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29 maggio 2013
Memoir Descriptive of the Resources, Inhabitants, and Hydr William Henry Smyth - 1824 -

Memoir Descriptive of the Resources, Inhabitants, and Hydrography ... - Pagina 180

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Leaving Vindicari, a fine bay extends towards Marzamemi ; and about the middle of it is a place called the Porticella di ... The Prince of Giardinelli has founded the town of Pachino on the hills, the church of which, with the windmill near it, are ...

Memoir Descriptive of the Resources, Inhabitants, and Hydrography of Sicily ...

 Di William Henry Smyth

Noto.—About seven miles from Avola, by a very pleasant road, passable for carriages, stands Noto, a city of thirteen thousand inhabitants, and the capital of the province of that name. It is superbly situated, and from its elegant streets, and noble churches and convents, forms one of the most respectable places in Sicily; while its adjacent grounds, though a considerable quantity of the land is left waste, possesses such abundant fecundity as to add greatly to its opulence. Baron Fargioni, who acted some time as British consul at Noto, has an excellent collection of Greek and Roman coins and medals; with the Saracenic and modern Sicilian money; and a tolerable cabinet of mineralogy, which are obligingly shewn on an introduction.

The ancient city was called Neetum, and was the birth-place of the crafty Ducetius, although he is also claimed as a citizen by the town of Menae: it stood on an impregnable hill, four or five miles distant, where, amongst the wrecks of 1693, there are still remains of an amphitheatre and a gymnasium; but, in consequence of the earthquake of that year, the natives removed to the present spot, which, though more conveniently situated, is very unhealthy. The air was originally bad, but it is rendered still more deleterious by the practice of steeping hemp, and though this injurious custom has been lately prohibited, the natives yet retain a pale, sallow aspect, and swelled bodies, which constitute the principal evidence of the existence of mal' aria.

Between the site of Neetum and Palazzolo are found the remains of the city of Acrae, and near them are some curious bas-reliefs on the rocks, supposed to be in honour of Cybele.

The river Abysso, so well known in history, under the name of Helorus, winds through the plain below, and from its beneficial influence on the surrounding lands, (which it irrigates in summer, and overflows in winter,) has been compared to the Nile of Egypt. The walnut, olive, almond, fig-trees, and vines, that luxuriantly abound, intermixed with myrtles, jessamines, oleanders, roses, aloes, and numerous aromatic shrubs, impregnating the soft and tranquil atmosphere with a delicious fragrance, and arraying nature in her gayest colours, seem to point out this as one of the spots where the comforts of a domestic circle would compensate for the evanescent enjoyments arising from the trappings, pageantry, and etiquette of ambitious grandeur. But, alas! wherever these beautiful vales occur, in southern climes, reptiles, misery, and disease, are in attendance; and thus in this delightful plain, (the scenery of which was sung by Virgil, and called Eloria Tempe by Ovid,) scarcely any habitations appear among its rich foliage, or on the banks of its meandering streams; and the few cadaverous natives that dwell there, are found idling and sleeping away the heat of the day, enfeebled by sickness, and devoured by vermin. How different a sensation is inspired by the sight of a well cultivated valley in England, sprinkled with cottages, and teeming with an industrious population, where the muchcalumniated climate is not only salubrious, but invites, and permits, both labour and exercise; and above all, where the proud axiom exists, that a slave cannot breathe in so fine an air.

The Asinaro disembogues itself near the Ballata di Noto, a small anchorage, near a point of land, with a few magazines on it, where the produce of the neighbouring country is embarked. It was between the Helorus and the Asinarus that, after several severe skirmishes, the battle was fought which completed the destruction of the Athenian invaders. It is commemorated by a circular column (now called Pizzuta), formed of huge stones, without cement, on a square pedestal of four steps, upon the very spot where the unhappy Nicias resigned his arms to Gylippus, and surrendered his wretched companions to a deliberately cruel slavery. It is surprising that the festival, instituted on this occasion, has been preserved through all changes of fortune, government, and religion, and is still celebrated (though now in honour of a saint) at Syracuse, in May, when two olive trees are borne in triumph into the city, and, during the fortnight they are allowed to remain there, debtors can roam about, free from molestation.

The neighbourhood teems with fragments of sepulchres, walls, antae, baths, and other vestiges of antiquity, supposed to consist principally of the ruins of Elorus and Icana; but very little has been found to give any precise information respecting them: the following is almost the only legible inscription that has been taken from thence, and is preserved, among several other relics, at Noto:


Vindicari.—About four miles south-south-west half-west from the Ballata di Noto, beyond the pretty coves of Sta in Pace, lies Vindicari, a small port and caricatore, situated near the sandy marshes of Rovilta. These probably were once the port of Machara, vestiges of which town still exist in the vicinity. Vindicari is defended by a respectable tower of four guns; the southern point of the fort is formed by a small islet, called Macaresa, also bearing some antique remains on its west side. Refreshments may be procured, but not with facility.

Leaving Vindicari, a fine bay extends towards Marzamemi; and about the middle of it is a place called the Porticella di Reitano, where the common people, from tradition, believe an immense treasure to be buried; it has, in consequence, undergone some severe ransacking.

Marzamemi.—Four miles and a half from Passaro tower stands Marzamemi, a small filthy village, which, during the fishing season, is strewed with the blood and intestines of the tunny; as the people, however, are industrious, this Tonnara is one of the most profitable in Sicily, and there being a salt lake at the back of the Magazines, where the salt necessary for the establishment is made, the site is additionally valuable. The port, defended by a miserable towerbattery, is very small and shallow, with two low islets off it, affording but sufficient room for a few trading boats.

The coast, from Marzamemi to the southward, presents a barren, desolate appearance, and is nearly deserted, which, I believe, is principally owing to a dread of the Barbary cruisers. The soil is naturally fertile, and of a volcanic nature, disposed in horizontal strata of cinders and argillaceous tufa, in which other products are imbedded and intersected by lavas, containing, however, neither porphyry nor granite. Attempts have been made to improve these lands, but, as usual with the Sicilian agriculturalists, the desire of immediate re-imbursement makes them force newly-cleared grounds with successive crops of corn, until they become impoverished. The Prince of Giardinelli has founded the town of Pachino on the hills, the church of which, with the windmill near it, are conspicuous objects all round this part of the coast.

Passaro.—Below Pachino is a large valley, with an extensive salt lake, and two wells of fresh water between it and the sea. The evaporation occasioned by the heat of the sun causes the salt to crystallize near the banks of the lake. The canes and shrubs around are resorted to by a profusion of game. From the shape of the beach that shuts up this lake, I have no doubt of its having been once open, and that it was the Port Pachynus, where the Roman fleet was so disgracefully moored by the drunken Cleomenes, and where the hapless sailors were compelled by hunger to devour the roots of the dwarf palm, a plant that still flourishes in prodigious quantity.

On the point of the south part of the valley of Ginepre, and opposite Passaro Isle, is the large "tonnara" of that name, an establishment giving employment to about three hundred people, during the fishing season. Passaro Isle is composed of a curious aggregate of marble, lava, tufa, cinders, and oceanic deposits, and is high on all sides but the west, where it is joined to the main by a sandy spit, with two feet water on it. On its eastern point stands an excellent tower-redoubt for twelve guns, garrisoned by seventy-five men, with good bomb-proofs, stores, and cistern; it commands the island and coast for some distance, but would be infinitely more serviceable were a lighthouse erected on it, as this point is liable daily to be either the landfall or departure of various vessels.

This arid island, at the very extremity of the deserted wilds of Sicily, appeared, as if intended by nature and man, to be a place of banishment for the worst of criminals, under the control of some pardoned bandit; and on landing, the unfavourable prepossession was strengthened in my mind, by seeing two crosses among the dwarf herbage, to point out the spot where two murders had been perpetrated; though in Roman Catholic countries, crosses are, indeed, often erected, not only where murders have been committed, but also where a man has died suddenly by disease or accident, without the benefit of extreme unction. Our surprise, therefore, was great, on entering

the tower, to be met on the drawbridge by a veteran gentleman of the old school, with venerable white hair, and the order of Constantine decorating his neat, but antiquated, uniform coat; and still more, on his introducing us to his family, consisting of his lady, two grown-up daughters, and a son, who, with an air of politeness and good address, had been brought up on this sequestered spot. Our arrival was hailed by the family, the adjutant, and the chaplain, as a most auspicious event; and an hospitable kindness during the eight or ten days we had occasion to remain there, proved the sincerity of their professions. Still we found this remote community troubled with many of the agitations that disturb the peace of larger societies; and the old gentleman's vanity was conspicuous, by sending his invitations to our marquee on paper, stamped thus:

[graphic][merged small]

D. O R A Z I O

De' Marchesi dell' Amato, Maggiore de' R. Eserciti di S. M. (D. G.)
Comandante Proprietario del R. Forte, ed Isola di Capopassero, suo
Littorale, e di Real Ordine incaricato delle Funzioni di Commissario
Reale di Guerra del medesimo Forte, e Deputato d' Alta
Polizia, ec. ec.

This I have preserved, that the passing mariner, while he sympathizes (as is always the case) with the wretched people supposed to exist on so desolate a point, may, perhaps, be amused at a specimen of the Cape Passaro etiquette; and which will, at the same time' teach him that old officers can be found, who would rather shine in importance even there, than remain in insignificant obscurity in a to

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