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