James Fenimore Cooper
Excursions in Italy (1838)
- Going on deck at sun-rise, I found the felucca contending with a head wind, but luckily in a smooth water. On our right, lay high dark mountains thrown into picturesque forms, with shore lined with hamlets and towns. This was Ischia. Ahead was another island, of the same character, resembling a gigantic sea-wall thrown before the bay. This was Capri. On our left, lay a small, low, level island, teeming with life; and to the north and east of us, opened the glorious Bay of Naples... -
- We hauled up to windward of Procida, sailing through an element so limpid that we saw every rush and stone on the bottom in five fathom water. Having opened the channel between the two islands, we bore up for the town of Ischia, where we arrived a little before sunset. Here a scene presented itself which more resembled a fairy picture than one of the realities of this everyday world of ours. I think it was the most ravishing thing, in its way, eye of mine ever looked upon. We had the black volcanic peaks of the island for a background, with the ravine-like valleys and mountain-faces, covered with country-houses and groves, in front. The town is near the southern extremity of the land, and lies along the shore for more than a mile on a bit of leved formation; but, after passing a sort of bridge or terrace, which I took to be a public promenade, the rocks rose suddenly, and terminated in two or three lofty, fantastic, broken fragment-like crags, which make the south-eastern end of the island. On these rocks were perched some old castles, so beautifully wild and picturesque, that they seemed placed there for no other purpose than to adorn the landscape. By a curvature of the land, these rocks sheltered the roadstead, and the quaint old structures were brought almost to impend over our heads.. Until that moment I was not fully sensible of the vast superiority of the Italian landscapes over all others. Switzerland astonishes, and it even often delights, by its union of the pastoral with the sublime; but Italian nature wins upon you until come to love it like a friend... The effect is to pour a flood of sensations on the mind that are as distinct from the commoner feelings of wonder that are excited by vastness and magnificence, as the ideas awakened by an exquisite landscape by Claude are different from those we entertain in looking at a Salvator Rosa...
Our “attempts” to obtain lodgings at the town of Ischia were unsuccessful and we shaped our course for a villa on the coast two or three miles distant, where we were received. Our coucher was a little unsophisticated, most of the party using mattresses on the floor; but we had brought tea with us, and made a good supper.
Arrangements for the night were soon made... The idea of putting two people in the same bed, even if married, scarcely ever comes into the heads of the Europeans of the Continent, nearly every bedroom of the least pretension, if intended for the use of two, having its two beds. I have seen double-beds in Italy, it is true; but they were as large as small houses. That peculiar sentiment of the Western American, who “wondered that any man should be such a hog as to wish a bed all to himself”, appears never to have suggested itself to a people so destitute of “energy”. –
The morning was calm, and we pulled towards the western point of Procida. This is one of the few islands of this region that is without any mountain. It is extremely populous, though quite small, having a good deal of shipping. We landed on the point, and, by way of exploring the island, walked to the town. It is the fashion to see a Greek character in this people, who were originally a Greek colony (as indeed were those on the ajacent main); but we saw no more than the same swarthy, dark-eyed race that throngs the streets of Naples.