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Charles Dickens

  Pictures from Italy (1879)

Capri, Ischia, Procida, and the thousand distant beau­ties of the Bay, lie in the blue sea yonder, changing in the mist and sunshine twenty times a day: now close at hand, now far off, now unseen. The fairest country in the world, is spread about us. Whether we turn towards the Miseno shore of the splendid watery amphiteatre, and go by the Grotto of Posillipo to the Grotto del Cane and away to Baiae: or take the other way, towards Ve­suvius and Sorrento, it is one succession of delights. In the last-named direction, where, over doors and archways, there are countless little images of San Gennaro, with his hand stretched out, to check the fury of the Burning Mountain, we are carried pleasantly, by a railroad on the beautiful Sea Beach, past the town of Torre del Greco, built upon the ashes of the former town destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius, within a hundred years; and past the flat-roofed houses, granaries, and maccaroni manufactories; to Castel-a-Mare, with its ruin­ed castle, now inhabited by fishermen, standing in the sea upon a heap of rocks. Here, the railroad terminates; but, hence we may ride on, by an unbroken succession of enchanting bays, and beautiful scenery, sloping from the highest summit of Saint Angelo, the highest neigh­bouring mountain, down to the water's edge - among vineyards, olive trees, gardens of oranges and lemons, orchards, heaped-up rocks, green gorges in the hills - and past delicious summer villas - to Sorrento, where the Poet Tasso drew his inspiration from the beauty surrounding him. Returning, we may climb the heights above Castel-a-Mare, and looking down among the boughs and leaves, see the crisp water glistening in the sun; and clusters of white houses in distant Naples, dwindling, in the great extent of prospect, down to dice. The coming back to the city, by the beach again, at sun­set: with the glowing sea on one side, and the darkening mountain, with its smoke and flame, upon the other: is a sublime conclusion to the glory of the day.