Rome – Florence – Venice
Unpublished Manuscript Travellogue
With Original Photographs and Ephemera
Welsh Female Writer
Italy, 25 March – 25 May 1929. “Italian Tour. 3,000 Miles with Lunn.” Manuscript travellogue of Miss W. H. I. Hewitt of Wales, who spent two months in Italy, replete with photographs as well as some ephemeral documents, and one watercolour made by the writer, pasted within. 8vo. 116 pages manuscript text, 1 watercolour painting, 83 sepia photographs, 38 postcards, some ephemeral documents such as event tickets and programmes, menus, and a few cuttings from tourist documents and newspapers. Black cloth boards with red cloth spine, with an illustration mounted to both front and back. Volume measures 17 x 20 x 7 cm. Wear to boards and extremities, otherwise in very good condition, a voluminous and most eloquently written account.
The author of this work is Miss W. Hope I. Hewett, pen name simply Hope Hewett, a young Welsh female writer who published two works not long after these travels, on her sojourns in Wales. Her published books include “Through North Wales on Horseback” (London, 1937) and “Walking Through Merioneth” (Newtown, Wales, 1939).
A one-off unpublished diary account penned by known female writer Hope Hewett as she travelled with her female friends, richly illustrated with photographs and ephemera, offering a most pleasing description of antiquities and local custom in Rome, Florence and Venice.
The volume begins on 25 March 1929, Miss Hewett departing Aberdovey [Aberdyfi, Wales] by train to London, to meet friends Di, Agnes, and Monica, whom she will be travelling with. Crossing the Channel, then travelling by train to Paris, the ladies arrives at Milan on the 28th.
Through superbly scenic vistas, onboard a steam train she travels to Rome. [Some 20 pages of manuscript text, numerous photographs, and some ephemera illustrate her tour of Rome]
Here the ladies visit the ancient site of the Roman baths known as Terme di Caracalla, the Catacombs of San Sebestianowhich are a hypogeum cemetery rising along Via Appia Antica, the basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Chiostro di S. Paolo), the Pyramid of Cestius built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, the Colosseum where she reminisces on its history of brutality and martyrdom, thechurch of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Arch of Constantine, the remains of the ancient palaces on Palatine Hill, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Arch of Titus, the Roman Forum, the Baptistery of Saint John, the Mamertine Prison, the Pantheon, and the Pincian Hill Gardens.
Hewett describes her cavernous tour as follow, “A cool wind blew down the narrow winding passages, many of which were not yet dug out. Skulls & bones lay about. I felt suitably thrilled with horror as we blundered along peering into burial shelves. There are 400 sq. miles of catacombs. “
Being in Rome on Easter Sunday was rather special, particularly at St. Peter’s Basilica where Hewett describes the “huge courtyard was dazzlingly white & clean and the fountains looked lovely… inside… people filing past the Popes statue & kissing its toe… the vast crowd listening to the chanting… the impresive service… the procession… Cardinal Merry Del Val with his red hat… a scent of incense… It was very mysterious & lovely…” [Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val y Zulueta, OL (1865-1930) was a British-born Spanish Roman Catholic cardinal.]
On the 2nd May, they depart for a day trip to Tivoli in Lazio, central Italy, first paying a visit to Hadrian’s Villa in the Roman archaeological complex. The following day she describes the highlights of the Capitoline Museums, which was opened to the public in 1734 under Clement XII, and are considered the first museum in the world. The next site was the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, which had been inaugurated in 1911 but would not be entirely completed until 1935 – two years after the description in this volume. Having evidently charmed the Italian guide, Hewett and company were granted a special viewing not ordinarily offered to tourists, a tour of “the richest church in Rome… Jesuit, very dark, mysteriously dim & hushed. Over the altar… a ball of pure Lopiz Lajuli, the largest in the world… countless treasures of gold, porphyry & malachite.” Upon returning to Rome, she explores the Vatican galleries, the Sistine Chapel, the National Library of Rome, and more.
Another rail journey sees the writer off and her travel companion to Naples on May 5th, followed by a rich coastal sojourn to Pompei, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. Returning to Naples, she explores the museums, an aquarium, and a motorcar ride through quaint little villages to the Solfatara volcanic crater at Pozzuoli. Quite an unparrallelled experience, she remarks, “The seats of the car were tied in place with cord which broke now & again… we walked over a grey expanse of hot lava, and were gassed by strange smells, peeped into a crater where boiling black mud slooped & wallowed & settlerd in an inferno of steam & mist. Mrs. H was terrified…”
The journey then turned northward to the fashionably exquisite city of Florence in Tuscany, the highlight here being the works of famous artists. She visited the Basilica di Santa Croce, which is the resting place of both Michael Angelo and Galileo.
On May 12th the ladies are en route for Venice, where they enjoyed spacious and comfortable accomodations with spectacular views from a large balcony. Three days were spent here, enaging in the Venetian customs of open air markets, canal touring in the iconic gondolas, strolls on the stone boardwalks, the high mass at St Mark’s Basilica, and feeding pigeons. They also visited the Doges Palace, glass makers of Murano island, the Torcello Cathedral (Church of Santa Maria Assunta) and some monuments of historic interest. On the morning of the 17th they prepared to for the journey home, but first Miss Hewett makes a simple watercolour sketch titled “My last impression of Venice!”
By way of Milan, they passed through Switzerland at Trient, Ouchy, and Montreux, seizing the opportunity to explore the “enchanted Castle of Chillon.” Two days were spent in this region before taking a train to Paris. On May 25th she is making a lovely journey through Kent, the final leg of her adventure before reaching London, where she would stay for a few days before returning home to Wales.