They are the towers which in the first place were built for retreat and defence, when this coast was ravaged by sea-rovers, Norman adventurers, or Barbary pirates that were such a scourge to the Mediterranean. Later, however, the medieval nobles built towers just for pure swank, to see who should have the tallest, till a town like Bologna must have bristled like a porcupine in a rage, or like Pittsburg with chimney-stacks–square ones. Then the law forbade towers–and towers, after having scraped the heavens, began to come down. There are some still, however, in Tarquinia, where age overlaps age.
Ancient Etruria consisted of a league, or loose religious Confederacy of twelve cities, each city embracing some miles of country all around, so that we may say there were twelve states, twelve city-states, the famous dodecapolis of the ancient world, the Latin duodecim populi Etruriae. Of these twelve city-states, Tarquinii was supposed to be the oldest, and the chief. Caere is another city: and not far off, to the north, Vulci.
Vulci is now called Voici–though there is no city, only a hunting ground for treasure in Etruscan tombs. The Etruscan city fell into decay in the decline of the Roman Empire, and either lapsed owing to the malaria which came to fill this region with death, or else was finally wiped out, as Ducati says, by the Saracens. Anyhow there is no life there now.
I asked the German boy about the Etruscan places along the coast: Voici, Vetulonia, Populonia. His answer was always the same: ‘Nothing! Nothing! There is nothing there!’
However, we determined to look at Volci. It lies only about a dozen miles north of Tarquinia. We took the train, one station only, to Montalto di Castro, and were rattled up to the little town on the hill, not far inland. The morning was still fairly early–and Saturday. But the town, or village, on the hill was very quiet and dead-alive. We got down from the bus in a sort of nowhere-seeming little piazza: the town had no centre of life. But there was a café, so in we went, asked for coffee, and where could we get a carriage to take us to Voici.
The man in the little café was yellow and slow, with the slow smile of the peasants. He seemed to have no energy at all: and eyed us lethargically. Probably he had malaria–though the fevers were not troubling him at the time. But it had eaten into his life.
He said, did we want to go to the bridge–the Ponte? I said yes, the Ponte dell’Abbadia: because I knew that Voici was near to this famous old bridge of the monastery. I asked him if we could get a light cart to drive us out. He said it would be difficult. I said, then we could walk: it was only five miles, eight kilometres. Eight kilometres!’ he said, in the slow, laconic malarial fashion, looking at me with a glint of ridicule in his black eyes. ‘It is at least twelve!’Share It