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Ille caput placidis sublime fluentis
Clara noti convexa rigat. CLAUDIAN, DE SEXTO CONS. HONORII.
His head above the floods he gently reared,
To hide his brows within the vulgar shade,
The river Po gives a name to the chief street of Turin, which fronts the Duke's palace, and, when finished, will be one of the noblest in Italy for its length. There is one convenience in this city that I never observed in any other, and which makes some amends for the badness of the pavement. By the help of a river that runs on the upper side of the town, they can convey a little stream of water through
all the most considerable streets, which serves to cleanse the gutters, and carries away all the filth that is swept into it. The manager opens his sluice every night, and distributes the water into what quarters of the town he pleases. Besides the ordinary convenience that arises from it, it is of great use when a fire chances to break out, for at a few minutes' warning they have a little river running by the very wall of the house that is burning. The court of Turin is reckoned the most splendid and polite of any in Italy; but by reason of its being in mourning, I could not see it in its magnificence. The common people of this state are more exasperated against the French than even the rest of the Italians. For the great mischiefs they have suffered from them are still fresh upon their memories, and notwithstanding this interval of peace, one may easily trace out the several marches which the French armies have made through their country, by the ruin and desolation they have left behind them. I passed through Piedmont and Savoy, at a time when the Duke was forced, by the necessity of his affairs, to be in alliance with the French.
I came directly from Turin to Geneva, and had a very easy journey over Mount Cennis, though about the beginning of December, the snows having not yet fallen. On the top of this high mountain is a large plain, and in the midst of the plain a beautiful lake, which would be very extraordinary were there not several mountains in the neighbourhood rising over it. The inhabitants thereabouts pretend that it is unfathomable, and I question not but the waters of it fill up a deep valley, before they come to a level with the surface of the plain. It is well stocked with trouts, though they say it is covered with ice three quarters of the year.
There is nothing in the natural face of Italy that is more delightful to a traveller, than the several lakes which are dispersed up and down among the many breaks and hollows of the Alps and Apennines. For as these vast heaps of mountains are thrown together with so much irregularity and confusion, they form a great variety of hollow bottoms, that often lie in the figure of so many artificial basons ; where, if any fountains chance to rise, they naturally spread themselves into lakes before they can find any issue for their waters. The ancient Romans took a great deal of pains to hew out a passage for these lakes to discharge themselves
into some neighbouring river, for the bettering of the air, or
Cuncta gelu canâque æternùm grandine tecta,
Alpinâ posuere domo, caligat in altis
Obtutus saxis, abeuntque in nubila montes. SIL. IT. lib. iii.
Stiff with eternal ice, and hid in snow,
That fell a thousand centuries ago,
The mountain stands; nor can the rising sun
Unfix her frosts, and teach 'em how to run:
Deep as the dark infernal waters lie
From the bright regions of the cheerful sky,
Heaven's upper realms, and cast a dreadful shade:
That in thick showers her rocky summit shrouds,
GENEVA AND THE LAKE.
Near St. Julian in Savoy the Alps begin to enlarge themselves on all sides, and open into a vast circuit of ground, which in respect of the other parts of the Alps may pass for a plain champaign country. This extent of lands, with the Leman Lake, would make one of the prettiest and most defensible dominions in Europe, was it all thrown into a single state, and had Geneva for its metropolis. But there are three powerful neighbours who divide among them the greatest part of this fruitful country. The Duke of Savoy has the Chablais, and all the fields that lie beyond the Arve, as far as to the Ecluse. The king of France is master of the whole country of Gex; and the canton of Berne comes in for that of Vaud. Geneva and its little territories lie in the heart of these three states. The greatest part of the town stands upon a hill, and has its views bounded on all sides by several ranges of mountains, which are, however, at so great a distance, that they leave open a wonderful variety of beautiful prospects. The situation of these mountains has some particular effects on the country which they enclose. As, first, they cover it from all winds, except the south and north. 'Tis to the last of these winds that the inhabitants of Geneva ascribe the healthfulness of their air; for as the Alps surround them on all sides, they form a vast kind of bason, where there would be a constant stagnation of vapours, the country being so well watered, did not the north wind put them in motion, and scatter them from time to time. Another effect the Alps have on Geneva is, that the sun here rises later and sets sooner than it does to other places of the same latitude. I have often observed that the tops of the neighbouring mountains have been covered with light above half an hour after the sun is down in respect of those who live at Geneva. These mountains likewise very much increase their summer heats, and make up an horizon that has something in it very singular and agreeable. On one side you have the long tract of hills, that goes under the name of Mount Jura, covered with vineyards and pasturage, and on the other huge precipices of naked rocks rising up in a thou
sand odd figures, and cleft in some places, so as to discover high mountains of snow that lie several leagues behind them. Towards the south the hills rise more insensibly, and leave the eye a vast uninterrupted prospect for many miles. But the most beautiful view of all is the lake, and the borders of it that lie north of the town.
This lake resembles a sea in the colour of its waters, the storms that are raised on it, and the ravage it makes on its banks. It receives too a different name from the coasts it washes, and in summer has something like an ebb and flow, which arises from the melting of the snows, that fall into it more copiously at noon than at other times of the day. It has five different states bordering on it, the kingdom of France, and the duchy of Savoy, the canton of Berne, the bishopric of Sion, and the republic of Geneva. I have seen papers fixed up in the canton of Berne, with this magnificent preface; "Whereas we have been informed of several abuses committed in our ports and harbours on the lake," &c.
I made a little voyage round the lake, and touched on the several towns that lie on its coasts; which took up near five days, though the wind was pretty fair for us all the while.
The right side of the lake from Geneva belongs to the Duke of Savoy, and is extremely well cultivated. The greatest entertainment we found in coasting it were the several prospects of woods, vineyards, meadows, and corn-fields, which lie on the borders of it, and run up all the sides of the Alps, where the barrenness of the rocks or the steepness of the ascent will suffer them. The wine, however, on this side of the lake is by no means so good as that on the other, as it has not so open a soil, and is less exposed to the sun. We here passed by Yvoire, where the Duke keeps his galleys, and lodged at Tonon, which is the greatest town on the lake belonging to the Savoyard. It has four convents, and they say about six or seven thousand inhabitants. The lake is here about twelve miles in breadth. At a little distance from Tonon stands Ripaille, where is a convent of Carthusians. They have a large forest cut out into walks, that are extremely thick and gloomy, and very suitable to the genius of the inhabitants. There are vistas in it of a great length, - that terminate upon the lake. At one side of the walks you have a near prospect of the Alps, which are broken into so many steps and precipices, that they fill the mind with an