June 9th – Arrived at Florence – Went first to the Cathedral Baptistery and Campanili. Have a fine view of the city from this tower. The doors of the Baptistery are bronze, richly carved in bas-reliefs illustrating the life of Our Savior and scenes in the old testament. The Baptistery is in the form of an octagon. The dome in the cathedral is said to be the largest in the world. The frescoes in it are very fine. I like the churches here better than any catholic ones I have seen. They are not so gaudy as they are generally.
In the Church of St. Croche, we saw the tombs of Galileo, Michael Angelo and Dante. In the Pitti Palace, one of the finest galleries in the world, there we saw Raphael’s Madonna in a chair; also several of Murillo’s. In one of the rooms we saw the statues of Miobe and her 16 children all represented as diving. They were all in standing attitudes. Eleven frescoed halls. In one room we saw a great variety of antique jewelry; many large stones beautifully carved, a cameo larger around than an orange. In the chamber of gems we saw vases and little busts and statues cut out of pieces of crystals, rubies, amethysts, lapis lazuli, porphory, etc. In the Uffizi gallery we saw the marble wolf dogs at the entrances and the busts of the Roman emperors bedsides an endless variety of statuary and paintings of the Tuscan School. In the Academy of fine arts we saw paintings dating back to the Thirteenth Century. There were some very old Tuscan paintings.
Our visit to the Gov. manufactory of mosaics was very interesting – saw first all the stones used; then the manufactured articles, beautiful tables and cabinets; saw slabs, with borders of mosaic in bas reliefs for doors to be used in a chapel for the De Medici family, together with the tables we saw in the Pitti palace. I suppose we saw at least one hundred mosaic tables. The largest in the palace was a circular table – cost $200,000.
We rode out on the public drive called the Cascini. Met numbers of equipages, one of which was King Victor Emmanuel’s. He was driving in plain style, having only one companion. His carriage was drawn by only two horses, coachman and footman’s liveries very plain.
Visited the Academy of Natural History, where we found a most interesting collection of stuffed birds and animals; also butterflies and beetles in great variety, a large collection of fishes and serpents preserved in spirit; some beautiful minerals, numbers of skeletons, a variety of shells, wax figures of all portions of the human body.
June 13th – Arrived Rome – Spent the day in sightseeing. Visited several studios of sculptures, ordered medallions of Renaldi. Rode through the grounds of the Borgese villa. Went upon the Pinchian hill. Crossed the Tiber at the castle of St. Angelo, where Beatrice Cenci was imprisoned. Went to St. Peters and on our way there met the Pope, with attendants out for an evening drive. Visited the Roman Forum, the Forum of Trajan, the coliseum, a grand old structure where the christians were devoured by the beasts. The interior was once lined with marble. There has been material taken from it sufficient to build several palaces.
The Church of St. John Lateran is very handsome. St. Peters is grand; the walls and floors all line with marble. The ______ and aisles are divided by 80 columns – two rows of twenty in a row on each side. In 1823 it was destroyed by fire, but has been restored by the different Popes and princes down to the Pope who is now trying to complete it. There are some very good paintings near the ceiling and lower down all around the church there are portraits of the Popes from St. Peter to the present Pope. They are not all finished. They are about 4½ ft. in diameter and it requires 12 months to make one of the mosaic portraits. They are now at work for mosaic for the front of the church. There are some very old mosaics which escaped the fire in the interior of the church, dating from the 13th century. In several rooms under the Capuchin church we saw the bones of the monks. This is their cemetery. The walls are covered with bones and skulls arranged in the most fantastic manner, even on the ceiling the smaller bones are used as frescoes arranged in circles and other forms. It is wonderful how many designs they have. Several skeletons are standing erect in the robes of the order. Whenever one of the friars die, he is buried in the oldest grave, from which the bones of the last occupant are removed and put with the pile, there are about a dozen graves where they are buried in earth originally brought from Jerusalem.
The Palace of the Quisival, the Pope’s summer residence, is magnificent. We were conducted through twenty-six rooms, elegantly furnished and embellished with fine specimens of gobolin tapestry and other gifts from different sovereigns. The garrisons attached to it are extensive and beautifully arranged.
In the galley of the Barberini palace we saw Guido’s portrait of Beatrice Cenci, one of the most celebrated portraits in Rome. Visited the Palace of Doria Panpphili, gallery, etc.