At Signor Burini’s I was also most hospitably received and drank some very excellent champagne. I used to talk to his three little girls in the evenings on the ramparts. Signor Burini’s mother remembered Garibaldi’s visit to Palmanova in 1867, the year after Venetia was liberated from the Austrian yoke and added to United Italy. She was speaking of this one evening to Shield and he said, “It rained very heavily that day, didn’t it?” Whereat the old lady, much astonished and evidently suspecting him of some uncanny gift of second sight, replied that indeed it did. But the truth was that he had been reading an account of this historic occasion in a local guide book, which related that, just as Garibaldi came out on a balcony to address the crowd, a heavy thunderstorm broke and the Hero of the Two Worlds only said, “You had all better go home out of the rain.”
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It can still rain at Palmanova.
One day while I was there the temperature rose to 105 degrees in the shade, but in the evening a cool breeze stirred the dust and I sat outside the Albergo Rosa d’Oro, talking with various passers-by. About nine o’clock bright lightning began to fill the sky, but, as yet, no rain. And then about eleven, just after I had gone to bed, came a tremendous drenching thunderstorm and a great whirlwind. And then, very suddenly, all became quiet again, save for the rain-water pouring off the roofs into the street below.
AQUILEIA AND GRADO
On July 22nd, the day before I returned from Palmanova to my Battery, Shield and I and two lorryloads of men made an expedition in the afternoon to Aquileia and Grado. Aquileia, at the height of the old Roman power, was a great and important city, on the main road eastwards from the North Italian plain. It was destroyed and sacked by Attila and his Huns in the year 452, and again in 568 by Alboin and his Lombards. It was the fugitives from Aquileia and the neighbouring towns, who, taking refuge in the lagoons along the coast, founded upon certain mudbanks in the fifth century the city which was destined to be Venice. And it was at Grado in the year 466 that the foundations of Venetian constitutional history were laid by the election of tribunes to govern the affairs of the community inhabiting the lagoons.
The two chief features of Aquileia to-day are a museum of Roman antiquities, which I had not time to visit, and a large church, with a bare interior, but with a magnificent eleventh century mosaic floor, one of the best examples of its kind in Italy. The interior of the church was decorated with flowers in shell cases, to signify its reconquest by the Italians, who intend to make here a great national memorial when the war is over. Beside the church, at its eastern end, stood a glorious group of very tall cypresses, one of the best groups I have ever seen, and opposite the western entrance was a charming little avenue of young cypresses, planted since the reconquest. We stayed for half an hour at Aquileia and then went on to Grado.