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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Florence Bell

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Gertrude Bell
Lady Florence Bell
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1 letter, paper

Friday 17. In the train. Dearest Mother. This is the moment to write you a long illegible letter. I will begin at the beginning. Yesterday morning (at Ravenna) we breakfasted with Mr Hogarth and arranged to go with him at 10 to the library. Then we started out a sightseeing of mosaics and came back at 10. The library was wonderfully interesting. They have the only complete MS of Aristophanes, of the 10th century, from which all the editions have been printed, Mr Hogarth read us passages from the Frogs out of it. But what thrilled me still more was an MS of Dante written by his son and first commentator, Pietro, which I was allowed to handle and read. So I turned to the 5th canto and read Dante's own description of Ravenna, Francesca's Siede la terra dore nata f.... I felt stiff with excitement! There are lots of Dante relics there too. We had 2 more hours so we revisited all our favourite mosaics and came in to a merry lunch with Mr Hogarth and Lady Galloway after which we left for Rimini. Our line ran through miles and miles of Pinetum, extremely lovely, with the Apennines on one side and the bluest sea on the other, and after the forest, through the most curious strip of sandy marshy country between the mountains and the sea till we reached Rimini at 4. It was a delicious hot afternoon. We wandered round and saw Augustus's great bridge and an arch erected in his honour. He gave the bridge to the town, a magnificent present which has lasted some 1800 years and is quite solid now, and they built the arch for him out of gratitude. There is a lovely Malatestu early Renaissance church covered with their emblems, a rose and an elephant, and filled with beautiful sculptures in low relief, and the remains of their great brick castle on the city wall looking out over exquisite rolling fertile country towards the Apennines with the great rock of San Marino standing out in front of them. We sat on the city wall until some horrid little boys got the range of us with well directed stones and forced us to retire. They are nailing good shots with a stone at Rimini. After dinner we came out again and watched the sun set and a tiny moon grow bright above the mountains. Our inn was charming - and so cheap! and the food so good! This morning we were up early, drove down to the port from whence the coast line down to Ancona is too lovely, went into the church again and to a very interesting little tiny picture gallery where there is a most beautiful Bellini Pieta and almost nothing else, and left with much regret at 11. We took some cold chicken and a bottle of wine with us and lunched in the train. The line to Faeza [Faenza] is exquisite, every little hill top crowned with a castle set in cypress trees and the hillsides covered with vines and olives. Forli looked most attractive, so did Faenza. We wished we were going to stop there. At Faenza we parted, Mrs Green going on to Ferrara (she had come a little out of her way to see this line, and to accompany me) and I to Florence [Firenze]. I have a Signore Sole carriage all to myself and I'm going through some of the loveliest country I have ever seen, all smiling and green and bathed in sun, olive gardens vinyards [sic] and little towns perched up on the hills. It's awful fun travelling alone! I think I shall drop Caroline and tour about Italy by myself. I reach Florence at 5, wait an hour and get to Perugia at 8. There was the most absurd scene at the station at Rimini this morning - I cdn't get my luggage registered because the station master was an enthusiastic collector of stamps! He asked me if I had any English stamps and fortunately I had which I gave him, upon which instead of weighing my luggage he sat down and wrote me out his address that I might send him some from our colonies when I got home! What a people they are! He also gave me some bad advice, which was to send my luggage by Ancona which he said was much cheaper; I don't Bellieve it can be but I agreed to do so on the strength of our friendship and his assurance that it wd get to Perugia as soon as I would. I need not say that when I look in my train book I find it won't get there till 4 tomorrow morning! however it don't [sic] matter much. I have come to the conclusion I know much more about trains than the officials and I shan't listen to them again. They assured me this morning I couldn't get to Perugia this way, in fact they didn't seem to expect anyone to travel by the new line; really it's much the quickest way, by several hours, but I had to prove it to them out of my train book before they wd let me go! I am very sorry to part from Mrs Green; she has been a delightful companion, and so kind! I think she has enjoyed this little tour and she quite shares my enthusiasm for the small towns of Italy. She is never tired and never late and she can bustle up and catch an early train if need be, and she loves it all. I've been courier all the time - I'm becoming quite experienced and I read my train book as assiduously as Papa used to. It amuses me very much arranging hours and trains. But I expect I shall have to leave the dear Caroline more time for packing up than I did Mrs Green. What our future plans are I haven't the least idea. I shall find out tonight and will send you a postcard tomorrow. Mrs Green has an hour at Bologna, she is going up to the inn to see if there are any letters for us. I haven't had anything from you since a postcard which arrived in Venice [Venezia] after we left and reached me at Ferrara on Tuesday morning. But that is due to the way in which we have changed our plans and to the fact that I couldn't give you long enough notice in the first instance. I wonder if you have written to the Grande Bretagne at Perugia; I shall go there and see.
Goodbye - I am enjoying myself so much! This will be posted at Florence. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude.

Hotel Brufani at Perugia till further notice.

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