The whole shore is fascinating to one in an idle mood, and is good mousing-ground for the antiquarian. For myself, I am content with one generalization, which I find saves a world of bother and perplexity: it is quite safe to style every excavation, cavern, circular wall, or arch by the sea, a Roman bath. It is the final resort of the antiquarians. This theory has kept me from entering the discussion, whether the substructions in the cliff under the Poggio Syracuse, a royal villa, are temples of the Sirens, or caves of Ulysses. I only know that I descend to the sea there by broad interior flights of steps, which lead through galleries and corridors, and high, vaulted passages, whence extend apartments and caves far reaching into the solid rock. At intervals are landings, where arched windows are cut out to the sea, with stone seats and protecting walls. At the base of the cliff I find a hewn passage, as if there had once been here a way of embarkation; and enormous fragments of rocks, with steps cut in them, which have fallen from above.
Were these anything more than royal pleasure galleries, where one could sit in coolness in the heat of summer and look on the bay and its shipping, in the days when the great Roman fleet used to lie opposite, above the point of Misenum? How many brave and gay retinues have swept down these broad interior stairways, let us say in the picturesque Middle Ages, to embark on voyages of pleasure or warlike forays! The steps are well worn, and must have been trodden for ages, by nobles and robbers, peasants and sailors, priests of more than one religion, and traders of many seas, who have gone, and left no record. The sun was slanting his last rays into the corridors as I musingly looked down from one of the arched openings, quite spellbound by the strangeness and dead silence of the place, broken only by the plash of waves on the sandy beach below. I had found my way down through a wooden door half ajar; and I thought of the possibility of some one’s shutting it for the night, and leaving me a prisoner to await the spectres which I have no doubt throng here when it grows dark. Hastening up out of these chambers of the past, I escaped into the upper air, and walked rapidly home through the narrow orange lanes.
The tiptop of the Villa Nardi is a flat roof, with a wall about it three feet high, and some little turreted affairs, that look very much like chimneys. Joseph, the gray-haired servitor, has brought my chair and table up here to-day, and here I am, established to write.