- 39,00 kr
The Marchesa Belloni’s boarding-house was situated in one of the healthiest, if not one of the most romantic quarters of Rome. One half of the house had formed part of a villino of the old Ludovisi Gardens, those beautiful old gardens regretted by everybody who knew them before the new barrack-quarters were built on the site of the old Roman park, with its border of villas. The entrance to the pension was in the Via Lombardia. The older or villino portion of the house retained a certain antique charm for the marchesa’s boarders, while the new premises built on to it offered the advantages of spacious rooms, modern sanitation and electric light. The pension boasted a certain reputation for comfort, cheapness and a pleasant situation: it stood at a few minutes’ walk from the Pincio, on high ground, and there was no need to fear malaria; and the price charged for a long stay, amounting to hardly more than eight lire, was exceptionally low for Rome, which was known to be more expensive than any other town in Italy. The boarding-house therefore was generally full. The visitors began to arrive as soon as October: those who came earliest in the season paid least; and, with the exception of a few hurrying tourists, they nearly all remained until Easter, going southward to Naples after the great church festivals.
Some English travelling-acquaintances had strongly recommended the pension to Cornélie de Retz van Loo, who was travelling in Italy by herself; and she had written to the Marchesa Belloni from Florence. It was her first visit to Italy; it was the first time that she had alighted at the great cavernous station near the Baths of Diocletian; and, standing in the square, in the golden Roman sunlight, while the great fountain of the Acqua Marcia gushed and rippled and the cab-drivers clicked with their whips and their tongues to attract her attention, she was conscious of her “nice Italian sensation,” as she called it, and felt glad to be in Rome.
She saw a little old man limping towards her with the instinct of a veteran porter who recognizes his travellers at once; and she read “Hotel Belloni” on his cap and beckoned to him with a smile. He saluted her with respectful familiarity, as though she were an old acquaintance and he glad to see her; asked if she had had a pleasant journey, if she was not over-tired; led her to the victoria; put in her rug and her hand-bag; asked for the tickets of her trunks; and said that she had better go on ahead: he would follow in ten minutes with the luggage. She received an impression of cosiness, of being well cared for by the little old lame man; and she gave him a friendly nod as the coachman drove away. She felt happy and careless, though she had just the faintest foreboding of something unhappy and unknown that was going to happen to her; and she looked to right and left to take in the streets of Rome. But she saw only houses upon houses, like so many barracks; then a great white palace, the new Palazzo Piombino, which she knew to contain the Juno Ludovisi; and then the vettura stopped and a boy in buttons came out to meet her. He showed her into the drawing-room, a gloomy apartment, in the middle of which was a table covered with periodicals, arranged in a regular and unbroken circle. Two ladies, obviously English and of the æsthetic type, with loose-fitting blouses and grimy hair, sat in a corner studying their Baedekers before going out. Cornélie bowed slightly, but received no bow in return; she did not take offence, being familiar with the manners of the travelling Briton. She sat down at the table and took up the Roman Herald, the paper which appears once a fortnight and tells you what there is to do in Rome during the next two weeks.