts the bonds of winter in the 
mountains, nothing can control its terrible fury. 

" E il fiume 
Che mugghia, e il Sagittario che si gonfia 
Nelle gole, Si sciolgona le nevi 
Ai monti, alia Terrata, all' Argatone ; 
e il Sagittario subito s' infuria." 

At a turn in the road you lift your eyes, and far, far 
aloft soars Castrovalve, once a proud citadel, subject only 

26o IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. il 

to the king, a nest of proud eagles. Now it is a poor 
miners' village almost beyond ken, this " sentinella morta 
contro i Samniti." And now the glen is widening. 
We are falling to fertile levels. There are glimpses of 
green fields ; and soon vineyards will appear. And here 
is Anversa. 

It is ragged now ; only a faint memory of its past 
splendours remains in its churches and its ruined towers. 
Santa Maria delle Grazie, with its lovely doorway, its 
mingling of rustic Paganism and Renaissance grace, has 
distinct interest ; and San Marcello, perhaps the most 
untouched church we have met anywhere, is a place of 
indescribable charm. The old wooden ceiling remains ; 
the walls are whitewashed, the whole framework is of 
an austere simplicity ; yet there are treasures of great 
beauty. One corner is lit by a mellow fire from the reds 
and golds of a fifteenth-century triptych, representing 
St. Francis and St. Michael ; and on the main altar is 
a magnificent tabernacolo from the chapel of the ruined 
castle. A very ancient place is Anversa, and for ages it 
was of strategic importance, commanding, as it did, the 
opening to the Pelignian Valley. For long it was held by 
the proudest of all the Abruzzi noble houses, the Conti 
del Sangro. By Antonio of this name the castle was 
greatly enlarged and strengthened in 1506. In the six- 
teenth century it passed into the hands of the Belprato 
family ; and in their time it had a flying visit from Tasso. 
More than once in his harassed flights from Ferrara to 
Sorrento and back again, Torquato passed through the 
wild Abruzzi. These journeys were coincident with times 
of sickness and stress of mind, dark fantasies of betrayal. 
The poet-courtier, frail of body and distraught, making 
his way through the mountains, is a theme for the 
imagination to work on. His way from Sulmona should 
have lain by Pettorano, Roccapia, the Piano di Cinque- 
miglia, and Castel di Sangro, a wild and terrible road. 


Legends of his passing lingered long on the Majella. 
Of one such journey he wrote to the Duke of Urbino, 
that, save in the duke's state, he had found every place 
full of "frauds and dangers and violence." He had 
made it another time "in the worst season, without a 
companion, and experiencing all kinds of fatigue and 
many dangers, but then not laden with years and 
insults." Perhaps it was while he was young enough to 
bear and to hope, that he turned aside from Sulmona up 
the valley of the Sagittario, to visit the lord of Anversa. 

" The idea that drew me in the direction of Anversa," 
he writes to the count's brother, " was to visit the count, 
and perhaps to rest in the shelter of his home, which 
though I could not count on from any merit of my 
own, his magnanimity nevertheless assured me. Of 
this I had everywhere heard, as of the greatness of the 
counts, your ancestors, ever most generous patrons of 
the arts. But when I was near, I heard he had just 
gone off for a tremendous bear hunt, a pastime I believe 
your lordships are much enamoured of; and that this 
most solemn business might be kept up for several days. 
Wherefore, not knowing when to expect him, for I am 
all unskilled in such matters, I was forced against my 
will to continue my journey, hard as it was." 

After the Belprati, the magnificent Macaenases, the 
castle fell into the hands of the Di Capua house. The 
last of them, a certain Don Titta, has left a sinister 
memory. He made friends with one of the Del Fusco 
family of Anversa, who was his constant companion. 
Del Fusco married ; and, unhappily, the young wife was 
pleasing to the lord of the castle. Di Capua made a 
feast one night, to which bride and bridegroom were 
bidden. In the middle of the banquet the husband was 
called out on some pretext ; and ere the feast was over, 
his wife saw his head brought into the hall on a silver 
dish. As for what followed — a feudal lord had all the 

262 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

rights. Del Fusco's brother, a learned doctor in Naples, 
swore revenge. To Anversa he brought turpentine, 
washed the castle walls with it, and set the place on 
fire. Di Capua was off on a bear hunt that day in the 
forests, and from Monte Portella he saw the flames con- 
sume his house. He never returned, but fled to the 
Terra di Lavoro ; and Anversa knew him no more. 

This story they tell in the neighbourhood. I cannot 
vouch for it. The old castle, looking on the mountains, 
tottering on the brink of the torrent, and near neighbour 
to the awful foci, has other sinister stories told of it, and 
D'Annunzio has made it the scene of one of his tragedies. 
La Fiaccola sotto il Moggio repeats, in a more terrible 
form, the theme of La Cittd, Morta, the degeneration 
of a noble family of the Abruzzi, body and mind falling 
into decrepitude, while their house tumbles about their 

" La casa magna 
dei Sangro, quella delle cento stanze, 
tutta crepacci e tutta ragnateli 
che da tutte le bande 
si sgretola, e nessuno ci rimette 
pur una mestolata di calcina." 

Tibaldo di Sangro and his step-brother Bertrando 
Acclozamora, once of Celano, are both sorry specimens 
of worn-out races, decayed in mind and will. The heir 
to the house is frail and childish ; and all of them are 
but as food for mockery, and opportunity for crime, to 
Tibaldo's wife, the vigorous Angizia, half woman of the 
people, half sorceress by virtue derived from her father, 
the serpent-charmer of Luco. And the women of the 
family wait, conscious of destiny, and powerless, listening 
to the cracking of the walls, the roar of the torrent 
beneath, hearing in all danger, and death, and doom. 

A passage in De Nino {Usi e CostumiY suggests 
that the sinister associations of Anversa do not cling 

* Vol. i. p. 193. 


round the old castle only. I was not there on July 25, 
and it would have been useless to inquire locally if the 
nightly gatherings alluded to take place now. Unless 
you were known by long residence they would only 
stare and deny. Here, at least, is the passage — 

"On the 25th of July, towards three or four of the 
night, the women of Anversa, barefooted for the most 
part, go in procession, on what is called the Viaggio 
di San Giacomo. Silently they make their way out of 
the village, and gather in the Church of San Niccola. 
Each carries in one hand a rosary, in the other a 
wand. They pray for a little on their knees, and then 
the leader of the company taps on the ground with her 
stick, and the rest rise and go. At the door every one 
taps with her wand. Not one of them speaks aloud. 
With the same rites they go to San Marcello and Santa 
Maria delle Grazie in the village, and to San Vincenzo 
without, where is the cavipo safito. This is closed, and 
so the tappings are made outside the door. The pro- 
cession ends at the church of Our Lady of the Snows, 
the door of which is tapped on entering ; there all the 
wands are left, and the band retires, still in silence. But 
already some groups of young folks and children begin 
to disturb the quiet of the night wanderers, and hiding 
behind the hedges, or in the cemetery, cry, ' Oh, oh ! ' 

" And here, with a complacent smile, would Carducci 
repeat — 

" 'Salute, O Satane! 
O ribellione, 
O forza indice, 
Dolce ragione ! ' " 

I give these sinister tales and suggestions of a dark 
past, because I have heard them, or find them set down 
in printers' ink. But I never shuddered at Anversa. 
After three weeks spent in the upper valley of the 
Sagittario, which may be described as a cloister for 

264 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

Titans, each time after threading the dark foci, Anversa 
presented to me a gay aspect ; and its people, an old 
race of busy and clever potters, seemed neither tragic 
nor mysterious. Out of the village, and past the turn 
of the road, the view widens down to a slope of exquisite 
and noble beauty, to the suave Pelignian vale. A 
Sicilian in our company, whose duties in the finance 
ministry had kept him a homesick prisoner in the moun- 
tains, now laughed with a sudden sense of release, 
scrambled for wild roses in the hedges, and brandished 
a flowering branch. Our eyes widened, we looked out 
and round, and the same words rose to the lips of all, 
" Italy again ! This is Italy ! " 



Pacentro and Pettorano — The Caldora and the Cantelmi — Roccaraso — 
Pescocostanzo — A weary plain — A village of optimists — Suspicion of 
the stranger — Castel di Sangro. 

Pacentro lies over there to the south-east of Sulmona, 
in a fold of the mountains between Morrone and Majella. 
But to see what the place was when it counted for some- 
thing, mount to it, thread its narrow streets and view it 
from the back. Built in a niche of the hills, it is made 
out of the hills ; the battlemented towers of its old 
ruined castle are but jagged peaks of rock, and the 
houses of the vassals that fall from its sides are but 
scooped-out caverns. Here is the very robbers' nest of 
old romance. And something of the kind it was ; for 
the castle was the home of the Caldora, one of the most 
powerful families of the Abruzzi and the Molise. They 
were Provengal of origin, from Marseilles, and came here 
with Charles d'Anjou. They were all men of valour ; 
but the greatest was Jacopo Caldora, the condottiere, 
the rival of Braccio, and captain of Rene d'Anjou's 
armies in the struggle against Alfonso d'Aragon. Many 
princes of Italy poured gold into the great captain's 
coffers, not to hire his services, which were hard to win, 
but to buy, if they might, his neutrality. Besides Count 
of Pacentro, he had fifty other titles ; but he was proud 
of only one name, Jacopo Caldora. From his niche in 
the hills he swooped and pounced, the noble bandit, the 


266 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

crowned free-lance, and gathered lands and people into 
his store. On the saddles of his horses were written the 
words, " The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's ; 
but the earth hath He given to the children of men." 

From their rocky nest of Pacentro the Caldora flung 
menaces south-westward across the hills to Pettorano, 
where dwelt, as firmly seated on their own rock above 
the valley of the Gizio, the rival family of Cantelmi, of 
still greater fame and riches and feudal power. Princes 
of Pettorano were they, and from the sixteenth century 
Dukes of Popoli. A great portion of the Valley of 
Sulmona was theirs, and of the mountains behind, till 
where the lands of the Conti del Sangro began. Like the 
Caldora, they came with Charles d'Anjou from Provence ; 
and like them, after Tagliacozzo, were rewarded with 
fiefs in the Abruzzi and other parts of the kingdom. 
But they claimed a prouder descent — from the ancient 
kings of Scotland, Duncan, the victim of Macbeth, their 
ancestor. With the Stuart dynasty they claimed connec- 
tion too, and Charles H. by a patent gave them the 
right to bear his family name. Thus in later ages they 
were always known as the Cantelmi-Stuarts. At 
Pettorano, at Popoli, at Pratola, at Roccacasale, at 
Roccaraso, at a score of other places, their castles are in 
ruins ; and only the shade of the name remains of a race 
that kept a province in awe and used the people as 
stufi" for war and faction fights. 

Pettorano in its poverty has kept more of the " grand 
air " than Pacentro. With its great sweeping view far 
along to Monte Corno, and its women with their fine 
physique, their gorgeous costume and jewellery, it has 
splendour still. 

The country from Sulmona to Castel di Sangro is of 
peculiar beauty. The land rises from Pettorano up to 
mountainous heights. After the dark Valle Scura and 
the terrible Piano di Cinquemiglia, the view opens out 

, J 1 ' • 

• ,■ '^ ^ 


I H 


round Roccaraso to undulating stony moorlands, to high 
oak forests, dominated everywhere by spurs of the 
Majella ; then falls by gradual, gentle slopes to the 
towering fortress place above the rushing river Sangro. 
One of the main roads to Naples runs through this tract ; 
and the hardy traveller would be well advised to foot it 
or ride it — unless he be curious about the construction of 
mountain railways. This one from Sulmona to Isernia 
and Naples is wonderful enough in the first part of its 
course. It takes you smoothly along to Pettorano, then 
swings you back almost to Sulmona again, then eastward 
far into the Majella, where it seems to lose itself It 
burrows, it emerges, it hangs by its teeth on the edge of 
the precipice ; it swings up to the bare top of the world 
at Campo di Giove, where once stood a temple to Great 

If this be the chosen route, then the goal had best 
be Roccaraso, which makes an excellent centre, and — 
the traveller will not be sorry to hear it — where awaits 
him that comfort, at the Albergo Monte Majella (note 
well the exact name), which doubtless he has done with- 
out cheerfully up to this moment, but which, perhaps, he 
has not grown so hardy as altogether to scorn. Rocca- 
raso, the highest point at which the traveller is likely to 
take up his quarters for long — it is 4100 feet high — 
stands in a splendid tract of country just under Monte 
Pratella, and is slowly gaining reputation as a health- 
resort. The air is magnificent ; it has sufficient shelter 
from the mountains ; the views are superb ; and, what is 
a great boon in so high a place, those who do not wish 
to climb the hillsides can wander in the delicious oak 
woods near at hand. These, with the sloping road 
down to Castel di Sangro, the paths through the rocky 
valley and over the rough Piano di Leone, will serve 
many moods. The air is dancing clear as at Rocca di 
Mezzo ; but there is none of the stony nakedness. Nay, 

268 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

if mountain flowers delight you, here you can have your 
fill. Luxuriant hedges of honeysuckle, meadow-sweet 
in great bushes, all the old familiar friends, daisies and 
poppies, buttercups, kingcups, ragged-robins, grow in 
splendid profusion, and among the rocks you will come 
on rarer things ; orange tiger-lilies spring at your feet out 
of the moorland soil, and graceful pink gladioli. The 
prospects are wide, there is none of the cooped-up feeling 
of the narrow valley where Scanno lies. Here is a 
country with darks and lights. The crosses on the hills 
tell of winter tragedies ; but in the summer-time Joy 
walks among the mountains. And — one may mention it 
again — with summer comes Don Beppino from Naples, 
stands at the door of his good house which bears the 
sign of the Monte Majella, and welcomes the stranger 
to the good cheer within. To the best of my knowledge, 
Don Beppino is the prime innkeeper of the Abruzzi. 

The town of Roccaraso itself will not long detain you. 
It has a commanding site, some scraps of ancient build- 
ings, and a general air of decrepitude. Idle folks swarm 
about the doors. The old dress has gone ; the old crafts 
have gone. The population look harmless, but lifeless 
too, and melancholy. One could imagine the place 
under a ban. It was long pestered by brigands, and 
even bred a few ; perhaps it misses the old trade. At 
least, any one of the little towns in the neighbourhood 
has more spirit and attraction. 

Looking out from your windows in the Albergo Monte 
Majella, on the opposite hill you see Rivisondoli spread 
out like the model of Ascoli on a tea-tray in Crivelli's 
"Annunciation." Cross the meadows, make your way 
round the corner of the hill, and mount to reach Pesco- 
costanzo. The little paesotto high up in the mountains, 
higher even than Roccaraso, a place almost buried in 
the snows of winter, now the home of poor peasants and 
shepherds, was once a town of fine artist-craftsmen. The 


women keep up the tradition to some small extent 
to-day. They are excellent lacemakers, and have a fine 
store of ancient designs. Of old the men were mostly 
goldsmiths, busy and far-famed. There is not one in the 
place now. The fact of this skilled craftsmanship is 
needed to explain its relics of grandeur, and the great 
church which still remains its pride. San Felice of 
Pescocostanzo — it is dedicated also to Santa Maria 
Assumpta — -might be the pride of a far greater town ; 
and in all the Abruzzi there are few that rival it for its 
unspoiled beauty. San Felice has a sacristan who loves 
the church he keeps, loves every corner of the vast place ; 
but he will lead the visitor to what is looked on as its 
special treasure — the sixteenth-century ironwork of one 
of the chapel gates. And wonderful it is, though 
perhaps too florid. Iron has been treated here as if it 
were gold or silver ; but in the elaboration there is 
endless invention and imagination — sea-gods, dolphins, 
and lobsters, arabesques and pots of flowers, all arranged 
into a complex harmony. It is rich, fantastic, marvellous. 
There are other pieces of the same local artist's work in 
the church, the door of the baptistery, and some lamp- 
brackets, simpler these, more delicate, not such touj's de 
force. The sacristan, or any one else in the town, will 
tell you the legend of this worker in iron. He was a 
contadino, and a sportsman. One day, when he had 
been hunting in the forest, he sat down to eat his dinner, 
laying his gun by his side. When he took it up again 
the metal of it was bent. It had been lying on a certain 
rare plant. He went home with the idea he had dis- 
covered a secret ; shut himself up in a workshop and 
learnt the art of ironwork. To turn and twist and 
mould the metal to the shape he desired, he used the 
strange plant he had found in the forest ; but he told the 
secret to none. Even his wife, who helped him in certain 
mechanical portions, was blindfolded at important 

2^o IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

moments. And he died without unfolding the secret. 
So goes the local tale. We may surmise that the 
strange plant of the forest was genius ; hence many have 
looked for it in vain ; and that he was no peasant, but 
probably a trained goldsmith of the place, who used his 
skill in metalwork on this so much larger scale. 

It is not the only treasure of the beautiful church. 

From the carved ceiling of the nave the dull gilding glints 

down dark and splendid, and the same sombre glory is 

about the great crown which hangs above the altar. 

There are some delightful painted statues, especially 

those of Santa Margherita and Santa Appolonia, in 

the niches of the altar to the miraculous Madonna del 

Colle. This lady, who, under her barbaric silver crown, 

looks 7iralte, was found, says the sacristan, in a tree, 

and taken to the little church of Our Lady of the Hill, 

perched near the Rocca at the north end of Pesco- 

costanzo. But there she would not stop, demanding 

instant lodging in San Felice, where she has been of 

great service. " Do we want rain ? " says the sacristan. 

" Just mention it to her, and lo, a cloud is seen black in 

the sky, and down it comes in a blessed shower. Ah ! 

the favours from her hand ! But, now, if it be a matter 

of our sins, you would think she had no eyes, no memory 

of them at all ! " She stands in a niche of a fine 

sixteenth-century altar, its exquisite Renaissance work 

of sombre blue and dull gold touched by no meddling 

hand, and not too much by time. The long line of slabs 

opposite the Madonna is worn smooth and shining with 

the progress of her adorers, who approach her on their 

knees. I saw a woman making her slow, utterly abject, 

way along. Her baby ran beside her, laughing and 

crowing as she shuffled. He laughed aloud when she 

kissed the ground, and he rubbed the altar steps with 

his toy to show her where to place her most fervent 

kisses. Ere her devotions were over, he invited her to 


sit by him, a little tired of her attentions to the Madonna, 
and his babble mingled with her supplications. 

The sacristan is eloquent on the treasury of the 
church — rich in old silver ; but we are more impressed 
by the sacristy, a simple, yellow- washed, vaulted room, 
with eighteen oak cupboards for the canons' robes. 
Eighteen canons ! And there are eight to-day to sing 
Mass in this church of peasants and shepherds ! What 
do they do when they are not singing Mass } The 
sacristan describes the great fire of logs he makes for 
them in the focolare of the sacristy. They spread 
themselves before it like barons ! he says proudly, and 
he fills braziers for them when they sit in the choir. 
They need such comforts, the proud, superfluous ones, 
in the winter weather, when, to enter the church, they 
have to slide down a great heap of snow. 

If you come from Sulmona on foot, via Pettorano, 
you will cross the Piano di Cinquemiglia ; if by train, 
perhaps curiosity may draw you back on your steps 
to see a place of so ill a name. Following, then, 
the Sulmona road, which swings to the left near 
Rivisondoli, you pass the sixteenth-century hermitage 
chapel of Santa Maria della Portella, Here has many 
a prayer been uplifted for safety in crossing the plain in 
the wild weather. We follow the women of Rivisondoli, 
trooping in singing bands on their way up to the high 
forests for their faggots. Hardly one passes the chapel 
without a word to the Madonna within. We enter after 
one group. Led by an old woman, they say their 
prayers aloud, then visit the various shrines. St. Antony 
is kissed again and again ; and when the rest are gone 
an old woman murmurs her private grief to him in an 
expostulatory tone. 

The band goes on, cheerful and singing, but we lose 
them soon, as they cross the southern end of the plain 

272 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

and climb the hillside, while we turn northward along 
the endless, straight road in the train of shepherds and 
muleteers. Endless, indeed, it seems, for they are 
Neapolitan miles those of the Five Mile Plain. In the 
hard, clear morning light it is hideous and unimpressive. 
There is dazzling snow on the mountains on either hand, 
and the sun beats mercilessly on our heads and on the 
dead level tract. We have heard of whole armies perish- 
ing in the snow here. How many have perished in the 
heat ? Flocks across the plain are but as specks, and 
when the shepherds have dispersed and the muleteers 
have passed us, the monotony of the desert, without its 
grandeur, hangs on us like an unbearable burden, till we 
conceive a dull, strong hate for the Piano di Cinque- 
miglia. Only one house is there along the whole 
route, a kind of farm. Wild people look out from 
the open loggia, and the dogs are far from civil. Not 
another sign of life or humanity is there till near the 
end, where the mountain path from Scanno to Roccapia 
comes out near the chapel of the Madonna del Carmine. 
The waste was in sore need of her blessing, and housed 
her sternly. But she lies off the main road, and her 
blessing does not reach us. There is no speech left in 
us ; and our walk becomes a lifeless trudge, a stupid 
counting of the stone pillars which mark the edge of 
the road for travellers in the winter snows. Then, where 
the old track turns down to Roccapia, we come on the 
Fountain of Mascatena, a very fount of life. There 
should be a shrine there. Once there was one, perhaps 
to St. Antony, for it is his well ; but we drink and drink, 
and pick a flower from the crevice of a rock and give it 
to the naiad of the spring. 

By the people the plain is called the Mare Secco, 
the dry sea. But it was not always deserted. For 
long ages there were four villages here, and vestiges of 
them exist still. During the disturbances in the reign 


of Queen Giovanna they were continually attacked, and 
the Cantelmi, lords of Pettorano, forced them to unite 
and to migrate. Thus was founded Rocca Valle Scura 
(Roccapia). Then the plain was left to the snow, the 
winds, the wolves, the robbers, and the evil spirits. In 
February, 1528, three hundred foot soldiers of the 
Venetian Lega Santissima against Charles V. perished 
here. In March, 1529, five hundred Germans, soldiers 
of the Prince of Orange, on their way to Aquila, lost 
their lives. Of the single victims, or the bands of 
peasants, that have fallen by the way, the number has 
never been counted. The danger is a peculiar one, and 
arises from the configuration of the place. The winds 
rebound from side to side, acquire an incredible force, 
toss the snow, which whirls in great vortices. There is 
no light. The world is hidden in wild, black, hurricane 
whirlwinds ; and death does not ensue merely, or chiefly, 
from cold and exposure, but from suffocation. After 
the loss of the five hundred Germans, Charles had five 
great towers built along the plain, and for a time they 
were kept stored with fuel and food. But they became 
shelters for wolves and brigands, and veritable death- 
traps. In July, 1787, three brigands despoiled seventeen 
persons, only a few of whom escaped with their lives, in 
one of these torrioni. Now they are utterly demolished. 
The popular explanation of the suffocating vortices is 
that under the plain are great vaults, vast chambers of 
the winds. You can hear them rumbling below, they 
say, even before they emerge through the undiscernible 
openings to whirl the snows in a dance of death. 

We sink down rapidly to Rocca Valle Scura. The 
Rock of the Dark Valley it must be, in truth, in the 
winter, when daylight is the rarest and briefest of bless- 
ings. The mountains rise sheer up on both sides, and 
the opening is narrow indeed through which comes the 
exquisite glimpse of the valley of the Gizio and of the 


274 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

far horn of Monte Corno. A few weeks ago the snow 
lay deep here, and yet the paesotto is bright and gay, 
with its red roofs and its green toy trees in the miniature 
piazza, as if it were the veriest favourite of the sun. 
Dauntless and debonair, and of a ridiculous optimism, is 
the little township, and so are its people. It had borne 
the name of Rocca Valle Scura for ages, but in 1815 it 
made up its mind it would bear it no longer. Rocca 
Letizia it should be — the Rock of Joy. The habit of 
changing names grew on the inhabitants, and in i860, 
at the passage of Victor Emmanuel, they called it 
Roccapia, in honour of the Princess Pia, afterwards 
Queen of Portugal. And Roccapia it remains. Sing- 
ing comes from all the hillsides. The bells make merry 
carillon among the mountains, and matrons of seventy 
fare back from a long day of sun and toil on the heights 
with the high spirits of seventeen. 

Through Roccapia runs the road to Pettorano and 
Sulmona. Ours lies backward. We reach the blessed 
fountain again, where the cattle and the mules and the 
mountain ponies are gathered in the evening light. Now 
for the long road back. But the dull hard plain of the 
morning has vanished, and in its place is a vast expanse of 
dim gold. A few great flocks lie somewhere in the mist 
over there. There is a low hum in the grasses, the faint 
stir of the winds in the vaults below. Then silence and the 
night, with soft guiding stars. The road is long, but our 
steps are light, the footsteps of those that walk in a dream. 

Because you have seized on the characteristics of 
one of these little mountain towns, never infer that its 
neighbour will share them. The reverse is more likely 
to be the case. Here the people are gay, open-minded, 
welcoming ; a mile away they will view your approach 
with suspicion. Here they are busy and skilful ; there, 
out of work, vacant, melancholy. Nowhere is there 








more variety in human nature than in the little towns 
about Roccaraso and Castel di Sangro, 

My reception at Roccacinquemiglia was embarrassing. 
The place, by the way, is not on the Five Mile Plain, 
but well to the south, and stands out gallantly from a 
hilly moorland above the Sangro Valley. I left the 
artist outside making her picture of it, and climbed up 
the steep steps that lead to the top of the town where 
the church stands. The church has a good deal of 
shabby attractiveness for the casual wanderer. I suppose 
I was " the first that ever burst " into it ; and ere I 
had examined half of it, the whole idle population of 
the upper town — women, girls, boys, and a few men — 
were gathering round me. I received their attentions 
smilingly, as a matter of policy ; tried conversation, which 
was received with long, stony stares. I shifted my 
position. So did they. I sat down in front of their 
Madonna. So did they ; but they did not look at her. 
I retired to a chapel. They followed. I tried light 
banter. It melted not a single stare. I thought silence 
was perhaps the better part ; but it was not. They only 
closed round me the more. I engaged the sacristan in 
conversation. He was gracious ; and when I suggested 
that the crowd rather hindered a view of his church, he 
chased them out. In two minutes they had returned 
with reinforcements. Three times did the good man 
shoo them forth like fluttered flowls, and three times 
did they come back. But during the third sortie they 
must have filled his mind with dark suspicions, and on 
his return I felt I had lost a friend. It was with a voice 
trembling between sternness and some other emotion — 
was it feari* — that he asked me to give an account of 
myself Where had I come from ? For what purpose ? 
Had I no friend in the town to answer for me .? " Takine 
the air at Roccaraso ? Sola ! Sola ! " Not for a moment 
did he believe in the artist sitting outside there on the 

2/6 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

moorland, whose sex I had left vague. He gazed long 
at me, and his suspicion seemed to melt into a great 
pity. He misunderstood my intention when I sought 
his hand to give him a gratuity. The coin dropped to 
the floor ; he seized my hand and wrung it with force 
and warmth, and the tears were in his eyes as he asked 
God to keep me ! He thought I stood in great need of 
it. On my exit, there they all were in serried ranks by 
the door ; and who knows how long I should have had a 
sullen, staring procession behind me, had not a little old 
woman come out of a door in the upper town, and by 
sheer moral force persuaded them of their folly, and 
dispersed them as thistledown in the wind. Of what 
criminal intentions was I suspected ? I shall never 

In the valley below, on the banks of the Sangro, one 
laughs at such a remembrance as impossible. Here the 
world is gay and open-hearted, and Castel di Sangro is 
one of the most picturesque and the most coloured towns 
in the Abruzzi. It stands near the southern frontier, its 
lower portion on a high-pitched plain that simulates the 
lowlands. Near the old bridge over the wide, rushing 
Sangro, you enter the town, passing the ancient and 
beautiful little church of San Nicola. The Corso is a 
winding, many-coloured narrow street, where all the 
work is done at the doors. The piazza is a bright and 
spirited place, with cafes and chatting people about 
their steps ; and mingling with them are the troupe of 
travelling players who are to act DAnnunzio in the 
theatre in the evening. Fountains play, and the shops 
hang out bright-coloured blinds ; and life permits itself 
to be more amusing than is usual in the smaller towns of 
this stern, dark province. Down in the green poplar- 
fringed flats by the river, where the flocks are feeding, 
there is more .softness than even in the suave Sulmona 
Valley, more movement, more gaiety. Gipsy vans make 


a bright encampment. Their cosmopolitan inmates beg 
from us in French ; and a swarthy queen of sixty-five, 
with great play of a red fan, would fain tell us our 
fortunes. The evening sun spreads a golden haze over 
the wide valley, and round about stand the mountains 
of the Molise like great dim-perceived gods. The air 
and the scene are of a majestic calm. 

We have but turned our back for a moment on the 
wild. Castel di Sangro is two. Sheer up from the lower 
town of busy chattering Corso and piazza rises the high 
bourg, carved out of the rock. Up, up, we mount, by 
streets of stairs, under old arches, threading old arcades, 
under old loggias, but ever with a back look on the 
shining plain, to the great church of Santa Maria, a 
grandiose building, with links to its grand time still 
remaining in cloister and Romanesque arch. We are 
high on this upper piazza here, but the rock still towers 
over our heads. Far above still are the ruins of the 
oldest castello, that of the first Conti dei Sangro, lords of 
many mountains and wide plains. Once Counts of the 
Marsi were they too, of the race of Charlemagne. Here 
in the high town the people have already lost some of 
the genial air of the town below. They are of the 
mountain ; and children and grandchildren of those who 
swooped down in armed bands, some forty years ago, 
with the name of the Bourbons in their mouths, singing — 

"Andiam' a spass', a spass', 
Viva ru re e ru popol' bass'." 

On the topmost height there is a long ridge, and there 
aloft lies the Campo Sattto ; and Castel di Sangro still 
carries its dead up there, and puts them to rest among 
the hills. 



San Clemente di Casauria— Chieti— Castellamare the sordid— The 
pageant of Pescara — Sforza — Gabriele D'Annunzio Pescarese — 
Francavilla, the high town — The lovely Sultana — Francavilla-al- 
Mare — St. John's morning by the sea. 

Our route to the sea lies now along the river Pescara. 
The real Pescara is a very little stream, which rises near 
PopoH, and has hardly begun to be before it joins with 
the Aterno from Montereale, and with the Gizio from 
the Piano di Cinquemiglia. The three then flow together, 
under the name of the smallest, to the port of Pescara 
on the Adriatic. Popoli, with its ruined castle of the 
Cantelmi, lies on the hillside to the right, called after 
the peoples flying from Corfinium. (Or is it Castrum 
Pauperum, after these or other refugees .?) Popoli past — 
and I don't know any good reason for stopping there 
nowadays — we shall soon be out of the mountains ; but 
ere we emerge from them we pass through gorges of the 
wildest. In one of these, the Vado, between Popoli and 
Tocco, occurs the curious air-current that passes to and 
fro at regular intervals in the stillest of weather, a kind 
of aerial tide. 

At Torre de' Passeri there is something worth alight- 
ing for. About a mile and a quarter from here lies 
perhaps the greatest architectural treasure of the Abruzzi, 
the church of the ancient Abbey of San Clemente di 
Casauria. The river has changed its course considerably. 



But once it split here and formed an island, on which 
was built the famous abbey — insula PiscaricB paradisi 
floridus horhis. In its first form it was a thank-offering 
of the Emperor Lewis 11. , in 871, for the defeat of the 
Saracens and their disappearance from Italy. This was 
l^remature, for his own foundation was to suffer many 
times from the assaults of the same enemy. To give 
value to his new church, the Emperor got from Pope 
Hadrian III. the body of St. Clement Martyr, third 
successor of St. Peter, drowned under Trajan for the 
Faith. The Pescara has always been turbulent about 
this spot ; and when the procession with the relics 
reached the river, the bridge had been swept away, and 
great boulders were being hurled down by the force of 
the torrent. But the Emperor ordered the body of the 
martyr to be placed on a mule ; he struck the beast, and 
sent it forward, crying, " Let Clement guide you ! " The 
tumultuous waves became " like rocks " under the mule's 
feet, and the procession passed safely over. Since that 
day St. Clement the Martyr has been called on many 
times by men in peril near this spot. 

The place was richly endowed ; and its abbots had for 
long the privilege of holding the imperial sceptre in their 
right hands instead of the pastoral staff. Of the ninth- 
century building only the crypt remains, with its twelve 
antique columns. It was rebuilt and restored so often 
that the place, even in its greatest days, was something 
of a hybrid ; but beauty always ruled. The fortifications 
and the abbey buildings have disappeared ; and now 
only the church stands, built mainly in the eleventh and 
twelfth centuries by its two great abbots, Trasimondo and 
Leonato. It has still much precious workmanship left. 
The sculptured story of the building on the architrave ; 
the sarcophagus under the altar with the bones of St. 
Clement ; the richly carved pulpit ; the base of the 
Easter candlestick ; the bronze doors once inlaid with 

28o IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

patterns in gold ; the west end with its fine arches and 
columns, make it a treasure-house of beauty ; and the 
effect is enhanced by its isolation in the lonely valley. 
Various architectural influences have been at work in it, 
Byzantine certainly, and French, according to some 
authorities ; yet, in the main, it is typically Abruzzese ; 
and the vigorous sculpture is mostly by local hands. 
Of all the architectural treasures of the Abruzzi San 
Clemente di Casauria is the best known, and detailed 
descriptions of it have been written by various travellers. 
Also, it is well cared for now. Says Mr. Keppel Craven 
of a certain bas-relief of the church, " If it does not 
establish a very favourable idea of sculpture in the year 
866 [the date is wrong], it is not deficient in attraction 
to those who make the history of the dark and middle 
ages their particular study." Hear, on the other hand, 
what a distinguished Abruzzese has to say of the place. 
In the Trionfo della Morte the hero recalls a visit to 
Casauria with his uncle Demetrio — 

" He and Demetrio made their way down by a sheep- 
walk towards the abbey, which the trees still hid. An 
infinite calm was spread about over the solitary and 
majestic places, over the wide deserted track of grass 
and stones, uneven and stamped, as it were, with the 
steps of giants, all silent, its beginning lost in the mystery 
of the far and holy mountains. A feeling of primitive 
sanctity still pervaded it, as if lately the grass and stones 
had been trodden by a long migration of patriarchal 
flocks seeking the seaward horizon. Down there in the 
plain appeared the basilica, all but a ruin. The ground 
about was encumbered with rubbish and undergrowth ; 
fragments of sculptured stones were heaped up against 
the pilasters ; from every chink hung ragged weeds ; 
recent masonry of brick and plaster closed the ample 
apertures of the side arches ; the doors were falling. 
And a compan}' of pilgrims were resting in a brute 


slumber under the most noble portico erected by the 
magnificent Leonato. But the three arches still intact 
rose out of their divine capitols with a haughty grace ; 
and the September sun gave to the pale pietra gentile so 
rich a hue that both he and Demetrio felt themselves in 
the presence of a sovereign beauty. Nay, the closer 
their contemplation of it, the clearer and purer seemed 
to grow the harmony of the lines. Little by little, from 
that inconceivable and daring concordance made by the 
arches of every order — pointed arches, horseshoe arches — 
by the various mouldings, the bosses, the lozenges, the 
palms, the repeated rosettes, the sinuous foliage, the 
symbolic monsters ; from every detail of the work was 
revealed, through the eyes to the spirit, that unique and 
absolute rhythmic law, obeyed alike by the great masses 
and the lesser ornaments. Such was the secret force of 
the rhythm that it overcame all the surrounding discords, 
and presented a fantastic vision of the whole work, as it 
had risen in the twelfth century by the high will of the 
Abbot Leonato, in a fertile island ringed about and fed 
by a mighty river. Both carried away this vision with 
them. It was September, and the country all about in 
the dying summer had a mingled aspect of grace and 
severity, as if in mystic harmony with the spirit of the 
Christian monument. The quiet valley was circled by 
two crowns, the first of olive and vine-clad hills, the 
second of naked, sharp rocks ; and in the scene Demetrio 
found the same obscure sentiment which animated that 
canvas of Leonardo, where above a background of 
desolate rocks there sits and smiles a lady, an 
enchantress. Moreover, to render more acute the 
contrasting feelings working in them both, from a far 
vineyard rose a song, prelude of the early vintage, and 
behind them, in response, came the litany of the pilgrims, 
now going on their way again. And the two cadences, 
the sacred and the profane, mingled and were confounded. 

282 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. il. 

" Fascinated by the remembrance, the survivor had 
but one chimerical desire — to go back there, to see the 
basilica once again, to live there and save it from ruin, to 
revive its primitive beauty, re-establish the great cult, 
and after so long an interval of neglect and oblivion, 
renew once more the CJironicon Casauriense. Was it not, 
indeed, the most glorious temple of the Abruzzi soil, 
built on an island of the parent river ; the most ancient 
seat of temporal and spiritual power ? Had it not been 
the centre of a vast and proud life, for age after age ? 
The Clementine soul still reigned there, lasting, pro- 
found ; and in that summer afternoon of long ago it had 
revealed itself to him and Demetrio through the medium 
of the divine, rhythmic thought expressed in a consum- 
mate harmony of the parts." 

Chieti shows nothing of itself from the station as you 
pass, (But do not pass.) It stands three miles off and 
far up, eleven hundred feet, above the plain ; and you 
reach it by a tramway. It is a large, busy, attractive 
town, considerably greater than Sulmona, a good deal 
refaced in modern times, but not replanned, and with 
vestiges still of the time when it was Theate, the ancient 
capital of the Marrucini. Now, as in former days, it is 
one of the most stirring centres of intelligence in the 
Abruzzi. It merits more notice here ; but my space 
gives out, and I am hurrying to the sea. Let my one 
word be at least emphatic. For its site Chieti is fit to 
be the capital of a great empire. I have never seen a 
position of greater grandeur. It commands the whole of 
the Central Apennines. Choose your day well, and an 
hour when the mists have rolled away, and the whole 
Majella group and the whole Gran Sasso range will be 
discovered to you. It commands the Adriatic and the 
great wide-stretching plain, through which the Pescara 
winds and twists its shining pattern to the sea. 


But seen from below it is a dull, flat plain that lies 
between Chieti and the Adriatic shore. Now and then a 
reach of river gives one a hope of something more in- 
spiring ; but the train drones on and you lose it. Nor 
do you feel keenly the approaching sea, even when you 
steam into the railway station in the back slums of 
Pescara. There, if the traveller be wise, he will turn 
southward to Francavilla without delay. We turned 
northward, a mile or so, to Castellamare Adriatico ; and 
an hour afterwards were wondering, with dusty despair 
in our eyes and hearts, why we had ever come. 

In a book published just seventy years ago, I read of 
Castellamare as a place " much frequented in the summer 
for the convenience of sea-bathing and the benefit of 
a cool and healthy air." What has it been doing in the 
meanwhile .'' Whether it be much or little frequented 
I cannot tell, for the workmen were hammering up the 
" stabilimento " for the coming season in leisurely fashion 
when we were there ; but that it could ever be ready for 
visitors, or capable of attracting them, seems impossible. 
Nearly all seaside resorts are sordid. The contact of 
humanity with the sea, otherwise than as sailors, fishers, 
or boat-builders, seems mostly to debase both. But 
there are degrees of sordidness. I remember with a 
sinking of the spirits a wet Bank-holiday once spent at 
Heme Bay, also the back streets of Berck. But Cas- 
tellamare Adriatico touches lower depths of ugliness and 
dulness. A hot, white, dusty high-road runs by the inn ; 
noisy, too, but the noise is associated with the only 
amusing feature of the place, the fly-drivers. They are 
a lively, bright-spirited crew, and in constant demand, 
though probably they make very modest fortunes. Here 
you see the true Neapolitan delight in sitting behind any 
kind of horse, and the Neapolitan dislike of padding the 
hoof ; and so the down-at-heel pedlar, or the gentleman 
in search of umbrellas to mend, when tired of the high- 

284 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

road takes a carriage. Along here, too, come the 
painted country carts, pretty enough everywhere through 
the province, but nowhere more so than at Castellamare 
— Hght, graceful things, their body and shafts and wheels 
painted with dainty floral patterns, garlands and bouquets 
of red and blue on a white ground. Save for such 
incidents, the high-road is a glaring horror; the character- 
less piazza is little improvement on it, nor do the shabby 
and pretentious villas lift your mind. The little fisher 
cottages are lost now among the new excretions ; and the 
inhabitants, at least on the eve of the season, are not 
very attractive. They have a cynical slatternliness bred 
perhaps of disappointment ; and, indeed, they have not 
had much of a chance since hygienic standards have 
gone up. Nowadays they have to import their good 
drinking-water by train from Popoli. Till the train 
comes in you may go thirsty. 

Another hot dusty road from the piazza takes you to 
a poor little strip of beach, bordering what, at first sight, 
seems a very ordinary sea, whatever it be called. Turn- 
ing southward along the shore, however, the flowers 
begin to interest us. We have been so long in the 
mountains we have forgotten that we are after all in the 
South ; now we learn it, not only from the varieties of 
broom, of pink furze, of luxuriant sea-holly, the giant 
clumps of crimson vetch, but also from a red-flowered 
cactus. Thunder is rumbling, and it rains down there at 
Ortona. A veil is over the sky, but through it, faintly 
descried, rise the mountains, our Majella from its eastern 
side, and the familiar horned peaks of the Gran Sasso. 
Farther on, at the mouth of the Pescara, we are conquered 
and captured, but by the simplest means. The scene— 
a placid river giving itself to a placid silvery sea, some 
slender trees lining the banks that lead to the flat river 
port — has nothing for the moment to offer but tranquillity. 
In the days that followed it bred keener sensations. 


Looking down on the mouth of the Pescara River, 
and far up and down the Adriatic, and inland to the 
mountain walls, stands a high, white, flat-roofed old 
mansion-house, girt about by a grove of pines and 
olives. It has seen better days, and now shelters very 
various tenants. It is the kind of place one passes by 
with regret, because there is no chance of stopping, and 
then pays one's self by making it the background of a 
romantic tale. But this time we did not pass on ; and 
for a week at least we owned a villa on the Adriatic, 
or as much of it as we desired, its topmost floor, its flat 
terrace roof, and its outlook perched on that. From 
there there was so much to see that we forgot Castella- 
mare and all its new squalor. 

Every evening there is a pageant here. 

A far sky, infinitely far, a space of mauve and violet 

that changes one knows not where, and stretches blue 

above. The sea is a great path softly patterned in 

turquoise and pale green ; and the laughing white teeth 

of the surf edges the shore. The river mouth is fringed 

by green dancing poplars, and on the nearer side by dark 

stone pines. And from the sea, or from somewhere 

between sea and sky, come boats, like great birds of 

gorgeous plumage, crimson and russet, flaming orange 

and pale lemon, parti-coloured, too, the russet dashed 

with indigo, or painted with saffron, the yellow patterned 

with faded green, the orange with tiger stripes of black. 

Surely these red-and-gold creatures will never light on 

these shores ! Yet they come on silently, drawn by the 

eyes of the women sitting in the sand near the bar ; and 

the wings turn to swelling sails of heaving barks, proud 

as if they bore an emperor and his suite for freight. 

There is a wild joy in their dance over the strip of surf. 

Now for the grand entry up the river, which is disposed 

with order and ceremony. They come in pairs, each 

pair alike in colour and design ; and the designs of the 

286 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

sails are varied and wonderful. The sun, the moon, the 
stars, are there, of course. The artists of some have 
had a grotesque touch, and have caricatured humanity 
with a splash of bark ; but the others are mostly pious, 
and have made crosses, or emblazoned " I.H.S." like a 
mighty charm, or the symbol of the host. One pair 
is patterned like a rich Indian web ; and even the mere 
patches have their unconscious artistry. On they come, 
the ruddy and the pale, the scarlet wings and the yellow, 
the tiger-striped and the white, sending down their 
colours into the water athwart the bows as they advance ; 
and never a king's pageant, paid for by gold, and 
arranged by a lord marshal, was, or could be, so splendid 
and fine. Behind the colour and the pride there is peril 
and there is penury ; and many a home-coming to poor 
hearths ; but the splendour is not for that mocking or 
unreal. These boats of Pescara belong to an age when 
labour had its ritual and pageant ; and labour will be 
real and sound when it has them again. The spirit of 
the old industries of the strong hand and the fine hand 
dies when dies the beauty that was their companion 
from of old. On they come — not for a moment can you 
look aside — up the river, past the little low huts that 
mean home to the men on board, and anchor among the 
trees. Nor is the pageant over yet. There they lie, 
their sails still hung out among the leaves, and now they 
are banners of crimson and gold ; and behind them 
rises blue Majella, snow-streaked and snow-capped. 

This is what the little town has to show every evening. 

This river mouth was the scene of the death of Sforza, 
first and greatest of the name. He had come from Ortona, 
where he had dreamt a vivid dream of struggling in deep 
water, of calling on a tall man, who looked like St. 
Christopher, to help him, but in vain. His generals 
would have had him wait. But speed, he said, was his 


best policy ; and he sped on till he reached the Pescara 
estuary. His opponents, the Bracceschi, had staked the 
ford of the river, and sunk boats to hinder as much as 
possible the passage of Sforza's men. The leaders 
crossed easily enough, however, and four hundred horses 
after them. But by that time the wind had risen, the 
water was rough, and the soldiers were nervous. Besides , 
Braccio's men in the castle heard them and came out. 
While Francesco drove them back, the elder Sforza 
called to his men to come on, and to encourage them he 
went into the water again. A young page struggling in 
the waves called for help. Sforza went to his aid, and 
his horse slipped and fell. Says the chronicle, " Twice 
his mailed hands were raised above the water together, 
as if praying for help ; but his men feared the depth of 
the waters and the enemy's arrows, and the weight of 
his armour doomed him." The body of the great Sforza 
was swept out to the sea that never gave it up. 

The town, very insignificant to-day, has had a long 
and rather sombre history. In ancient times, when it 
was Aterno — the Lombards first called it Pescara — it 
was a place of importance as on the frontier between the 
Frentani and the Vestini. Here ended the Valerian 
Way. It always remained a fortress, one of the most 
important in the Abruzzi. Its chief fortifications were 
built by the Emperor Charles V. and the Duke of Alva ; 
and in 1566 it beat off a determined Turkish attack. 
The place gave the title of Marquis to Ferrante Francesco 
d'Avalos, the husband of Vittoria Colonna. Till 1867 
it was an important military station, and its prison had 
a gloomy name. During the struggle for liberty it was 
never long empty of chained prisoners. The prison is 
still there, but the galleys are gone. 

The town is sunk low on the sea-level, and the great 
flats about it had formerly a very bad reputation, and 

288 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

soldiers dreaded a long station in its malarious air. But 
the flats have been well drained ; and so secure does the 
place now feel in its healthfulness that it is making some 
efforts to develop itself into a bathing resort. There 
are odd bits and corners in the old town that have their 
attraction, and the church of San Nicola is one. It is 
a simple, whitewashed place, with quaint old wooden 
statues in its niches, a church of fishers and sea-faring 
folk. We were there on Sant' Antonio's Day ; and the 
saint received much honour. They had decked his 
statue round with splendid white lilies ; and the tall 
candles rose among them only as rival lights. Whole 
families came to pay him their respects, as they might 
to a favourite young cousin on his birthday. Babies 
were lifted to kiss his cord or his frock. Old women 
stroked his hand, touched delicately his sleeve, and 
then kissed their own hand that had touched his. It 
was a pretty family scene, full of simple sincerity. One 
good lady said her prayers near him with warmth and 
intensity, fanning herself the while with elegant gestures. 

Somewhere, hidden from the stranger's eye, is, doubt- 
less, the life of old-modish gentility that has been depicted 
in the Novelle della Pescara and in Sa7i Patiialeone. For 
Pescara has a distinguished interpreter, a son of whom 
it is inordinately proud, Gabriele D'Annunzio. 

In 1880 — he was sixteen then — from the College 
of Prato he sent to the critic Chiarini his first book of 
poems, already published, Priino Vere. In the accom- 
panying letter he wrote, " I am an Abruzzese of Pescara. 
I love my sea with all the force of my soul ; and here in 
this valley, on the banks of this muddy river, I suffer 
not a little from homesickness." Chiarini reviewed the 
book in the Fanfulla della Domenica. It was taken 
seriously, and the young author became a lion. He 
was Gaetano Rapagnetto then. The name he afterwards 
adopted, which he took from some family connections, 


had been preceded by various fanciful ones ; among them 
was Floro Bruzio. 

The " Abruzzian flower " bore other precocious 
blossoms ; and in 1882, when he went to Rome, he was 
received with wild enthusiasm. After three years of 
fame, of spoiling, of luxury, and some scandal, he wrote 
to a friend in a fit of weariness, " Oh, if but the snow 
could fall here from Majella and from Monte Corno ! I 
should invoke it with the passion of a lover ! " And he 
came back to recuperate in body and mind. From 1885 
to 1900 he was living mostly in the Abruzzi, among the 
mountains, and with his friend Michetti by the sea. To 
this time belong // Piacere, II Trionfo della Morte, 
Le Vergine delle Roccie, the Odi Navali, two volumes 
of Laiidi^ and many tales. And, moreover, these years, 
in which he gained a fresh impression of his home 
province, have given much matter and much character 
to his later work. In spite of all that is exotic in him 
there is no question of his love for his native soil. ''Alia 
Terra d'Abriizzi, alia mia inadre, alle mie sorelle, al into 
fratello estcle, al inio padre sepolito, a tiitti i miei inorti, 
a tiitta la mia genie, fra la montagna e il mare, qiiesto 
canto dell' antico sangue consacro." So runs the dedication 
of La Figlia di Jorio. 

Do not look to him as a topographical guide through 
the province, though Pescara and San Vito and Guardia- 
grele and other places serve him as backgrounds. Guide- 
book details are not to be gathered from him. But the 
general character of his race and country he has under- 
stood, intellectually and sensuously. He has maladies 
of the spirit which his people have not ; but the Abruzzesi 
are not mere simple folk of the hills. They are a very 
old race, and by no means simple. They have long and 
unquiet memories ; and out of the past there are survivals 
and dreams that to-day does not readily understand. 
And D'Annunzio has done his best to shatter the frequent 


290 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

impression of the passing traveller that they are an 
unemotional race. The fire is always there underneath, 
and he has shown it alight and of explosive force. He 
has interpreted their religious spirit in its naked simplicity, 
in its passion of abjectness before the divine, and in its 
traditional and pagan exaltation, as in his magnificent 
Figlia di Jorio, that " song of the ancient blood." The 
life of the fisher on the sea and the reaper in the sunny 
fields he has set to melodious verse. He has sung of the 
mystic Majella that rises behind his native shores. The 
heart of his people he has not interpreted — or I do not 
think so. However close he watches, he watches ever 
from the outside. But when he has sung of his sea, he 
has revealed the very heart of it. 

" A'l mare, a'l mare, Ospite, a'l mio libero 
tristo, fragrante verde Adriatico, 
A'l mar' de' poeti, a'l presente 
dio che mi tempra nervi e canzoni." 

My gentleman traveller, Mr. Keppel Craven, wrote 
in 1823, " My departure from Pescara was attended with 
indescribable feelings of relief and satisfaction." But he 
never watched the daily pageant from the roof of the 

Villa de R . Had we not done so, we might have 

echoed him. It was Castellamare that we turned our 
backs on with readiness. But the stranger seeking a 
haven on the coast of the Abruzzi, should direct his steps 
as soon as possible to Francavilla. From Pescara 
you see its spires towering aloft four miles to the 
south, inward somewhat from the bulging headland 
beyond, where stands Ortona. By crossing some 
shallow streams you can reach it along the flats near 
the shore. The high-road lies parallel with the railway 
(to Brindisi), and is not very attractive, save at the 
point where it runs through a beautiful little pineta 


of dark, wind-blown stone pines, set among the low sand- 

Francavilla is two — the old town, piled high on its 
rock above the sea, compact, and, of necessity, isolated ; 
and the new one, a narrow strip of bathing-station 
fringing the beach. As yet they do not interfere with 
each other at all, but tend to each other's profit ; and 
their contrast is amusing. Francavilla, the town of the 
Franks, so called because it has been again and again in 
the possession of the French, is a very ancient place, 
in a situation of wonderful beauty. The Adriatic lies 
at its feet ; low fertile hills stretch on each side ; and 
the southern and eastern slopes are almost of tropical 
luxuriance. Behind it the ground falls gradually to 
the plain of the Pescara, dotted with peaks and points 
on which are jauntily poised the little gleaming hamlets. 
Back of these rise the great blue ranges. The town 
runs sheer up, with here and there a flat space for 
outlook, east or west, north or south, whence the eye can 
sweep the land and sea from the Gran Sasso down to 
the Punta della Penna. Santa Liberata's rosy minaret 
shoots up at the north end, and the minaret and dome 
of Santa Maria Maggiore to the south. The old convent 
of the latter, lying in its gardens and vineyards sloping 
to the sea, has been for years the home of the painter 
Michetti. (A dependency lies below on the shore, which 
you may mistake for a powder magazine, or a Turkish 
fort, or a giant camera in stone, with lenses set in 
capriciously here and there — for anything, in fact, save 
what it is, a painter's studio.) Nearly all the fine detail 
and ornament that ever existed in the streets of the 
town have gone ; but the plan is still strictly mediseval, 
a labyrinth of narrow, climbing wa}-s, running up into 
sloping piazzas, a place of surprising vistas, and eager 
for vistas, seemingly, so many are the loggias pitched 
aloft for views of the sea in front or the mountains 

292 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ii. 

behind. Most of its twelve old towers exist in part, 
though only a few now overtop the walls. One ancient 
house in the principal street has kept its Gothic windows ; 
and the women sitting on the steps opposite call it the 
"palazzo," and, perhaps satirically, advise us to buy it. 
Once it was the house of a queen, they say. What 
queen ? Oh, a queen that lived long, long ago. Is this 
some remembrance of Margaret of Austria, who lived 
beyond there at Ortona, who rode about the country in 
male attire, and may have had a residence here ? Or 
was it the birthplace of that Francavilla lady with the 
romantic history, of her who was stolen away and 
became Sultana .-' 

During the Saracen invasion under the renegade 
Pialy Bassa, there was a series of determined attacks on 
the coast here, and Francavilla suffered most of all. The 
inhabitants, seized with panic, fled for their lives. They 
had no treasure like that of the Ortonesi, the body of 
the Apostle Thomas ; but they had their holy San Franco, 
and the heathens scattered his bones, leaving only a fore- 
arm, and took away his silver chdsse to the ships ; every- 
thing else, too, they could lay their hands on. Several 
men and women, who had been unable to escape, were 
seized as well. There is a legend that a very beautiful 
girl, one Domenica Catena, was offered to the Sultan, 
as among the best things in the booty. The lovely 
Francavillese was taken to his harem, where she became 
the prime favourite, gained an ascendancy over the mind 
of the Sultan, and bore him a son, who was afterwards 
Selim II. After twenty-two years she persuaded her 
lord to let her go back to Italy ; and, laden with rich 
gifts, she set sail for her native land. It is said that her 
mother and her brothers left Francavilla and joined her 
in Rome, but only to follow her example and enter the 
cloister. The rest of her life she spent in austerit)' and 
exemplary devotion. 


The paths are entrancing that wind around the upper 
town, in and out of the hills. Over the olives the sea 
is of an ineffable blue. The wild Abruzzi is far away, 
behind Majella to the west, and you move in a maze of 
beauty, the path bordered with love-in-a-mist, with hedges 
of high purple thistles and banks of giant scabious. 
Silver and gold are the olives and the corn ; and the little 
white houses gleam like precious marble in the sun. A 
strong note is struck here and there by a group of black 
cypresses or a flame-coloured oleander ; and seaward the 
glimpses of turquoise rouse and exhilarate like a song. 
It is the South. Out of the wild Abruzzi to summer by 
a southern sea ! 

Francavilla-al-Mare — that is, the little mushroom 
bathing-station — is beginning to take itself seriously. At 
present it is a toy place, and at the end of the season 
you expect to see it packed up neatly and put away in 
its box for the winter. To-morrow some of the charm 
may be gone from this strip of sun-baked beach bound- 
ing a tideless sea. Just before the season opens, the sea 
and shore swarm with water-babies, amphibious, golden- 
brown-skinned creatures of infinite agility and grace, 
who swim and dabble in the green water, and race and 
frisk and roll in the sand like pigmy gods. Trans- 
formed by ragged garments into the urchins of the high 
town, they are unrecognizable. The season banishes 
them a little to the north and south ; and then the main 
promenade becomes a haunt of white arabs, who stalk 
in dignified anonymity against the sky, or lounge by the 
red-and-yellow wooden bathing-booths, or crowd about 
the fishing-boats, with their sails of gorgeous hue, that 
moor right up to the sandy shore ; for Francavilla has 
no harbour. Such is their land life. For their water life, 
they may make it out of long days, if they will, for even 
at dawn the water has no chill. 

294 IN THE ABRUZZI [pt. ti. 

To every place its hour. And here on the edge of 
this wide, soft-heaving, Eastern sea there is an hour 
that calls even the air-drugged out of far-away fields 
of sleep, by the poignant force of its beauty and ecstasy ; 
the hour when the morning star sings the new day and 
the sea to fresh embrace. Dawn here has its festivals. We 
saw one, not planned by a conscious poet, but a survival 
out of the antique world when men sang praises to the 
god of day as the best of all the gods. It was St. 
John's morning ; and the rose of the dawn was opening 
when we neared the mouth of the little Drontolo, which 
trickles through the sands to the south of Francavilla. 
There are no houses very near the shore at this point ; 
but a company of people were gathered, more than a 
dozen of them, peasants from some seaboard farm, 
perhaps all of one family. 

The youths went out to the sea in a boat, and dived 
from it, and swam to and fro in the fresh water. The 
rest dabbled with the waves on the shore, and stood 
looking out to the horizon. As the red sun started up 
into sight there was a low cry, and then singing ; and 
from the water here and there, the lifting of a hand and 
arm. All hail ! We were not near enough to hear the 
name of the god they invoked ; and perhaps they called 
him Phcebus Apollo, and perhaps San Giovanni. Then 
on the shore they made a feast. Still looking seaward 
they ate their bread and fruit and drank their wine, 
and gave pledges, and spoke of next St. John's morning ; 
and the old ones told of the many they remembered in 
the past. The elders were serenely gay, while the 
children strayed and picked up the treasures of the 
sea. A long, quiet sunning on the golden beach ; 
then a slow procession homeward, the old folks and 
the little ones, the youths and the maidens. They 
carry back the tune of the festa into the fields of 
their labour. "Viva San Giovanni! San Giovanni, be 


propitious ! " They vanish ; and the sounds of their 
stornelll come down to us from the vineyards. We 
Hnger for a space. But our way lies inland. We turn 
our backs on the sea, and face westward and upwards 
to the mountains. 


Chap. I., p. 5. — To these writers of travel-books dealing with the 
Abruzzi may be added Gregorovius, who wrote of the 
country, in general terms, in his Wandcrjahtr, vol. 4, and 
Hare, Cities of S. Italy. Native guide-books hardly 
exist, though Abbate'S Giiida al Gran Sasso is indispen- 
sable to climbers. 
P. 24. — Signor Nitti states the case for the South in his 
Nord e Sjid, 1900. 

Chap. II,, pp. 26 d seq. — In addition to the usual authorities on 
Roman history, Cramer's Description of Ancient Italy, 
1826, will be found useful for the early history of the 
province. The special historian of the Abruzzi is 
Antinori, Raccolta di Memorie isto7-icJie delle tre 
provincie degli Abruzzi, 1781-83. For the history of the 
Kingdom of Naples there are Giannone and Colletta, 
likewise the volumes of the Societa Napoletana di Storia 
P. 38. — Very little of the material for the history of the Abruzzi 
in the Risorgimento is available for English readers ; but 
the following books may be mentioned : Castagna, La 
Sollevazione d'Abruzzo neW anno 1814 (1884); General 
Pepe's Memoirs, 1846; and Constantini, Azione e 
Reazione, 1902. Details concerning the censorship are 
to be found in Marc-Monnier'S U Italic^ est-clle la terre 
des marts ? 1 860. 

Chap. III. — For brigandage, see Marc-Monnier, Histoire du 
Brigandage dans V Italic Mdridionale, 1862; also the 
anonymous Notice Historiqne sjir Charles-Antoine, Comte 
Manhcs. I have found Co^'i>i:K'^'T\'^\^'S> Azione c Reazione 
of special service. 



Chap. IV., pp.74 ^/i-^^. — See Notes to Chap. XI. for Pope Celestine 
and Rienzi. San Bernardino's wanderings in the province 
are described in his Hfe by Thureau-Dangin, also his 
relations with St. John of Capestrano. For the latter 
consult the A.SS. and Wadding. All my information 
about Don Oreste comes from De Nino's // Messia delP 
Abruzso^ 1890. 
P. 86. — Representations. See T. Bruni, Feste Religiose nella 
provificia di Chieti, 1907. 

Chap. V. — The principal authorities for the folk-lore of the Abruzzi 
are G. Finaimore, Tradizioni Popolari Abrnzzcsi,^)^^^^-, 
1882-86, and A. De Nino, Usie Costumi Abnizzesi, 6 vols., 

Chap. VI. — The various arts and crafts of the province have been 
described exhaustively by V. Bindi, Momimenti storici 
ed artistici degli Abruzzi, 2 vols., 1889. See also Schulz, 
Kiinst des Mittelalters in Unteritalien, and Perkins, 
Italian Sculptors, 1868. 

Chap. VII. — For folk-songs, see Finamore, Melodic popolari 
Abruzzesi J E. LEVI, Fiorita di Canti Tradizionali, 1895 ; 
and Canti popolari delle Provincie Meridionali. Ed. 
Casetti and Imbriani. 

Chap. VI 1 1. — There is a good guide to Tagliacozzo and the 
neighbourhood by G. Gattinara. 
Pp. 167 et seq. — For Conradin, consult Rauimer'S and 
Schirrmacher's works on the Hohenstaufen. 

Chap. IX. — The historians of the Marsica are Febonio (Phebonius 
Mutius), Historice Marsortcni, 1678, and Corsignani, 
Reggia Marsica, 1738. 
Pp. 187 ct seq. — For Albe, see C. Promis, Lc Antichita di 
Alba Fucense J and for S. Maria in Valle, Bindi, op. cit. 

Chap. XL, p. 224. — For Pope Celestine, consult Celestino V. ed il 

VI. centenario delta sua incoronazione. Aquila, 1894. 
P. 228. — Papencordt, Cola di Rienzo e il suo tempo (Ital. 

transl., 1844), tells of the tribune's sojourn in the Abruzzi. 
P. 231. — For the legends of Ovid, see De Nino and Finamore, 

op. cit.; also De Nino, Ovidio nella Trad. Pop. di 

Stcbnona, 1886. 


Chap. XII. — There is a small guide to the whole valley by 


Chap. XIII. — G. Liberatore'S Ragionamcnto sul Piano Cinque 
7iiglia deals also, cursorily, with the surrounding district. 

Chap. XIV.— For S. Clemente di Casauria, see Bindi, op. cit., 
and SCHULZ, op. cit.; also JaCKSON'S Shores of the 
Adriatic, 1906. 


Abdate, E., 296 

Abruzzesi, characteristics of the, 5, 

6, 7, 8, 46, 47, 48, 163, 186, 289, 

Abruzzi, tlie : agriculture, 6, 18, 
164, 165, 175; art, 4, 116-121 ; 
Church in, 37 ; climate, 4, 24 ; 
education, 24 ; frontiers, 29, 39, 
50, 53, 64, 161 ; as health resort, 

7, 9 ; history of, 26-43 » industry, 
prospects of, 6, 7, 11 ; as the La 
Vendee of New Italy, 38, 43 ; 
picturesqueness, 4 ; poverty, 24 ; 
railways, 2, 267 ; religion, 6, 
70-94 ; in the Risorgiviento, 38- 
43. 63-65, 68, 69 ; rivers, 10 ; 
roads, 2 ; secret societies, 60 ; 
shepherds, 6, n-17 ; situation 
and topography, i, 2, 10 ; as 
tourist ground, 3 ; travellers in, 
5 ; women, 9, 20-22 

Abruzzo, origin of name, 27 
Abruzzo, Citeriore, 10 
Abruzzo, Ulteriore Primo, 10 
Abruzzo, Ulteriore Secondo, 10 
Acclozamora, Bertrando, 262 
Acclozamora, Leonello, 200, 201, 

Acquaviva, Count, 51 
Acta Sa?ictoru>n, 256, 297 
Adriatic, 2, 10, 12, 18, 28, 30, 87, 

103, 104, 122, 123, 143, 278, 282, 

283, 284, 285, 290, 291, 293,294, 

/Eneas, 217 
/Eneas Sylvius, 79 
yEneid, 181 
/Equi, the, 27, 29, 188 
/Equiculi, the, 29, 35 
^sernia. See Isernia 
Agrippina, Empress, 176, 177, 178 

Alardo, See De Valery, Erard 
Albe, also Alba Fucensis or 

Fucentia, 29, 32, 33, 116, 144, 

164, 169, 170, 173, 177, 185, 186, 

Aldobrandini, 51, 52 
Aleardi, 19, 172 
Alento, 98 

Alexander VII., Pope, 130 
Alexander of Macedonia, 189 
Alfedena, 130 
Alfonso of Aragon, King, 12, 178, 

Alva, Duke of, 22, 287 
America, 6, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 129, 

193, 209 
Americani, 20, 23, 252 
Amiterno, 35 
Ancona, 83 
Andrea of San Spirito, Brother, 75, 

Andrea dell' Aquila, 117, 118 
Andrea di Sulmona, 218 
Angelo of San Spirito, Brother, 75, 

229, 230 
Angevins, 37, 1S9, 202 
Angiolina, maga, 255 
Angitia, also Angizia, 96, 181, 183, 

232, 262 
Annibaldi, the, 168 
Antinori, A. L., 170 
Antioch, 73 

Antonelli, bandit, 54, 55 
Antonelli, Cardinal, 64 
Antrodoco, 67, 78 
Antrosano, 164, 169 
Anversa, 117, 240, 254, 260-264 
Apennines, 3, 10, 12, 27, 194, 282 
Apollo, 180 ; temple of, 98, 219 
Aprutium, 27 
Apulia, 12, 13, 17, 47, 227 




Apulian shepherds, 12, 13 

Aquila, 2, 10, 27, 36, 39, 40, 62, 

68, 75. 76, 78, 79. 102, 116, 117, 

"8, 155, 157, 170, 202, 203, 

208, 209, 212, 216, 217, 227, 228, 

Aquila, province of (Ulteriore II.), 

Ara Cceli, 79 

Aragonese dynasty, the, 37, 189, 202 
Archippe, 180 
Archippus, 181 
Architecture, I16-118, 221, 278- 

Arezzo, Cardinal, 203 
Ariosto, 51, 127, 130 
Arlotti, Giovanni, 168 
Art, 4, I16-121, 218, 269, 270 
Ascanio de' Mari, 162-164 
Ascolani, 32 

Ascoli Piceno, 27, 31, 34, 26S 
Asia Minor, 32 
Aspromonte, 65 
Assisi, 92, 93, 253 
Astura, 172 
Aterno, 2S7 
Aterno, River, 10, 169, 215, 239, 

Atria, 29, 32 
Atria Veneta, 30 
Atri Piceno, 117 
Augustus, 177, 185 
Aurillac, 55, 57 
Australia, 23 
Austrians, 36, 39, 40 
Avezzano, 62, 99, 156, 157, 159, 

160, 175, 176, 179, 184-187, 193, 

198, 199 

Bagnidura, 230 
Barbato, Marco, 221 
Barbato, goldsmith, 21S 
Barberini, the, 149, 150 
Bari, 67, 92, 93 
Barletta, 52 
Barrea, 16, 67, 104 
Basilicata, the, 158 
Basso-Tomeo, 54, 55 
Batistello, 52 
Beaulieu, 164 
Belgrade, So 
Belprati, the, 260, 261 
Benedict XIII., Pope, 80 

Benevento, 168, 234 

Berardi, Count, 53 

Berardus, Count, 149, 195 

Berenson, B., 4 

Bergia, Chiaffredo, 66, 67, 68 

Bindi, V., 116, 119, 297, 298 

Bisaccio, 129 

Bisignano, 183 

Bituitus, King, 189 

Bomba. See Ferdinand II., of Two 

Bonaparte, Joseph, 40, 54 
Boniface VIII., Pope, 74, 227, 228 
Borgia, Caesar, 128 
Borjes, Jose, 65, 158-160 
Bourbon dynasty, the, 24, 37, 38, 

40, 41, 82, 133, 155, 156, 158, 

159, 277 
Bourbons, as patrons of brigands, 

47. 54, 57, 58, 6j, 64 
Bovadilla, the, 202, 203 
Bovianum, 34 
Bracceschi, the, 287 
Braccio da Montone, 46, 218, 265 
Brienne, Jean de, 218 
Brigandage, 43, 44-69, 161, 209 
Brigands, 40, 132, 133, 273 
Brindisi, 189, 236, 290 
Bruni, Dr., 16 
Bruni, T., 86, 87 
Brussels, 43 
Bucchianico, 98 
Byron, Lord, 38, 140 

C^SAR Augustus, 234 

Caesar, C, Julius, 176, 178, 189, 

Cffisar, L. Julius, 32, 33 
Calabria, 56, 158, 169, 200 
Calabria, Duke of, 87 
Calabrians, 46, 57 
Calaturo, 57 
Calderai, the, 132 
Caldora, the, 46, 218, 265, 266 
Caldora, Jacopo, 265 
Calvin, 42 
Cammorra, 60, 68 
Campagna, the, I, 13, 19, 50, 172 
Campania, 33 
Campi Palenlini, 122, 144, 166, 167, 

Campobasso, province of. See 




Campo di Giove, 45, 267 

Candia, 52 

Cannone, 65 

Cantelmi, the, 46, 218, 266, 273, 

Cantelmi, Jacopo, i6g, 170 
Canzano Peligno, 102, 219 
Capestrano, 67, 75 
Capestrano, John of. See S, John 

Capistrello, 176, 179 
Capitanata, 14, 50 
Caponeschi, Count Lalli, 118 
Caponeschi, Maria, iiS 
Cappadocia, 165, 166 
Cappelle-Magliano, 152, 156, 159, 

170, 193 
Cappelle-Monte Silvano, Si, 82, 

83. 85 
Cappucini, the, 83 
Capua, 156 

Carabinieri, the, 25, 44, 66, 67, 68 
Caramanico, 63, 64 
Carbonari, the, 38, 39, 40, 132, 


Carbone, 53 

Carducci, G., 263 

Carlo di Durazzo, 218 

Caroline, Queen, 41 

Carsioli, 29, 32, 144, 147 

Carsoli, 29, 144, 156, 169 

Casalbordino, 86 

Casauria, San Clemente di, 117, 

Casetti, A., 297 
Castagna, N., 296 
Castel di Sangro, 2, 6t„ 69, 266, 

267, 275, 276, 277 
Castellamare Adriatico, 9, 84, 283, 

284, 285, 290 
Castelli, 120 
Castel Saracinesco, 172 
Castrovalve, 240, 259, 260 
Catalonia, 158 
Catanzano, 103 
Catanzaro, 58 
Catena, Domenica, 292 
Cato, L. Portias, 34 
Catullus, 232 
Caudine Forks, the, 28 
Cavour, 82, 
Celano, 36, 71, 72, 149, 175, 199- 

208, 262 

Celano, Giovanna di, 201, 202 
Celano, Rugerotto di, 201, 202 
Celano, B. Thomas of, 71, 72, 

148, 149, 205 
Celano, Lake of. See Fucino 
Celestine, Pope. See S. Peter 

Celestine Order, 226 
Cellini, Benvenuto, 162, 163 
Censorship in Abruzzi, 42, 43 
Ceres, 90 
Cese, 164, 174 
Cesenatico, 50 
Charlemagne, 149, 277 
Charles IV., Emperor, 75, 229, 

Charles V., Emperor, 273, 287 
Charles of Anjou, 36, 37, 117, 152, 
168-173, 1S8, 194,212,218,227, 
Charles of Bourbon, 12 
Charles VIII. of France, 150 
Charles II. of England, 266 
Charms, 73, loi 
Chiarini, G., 288 

Chieti, 10, 39, 41, 43, 49, 54, 55, 

57, 66, 67, 82, 84, 98, 116, 117, 

118, 120, 121, 140, 141, 144, 156, 

282, 283 

Chieti, province of (Ab. Citeriore), 

54, S6 
Chronico7i Casauriejise, 282 

Churches, 118, 119, 204 

Ciarallo, Don P., 183 

Cicolano, 29, 35 

Ciprio, 236 

Circe, 96, 181 

Cistercians, 173 

Cittaducale, 67, 78 

Civita di Penna, 61 

Civita di Roveto, 62 

Civitella del Tronto, 21, 62 

Claudian Emissary, 176 

Claudius, Emperor, 176, 177, 178 

Clement IV., Pope, 168, 171 

Clement VI., 229, 230 

Clement VIII., 51 

Chternia, 177, 200 

CocuUo, 91, 183, 256 

Colafello, 64 

Colamarino, 67 

CoUemaggio, Badia of, 117, 227, 



Colletta, P., 55, 296 

Colonna, the, 46, 149, 150, 154, 167, 

180, 185, 188, 201, 218 
Colonna, Marc Antonio, 150, 185 
Colonna, Vittoria, 287 
Conca, Prince of, 129 
Conrad of Swabia, 16S 
Conradin, 36, 37, 152, 164, 16S- 

172, 194, 212, 218 
Constantini, B., 296 
Constantinople, 73, 80 
Corfinium, 32, 34, 35, 143, 144, 

217,219, 235, 236, 278 
Corsignani, P. A., 173, 297 
Cosenza, Enrico da, 169, 170 
Costume, 222, 223, 243, 244 
Courier, Paul-Louis, 52, 53 
Cramer, J. A., 296 
Craven, Hon. Keppel, 5, 14, 186, 

191, 280, 290 
Cristina, Apostoless, 85 
Crivelli, C, 268 

Crocco, Donatello, 159, 160, 161 
Croce di Tola, 67, 69 
Cybele, 85, 180, 181 
Cyril of Alexandria, 229 

Da Monte, 50 

D'Annunzio, Gabriele, 86, 121, 

141, 142, 183, 262, 276, 2S0- 

282, 288-290 
Dante, 74, 135, 138, 140, 170 
De Amicis, Oresle, 81-S5 
De Amicis, Rosalia, 82 
De Angelerii, P. See S. Peter 

De Cesari, 52 
Delfico, Melchiorc, 39 
Del Fusco, the, 262 
Del Guzzo, 67, 69 
Delia Robbia, the, 164 
Delle Guardia, the, 131 
Demons, 96-99, 139 
De Nino, A., 17, 85, 262, 263, 297 
De Valery, Erard, 170 
Diana Trivia, 99, 116 
Di Capua, the, 261, 262 
Dies IrcE, 72 
Di Grue, the, 120 
Di Meo, 218 
Diodorus Siculus, 189 
Di Salle, Roberto, 226 
Dolcino, Era, 84 

Donatello, 117 
Drusus, 31 
Dumas, Alex., 180 
Duncan of Scotland, 266 

Earthquakes, 73, 74, nS, 200, 

Elba, 157 
Embroidery, 120 
Etruria, 31, 34, 182 
Etruscans, 28 
Eustace, J. C, 5 
Evocation of the Dead, 104, 105 
Exiles, Abruzzesi, 135, 136 

Febonio, Muzio, 1S2, 185, 195, 

Feltro, 51 

Ferdinand the Catholic, 37 
Ferdinand II. of Aragon, 87 
Ferdinand I. of Two Sicilies, 13, 

4i> 134 
Ferdinand II. of Two Sicilies, 40, 
^ 42, 57, 82 
Ferrara, 51, 260 
Festivals, religious, S6-91 
Finamore, G., 96, 97, 113, 122, 

232, 297 
Fiorentini, Remigio, 222 
Flogy, General, 81 
Florence, 50, 135 
Foce di Caruso, 72 
Foce del Sinello, 87 
Foggia, 12, 13, 61, 169, 246, 252 
Foligno, 256 

Folk-legends, 92, 105-115, 232-235 
Folk-songs, 77, 122-127 
Fontecchio, 67 
Foscolo, Ugo, 81 
Fossasecca, 54, 55 
Fra Diavolo, 52 

Francavilla, 86, 88, 283, 290-295 
Francis II., 42, 62, 63, 64, 156, 

Franciscans, 41, 52, 71, 76, Si 
Fran9ois I., 163 
Frangipani, G., 172 
Franks, 36 

Fraticelli, 80, 228, 230 
Frattura, 103, 255 
Frederic of Aragon, 37, 128 



Frederic II., Emperor, 36, 149, 
168, 178, 200, 212, 218, 248 

Frederic Duke of Austria, 168, 
170, 171, 172 

French in the Abruzzi, 21, 22, 36, 

37, 38, 52, 53. 55, 58, 132, 155, 
234, 291 

French Revolution, 38, 40, 130 

Frentani, the, 27, 28, 31, 2S7 

Frere, John Hookham, 134 

Fucine territory, 34,62, 149, 175 

Fucino, Lake, 10, l8, 27, 29, 34, 

71, 164, 175-180, 181, 182, 185, 

18S, 192, 199, 200, 232 
Fumone, 228 

Gaeta, 62, 156, 158 

Gaetani, Cardinal. See Boniface 

Gallinaro, 253 
Gallucci, Niccolo, 119 
Garfagnana, the, 51 
Garibaldi, 65, 156 
Garibaldians, 47, 61, 65 
Gattinara, G., 297 
Geofgics, 6 

Gesta Romanorum, 255 
Ghibellines, 168, 169, 171 
Giacomo da Sulmona, 118 
Giannone, P., 296 
Gilberto, Anti-Pope, 189 
Gioberti, V., 40 
Giorgi, G., 62, 65, 155-158 
Giovanna, Queen, 273 
Giovanna da Celano, 201, 202 
Gissi, 62, 67 
Gizio, River, 215, 216, 219, 239, 

266, 273, 278 
Goldsmiths, 119, 120, 162, 2i8 
Goriano Siculi, 144 
Goths, 36, 149, 188 
Gracchus, Caius, 31 
Grand Companies, the, 46 
Gran Sasso, 3, 10, 27, 117, 194, 

212, 214, 216, 282, 284, 291 
Greece, 32, 182 
Greeks, 28 
Gregorovius, F., 296 
Gregory IX., 71, 72 
Gregory X., 226 
Guardiagrele, 1 19, 289 
Guelfs, 200 
Guerino, Prete, 50 

Guilia-Nova, 52 
Guise, Duke of, 21 

Hadrian, Emperor, 29 

Hadrian III., Pope, 279 

Hannibal, 30, 188, 217 

Hare, A. J., 296 

Heliogabalus, 181 

Henri II., 164 

Hermitages and hermits, 93, 94, 

99. 153. 154, 256-258 
Hernican Mis., 10 
Herdides, 222 
Hoare, Sir R. C, 5 
Hohenstaufen, the, 297 
Holy Ghost, heresy of, 74, 82, 83, 

85, 230 
Hugo, Victor, 140, 160 
Hunyadi, Janos, 80 
Hussites, 80 

II Piacere, 289 

// Trionfo della Morte, 86, 280, 

Imbriani, V., 297 
Imele, River, 166, 167 
Improvisatori, 128- 1 42 
Innkeepers, 206, 207, 268 
Introdacqua, 104, 222, 223, 235 
Invaders, 46, 47, 133 
Italians, ancient, 26-34 
Italica, 32, 33, 34 
Italy, North, 23, 24, 38 
Italy, South, 23, 24, 38, 60, loi, 

120, 128, 142, 154 
Italy, Young, 6, 122, 164 

Jackson, F, II., 298 

James of the Marches, 79 

James Francis, 119 

Janus, 185 

Joachim da Floris, 74, 229 

John of Austria, Don, 87 

Judacilius, 34 

Jugurtha, 33 

Julian, Emperor, 236 

Juvanum, 97 

La Cittb. Morta^ 262 
Ladislas, King, 75, 164 



La Fiaccolo sotto il Moggio, 141, 

142, 183, 262 
La Figlia di Jorio (picture), 121 
La Figlia di Jorio (play), 121, 141, 

289, 290 
La Grance, General, 156 
Lanciano, 10, 53, 54, 55, 57, 98 
L'Anglois, 159, 160 
Lannoy, 21S 
La Plaja, 104 
Latins, 27, 28 
Laiidi, 289 
Lear, Edward, 5 
Leo, Emperor, 167 
Leo, Minorite, 72 
Leonardo da Vinci, 281 
Leonato, Abbot, 279, 281 
Leonessa, 16 
Leopardi, G., 81, 82 
Lepanto, Battle of, 87, 150 
Le Vergine delle Roccie, 289 
Levi, E., 297 
Lewis II. , Emperor, 279 
Liberatore, G., 298 
Liris, River, 28, 62, 66, 166, 176, 

177, 185, 203 
Liscio, 62 

Lombards, 36, 149, 200, 218, 2S7 
Loreto, 52, 92, 93, 253 
Louis d'Anjou, 218 
Loyola, Ignatius, 42, 130 
Luco, 99, 181, 183, 232, 262 
Luparelli, 62 
Lupus, Rutilius, 32, 33 
Lyons, 226 

Macchia Carasale, 67 
Madonna deir Oriente, 9, 153, 167, 

Magic, iSi 

Magliano, 156, 193, 194 
Majella. Sec Monte Majella 
Malta, 134, 200 
Mammone, 52 
Manfred, 168 
Manhes, General, 55-57 
Manso, Marchese, 51, 129 
Mantua, 232 
Marches, the, 10, 27, 52 
Marc-Monnier, 296 
Maremma, the, 19 
Margaret of Austria, 292 
Margherita, Queen, 205 

Maria Sofia, Queen, 64 

Marius, 33, 34, 217 

Mark Antony, 189 

Marmore, River, 166 

Marrucini, the, 27, 33, 34, 282 

Marruvium, 180 

Mars, 26, 27 

Marsi, the, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 

34, 35, 150, 176, 180, 181-183, 

188, 190 
Marsi, Counts of the, 200, 277 
Marsian enchanters, 85, 181, 256 
Marsica, the, 4, 12, 35, 61, 62, 65, 

127, 146, 148, 149, 155, 160, 

164, 172, 184-198, 199, 202, 232 
Marsica, Bishop of, 205 
Marsus, 181 
Marsyas, 180, 181 
Martin, V., Pope, 201 
Masaniello, 200 
Masio, 218 
Matese range, 26, 59 
Mazarin, Cardinal, 180 
Mazella, 18 1 
Mazzini, G., 40, 61, 155 
Merlin, 229 
Merlin, General, 54 
Messiah of the Abruzzi, the. See 

De Amicis, O. 
Michetti, F. P., 120, 121, 141, 2S9, 

Milan, 7, 128 
Mithridatic War, 34 
Mola di Gaeta, 51 
Molise, 10, 26, 49, 59, 224, 265, 

Monte Arunzo, 166 

Bove, 164 

■ Capo-Cancelli, 10 

■ Caruso, 144 

Cassino, 195, 226 

• Corno, 10, 98, 212, 266, 274, 

289. See also Gran Sasso 

Felice, 169 

Gargano, 12 

Genzano, 215 

Godi, 239, 246 

Grande, 27, 215, 246 

Majella, 2, 4, 10, 11, 27, 64, 

70, 74, 75, 95, 96, 97, 104, 194, 
215, 224, 226, 228, 229, 230, 261, 
265, 267, 282, 284, 286, 2S9, 290, 



Monte Mario, 168 

Midia, 154, 165 

Morrone, 10, 74, 98, 99, 215, 

216, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 228j 

230, 233, 234, 235, 265 

d'Ocre, 212 

Palena, 224 

Pallotieri, 67 

Penna, 182 

Pizzalto, 98 

Porraro, 98 

Portella, 262 

Pratella, 253, 267 

Puzzello, 212 

Salviano, 99, 176 

Sirente, 164, 20S, 212, 215 

Velino, i, 4, 164, 185, 187, 

190, 194, 212 
Montefeltro, Guido da, 169 
Montenerodomo, 97 
Monteodorisio, 62 
Montereale, 272 
Moreschi, P,, 66, 69 
Moscufo, S. Maria in, 117 
Murat, Joachim, 16, 40, 54, 55, 

Musolino, 44 

Mutilus, Q. JPapius, 32, 33 
Mysticism, 135, 137, 138, 139 

Naples, 8, 37, 39, 51, 60, 83, 102, 
131, 132, 133, 134, 139, 141, 150, 
172, 211, 218, 227, 262, 267, 268 

Naples, kingdom of, 37, 52, 53, 55, 
78, 81, 161, 168, 183 

Napoleon I., 39, 234 

Narcissus, engineer, 176, 17S 

Nera, River, 176 

Niccol6 Pisano, 117, 173 

Nicholas V., Pope, 79 

Nicodemus, sculptor, 196, 197 

Nicolo, architect, 196 

Ninco-Nanco, 161 

Nitti, F. S., 24, 296 

Nolli, Baron, 54 

Novelle della Fescara, 288 

Nucera, 33 


Odi Navali, 289 
Orange, Prince of, 273 

Orsini, the, 46, 149, 150, 154, 164, 

Orsini, Gentile, 185 
Orsini, Giovanni, 229 
Orsini, Jacopo Napoleone, 150, 168 
Orsini, Roberto, 150 
Orsini, Virginio, 50, 150 
Orta, 130 
Ortona, ii, 53, 88, 117, 284, 290, 

Ortucchio, 176 
Oscans, 26 
Otranto, %^ 

Otto IV., Emperor, 149 
Ovid, 35, 99, 181, 217, 221, 231- 

Ovindoli, 72, 146, 169, 170, 203, 

Oxyntas, 33 

Pace, Count, 191 

Pacentro, 222, 265, 266 

Paesana, 66 

Paganism, 71, 95- 1 04, 1 84 

Painters, 120, 121 

Palena, 73 

Palestrina, 150 

Paliano, 241 

Palombieri, 67 

Papal States, 36, 51, 64, 68, 159, 

Parente, Romualdo, 254 
Parthenopeian Republic, 40 
Pasquale II., Pope, 189 
Patriot priests and friars, 41 
Pavia, Battle of, 218 
Peasants, 18-20 
Pedacciata, 55 
Pediciano, 67 
Pelasgi, 188 
Peligni, the, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 

35. 70, 217, 235 
Pelignian Vale, 215, 232, 239, 260, 

Penne, 10, 40, 82 
Penne (Marsica), 180 
Pentima, 32, 35, 144, 219, 235 
Pepe, General, 39, 40, 296 
Pepin II., 149 
Pereira, Maria, 118 
Peretti, the, 202 
Perkins, C. €., 297 




Perseus of Macedonia, 189 

Perugia, 75, 227 

Pescara, 2, 10, il, 42, 98, 141, 143, 

144, 250, 278, 283, 284, 286-288, 

289, 290 
Pescara, River, 10, 27, 278, 279, 

282, 283, 284, 285-287, 291 
Pescara, Marchese di, 287 
Pescina, 180 
Pescocostanzo, 98, 103, 117, 124, 

Peter of Morrone. See S. Peler 

Petrarch, 221, 230 
Pettorano, 17, 67, 73, 215, 216, 

219, 222, 223, 260, 266, 267, 271, 

.273. 274 
Pia, Princess, 274 
Pialy Bassa, 87, 292 
Piano di Cinquemiglia, 94, 122, 

159, 252, 260, 266, 271-274, 27s, 

Piano di Leone, 69, 267 
Pica, Giuseppe, 68 
Pica Law, The, 68 
Piccinino, Condottiere, 46, 202, 

Piccione, 62 
Piccolomini, the, 202 
Piccolomini, Alfonso, 50 
Piceni, 27, 28, 32 
Picenum, 33, 34 
Picerone, Don P., 41 
Piediluco, 78 
Piedmontese, 64, 154 
Pierces, the, 136, 138 
Pietrocola-Rossetti, T., 136, 140 
Pilgrimages, 9, 86, 92, 93, 167, 

.253,. 258, 259, 280, 281 
Pinelli, General, 62 
Pisa, 168, 169, 171 
Pius v., 87 
Pius IX., 82, 140 
Plebiscite, the, 63 
Poerio, C., 38 
Poggio Filippo, 164 
Poiidori, the, 138 
Pompey, 217 
Pontine Marshes, 18 
Popoli, 39, 73, 215, 239, 266, 278, 

Porcaneta, Valley of, 1 93, 197 
Potters, 120 

Prague, 75, 229 

Prato, 288 

Pratola Peligna, 35, 63, 266 

Pre-Raphaelite movement, the, 138 

Pretutii, the, 27 

Promis, C., 297 

Proni, 52 

Provence, 266 

Punic War, the, 30 

Punta della Penna, 87, 291 

QuAGLiA, La, 238 
Quici, Fulvio, 54 
Quintini, 157 

Rajano, 9, 20, 216, 237 
Rapagnetto, Gaetano. See D'An- 

Raumer, F. L., 297 
Ravenna, 167 
Religion, 71-94, 184 
Rene d'Anjou, 265 
Representations, 82, 86-89 
Rienzi, Cola di, 75, 228-230 
Rienzi, Sulpicio di. Si 
Rieti, 40, 78, 198 
Ripattone, 49 
Risorgimento, the, 38, 43, 139, 

Rivisondoli, 268, 271 

Roccacasale, 5, 230, 231 

Roccacinquemiglia, 69, 73, 275, 

Rocca di Cambio, 67, 212 

di Corno, 45 

di Mezzo, 8, 67, 146, 170, 207, 

210-214, 267 
Morice, 226 

Roccapia, 73, 104, 222, 260, 272, 

273. 274 
Roccaraso, 7, 67, 69, 141, 146, 252, 

266, 267, 268, 275 
Roman remains, 1 16, 19 1 
Rome, Ancient, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 

33. 34, 35, 143. 144 
Rome, City, i, 2, 3, 8, 10, 26, 27, 

45, 46, 50, 64, 72, 75, 76, 79, 82, 
116, 120, 12S, 144, 148, 154, 157, 
15S, 160, 165, 168, 169, 171, 172, 
177, 179, 190, 205, 224, 228, 229, 
233, 2S9, 292 

Rosciolo, 193, 194, 195 

Rosmini, Antonio, 81 



Rossetti, Andrea, 131, 133 ; An- 
tonio, 131, 132 ; Christina, 139 ; 
Dante Gabriel, 135, 136, 137- 
139; Domenico, 131; Gabriele, 
38, 81, 130-136 ; Maria Fran- 
cesca, the elder, 131 ; the 
younger, 136, 139; Nicola, 
131, 132, 133 ; Vincenzo, 135 ; 
William Michael, 132, 135, 136, 

Rovere, 203, 210 

RufFolone, 44 

Rugerotto of Celano, 201 

Rulli, 135 

Sabellians, the, 28 

Sabine Mts., the, 10, 35, 150 

Sabines, the, 26 

Sagittario, River, 215, 239, 240, 

259, 261 
Sagittario, Focidi, 239, 262, 264 
Sagittario, Valley of, 6, 67, 146, 

Saints, legends of, 92, 95 
S. Augustine, 82, 182 
S. Bernardino of Siena, 76, 77-79, 

80, 191, 244 
S. Buono, 67 
S. Catherine of Siena, 92 
S. Clement, Martyr, 279 
S. Dominic, 229 
S. Dominic of Cocullo, 91, 93, 121, 

183, 256-259 
S. Francis, 71, 72, 148, 191, 205, 

206, 229 
S. Franco, 292 
S. Gerardo, 253 
S. John of Capestrano, 75-80 
S. Panfilo, 219, 220, 232 
S. Peter, 92 
S. Peter Celestine, 74, 75, 82, 99, 

218, 223, 224-228, 234, 235 
S. Thomas, Apostle, 292 

^Flace-7iames — 
S. Benedetto, 180 
S. Domenico, Lago di, 259 
S. Lucia, 234 

S. Maria in Valle, 117, 193-198 
S. Maria della Vittoria, 117, 173, 

174, 188 
S. Onofrio, 74, 99, 224, 226, 227 
S. Pellino, 220, 236, 237 
S. Peter's, Rome, 79, 85, 154 

S. Petito, 203, 208 

S. Sebastiano, 164, 166, 167 

S. Silvestro, 78 

S. Spirito di Majella, 15, 74, 75, 

82, 224-226, 228-230 
S. Spirito di Morronc, 74,219, 223, 

226, 227, 234, 235 
S. Stefano in Riva, 87. 88 
S. Valentino, 144 
S. Vito, 289 

Miscella?!eons — 
S. Damian and the Dove, Reform 

of, 74, 224 
S. Eustachio, Count of, 16S 
S. Giacomo, Viaggio di, 263 
S. John's Day celebrations, 103, 

221, 294, 295 
Salerno, 49 
Sallust, 35 
Salto, River, 166, 169, 170, 173, 

Saluzzo, 66 
Samnites, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 

32, 33, 34 
Samnite War, 28, 29, 30, 35, 147, 

Samnium, 29, 34 

Sangro, Conti di, 46, 260, 262, 266 
Sangro, River, 224, 267, 276 
San Fantaleone, 86, 288 
Santacasa, Carmine, 192, 193 
Santariga, A., 153 
Sante Marie, 159 
Saracens, 86-89, I49> 1S8, 236, 

248, 279, 292 
Savelli, the, 202 
Savoy rule, 48, 63 
Scanno, 18, 66, 69, 77-91, 103, 

122, 124, 125, 239, 240-253, 268, 

Scanno, Lago di, 10, 253, 254, 255 
Scanzano, 149 
Scacchi, 298 
Scato, P. Vettius, 33 
Schirrmacher, F. W., 297 
Schulz, H. W., 297 
Sciarra Marco, 48-52 
Sculpture, 117, 118 
Scurcola, 144, 146, 156, 157, 159, 

164, 167, 169, 173, 174 
Secret Societies, 60 
Segharelli, 84 
Selim 11. , 292 

X 2 



Serafino Aquilano, 128 

Serpent-charming, 91, 1 81-183, 258 

Servilius, Gaius, 31 

Settembrini, Luigi, 130, 137 

Sforza, Condottiere, 46, 286, 287 

Sforza, Francesco, 287 

Sheep-dogs, 17, 18 

Shepherds, 6, 11-16, 47, 50, 212 

Shepherd-poets, 16, 17 

Sicily, 44, 56, 60, 168, 169, 200 

Siena, 78, 168 

Silius Italicus, 33 

Silla, 217 

Silo, Q. Pompidius, 31, 32, 33, 34 

Silvestro Aquilano, 79, 1 18 

Smargiasse, G., 135 

Social War, 31-34, 180 

Solerti, A., 51 

Solymus, 217 

Songs, brigands', 63 ; folk, lOl, 

122-127; patriotic, 81, 131 
Sora, 23 
Sorrento, 260 
Speculum Perfectionis , 72 
Spinelli, Carlo, 49 
Spirituals, 226, 228 
Stornelli, 122 
Strabo, 33, 34, 188 
Subiaco, 226 
Sulmona, 2, 8, 10, 20, 32, 35, 73, 

74. 75. 99. 103. 104, 118, 141, 

194, 215-223, 239, 240, 261, 266, 

267, 271, 274, 282 
Sulmona, Valley of, iS, 35, 63, 122, 

215, 223-238, 260, 276 
Sulpicius Servius, 33, 34 
Swabians, 36, 169 
Swinburne, Henry, 5 
Syphax, King, 189 

Tacitus, 177, 178 

Tagliacozzo, 5, 36, 39, 99, 144- 

166, 167, 169, 173, 185, 189 
Tagliacozzo, Battle of, 164, 167- 

171, 172, 266 
Talaini, 89-91 
Tallarico, G., 57 
Tamburrini, 66, 69 
Tarantum, 29 
Tasso, Torquato, 16, 51, 127, 129, 

130, 260, 261 
Tasso, River, 239, 240, 249, 255 
Tavoli&re, the. Sec Apulian Plain 

Teramo, lo, 27, 49, 62 

Teramo, province of (Ulteriore I.), 

Terni, 2, 78, 167 
Terracina, 19 
Terra di Lavoro, 10, 23, 159, 169, 

253, 262 
Teverone, River, 176 
Theate (mod. Chieti), 34, 144, 

Thomas of Celano, B. See Celano 
Thureau-Dangin, P., 297 
Tiber, River, 169, 176, 177 
Tiberius Claudius, 143 
Tiburtines, 164 
Tivoli, 143, 144, 169 
Tocco, 120, 278 
Tocco, Duke of, 84 
Tollo, 86, 88 
Torlonia, Prince, 175, 179, 180, 

193, 201 
Torre de' Passeri, 278 
Trajan, 178, 279 
Trasimondo, Abbot, 279 
Trave, River, 132 
Travellers in Abruzzo, 5 
Treasure-hunting, 84, 97-99 
Tremiti, Isles, 87, 88 
Tricalle, the, 98, 116 
Trigno, River, 27, 55 
Turano, River, 33 
Turin, 39, 66 
Turks, 80, 86, 87-89, 287 
Tuscany, Grand-Duke of, 50 
Two Sicilies, kingdom of, 42, 57, 

Tyrrhenian Sea, 154 

Umbria, 10, 31, 78, 93 
Umbrians, 26 
Umbro, 181 
Urbino, 120 
Urbino, Duke of, 261 

Valentinian, Emperor, 236 

Valeria, 180 

Valerian Way, 143, 144, 147, 150, 

151, 157, 166, 169, 192, 287 
Valerius, Dictator, 143 
Valle Oscura. See Roccapia 

Siciliana, 120 

di Varri, 148 

• — - Verde, 201, 208 



Valva, 236 

Vandarelli, 61 

Vastese, the, 96, 123 

Vastesi, the, 57, 136 

Vasto, 10, II, 53, "57, 61, 67, 131, 

132, 133. 135. 136 
Vasto, Marchese del, 133 
Vehno, River, 176 
Venetian Republic, 50, 51 

Venti Settembre, 68 
Verona, 232 
Verrecchie, 166 

Ver sacrum, 26 

Vestini, the, 27, 28, 31, 33, 287 
Via Tiburtina, 143 
Victor Emmanuel I., 63, 82, 141, 274 
Viesti, 228 
ViUach, 80 

Villalago, 5, 93, 1S3, 239, 240, 255, 

Villamagna, 86, 88 

Virgil, 130, 181, 232 

Virgilii, Benedetto de', 16, 129, 130 

, Pasquale de', 140, 141 

Viterbo, 44 
Volscians, 27 

Wadding, Luke, 297 
Waldschmidt, W., 138 
Witches, 96, 100-102, 263 
Wolves, 18, 212, 213 
Women, 9, 20-22, 245-248 

Zelanti, 227 
Zilli, 57, 
Zilli, P., 62 
Zingaro, II, 120 
Zopinone, 62 



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