As we descended to the Tiber in the dusk of evening, the domes and spires of Rome came gradually into view, St. Peter’s standing like a mountain in the midst of them. Crossing the yellow river by the Ponte Molle, two miles of road, straight as an arrow, lay before us, with the light of the Porta del Popolo at the end. I felt strangely excited as the old vehicle rumbled through the arch, and we entered a square with fountains and an obelisk of Egyptian granite in the centre. Delivering up our passports, we waited until the necessary examinations were made, and then went forward. Three streets branch out from the square, the middle one of which, leading directly to the Capitol, is the Corso, the Roman Broadway. Our vetturino chose that to the left, the Via della Scrofa, leading off towards the bridge of St. Angelo. I looked out the windows as we drove along, but saw nothing except butcher-shops, grocer-stores, etc.—horrible objects for a sentimental traveler!
Being emptied out on the pavement at last, our first care was to find rooms; after searching through many streets, with a coarse old Italian who spoke like an angel, we arrived at a square where the music of a fountain was heard through the dusk and an obelisk cut out some of the starlight. At the other end I saw a portico through the darkness, and my heart gave a breathless bound on recognizing the Pantheon—the matchless temple of Ancient Rome! And now while I am writing, I hear the gush of the fountain—and if I step to the window, I see the time-worn but still glorious edifice.
On returning for our baggage, we met the funeral procession of the Princess Altieri. Priests in white and gold carried flaming torches, and the coffin, covered with a magnificent golden pall, was borne in a splendid hearse, guarded by four priests. As we were settling our account with the vetturino, who demanded much more buona mano than we were willing to give, the young dragoon returned. He was greatly agitated. “I have been at home!” said he, in a voice trembling with emotion. I was about to ask him further concerning his family, but he kissed and embraced us warmly and hurriedly, saying he had only come to say “addio!” and to leave us. I stop writing to ramble through Rome. This city of all cities to me—this dream of my boyhood—giant, god-like, fallen Rome—is around me, and I revel in a glow of anticipation and exciting thought that seems to change my whole state of being.
Dec. 29.—One day’s walk through Rome—how shall I describe it? The Capitol, the Forum, St. Peter’s, the Coliseum—what few hours’ ramble ever took in places so hallowed by poetry, history and art? It was a golden leaf in my calendar of life. In thinking over it now, and drawing out the threads of recollection from the varied woof of thought I have woven to-day, I almost wonder how I dared so much at once; but within reach of them all, how was it possible to wait? Let me give a sketch of our day’s ramble.