The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Month: November 1644

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,((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 )) 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 Worcester2; 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. 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 Lake((Almost certainly Lake Vico —GS)), 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 

Thursday 3 November 1644

Next morning, we rode by Monte Pientio, or, as vulgarly called, Monte Mantumiato, which is of an excessive height ((At 1668m, It is the second highest mountain in Italy —GS)), ever and anon peeping above any clouds with its snowy head, till we had climbed to the inn at Radicofani, ((“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 )) 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.1

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.2 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,3 a town situated on a very ragged rock, down which precipitates an entire river (which gives it the denomination4, 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.5

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.6

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

  1. 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.


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

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

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

  5. 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 

  6. 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 ((The bridge was rebuilt in 1656 under Prince Mattia de ‘Medici Governor of Siena —GS)), we went through Buon-Convento, famous for the death of the Emperor, Henry VII.3, 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 Muscatello4. 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. Henry VII., 1263-1313. He is buried in the Duomo at Pisa (see post, under 21st May, 1645). —AD 

  4. The wine so called.—AD