Italy: A Popular Account of the Country, Its People, and Its Institutions (Including Malta and Sardinia)

By W. Deecke; H. A. Nesbitt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
Topography

1. LOMBARDY.

THE traveller who in February or the beginning of March descends from the icy heights of St. Gothard towards Italy, hails the south with double delight after the barren waste of rocks or the white snowfields of the Alps, when he meets the cypresses, the first evergreen trees, and the brilliant blue waters of the Lombard Lakes. As he passes from Como or Sesto Calende into the Plain of Lombardy, the meadows are already green, the buds of the poplars and mulberry trees along the watercourses are already bursting, and glad with the consciousness that he is hasting to meet the spring, he reaches Milan (425,000 inhabitants) the capital of Lombardy.

Mediolanum was founded by the Romans on the site of an ancient Celtic settlement. This was destined in later time to be the temporary seat of the Roman Emperors and one of the nursery grounds of Christianity. At the present time, after many changes of masters, Viscontis, Sforzas, Spanish viceroys and Austrian police, it has risen with new prosperity and has become one of the principal centres of trade in Italy through its manufactures, above all silk weaving.

Its broad straight streets, its fine parks on the site of the former fortifications and its palatial buildings give one quite the impression of a city of Central Europe. One is first struck by the custom widely spread among the women of Northern Italy, of wearing a veil instead of a bonnet or a hat. In cold weather this is thicker and drawn closer. Instead of lace the women of the citizen class wear a simple cloth under which the oval shape of the face and the dark eyes stand out well. In other respects what is called Italian life falls somewhat into the background, as the climate is too like that of the northern part of the continent to permit life to be constantly spent in the open air. In winter Milan is often icily cold, in summer it is boiling hot, and in autumn it is troubled with mists that make one cough. It is only the ancient buildings, the cathedral, the collections of works of art that remind the foreigner that he is on classic soil. The chief part of the Roman buildings too have disappeared, though sixteen Corinthian columns of a fourth century portico still rise up in the Corso di Porta Ticinese among the busy streets. Close behind lies the ancient octagonal church of St. Lorenzo, one of the few octagonal buildings of the period of transition from heathendom to Christianity, like the cathedral

-340-

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Italy: A Popular Account of the Country, Its People, and Its Institutions (Including Malta and Sardinia)
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Translator's Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Chapter I - Boundaries Extent and Contour 1
  • Chapter II - The Surrounding Seas 7
  • Chapter III - History of Discovery 14
  • Chapter IV - Relief of the Country 19
  • Chapter V - Geological Construction 35
  • Chapter VI - Climate 73
  • Chapter VII - Hydrography 85
  • Chapter VIII - Plants and Animals 112
  • Chapter IX - Population 126
  • Chapter X - History 152
  • Chapter XI - Products 168
  • Chapter XII - Commerce, Traffic and Manufactures 229
  • Chapter XIII - Political Institutions 245
  • Chapter XIV - The Church and Public Worship 298
  • Chapter XV - Art, Language and Science 312
  • Chapter XVI - Topography 340
  • Appendix I 467
  • Appendix II 469
  • Index 471
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