Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: Sicily - Palermo
"We sailed at about nine o clock... leaving the people at some of their most usual occupations viz beating Tambourines, bellowing with all their might and celebrating the festival of some dirty Saint"
"Our Berth was the best in the vessell viz the ship's boat on the Deck, where we spread our hammocks on the oars and slept in the open Air and with no other covering than our Shirts & trousers"
Profiles of islands passed on the trip from Naples to Palermo
"What little science exists here abouts is principally of the old fashioned marvellous sort and the more highly it is seasoned with the latter quality the better it goes down"
Invoice for accommodation and food at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Palermo>
Palermo July 10th 
I have been safely delivered about 2 Hours ago into this new World together with the General and a large litter of dirty fellows from a merchant Vessell after a most delightfull voyage, and having settled myself as comfortably as I can in Mr Page's Hotel feel disposed to amuse or pester you a little. We sailed at about nine o clock on the 7th from Naples with a light refreshing breeze and a fine moonlight view of the Town, leaving the people at some of their most usual occupations viz beating Tambourines, bellowing with all their might and celebrating the festival of some dirty Saint, and when their noise died away in distant murmurs all my interest in them died away too. I did not leave one Neapolitan behind me whom I cared a pinch of snuff about except Sige Poli the prince's ex tutor. Dardanelli is not a Neapolitan I believe and Mr Ward is an Irishman. I seemed therefore to breathe afresh as it were and still fed by hope anticipated better things in Sicily.
Our Berth was the best in the vessell viz the ship's boat on the Deck, where we spread our hammocks on the oars and slept in the open Air and with no other covering than our Shirts & trousers untill sun rise, when our breeze had carried us as far as Capri. Here it became quite calm and we enjoyed a View of the back of the Island, the irregular form of which and the scraggy rocks on its shores projecting out of the sea produce a much more romantic and pleasing effect than the side facing Naples. Its materials are the same as all those of the environs of Naples which are not volcanic viz Limestone & Granite & the stratification is the same and it produces good Wine. On the 9th we passed Ustica the ancient Utica. In the evening about 7 we had a fine view of the just-discovered comet and a long discussion about its tail with a Sicilian priest which reminded me of Brydone's childish dissertation in his letter on this subject. Our conversation which soon became general amongst the passengers afterwards led to other subjects of a like nature. What little science exists here abouts is principally of the old fashioned marvellous sort and the more highly it is seasoned with the latter quality the better it goes down as you may suppose.
We arrived this morng at Sun rise within 3 Miles of Palermo but could not land before abt 7 on account of the land breeze which gave us a good opportunity of viewing the town and Coast, & we shuddered at the Ideas of what we had to suffer from the heat in a town surrounded on all sides but one by Mountains not high enough to furnish a cool tramontane wind but high enough to shelter it from most of the others. I think the contour and disposition of the Mountains & Hills are more gracefull [sic] but not so imposing as those of Naples. I could not help remarking that they almost universally displayed Conical Summits. We saw Etna in the distance but the Air was hazy. I kept a register of the thermometer during the voyage which I shall add to other registers which I intend to make during my stay in Sicily both of it & the Barometer and perhaps of some electric observations.
Come my little Whig - Hocus Pocus - come make haste, you have been already 5 Minutes coming a thousand Miles or so & Puck went all round the world in one I think. O here you are at last, I want you to take a walk with me on the Marino. It is both more convenient and pleasant to me to shew you about than to set down Raw Memo's, and you will I hope report faithfully what you see and what I tell you to the rest of my Dear Family - I am very glad to have discovered myself in possession of this conjuring art.
Now screw up your curls a little, those great Clouds over the Alps have deranged them, take my arm, there are a few smart people you see. It is certainly a fine Promenade and a very fine moonlight evening but ever since I have been here I have never seen the atmosphere very clear, there always both at night and in the day time appears to be the same kind of light haziness in the Air whatever quarter the wind comes from = But this Marino must be excessively hot in the day time = Yes but the people don't walk here in the day, if they walk at all then they prefer that Garden at the east end of it called the Flora which altho' quite old fashioned and in bad taste affords a delightfull shade. It is not large, the Botanic garden behind it is also frequented a little in the day time and contains I believe some good specimens, I shall go there to see the Papyrus instead of making a long journey from Syracuse. But you must come someday to take a view of these Savage Mountains on the east of the town which, contrasted with the fresh verdure of the plain below highly cultivated and ornamented with numerous elegant Villas (more elegant at a distance than near), produce a very picturesque effect and the view possesses one capital advantage viz a low horizon =
"Dandies come into the Opera with their Horsewhips & spurs to shew that they possess them"
Hum, do you see these People getting out of their carriages to walk, Brydone says that no Genteel people walk here = The custom has changed then I suppose for I have often observed the same thing & they not only walk but sit upon this stone seat which extends you see more than half the length of the Marino. The sun heats the stone so thoroughly in the day time that it is even now at 9 o'clock warmer than our bodies = Hark the music in that little pavilion has just begun, it is not bad, and adds a great deal to the pleasure of the Promenade. There is a woman who lets out chairs I see as at other places and so I suppose those who can't afford an Opera get a little music here for a few coppers = Yes - the Music plays 3 times a week - It is now time to go to the opera, we will just take a turn to the end of Marino and then get into that carriage but we will stop by the way to get some Tea. You can't possibly walk along that abominable narrow dirty street called the Toledo which has been cried up by travellers so much only because it is very long and very straight, you would be frightened out of your wits every minute or jostled to death. I have had my pocket picked three times already there. Once I caught a little boy in the act but could not overtake him and did not know how to cry Stop thief in Sicilian so at last he escaped. These little pilferers hang about the Ice shops all the evg, and you may have any of them thrashed as soundly as you please by paying a few Coppers if you suspect any of them of robbing you but they soon come again and rob a boldly as ever. = What do these men gallop up and down the place for like batchelors[?]? = What a question! They are the Dandies = Dandies! But what poor shabby little horses they ride = They are the best in Palermo however and they are so proud of them that you will see these Dandies come into the Opera with their Horsewhips & spurs to shew that they possess them = Well it is a very odd custom to sit thus in a carriage & eat ice in such a horrid Dust, why don't they have Tea at the Marino? = I can only answer you as the Sicilians answer me very frequently to such like demands, Che su che? (What do I know?), the Custom, one of the "absurd prejudices" = I see in that handsome carriage next to us that they are drinking lemonade but only take one glass for the whole party = That is a noble family, they are drinking a glass of aqua caderata[?] for which they pay one [?] (a half penny) = Is it possible? = I could expatiate now a little on stinginess and ostentation in these parts, but it's too hot. However carriages are certainly rather articles of necessity than luxury at Palermo = Now let us go, I don't want any more Ice, I suppose Ice is also an article of necessity here = Quite so, I don't know how a Sicilian could exist without it even in Winter he takes it almost as abundantly as in Summer. = Stop one moment, look at that tub of ice, it is smoaking? [sic] = It seems to be smoaking, that effect is produced by the condensation of the aqueous invisible vapour or Gass of the room coming in contact with the air immediately above the ice which is coated by the ice; the cloud of vapour is going towards the Ice, it does not proceed from it =
Well, now for the Opera = Don't expect much good music there = Very well. Are they as fond of Rossini here as you say they are at Naples? = Not quite. I hope we shall have a little of the genuine old Italian school = No, it is some modern author but what very wretched acting! = It is indeed; that the Neapolitans and particularly the Sicilians who are such excellent mimicks [sic] & gesticulators off the stage should fail so lamentably upon it, seems very extraordinary. It may be perhaps that they have not yet learned the rules of acting from other nations, the Drama is comparatively speaking but of late introduction even in Italy you know. Therefore they fail perhaps for want of understanding theatrical effect, which depends I think much less upon a close imitation of Nature and a just conception of the Author than a certain happy combination and harmony of rules, just as in painting it is not enough to imitate Nature, a higher shew[?] must be chosen. But in Acting it is perhaps as bad to imitate nature too closely as to violate her, or more so. Whilst great actors and great painters have seemed to disregard some established rules, perhaps they have only improved them or having disregarded them have substituted better in their places, which is what has made them great actors and Painters. How could these Arts advance if this were not the case? = Aye, Aye, every body knows that. Don't preach. What's o clock? = Twenty Three and three quarters = What do you mean? = A quarter to Twelve. Don't you know that the Italians & Sicilians count their hours by beginning and finishing at sun set? But you are tired. Good night. Houkerinikous &c
"a very beautifull woman most assiduously besieged by the Dandies of Palermo. She was seated on her sofa in her bed chamber suffering under a slight inflammation of the throat, the pain of which one of her admirers an englishman was using every means in his power to mitigate, handing the Gargle &c &c with the greatest possible solicitude"
Mr Barber took us a few days ago to the Favorita, a royal garden about 4 miles south of Palermo. It is very extensive and contains a Chinese Summer House, tasteful enough. The King hunts or used to hunt in this garden very much and is so jealous of his sport that no one else, not even the prince, is allowed to do so. I believe his majesty is a better huntsman & fisherman than a p---. In the evg we were introduced to a Signora ---, a very beautifull woman most assiduously besieged by the Dandies of Palermo. She was seated on her sofa in her bed chamber suffering under a slight inflammation of the throat, the pain of which one of her admirers an englishman was using every means in his power to mitigate, handing the Gargle &c &c with the greatest possible solicitude, and soon after our arrival a Sicilian Marquis & a Count, two other retainers united their efforts to his. We remained quiet spectators except when she was able to listen to what we had to say for ourselves. I assure you I never found my acquaintance with a Frenchman more convenient. It is very evident that my Countryman will carry the Day if any do. On the middle of the visit I perceived a cracking noise all round the room and upon inquiry found that it was occasioned by the rapid shrinking of the paper hangings (paper hangings are articles of luxury here) by a very dry scirocco wind, and the windows were immediately closed to exclude it. I am almost ashamed to say that I had at that moment rather have been in the society of my Hygrometers & Thermometers than of this elegant Marquise & had some difficulty to suppress a Smile at the significant glance of the General, however we got home before it had ceased. The Temperature was only 84 but its dryness was equal to 78 of Deluc's Hygrometer and about half an ounce of water in a Soup plate evaporated in 12 Minutes. I had no opportunity of examining its Electricity. The plate was exposed at an open Window but the draught of air was not great, the door and other windows being all closed well.
We have also been to see the dead monks in the cemetery of the Cappuccini. They put the bodies when fresh into little cells which are afterwards sealed up hermetically and leave them there 6 months, then they cloth them in the usual monastic habit just as when they were alive and place them upright in little niches in the walls or sides of the cemetery &c. They are not well preserved but still retain some character in their countenances. I presume it is Carbonic acid which preserves them.
This sort of Sepulchre is not uncommon in Germany they say, and they say too that it is not uncommon for people here to stand up in their little niches in the wall which are destined for them after death, in order to remind themselves thoroughly of their mortality. This may be a very pious custom but for my part I think one wants rather to be reminded of our immortality. The greatest Villains are frequently those who are the most familiar with Death. But you may say, perchance, The remembrance of the former induces that of the latter. I say, in answer, Any practical efficacious remembrance cannot exist without the absolute certain conviction of its reality, that few of us have this & that we had better seek to obtain it by the best evidence we can get from Nature, the Bible &c than to reinforce our superstitious belief of immortality by sticking ourselves up in niches in Walls, praying to god that we may be convinced and such like childish practices. I don't know what sort of an argument I have broached, I leave it to my Vicar to make the best of it for I have quite tired myself with writing even so little. The Violent heat and the complaint I had just before leaving Naples makes me very weak. Good night.
Hocus Pocus. Where are you Whig? = Here I am - pop = A famous jump indeed. I have a hard day's work for you Whig. First we must climb up Monte Pellegrino, I want to try my skill at measuring heights with the Barometer &c and you may pay your Respects to Sta. Rosalia the Patroness Of the town = But can't you conjure me up there and yourself too = no, I can conjure you any where but like many other great magicians I can conjure myself no where. To save our legs a little we will drive to the foot of the mountain about a mile & a half and take this savage looking boy to carry the instruments =
"I don't understand how the people who worship these figures reconcile so much tinsel & finery with their notions of the distress and misery which their martyrs suffered, do they imagine that they wear embroidered petticoats in heaven?"
This climbing is hard work indeed but not very hot, the sun has but just risen, pray what is that gate for? = To make us pay something to the Saint = What! Do the Saints make people pay for their protection? = I can't speak positively on this point, I believe they take fees sometimes and presents very often. = Is this the Cave of Sta Rosalia = Yes = It looks like a church = Outside, but in the inside it is a true cave = Well and what am I to admire? = There is nothing particular to see in the cave itself, it is rather a curious cave certainly but you ought to feel a great deal of veneration for the holy martyr, you must read her history. But I hope you admired the piety of the Palermitans in constructing the road up to it, some say it cost almost as much as the road over the Simplon = What very different objects promoted the execution of these two different undertakings! Now you are going up to the telegraph on the top of the mountain? = Yes = Well allow me a little rest and I will go too, I am half afraid to remain in this damp dark place & those prints look rather sly = That statue of the Saint is well enough is it not, Yes, and the Wax figure of her under that altar. I don't understand how the people who worship these figures reconcile so much tinsel & finery with their notions of the distress and misery which their martyrs suffered, do they imagine that they wear embroidered petticoats in heaven? = Can't say =
Now I am rested, Andiamo but I see no path = Never mind we shall soon find one = But we are going wrong, you had better have asked those countrymen the way, see they are pointing and beckoning to us = They only want to nick us, make it a Rule never to ask your way in these parts unless you mean to take a guide, if we follow their advice we shall immediately have one or two with us during all our journey up & down too and not content them, let us pay what we will. Andiamo, we shall soon come into a path = Here it is and now we are at our journey's end = Now I shall go into the top of the Telegraph and make my enquiries of the Men who are stationed here about their usual prognosticks [sic] of Weather & Wind &c &c and do what else I have to do and you may stay here to sketch. That promontory on the east of the town which seems an island is Mt [blank], the low land to the right of it beautifully clothed with Verdure the Bagheria where we are going presently and those mountains still further to the right the [blank], behind you in the Horizon you see faintly Ustica and below you the harbour and port of Palermo, a fine view is it not = Yes give me the pencils &c = Endeavour to get the character of those scraggy points of the Mountain we are on, it is rather a curious specimen of [blank] and will make you a good foreground = I can do nothing the air is getting very hazy it even rains at the Bagheria = That will do, just to recollect the place by, the rocks I told you to sketch want more finishing but you have got the outline very exactly and the singular kind of stratification = Now then finish your experiments and let us go
= Shall we get some breakfast with the monks at the Monastery near the Cave or go back to Palermo = Go to Palermo. We can have nothing but Wine and bread & bad cheese here I suppose. = Nothing else but. = But I don't like those gentlemen notwithstanding their hospitality = then Andiamo = Well you are tolerably well off here at Mr Page's, this is a regular English Breakfast. = And a regular English charge, 3 times as much as it ought to be at Palermo but the carriage is ready. There are the baths I use on the left at the end of the marino, we shall pass them = Do you bathe much = Every day, I should die else, I was surprised at first at the easiness of swimming here but afterwards found it was owing to the water of the Mediterranean being so much more salt and therefore [?] greater specific gravity than it has with us = How extreemly transparent it is. Why is it more salt? = Because it is always warmer, heat increases the solvent power of all fluids you know = No I did not know, is that an universal rule? = I won't undertake to say it is universal but almost so I believe = These are remarkably fine aloes by the road side, they seem intended for a sort of fence, is any other use made of them = They make a kind of thread of the fibres which is used for many purposes and they also make artificial flowers of these fibres to decorate the altars in the Churches. = Many are in full bloom I see. The Indian fig or Prickly Pear, Olives, Vines & Fruits of all kinds seem to flourish in great luxuriance here.
"I hate going over old Houses and Pallaces. = So do I but one must see them as well as other things sometimes to know that they are not worth seeing"
Really this is a delightfull ride but now we are arrived at a Villa = This is the Palace of [blank] and now we must turn up this avenue of statues to the Pallace of the prince Palagonia, the oddest mortal that ever existed. Did you ever see such a collection of nonsensical hideous monsters as these which he has thought to ornament his place with? = Now is he mad? = He is dead, I think he was, but you see most of the children of his stupid or mad brains are hurled from their Pedestals as they deserved to be and others mutilated by the loss of their Noses. They say that this destruction was committed in consideration to Ladies in the interesting state and that the loss of his darlings caused his death. But will you believe that a traveller could find so much to admire in them that he should say "the Prince found means to create beauty out of deformity". = Who was that? = Borch, who gives a drawing of the Balustrade we are now passing which was crowded with them in his time = Now we enter the Hall, it is a fine Hall certainly but full of nonsensical ornament, the glass & ceiling must have produced a singular effect when it was in good repair = Yes. The only things worth seeing now are these two tables inlaid with all the varieties of Sicilian Marbles. Now we will just look in at the Valguarnera Pallace and leave all the rest of the Bagheria, for no others deserve a moment's attention, there is not I believe a single good picture in any of them. = I hate going over old Houses and Pallaces. = So do I but one must see them as well as other things sometimes to know that they are not worth seeing. = Ah it is a fine view from this Terrace certainly, this is Valguarnera is it = Yes = Now let us return, I like the drive much better than the Pallaces.