Page images
PDF
EPUB

and uniform, but many of them with balconies and late tice windows. The tops of the houses afford pleasant walks in summer evenings. The streets are well paved, but not lighted at night. The city contains numerous palaces, convents and churches, the magnificence of which exceeds the power of description. The city swarms with monks and nuns; and 30,000 lazzaroni, or beggars, are said to live there upon charity.

343. Sicily. The island of Sicily, which has been united with Naples in one kingdom, lies to the southward of Italy, from which it is separated by the strait of Messina, which, in the narrowest part, is only a mile and a half in bredth. It lies in the 37th and 38th degrees of latitude, and extends from the 13th to the 16th degree of east longitude. It is 210 miles in length and 133 in bredth. Its name is derived from the Siculi, ancient inhabitants of the island. Its present inhabitants are about 1,300,000.

344. Climate and Productions. The climate of Sici. ly is temperate and salubrious, and the soil famous for its fertility, and especially for the great quantity of wheat which it produces. Among its productions are also wines, fruits, oil, tobacco, silk, cotton, sugar, and medicinal roots; all of an excellent kind. Sicily also contains mines of silver, copper and lead, which are neglected. Near Palma, are beds of the best sulphur, and every part of the island contains excellent marble. The adjacent sea furnishes a variety of fish, among which are the tunny and anchovy, which are exported in large quantities. . 345. Palermo. Palermo, which is called the capital of the island, is situated on the north side, upon a bay which forms the harbor, and on a fertile plain, which is like a well cultivated garden, filled with fruit trees and watered by rivulets. Two great streets intersect each other in the center of the city, where is a handsome square. The buildings are elegant and uniform, and the city is filled with churches, monasteries, palaces, fountains, statues and columns. Adjoining to the town, Dear the sea, is a public garden or promenade, planted with orange and lemon trees, formed into arcades. Pas

lermo is the residence of the nobility, who fill thiry, the and public places with elegant carriages, drawn bovere tiful horses richly caparisoned. The city contai, hey hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants.

ns, 346. Custom of preserving dead bodies. In Palenthere is a singular custom of drying and preserving de bodies, instead of burying them. The bodies are ca. ried to the Capuchin convent, where, after funeral sei vice, they are dried in a stove heated by a composition of lime, which makes the skin adhere to the bones.They are then placed in niches and fastened to the wall in a standing posture, with a piece of coarse drab thrown over the shoulders and round the waist, and in their hands holding a piece of paper, containing their epi. taph. The muscles of the face being distorted by the drying of the skin, the neck twisted, the eyes sunk, and the mouth drawn awry, render this groop a most singular combination of hideous and ludicrous images.

347. Messina Messina is a large town, situated near the strait on the eastern side of the island, with a spacious harbor in front. A range of mountains run along the shore in the rear of the town, and the town lies upon a declivity which gives it a beautiful appearance. It is a place of considerable trade in siik, oil, fruits, corn and wines; and formerly contained 60 or 70,000 inhabitants ; but its population has been diminished by severe calamities. In 1743, 46,000 of its inhabitants perished by pestilence, and in 1783, the city was, in a great measure, destroyed by an earthquake, and several thousands perished in its ruins. Its present inhabitants are about 30,000. . 348. Syracuse. Syracuse, once the capital of the island, and a powerful city, which defied the power of Carthage, is situated near the south east part of Sicily, on a good harbor. Anciently it was of a triangular form, and consisted of five divisions ; its circuit being 22 miles, and its population more than half a million of souls.But during a continual series of misfortunes and revolutions, Syracuse has declined, and suffering severely by an earthquake in 1693, its population is not more than 20,000 souls. The traveller who reads the acand unifof its ancient magnificence, and now wonders rice wine ruins of its greatness, is affected with melanwalks reflections upon the perishable nature of all hued, bigrandeur. rous19. Etna. In the eastern part of Sicily is Etna, the of gest volcanic mountain in Europe. The mountain is swom 60 to 80 miles in circumference at the base, and bts highth from ten to twelve thousand feet, so that its summit is always covered with snow, and the sale of the ice here formed, affords to the bishop a considerable revenue. The country near the foot, on the sides of the mountain, is extremely fertile, which invites the inhabitants to build towns in situations where they are exposed to be destroyed by streams of lava. Catanea has been repeatedly overwhelmed in this manner. On the top, in a conical hill, is the crater, or vast gulf filled with fire, which at particular times, is thrown out in torrents.

350. Isles of Lipari. On the north of Sicily lie ten isles, which were anciently called Eolian, from their king Eolus ; but in modern times, are called, from the name of the largest, the isles of Lipari. The latter is 19 miles in circumference, populous and fruitful. The other principal islands of this cluster, are Stromboli, Vulcano, and Vulcanello, all of them volcanic, and Stromboli is almost the only known volcano, which throws out fire continually with short intermissions. In Felicuda, one of this groop, is the grotto of the sea ox, with an aperture of 40 feet high, opening into a hall of 200 feet long, 120 feet broad, and 65 feet high. This is formed by lava and can be entered only by boats from the sea.

SWISSERLAND. 351. History. Swisserland was called by the Romans, Helvetia, and it was, at least in part, peopled by the Celts. After the fall of the Roman empire, it feil under the dominion of the German tribes, and the pres. ent language of the country is a dialect of the Teutonic. In the feudal ages, it was governed by many lords, among whom was the family of Hapsburg, the stock of

the present house of Austria. In the 14th century, the people threw off the yoke of Austria, and after severe conflicts, established their independence, which they maintained till the French reduced some of the cantons, dissolved their confederacy, and gave them a new constitution in 1798.

352. Situation and Extent. Swisserland is chiefly in the 47th and 48th degrees of north latitude, and extends from the 6th to the 10th degree of east longitude. Its length from east to west is about 200 miles, and its bredth from north to south 130. It is bounded by France on the west, by Swabia on the north, by Tyrol on the east, and by Italy on the south. Its population is about two millions.

353. Face of the Country. Swisserland consists of vast chains and piles of mountains, interspersed with valleys. The mountains, called Alps, run in different, but not very regular chains from the Gulf of Genoa, in a semicircular form, to the Tyrol. The several chains and peaks have different names. The highest peaks are always covered with snow; others are barren rocks, rising to the highth of eight or ten thousand feet, and traversed only by goats and a few wild animals.

354. Rivers. The Rhine, the Rhone and the Po have their sources upon the Alps. The Rhine proceeds from two or three streams in the country of the Grisons, runs north to the lake of Constance, then westerly to Basil, then a north westerly course to the ocean, separating France from Germany. The chief tributary streams in Swisserland are the Aar, Reuss and Limmat. The Inn and Lech have their sources on the north east of Swisserland, and pour their waters into the Danube. The Adda waters Bormio and Valteline, and passing through the lake Como, enters the Po.

355. Lakes. The largest lake is Constance, in the north, which consists of three parts, the largest of which is 45 miles in bredth, called the Boden Zee. The other divisions are smaller. It is deeper in summer than in winter, by means of the melting of snow, and producess large red trout. Geneva is another lake, through

which runs the Rhone ; it is 40 miles in length by a in bredth. The lakes of Neufchatel and Zurich, are each about 25 miles in length, and four in bredth. That of Lucerne is 15 miles in length and three in bredth. On the Italian side, the Lugano, and a part of the Maggiore, are subject to Swisserland. The smaller lakes are nu. mercus.

356. Minerals. The mountains of Swisserland produce the precious metals in trilling quantities. Iron is found is abundance. In the canton of Bern are mines of rock salt; rock crystal is found in pieces which weigh 7 or 800 pounds, and this commodity is a chief export. Slate and beautiful marble are found; with serpentine, steatite, asbestos, amianthus, jasper, agates, and some petrifactions. The south side of the Alps, and the mountains of Piedmont, are most productive of minerals.

357. Animals. In addition to the animals which are common to Europe, the mountains of Swisserland furnish the ibex, or goat of the rocks, with horns so long, thick and strong, as to save him from harm when he falls from a precipice. So strong and nimble is this animal, that he will mount a perpendicular rock of 15 feet, at three leaps. Another singular animal is the chamois or shammy, a species of antelope. These animals are seen in herds of twenty or g'irty, with a sentinel to warn them of danger by a shrill cry. Here also lives the marmot, which burrows in the earth and lies torpid in winter. The bearded vultur is also an inhabitant of the Alps, as is the crow with red legs.

358. Curiosities. The Alps are the greatest of natural curiosities. Their altitude which places their peaks in the regions of the clouds; their hoary summits crowned with perpetual snow; the immense precipices, ragged cliffs, and gaping fissures; and especially the glaciers, vast bodies of ice, which reflect the light in ten thousand brilliant forms, present to the beholder the most astonishing victs of nature, and impress his mind with awful reverence for the Creator. The cataract of the Rhine at Lauffen, where the river falls about 40 feet, is en object worthy of notice; and the cascade of Staubachy

--

« PreviousContinue »