The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Saturday 5 November 1644

“Rome dans son Ancienne Splendeur”
Circa 17.. Artist unknown. Source: Bibliothèque municipale de Valenciennes

The next morning (for I was resolved to spend no time idly here) I got acquainted with several persons who had long lived at Rome. I was especially recommended to Father John, a Benedictine monk and Superior of his Order for the English College of Douay, a person of singular learning, religion, and humanity; also to Mr. Patrick Cary, an Abbot, brother to our learned Lord Falkland, a witty young priest, who afterward came over to our church; Dr. Bacon and Dr. Gibbs1,2 physicians who had dependence on Cardinal Caponi, the latter being an excellent poet; Father Courtney, the chief of the Jesuits in the English College; my Lord of Somerset, brother to the Marquis of Worcester3; and some others, from whom I received instructions how to behave in town, with directions to masters and books to take in search of the antiquities, churches, collections, etc.


  1. James Alban Gibbs, a Scotchman, bred at Oxford, and resident many years at Rome, where he died 1677, and was buried in the Pantheon there, with an epitaph to his memory under a marble bust. He was an extraordinary character. In Mood’s Athenæ is a long account of him, and some curious additional particulars will be found in Warton’s Life of Dr. Bathurst. He was a writer of Latin poetry, a small collection of which he published at Rome, with his portrait prefixed. —AD 

  2. John Evelyn apparently visited the hospital and orphanage at which Dr Gibbs was a physician; according to the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 21— GS 

  3. Thomas, third son of Edward fourth Earl of Worcester, made a Knight of the Bath by King James, and in 1626 created Viscount Somerset, of Cashel, in Ireland. He died in 1651. —AD 

Friday 4 November 1644

After a little riding, we descended toward the Lake of Bolsena, which being above twenty miles in circuit, yields from hence a most incomparable prospect. Near the middle of it are two small islands, in one of which is a convent of melancholy Capuchins, where those of the Farnesian family are interred. Pliny calls it Tarquiniensis Lacus, and talks of divers floating islands about it, but they did not appear to us. The lake is environed with mountains, at one of whose sides we passed toward the town Bolsena, anciently Volsinium, famous in those times, as is testified by divers rare sculptures in the court of St. Christiana’s church, the urn, altar, and jasper columns.

After seven miles’ riding, passing through a wood heretofore sacred to Juno, we came to Montefiascone, the head of the Falisci, a famous people in old time, and heretofore Falernum, as renowned for its excellent wine, as now for the story of the Dutch Bishop, who lies buried in St. Flavian’s church with this epitaph:

“Propter Est, Est, dominus meus mortuus est.” Latin: “Because of (IT) IS, my lordis dead.”.

“Chiesa di San Flaviano” by Henri Labrouste. 1800. Source: BnF.

Because, having ordered his servant to ride before, and inquire where the best wine was, and there write Est, the man found some so good that he wrote Est, Est, upon the vessels, and the Bishop drinking too much of it, died.1

“Une fontaine entourée d’une colonnade” [A fountain in Viterbo] by Henri Labrouste. 1825. Source: BnF

From Montefiascone, we travel a plain and pleasant champaign to Viterbo, which presents itself with much state afar off, in regard of her many lofty pinnacles and towers; neither does it deceive our expectation; for it is exceedingly beautified with public fountains, especially that at the entrance, which is all of brass and adorned with many rare figures, and salutes the passenger with a most agreeable object and refreshing waters. There are many Popes buried in this city, and in the palace is this odd inscription:

“Osiridis victoriam in Gigantes litteris historiographicis in hoc antiquissimo marmore inscriptam, ex Herculis olim, nunc Divi Laurentij Templo translatam, ad conversandam: vetustiss. patriæ monumenta atq’ decora hic locandum statuit S.P.Q.V.”

Under it:

“Sum Osiris Rex Jupiter universo in terrarum orbe.”
“Sum Osiris Rex qui ab Itala in Gigantes exercitus veni, vidi, et vici.”
“Sum Osiris Rex qu terrarum pacata Italiam decem a’nos quorum inventor fui.”


“Columna Osiriana” Photo by Brian Curran. From “Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited”
By Margaret M. Miles

Near the town is a sulphurous fountain, which continually boils.

After dinner we took horse by the new way of Capranica, and so passing near Mount Ciminus and the Lake2, we began to enter the plains of Rome; at which sight my thoughts were strangely elevated, but soon allayed by so violent a shower, which fell just as we were contemplating that proud Mistress of the world, and descending by the Vatican (for at that gate we entered), that before we got into the city I was wet to the skin.

I came to Rome on the 4th of November, 1644, about five at night; and being perplexed for a convenient lodging, wandered up and down on horseback, till at last one conducted us to Monsieur Petit’s, a Frenchman, near the Piazza Spagnola. Here I alighted, and, having bargained with my host for twenty crowns a month, I caused a good fire to be made in my chamber and went to bed, being so very wet.

  1. “The Muscat Wine of Montefiascone is called Est Est, from the following circumstance. John Defoucris, a German, was so fond of good Wine, that when he travelled he always sent his Valet forward a post in advance, with these instructions:—That he should taste the Wine at every place where he stopped, and write under the bush the word “Est,” if it was tolerable, and ” Est Esf if it was very good; but where he found it indifferent, he should leave the bush in statu quo. The bush is a bunch of evergreens, which is hung up over the entrance to a vineyard, or a house, to show that Wine is there sold, and gave rise to the maxim, “good Wine needs no bush;” as it was supposed judges would soon find where it was to be had good after once tasting, without a bush to remind them. Defoucris’s Valet arrived at Montefiascone, and approved so much of the Wine, that he wrote up as agreed, “Est Est.” His master soon followed, and got dead drunk to his entire satisfaction, but repeating the experiment too often, he drunk himself dead; and his Valet, a bit of a wag, wrote for him [the epitaph recorded by John Evelyn]. —The Literary Magnet of the Belles Lettres, Science, and the Fine Arts, Volume 1 edited by Tobias Merton, GS 

  2. Almost certainly Lake Vico —GS 

Thursday 3 November 1644

Next morning, we rode by Monte Pientio, or, as vulgarly called, Monte Mantumiato, which is of an excessive height 1 , ever and anon peeping above any clouds with its snowy head, till we had climbed to the inn at Radicofani2 built by Ferdinand, the great Duke, for the necessary refreshment of travelers in so inhospitable a place. As we ascended, we entered a very thick, solid, and dark body of clouds, looking like rocks at a little distance, which lasted near a mile in going up; they were dry misty vapors, hanging undissolved for a vast thickness, and obscuring both the sun and earth, so that we seemed to be in the sea rather than in the clouds, till, having pierced through it, we came into a most serene heaven, as if we had been above all human conversation, the mountain appearing more like a great island than joined to any other hills; for we could perceive nothing but a sea of thick clouds rolling under our feet like huge waves, every now and then suffering the top of some other mountain to peep through, which we could discover many miles off: and between some breaches of the clouds we could see landscapes and villages of the subjacent country. This was one of the most pleasant, new, and altogether surprising objects that I had ever beheld.3

Detail from ”Radicofani/Assisi, anno 1660” by Jan Janssonius. 1664. Source: BnF

On the summit of this horrid rock (for so it is) is built a very strong fort, garrisoned, and somewhat beneath it is a small town; the provisions are drawn up with ropes and engines, the precipice being otherwise inaccessible. At one end of the town lie heaps of rocks so strangely broken off from the ragged mountain, as would affright one with their horror and menacing postures. Just opposite to the inn gushed out a plentiful and most useful fountain which falls into a great trough of stone, bearing the Duke of Tuscany’s arms. Here we dined, and I with my black lead pen took the prospect.4 It is one of the utmost confines of the Etrurian State toward St. Peter’s Patrimony, since the gift of Matilda to Gregory VII., as is pretended.

“Prospetto della posta cavalli di Radicofani” – drawing of the front of the coach house where John Evelyn lodged in Radicofani. Author unknown. Source:


“Pianta del pian terreno’.  Plan of the ground floor of the Radicofani postal coach house and inn – where John Evelyn lodged. The fountain he described is shown opposite, marked 13. Source:

Here we pass a stone bridge, built by Pope Gregory XIV., and thence immediately to Acquapendente,5 a town situated on a very ragged rock, down which precipitates an entire river (which gives it the denomination6, with a most horrid roaring noise. We lay at the posthouse, on which is this inscription:

L’Insegna della Posta, é posta a posta.
In questa posta, fin che habbia à sua posta
Ogn’ un Cavallo a Vetturi in Posta.7

Before it was dark, we went to see the Monastery of the Franciscans, famous for six learned Popes, and sundry other great scholars, especially the renowned physician and anatomist, Fabricius de Acquapendente, who was bred and born there.8

“Aquapendente” by Georgius Houfnaglius. 1598. Source: BnF.

  1. At 1668m, It is the second highest mountain in Italy. GS 

  2. “A vile little town at the foot of an old citadel,” says Wapole, who visited it in July, 1740. It reminded him of Hamilton’s Bawn in Swift’s Grand Question Debated; and he gives a whimsical account of his borrowing the only pen in the place, which belonged to the Governor, and was sent to him “under the conduct of a serjeant and two Swiss” Toynbee’s Wapole’s Letters, 1903, i. p. 7. —AD  

  3. Evelyn’s Diary was not printed until long after Goldsmith’s death. But Goldsmith had evidently seen the same site in his own wanderings; and he remembered it when he came to write in ll. 189-92 of his Deserted Village

    As some tall cliff, that lifts its aweful form,
    Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
    Though round it’s breast the rolling clouds are spread,
    Eternal sunshine settles on it’s head.


  4. An etching of it, with others, is in the library at Wotton. —AD 

  5. Some twelve miles from the Great Duke’s inn, according to Lassels, i. p. 241 —AD 

  6. Acquapendente means “Hanging water” in Italian —GS 

  7. Interesting to note that John Gent recorded the same inscription during his visit in 1646. in “An itinerary contayning a voyage, made through Italy, in the yeare 1646, and 1647. Illustrated with divers figures of antiquities.” —GS 

  8. Jerome Fabricius, 1537—1619. —AD 

Wednesday 2 November 1644

We went from Siena, desirous of being present at the cavalcade of the new Pope, Innocent X.1, who had not yet made the grand procession to St. John di Laterano2.  We set out by Porto Romano, the country all about the town being rare for hunting and game. Wild boar and venison are frequently sold in the shops in many of the towns about it. We passed near Monte Oliveto, where the monastery of that Order is pleasantly situated, and worth seeing. Passing over a bridge, which, by the inscription, appears to have been built by Prince Matthias 3, we went through Buon-Convento, famous for the death of the Emperor, Henry VII.4, who was here poisoned with the Holy Eucharist.

“Sienne. Porta Romana” by Henri Labrouste. Circa 19th century. Source: BnF.

Thence, we came to Torrinieri, where we dined. This village is in a sweet valley, in view of Montalcino, famous for the rare Muscatello5. After three miles more, we go by St. Quirico, and lay at a private osteria near it, where, after we were provided of lodging, came in Cardinal Donghi, a Genoese by birth, now come from Rome; he was so civil as to entertain us with great respect, hearing we were English, for that, he told us he had been once in our country. Among other discourse, he related how a dove had been seen to sit on the chair in the Conclave at the election of Pope Innocent, which he magnified as a great good omen, with other particulars which we inquired of him, till our suppers parted us. He came in great state with his own bedstead and all the furniture, yet would by no means suffer us to resign the room we had taken up in the lodging before his arrival.

  1. Innocent X: John Baptist Pamphili, chosen Pope 15th September, 1644, died 7th January, 1655. —AD 

  2. See post, under 22nd November, 1644.—AD 

  3. The bridge was rebuilt in 1656 under Prince Mattia de ‘Medici Governor of Siena —GS 

  4. Henry VII., 1263-1313. He is buried in the Duomo at Pisa (see post, under 21st May, 1645). —AD 

  5. The wine so called.—AD 

Sunday 23 October 1644

“View of Florence from San Niccolò weir” by Gaspar van Wittel. Circa 1700. Source: Wikipedia.

and the next day arrived at Florence, being recommended to the house of Signor Baritiére. in the Piazza del Spirito Santo, where we were exceedingly well treated. Florence is at the foot of the Apennines, the west part full of stately groves and pleasant meadows, beautified with more than a thousand houses and country palaces of note, belonging to gentlemen of the town. The river Arno runs through the city, in a broad, but very shallow channel, dividing it, as it were, in the middle, and over it are four most sumptuous bridges of stone. On that nearest to our quarter are the four Seasons, in white marble1; on another are the goldsmiths’ shops;2 at the head of the former stands a column of ophite, upon which a statue of Justice, with her balance and sword, cut out of porphyry, and the more remarkable for being the first which had been carved out of that hard material, and brought to perfection, after the art had been utterly lost; they say this was done by hardening the tools in the juice of certain herbs. This statue was erected in that corner, because there Cosmo3was first saluted with the news of Sienna being taken.

“View of the Ponte Vecchio, Florence” by Israel Silvestre. 17th Century. Source: Met Museum.

Near this is the famous Palazzo di Strozzi, a princely piece of architecture, in a rustic manner. The Palace of Pitti was built by that family, but of late greatly beautified by Cosmo 4 with huge square stones of the Doric, Ionic, and the Corinthian orders, with a terrace at each side having rustic uncut balustrades, with a fountain that ends in a cascade seen from the great gate, and so forming a vista to the gardens. Nothing is more admirable than the vacant staircase, marbles, statues, urns, pictures, court, grotto, and waterworks. In the quadrangle is a huge jetto of water in a volto of four faces, with noble statues at each square, especially the Diana of porphyry above the grotto. We were here shown a prodigious great loadstone.

The garden has every variety, hills, dales, rocks, groves, aviaries, vivaries, fountains, especially one of five jettos, the middle basin being one of the longest stones I ever saw. Here is everything to make such a Paradise delightful. In the garden I saw a rose grafted on an orange tree. There was much topiary-work, and columns in architecture about the hedges. The Duke has added an ample laboratory, over against which stands a fort on a hill, where they told us his treasure is kept. In this Palace the Duke ordinarily resides, living with his Swiss guards, after the frugal Italian way, and even selling what he can spare of his wines, at the cellar under his very house, wicker bottles dangling over even the chief entrance into the palace, serving for a vintner’s bush.

In the Church of Santo Spirito the altar and reliquary are most rich, and full of precious stones; there are four pillars of a kind of serpentine, and some of blue. Hence we went to another Palace of the Duke’s, called Palazzo Vecchio, before which is a statue of David5, by Michael Angelo, and one of Hercules, killing Cacus, the work of Baccio Bandinelli. The quadrangle about this is of the Corinthian order, and in the hall are many rare marbles, as those of Leo X. and Clement VII., both Popes of the Medicean family; also the acts of Cosmo, in rare painting. In the chapel is kept (as they would make one believe) the original Gospel of St. John, written with his own hand; and the famous Florentine Pandects, and divers precious stones. Near it is another pendent6 Tower like that of Pisa7, always threatening ruin.

Under the Court of Justice 8is a stately arcade for men to walk in, and over that, the shops of divers rare artists who continually work for the great Duke. Above this is that renowned cimeliarchy, or repository, wherein are hundreds of admirable antiquities, statues of marble and metal, vases of porphyry, etc.; but among the statues none so famous as the Scipio, the Boar, the Idol of Apollo, brought from the Delphic Temple, and two triumphant columns. Over these hang the pictures of the most famous persons and illustrious men in arts or arms, to the number of 300, taken out of the museum of Paulus Jovius.

They then led us into a large square room, in the middle of which stood a cabinet of an octangular form, so adorned and furnished with crystals, agates, and sculptures, as exceeds any description. This cabinet9 is called the Tribuna and in it is a pearl as big as an hazelnut. The cabinet is of ebony, lazuli, and jasper; over the door is a round of M. Angelo; on the cabinet, Leo X, with other paintings of Raphael, del Sarto, Perugino, and Correggio, viz, a St. John, a Virgin, a Boy, two Apostles, two heads of Durer, rarely carved.

Over this cabinet is a globe of ivory, excellently carved; the Labors of Hercules, in massy silver, and many incomparable pictures in small. There is another, which had about it eight Oriental columns of alabaster, on each whereof was placed a head of a Caesar, covered with a canopy so richly set with precious stones, that they resembled a firmament of stars. Within it was our Savior’s Passion, and the twelve Apostles in amber. This cabinet was valued at two hundred thousand crowns. In another, with calcedon pillars, was a series of golden medals. Here is also another rich ebony cabinet cupolaed with a tortoise shell, and containing a collection of gold medals esteemed worth 50,000 crowns; a wreathed pillar of Oriental alabaster, divers paintings of Da Vinci, Pontomo, del Sarto, an Ecce Homo of Titian, a Boy of Bronzini, etc. They showed us a branch of coral fixed on the rock, which they affirm does still grow.

In another room, is kept the Tabernacle appointed for the chapel of St. Laurence, about which are placed small statues of Saints, of precious material; a piece of such art and cost, that having been these forty years in perfecting, it is one of the most curious things in the world. Here were divers tables of Pietra Commessa10, which is a marble ground inlaid with several sorts of marbles and stones of various colors representing flowers, trees, beasts, birds, and landscapes. In one is represented the town of Leghorn, by the same hand who inlaid the altar of St. Laurence, Domenico Benotti, of whom I purchased nineteen pieces of the same work for a cabinet. In a press near this they showed an iron nail, one half whereof being converted into gold by one Thurnheuser, a German chemist, is looked on as a great rarity; but it plainly appeared to have been soldered together. There is a curious watch, a monstrous turquoise as big as an egg, on which is carved an emperor’s head.

In the armory are kept many antique habits, as those of Chinese kings; the sword of Charlemagne; Hannibal’s headpiece; a loadstone of a yard long, which bears up 86lbs. weight, in a chain of seventeen links, such as the slaves are tied to. In another room are such rare turneries in ivory, as are not to be described for their curiosity. There is a fair pillar of oriental alabaster; twelve vast and complete services of silver plate, and one of gold, all of excellent workmanship; a rich embroidered saddle of pearls sent by the Emperor to this Duke; and here is that embroidered chair11 set with precious stones in which he sits, when, on St. John’s day, he receives the tribute of the cities.

  1. These are on the Ponte di Sta. Trinita. –AD 

  2. The Ponte Vecchio. Longfellow has remembered this feature in his sonnet ending —
    Florence adorns me with her jewelry;
    And when I think that Michael Angelo
    Hath leaned on me, I glory in myself.
    A Masque of Pandora, 1875, 151. 

  3. Cosmo I. de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, 1519-74. Siena was annexed to Tuscany in 1557. —AD 

  4. Either Cosimo I or Cosimo II de’ Medici —GS 

  5. It has now been removed to the Accademia delle Belle Arti.—AD 

  6. “A pendant vault is a rare form of vault used in late Gothic architecture in which large decorative pendants hang from the vault at a distance from the walls.” — Wikipedia —GS 

  7. See ante 20 October 1644AD 

  8. The Court was part of the Palazzo Vecchio —GS 

  9. Each “cabinet” is a large room, not a piece of furniture — GS 

  10. Pietre-commesse, inlaid marbles peculiar to Florence, often mentioned by Evelyn and other voyagers in Italy. “Who,” says Lassels in his Voyage of Italy (defending his ‘exotick words’) “can speak … of Wrought Tombes, or inlayd Tables ; but hee must speak of bassi rilievi; and of pietre commesse? If any man understand them not, it’s his fault, not mine” (A Preface to the Reader concerning Travelling).  

  11. Lassels gives a minute description of the contents of the Armoury and different cabinets (i. pp. 164-177).  

Friday 21 October 1644

We took coach to Livorno, through the Great Duke’s new park full of huge cork trees, the underwood all myrtles, among which were many buffaloes feeding, a kind of wild ox, short nose with horns reversed; those who work with them command them, as our bearwards do the bears, with a ring through the nose, and a cord. Much of this park, as well as a great part of the country about it, is very fenny, and the air very bad.

Leghorn is the prime port belonging to all the Duke’s territories; heretofore a very obscure town, but since Duke Ferdinand has strongly fortified it (after the modern way), drained the marshes by cutting a channel thence to Pisa navigable sixteen miles, and has raised a Mole, emulating that at Genoa, to secure the shipping, it is become a place of great receipt; it has also a place for the galleys, where they lie safe.

”Map of Livorno Fortress (17th century)” Author unknown. Source: Wikipedia.

Before the sea is an ample piazza for the market, where are the statues in copper of the four slaves, much exceeding the life for proportion, and, in the judgment of most artists, one of the best pieces of modern work1 Here, especially in this piazza, is such a concourse of slaves, Turks, Moors, and other nations, that the number and confusion is prodigious; some buying, others selling, others drinking, others playing, some working, others sleeping, fighting, singing, weeping, all nearly naked, and miserably chained. Here was a tent, where any idle fellow might stake his liberty against a few crowns, at dice, or other hazard; and, if he lost, he was immediately chained and led away to the galleys, where he was to serve a term of years, but from whence they seldom returned; many sottish persons, in a drunken bravado, would try their fortune in this way.

The houses of this neat town are very uniform, and excellently painted à fresco on the outer walls, with representations of many of their victories over the Turks. The houses, though low on account of the earthquakes which frequently happen here, (as did one during my being in Italy), are very well built; the piazza is very fair and commodious, and, with the church, whose four columns at the portico are of black marble polished, gave the first hint to the building both of the church and piazza in Covent Garden with us, though very imperfectly pursued.

  1. They were at the foot of Duke Ferdinand’s statue. “These are the 4 slaves that would have stolen away a galley, and have rowed here themselves alone; but were taken in their great enterprize” (Lassels, i. p. 233). Addison also mentions “Donatelli’s Statue of the Great Duke, amidst the Four Slaves chain’d to his Pedestal,” as among the “noble Sights.” of Leghorn (Remarks on Italy, 1705, p. 392)  

Thursday 20 October 1644

The next morning we arrived at Pisa, where I met my old friend, Mr. Thomas Henshaw, who was then newly come out of Spain, and from whose company I never parted till more than a year after.

The city of Pisa1 is as much worth seeing as any in Italy; it has contended with Rome, Florence, Sardinia, Sicily, and even Carthage. The palace and church of St. Stefano (where the order of knighthood called by that name was instituted) drew first our curiosity, the outside thereof being altogether of polished marble; within, it is full of tables relating to this Order; over which hang divers banners and pendants, with other trophies taken by them from the Turks, against whom they are particularly obliged to fight; though a religious order, they are permitted to marry. At the front of the palace stands a fountain, and the statue of the great Duke Cosmo.

The Campanile, or Settezonio, built by John Venipont 2. , a German, consists of several orders of pillars, thirty in a row, designed to be much higher. It stands alone on the right side of the cathedral, strangely remarkable for this, that the beholder would expect it to fall, being built exceedingly declining, by a rare address of the architect; and how it is supported from falling I think would puzzle a good geometrician.

“Vedute dei quattro rinomati edifizi della citta di Pisa,” or “Four of the important buildings of Pisa, including the famous ‘Leaning Tower’ by Marrona (Alessandro). c. 1760. Source:

The Duomo, or Cathedral, standing near it, is a superb structure, beautified with six columns of great antiquity; the gates are of brass, of admirable workmanship. The cemetery called Campo Santo is made of divers galley ladings of earth formerly brought from Jerusalem, said to be of such a nature, as to consume dead bodies in forty hours.3 ‘Tis cloistered with marble arches; and here lies buried the learned Philip Decius, who taught in this University.

“Cathédrale de Pise”, Pierre-Joseph Garrez. 1800. Source: BnF.

At one side of this church stands an ample and well-wrought marble vessel, which heretofore contained the tribute paid yearly by the city to Cæsar. It is placed, as I remember, on a pillar of opal stone, with divers other antique urns. Near this, and in the same field, is the Baptistery of San Giovanni, built of pure white marble, and covered with so artificial a cupola, that the voice uttered under it seems to break out of a cloud. The font and pulpit, supported by four lions, is of inestimable value for the preciousness of the materials. The place where these buildings stand they call the Area.

Hence, we went to the College, to which joins a gallery so furnished with natural rarities, stones, minerals, shells, dried animals, skeletons, etc., as is hardly to be seen in Italy. To this the Physic Garden lies, where is a noble palm tree, and very fine waterworks. The river Arno runs through the middle of this stately city, whence the main street is named Lung ‘Arno. It is so ample that the Duke’s galleys, built in the arsenal here, are easily conveyed to Livorno; over the river is an arch, the like of which, for its flatness, and serving for a bridge, is nowhere in Europe. The Duke has a stately Palace, before which is placed the statue of Ferdinand the Third; over against it is the Exchange, built of marble. Since this city came to be under the Dukes of Tuscany, it has been much depopulated, though there is hardly in Italy any which exceeds it for stately edifices. The situation of it is low and flat; but the inhabitants have spacious gardens, and even fields within the walls.

  1. Addison calls Pisa “still the Shell of a great City, tho’ not half furnish’d with Inhabitants”(Remarks on Italy, 1705, p. 400). —AD 

  2. Some authors have this architect named as “Giovanni Tedesco” – i.e John German or “Giovanni d’Innspruck” – John of Innsbruck.  Given that the ancient name for Innsbruck is “Oenipons”, I think Evelyn was was using an anglacised form of this architect’s name. Source: “The Cathedral Builders: The Story of a Great Masonic Guild” By Leader Scott. —GS 

  3. Archbishop Ubaldo, 1188-1200, the founder of the cemetery, brought the earth from Palestine. Cf. account of St. Innocent’s Churchyard, at Paris, ante, p. 41. “I have been often at St. Innocents church yard, and have seen them dig up bones which have been very rotten after 3 weeks or a month’s interrement. The flesh must needs then bee corrupted in a far shorter space” (Edward Browne to his father, 17th May, 1664, Sir T. Browne’s Works, 1836, i. 61.).  

Wednesday 19 October 1644

“Plan de Porto Venere” by Jacques Ayrouard. Date unknown, artist lived 16.. – 17.. Shows the passage between the “two narrow horrid rocks”. Source: BnF

We embarked in a felucca for Livorno, or Leghorn; but the sea running very high, we put in at Porto Venere, which we made with peril, between two narrow horrid rocks, against which the sea dashed with great velocity; but we were soon delivered into as great a calm and a most ample harbor, being in the Golfo di Spetia. From hence, we could see Pliny’s Delphini Promontorium, now called Capo fino1 . Here stood that famous city of Luna, whence the port was named Lunaris, being about two leagues over, more resembling a lake than a haven, but defended by castles and excessive high mountains. We landed at Lerici, where, being Sunday, was a great procession, carrying the Sacrament about the streets in solemn devotion.

After dinner we took post-horses, passing through whole groves of olive trees, the way somewhat rugged and hilly at first, but afterward pleasant. Thus we passed through the towns of Sarzana and Massa, and the vast marble quarries of Carrara2 , and lodged in an obscure inn, at a place called Viregio.

  1. The order of this text seems incorrect – John Evelyn would have passed Capo fino before arriving at Porto Venere on the way from Genoa.  -GS 

  2. White or blue-grey marble is still quarried there today -GS 

Monday 17 October 1644

Accompanied by a most courteous marchand, called Tomson, we went to view the rarities. The city is built in the hollow or bosom of a mountain, whose ascent is very steep, high, and rocky, so that, from the Lantern and Mole to the hill, it represents the shape of a theater; the streets and buildings so ranged one above another, as our seats are in the playhouses; but, from their materials, beauty, and structure, never was an artificial scene more beautiful to the eye, nor is any place, for the size of it, so full of well-designed and stately palaces, as may be easily concluded by that rare book1 in a large folio which the great virtuoso and painter, Paul Rubens, has published, though it contains [the description of] only one street and two or three churches.


“Genova (Genoa)” by Braun and Hogenberg from Civitates Orbis Terrarum. 1572

The first palace we went to visit was that of Hieronymo del Negros2, to which we passed by boat across the harbor. Here I could not but observe the sudden and devilish passion of a seaman, who plying us was intercepted by another fellow, that interposed his boat before him and took us in; for the tears gushing out of his eyes, he put his finger in his mouth and almost bit it off by the joint, showing it to his antagonist as an assurance to him of some bloody revenge, if ever he came near that part of the harbor again. Indeed this beautiful city is more stained with such horrid acts of revenge and murders, than any one place in Europe, or haply in the world, where there is a political government, which makes it unsafe to strangers. It is made a galley matter to carry a knife whose point is not broken off.

“Palazzo Di Negro” from the Palazzi di Genova by Peter Paul Rubens. 1622. Source: rijksmuseum

This palace of Negros is richly furnished with the rarest pictures; on the terrace, or hilly garden, there is a grove of stately trees, among which are sheep, shepherds, and wild beasts, cut very artificially in a gray stone; fountains, rocks, and fish ponds; casting your eyes one way, you would imagine yourself in a wilderness and silent country; sideways, in the heart of a great city; and backward, in the midst of the sea. All this is within one acre of ground. In the house, I noticed those red-plaster floors which are made so hard, and kept so polished, that for some time one would take them for whole pieces of porphyry. I have frequently wondered that we never practiced this [art] in England for cabinets and rooms of state3, for it appears to me beyond any invention of that kind; but by their carefully covering them with canvass and fine mattresses, where there is much passage, I suppose they are not lasting there in glory, and haply they are often repaired.

There are numerous other palaces of particular curiosities, for the marchands being very rich, have, like our neighbors, the Hollanders4 , little or no extent of ground to employ their estates in; as those in pictures and hangings, so these lay it out on marble houses and rich furniture. One of the greatest here for circuit is that of the Prince Doria, which reaches from the sea to the summit of the mountains. The house is most magnificently built without, nor less gloriously furnished within5, having whole tables and bedsteads of massy silver, many of them set with agates, onyxes, cornelians, lazulis, pearls, torquoises, and other precious stones. The pictures and statues are innumerable. To this palace belong three gardens, the first whereof is beautified with a terrace, supported by pillars of marble; there is a fountain of eagles, and one of Neptune, with other sea-gods, all of the purest white marble; they stand in a most ample basin of the same stone. At the side of this garden is such an aviary as Sir Francis Bacon describes in his “Sermones Fidelium,” or “Essays,” wherein grow trees of more than two feet diameter, besides cypress, myrtles, lentiscuses, and other rare shrubs, which serve to nestle and perch all sorts of birds, who have air and place enough under their airy canopy, supported with huge iron work, stupendous for its fabric and the charge. The other two gardens are full of orange trees, citrons, and pomegranates, fountains, grots, and statues. One of the latter is a colossal Jupiter, under which is the sepulchre of a beloved dog, for the care of which one of this family received of the King of Spain 500 crowns a year, during the life of that faithful animal. The reservoir of water here is a most admirable piece of art; and so is the grotto over against it.

Detail showing the King of Spain’s dog from “Ritratto del Cane Rolando” by Aurelio Lomi. Date unknown, artist lived 1546-1622.

We went hence to the Palace of the Dukes, where is also the Court of Justice; thence to the Merchant’s Walk, rarely covered. Near the Ducal Palace we saw the public armory, which was almost all new, most neatly kept and ordered, sufficient for 30,000 men. We were showed many rare inventions and engines of war peculiar to that armory, as in the state when guns were first put in use. The garrison of the town chiefly consists of Germans and Corsicans. The famous Strada Nova, built wholly of polished marble, was designed by Rubens, and for stateliness of the buildings, paving, and evenness of the street, is far superior to any in Europe, for the number of houses; that of Don Carlo Doria is a most magnificent structure.

“Palazzo Carlo Doria Tursi” from the Palazzi di Genova by Peter Paul Rubens. 1622.

In the gardens of the old Marquis Spinola, I saw huge citrons hanging on the trees, applied like our apricots to the walls. The churches are no less splendid than the palaces; that of St. Francis is wholly built of Parian marble; St. Laurence, in the middle of the city, of white and black polished stone, the inside wholly incrusted with marble and other precious materials; on the altar of St. John stand four sumptuous columns of porphyry; and here we were showed an emerald, supposed to be one of the largest in the world. The church of St. Ambrosio, belonging to the Jesuits, will, when finished, exceed all the rest; and that of the Annunciada, founded at the charges of one family, in the present and future design can never be outdone for cost and art. From the churches we walked to the Mole, a work of solid huge stone, stretching itself near 600 paces into the main sea, and secures the harbor, heretofore of no safety. Of all the wonders of Italy, for the art and nature of the design, nothing parallels this. We passed over to the Pharos, or Lantern, a tower of very great height. Here we took horses, and made the circuit of the city as far as the new walls, built of a prodigious height, and with Herculean industry; witness those vast pieces of whole mountains which they have hewn away, and blown up with gunpowder, to render them steep and inaccessible. They are not much less than twenty English miles in extent, reaching beyond the utmost buildings of the city. From one of these promontories we could easily discern the island of Corsica; and from the same, eastward, we saw a vale having a great torrent running through a most desolate barren country; and then turning our eyes more northward, saw those delicious villas of St. Pietro d’Arena, which present another Genoa to you, the ravishing retirements of the Genoese nobility. Hence, with much pain, we descended toward the Arsenal, where the galleys lie in excellent order.

The inhabitants of the city are much affected to the Spanish mode and stately garb. From the narrowness of the streets, they use sedans and litters, and not coaches.

  1. Palazzi di Genova, 139 plates published by Rubens at Antwerp in 1622, from designs probably made at Genoa in 1607. –AD 

  2. Almost certainly the “Palazzo Ambrogio Di Negro” home of Ambrogio Di Negro, doge of Genova in 1585.  This palace is said to have a pensile, or hanging garden. -GS 

  3. There are such at Hardwick Hall, in Derbyshire, a seat of the Duke of Devonshire. –AD 

  4. Cf. ante, p22 -AD 

  5. In his Voyage to Italy, 1670, i. p. 94, Lassels says that one of these weighed 24,000 lbs. – AD 

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