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.”.
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.1From 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.”
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.
“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 ↩