Often we pass by sheltered coves, whose waters slumberously rise and fall, as if in dreamful reverie of the past. For there was once a time when all this coast was flourishing, and when the sea lapped lovingly the marble thresholds of illustrious cities. Their sites, in fact, are strung along to them than the switt transit of a shooting star. I also felt that this new mode of traveling was not quite appropriate here, and feared that in the midst of such modernity the old Sicilian spirit might be hidden from my view, as in the garish light of day the stars remain unseen. It is in many respects unfortunate that modern travel has resolved itself for the most part into rapid transit between termini, and that the faster and more comfortably we can be transported to our principal destinations, the less we wish to interrupt the journey and explore the intervening country. Our views of the modern world are, therefore, largely dependent on the clearness of car windows; for rapid and luxurious travel has become a foe to thoroughness. Of course, one sees a country best on foot, or from the back of a horse; and usually the farther one diverges from those practically obsolete modes of traveling, the less one understands the land that he is traversing.
On The Northern Coast, Near Cefalu.
Cape Zafferino, Northern Coast.
Where Boats Depart, And Wrecks Return.
There lies before me on my desk a journal, written by my father, of a tour made by him, in 1832, through France and Switzerland. To-day it reads as if it were descriptive of some distant age, and of a country I had never seen, though in reality I have traveled over the same route many times. But, whereas he employed a week in journeying from Paris to Bale in either a stage coach or a private carriage, and thus could scrutinize the country leisurely, I have been always whirled from one to the other city in ten hours, confined within a sort of cushioned cannon-ball of glass, and catching only glimpses of successive villages and landscapes, which glided by me at the rate of forty miles an hour. Thus, with our present modes of travel, hundreds of subordinate towns, which still possess the attractions that once made them world-renowned, are not deemed worth examining, if a visit to them means a sacrifice of time or comfort; and scores of cities, which once figured prominently in the itinerary of every tourist, are left to languish in neglect, unvisited, unhonored, and unknown.
Messina, "the Noble," is not precisely one of these, for its unique position and commercial prominence never will permit it to descend in popular estimation to the insignificant rank now held by such once-celebrated cities as Mantua, Padua, or Sienna. Unfortunately, however, it is too often looked upon as a mere, unattractive portal, through which one ought to hasten without halting. The reason is that Messina, with a maximum of his- tory, has a minimum of historic monuments. For history of the kind that cities like Messina have experienced is not conducive to the preservation of either art or architecture. As the chief, natural gateway of the island, it has been always violently entered by Trinacria's conquerors, who, when in their turn driven out by some more powerful successors, have left it purposely as desolate as they could make it. Moreover, even when the conquest of the entire island was not sought, Messina's unprotected situation on the highway of the Mediterranean rendered it liable to acts of depredation; while the bombardments which it has endured at the hands of men, and the terrific devastations which it has experienced through the pitiless agency of Nature, have in the course of centuries effaced all vestiges of great antiquity. Some of Messina's worst misfortunes are even of recent date. Thus, an appalling earthquake caused immense destruction there in 1783; and during the revolutionary troubles of 1848 the troops of the Bourbon sovereign, Ferdinand II., bombarded it for three successive days, destroying thus an enormous section of the city, and shattering scores of churches, convents, public edifices, and private dwellings into a chaotic mass of ruins. No sobriquet was, therefore, ever more appropriate than that of "Bomba," which the people gave to the detested author of this act of vandalism.