A LETTER COMPOSED OF ITALIAN PROVERBS Concurring All in one congruous sense, and sent to a Gentleman, that was upon point of crossing the Alpes to ITALY.
THey say commonly that Running waters are the cleerest, and those of the Brook farr more then they of a standing Bog; In like manner the Spirits of those who travel up and down the world, and by their motions apply themselves to the study of Men, become thereby more cleer, acute, and subtile. It is also observed among Vegetables, that (according to the Proverb) the best oignons are those which are transplanted; Therefore I highly approve of the resolution you have to cross the Alpes, and afterwards the Apennin hill, the chinebone of Italy. But take along with you these rules, that he who traverseth the world, specially Italy, must have the eye of a Faulcon (to see danger affar off,) the ears of an Ass, the face of an Ape, the toung of a Moun∣tibank, the back of a Camell (to bear any thing) the mouth of a Hog (to eat any thing) the legs of a Stagg, to fly from all mischiefs.
In Italy you shall meet with many cunning Rooks that have more doublings in them then a Cabage; Therefore take heed of associating with such, specially to fall a gaming (whereunto the Italians are extraordinarily addicted) for they say that gaming doth gnaw one to the very bone. Having gone through Piemont, you will come to the most delicate River of Pò, where the very trees weep Ambar, yet Po would not be Pò, unless Adda and Tesin did not come into her.
Being entred Lombardy, you shall see Milan the Great, so call'd as well for her strength, as for her bigness, whence sprung the Proverb, Milan can talk, and Milan can do, yet she cannot turn water into wine; In those quarters take head of a Lombard bit, viz. an Italian figg. Thence you will pass to the Venetian Dominions, and among other the Noble Citty of Vicenza deserves to be saluted, for they say that Vienza hath more Counts and Cavaliers, then Venice hath Gondolleers: Thence you may direct your cours to Padua, called the chief residence of Hippocrates, and thence to Venice, where they say one may see an impossibility in an impossibility; there you may kiss Neptunes spouse, for Venice is called so, though some would have her to be a Concubine to the Turk: The Venetians they say are hard to be pleased, if the Proverb be true that there are foure difficult things, viz. To make a bed for a Dogg, to roast an Egg well, to teach a Florentine, and serve a Venetian; Being there, you shall do well to visite the Arsenal, one of the Grandezas of the world for its strength, whence sprung the saying, that the whole Arsenal of Venice is not able to arm a Coward; In that melting Citty, take heed of Females, for a woman may be a woe to a man; The Courtezans of that Lake, are cried up for the fairest in the world, according to the Proverb, Vienza wine, Treviso tripes, Padua bread, and Venice whores; whence sprung another, Venice, O Venice, none thee unseen can prize, but who hath seen too much will thee despise.
Being glutted with the Virgin Citty, for among the rest of the Citties of Italy, Venice is called so, because she was never ravished by any Enemy, and there is a Prophesie that she shall continue a Virgin for ever, untill her husband forsake her, which is the Sea, having I say bad Venice farewell, you shall do well to visit Tuscany, but take this caution with you, that he who hath to deal with a Tuscan must have both his eyes about him; Observe therefore these two Proverbial rules, Who doth not trust shall not be coosened, and that he who hath a Wolf for his companion must carry a Dogg under his cloake; Page [unnumbered] There you shall behold the fair Citty of Florence, so fair, that they say she is fit to be seen onely on Ho∣lydayes, whence sprung another saying, That if Florence had a Sea Port, she would make a Hortyard of Pisa, a Counting-house of Ligorn, and a shitt-house of Luca. Siena is worth the saluting, al∣though the saying be, that Siena is full of four things, viz. Churches and Towers, Ingles and Whores, but take heed of buying any cloth there; for they say, that Siena cloath tears before it is worn; It will not be amiss, being there, to give Luca a visit, that Hive of Bees, called so for their in∣dustry; Thence you may steer your cours to Genoa, where Husbands gets their Wives with child a hundred miles off; where also, they say, there are Mountains without Wood, Sea without Fish, Men without Conscience, and Women without shame.
Afterwards, you shall do well to visit the Ecclesiastical state, as Bologna the fatt, where 'tis said, they use to tie their Vines with Sausages; Thence you may take the road towards Rome, and never was any thing so worn out as the way to Rome: They say, that he who goes to Rome, and carrieth a good purse, becomes a Bishop or an Abbot; yet there is another saying, which tells us, that in Rome Fortune flies from them who follow her, and seeks after them who flye from her, yet you must take notice, that the Court of Rome will not take the sheep without her Fleece; Thence you may direct your cours to Na∣ples the Gentle, though som call her a Paradise inhabited by devils; Take notice that the Napolitan hath a large mouth, but a narrow purse; In so much that there they often kiss the hands which they wish were cutt off; In that Syrenian Citty 'tis found that one hair of a woman can draw more then a hundred yoaks of Oxen; To prevent this, observe the cautious Proverb, take heed of going be∣fore Women, behind a Mule, or any side of a Frier. It matters not much whether you see Calabria or no, the Territory of the Tarantolas, it being a sad barren Cuntrey, yet abounding with Nobles, In so much that somtimes three Marquesses may be seen eating Figgs upon one tree to drive away hunger. But wheresoever you pass be sure to have money in your purse, for they say in Italy, that a Gentleman without money is like a wall without a Cross that every one pisseth against; You must also be sprite∣full and bold, for in that Cuntrey, he who makes himself a sheep the wolf will devour him, and a simpleton will be led along like a Bufalo by the nose.
Among other things Italy abounds with Bishops, (though some of them be but poor) according to that Nationall Proverb, The Counts of Germany, the Dons of Spain, the Mounsieurs of France, the Cadets of England, the Nobles of Scotland, the Bishops of Italy make a poor company; Italy is the School of Prudence, for there is a saying, that whereas the French is wise after the Fact, the Dutch and English in the Fact, the Italian is wise before, yet he is a great sleeper, for whereas the Ger∣man drinks away his melancholy, the Frenchman sings it away, the Spaniard sighs it away, the Ita∣lian sleeps it away.
Among other things, you may observe in Naples and Milan the affection that the peeple bear to the Spanish, and French, where both the one and the other use to say, that they would be content to see all the Spaniards in Italy hung up with Frenchmens gutts; whence you way judge who is best beloved.
But to wind up the threed of this coorse letter; I hope, that after your return, it will not be verified of you, that an Englishman Italionat is a Devill Incarnat, much less that you will be of the number of those who go out Masters, and come back Clarks in the point of Knowledge.
I can extend my self no further now, for ther's a sudden accident hath surprised me, that will hold me more busie then an English Furnace on Christmas day morning; Onely I say, that if I may steed you in any thing while you are absent, I will do what I can to serve you, and somthing less that I may last your's the longer: So, after the Lombard fashion without any clawing of Complements, I remain
Yours in earnest I. H.