Nature, which has done everything for the Italians, has taken care to surround their country with magnificent barriers. The Alps and the sea protect it on all sides, isolate it, bind it together as a distinct body, and seem to design it for an individual existence. To crown all, no internal barrier condemns the Italians to form separate nations. The Apennines are so easily crossed, that the people on either side can speedily join hands. All the existing boundaries are entirely arbitrary, traced by the brutality of the Middle Ages, or the shaky hand of diplomacy, which undoes to-morrow what it does to-day. A single race covers the soil; the same language is spoken from north to south; the people are all united in a common bond by the glory of their ancestors, and the recollections of Roman conquest, fresher and more vivid than the hatreds of the fourteenth century.
These considerations induce me to believe that the people of Italy will one day be independent of all others, and united among themselves by the force of geography and history, two powers more invincible than Austria.
But I return a mes moutons, and to their shepherd, the Pope.
The kingdom possessed by a few priests, covers an extent, in round numbers, of six millions of acres, according to the statistics published in 1857 by Monsignor, now Cardinal, Milesi.
No country in Europe is more richly gifted, or possesses greater advantages, whether for agriculture, manufacture, or commerce.
Traversed by the Apennines, which divide it about equally, the Papal dominions incline gently, on one side to the Adriatic, on the other to the Mediterranean. In each of these seas they possess an excellent port: to the east, Ancona; to the west, Civita Vecchia. If Panurge had had Ancona and Civita Vecchia in his Salmagundian kingdom, he would infallibly have built himself a navy. The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians were not so well off.
A river, tolerably well known under the name of the Tiber, waters nearly the whole country to the west. In former days it ministered to the wants of internal commerce. Roman historians describe it as navigable up to Perugia. At the present time it is hardly so as far as Rome; but if its bed were cleared out, and filth not allowed to be thrown in, it would render greater service, and would not overflow so often. The country on the other side is watered by small rivers, which, with a little government assistance, might be rendered very serviceable.
In the level country the land is of prodigious fertility. More than a fourth of it will grow corn. Wheat yields a return of fifteen for one on the best land, thirteen on middling, and nine on the worst. Fields thrown out of cultivation become admirable natural pastures. The hemp is of very fine quality when cultivated with care. The vine and the mulberry thrive wherever they are planted. The finest olive-trees and the best olives in Europe grow in the mountains.