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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Florence Bell

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Gertrude Bell
Lady Florence Bell
Creation Date
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1 letter plus envelope

Monday. Stella d'Oro Ferrara. Dearest Mother. We have arrived at the most charming place - unfortunately the weather leaves to be desired. We left Venice [Venezia] at 9 this morning; it poured while we were in the train. At Padua [Padova] we had an hour and a half which we spent in driving round the town seeing churches and the Arena chapel. The line from Padua is part of it very lovely; one passes right under the Euganean Hills [Euganie, Colli] at the foot of which stand the most delightful little walled towns and feudal castles. The country was looking delicious in spite of the stormy sky, everything has come into leaf since I was on the mainland 3 weeks ago, and such a gorgeous first rush of spring has spread over fields and mulberry avenues.
Ferrara is an absurd place - its walls are 7 miles round, but the town is tiny and its clothes are much too big for it. There are great open spaces, fields and market gardens, within the walls. In the middle of the town (just before our windows) is the magnificent brick castle of the Estes, with a moat all round it and bridges over it guarded by double doorways, each with great portcullis marks on them. Quite splendid it is. Then round the corner there's a charming square with Gothic municipal buildings on one side and a very beautiful Cathedral on the other, but the sights of the town are rather blurred by streaming rain which has driven us in early. However we are very comfortable and hope for better luck tomorrow. We shall stay until the afternoon when we go on to Ravenna. Our show last night was very amusing. We shared a gondola with the Wards - Mrs Ward didn't come. We went down to the Iron Bridge, Papa knows it, and then hooked ourselves on, with a mass of gondolas, to a barge all hung and roofed with tiny lamps which was towed up to St Marks by a steamboat - we being towed too in the rear. Inside the barge was a band which played indifferent ill. When we got to St Mark's, suddenly the whole Piazza and the Ducal Palace, and the Salute and San Giorgio and right away down the Riva was lit up by flaming red lights and the campaniles of San Giorgio and St Mark had red fires burning in the open galleries at the top of them - they looked transparent, as if one saw a glowing fire through them. All the ships in the harbour were wreathed with lamps and the Emperor's ship was a bright mass of electric lights. Presently the red fires went out and just as they were beginning to light green lights in the top of the towers and just as the band was beginning to play a tune of the Emperor's own composition, there came a downpour of rain, with thunder and lightning. Out went the lights and in a minute all the pack of gondolas disappeared hither and thither up and down the canal, and the Piazza, which had been full of people, was left quite empty! It was a very funny sight and rather boring, however we didn't mind much for we had had the best of our illuminations and we hoped the Emperor was properly disgusted at not hearing his own composition! I expect I shall join Caroline at Perugia on Saturay (Hotel Brufani) I wonder where I shall have my next letters from home. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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