Page images

2 1/2 Modane. The last scene of Sterne's "Sentimental Journey" is laid here.

The scenery of the valley now becomes interesting. The road ascends high above the Arc, and the gorge, in whose depths it flows, serves as a natural and tremendous fosse to the fort Lesseillon, built on the opposite height, and comnanding, with its many mouthed batteries, rising tier above tier, the passage to Italy. A light bridge, spanning the black gorge which separates the fort from the road, is a striking object it is called the Pont du Diable.

2 Verney. Near this, Horace Walpole lost his lap-dog, which was carried off by a wolf pouncing down upon it from the forest.

At Termignon the path from the Col de Vanoise (Route 123.) joins our road.

2 Lanslebourg. Inn: Hôtel Royal, good. This village lies at the foot of the Mont Cenis. After passing a large barrack, the road crosses the Arc, and bidding adieu to that stream, begins to ascend the mountain by easy and well-constructed zigzags. Extra horses are necessary to reach the summit; and it takes about 3 1/2 hours for a carriage to mount from Lanslebourg to the posthouse of the Mont Cenis. It is possible to walk up in a shorter time, avoiding the zigzag and following the old road, which debouches near the 20th Refuge.

Between Lanslebourg and Susa there are twenty-three houses of Refuge planted at intervals by the road side, occupied by cantonniers, whose duty it is to take care of the road and assist travellers. Each house is numbered, beginning from the Piedmontese side of the mountain. Near No. 22. avalanches sometimes fall: the dangerous spot may be passed in three or four minutes. No. 20. is called La Ramasse. Here sledges are kept; and in winter, when deep snow covers the inequalities on the sides of the mountains, travellers may descend in one of them to Lanslebourg in ten minutes! The sledge is guided by a peasant, who places himself in front; and, from the experience gained in collecting ( ramasser ) and transporting wood in this manner, they are so skilful, that there is little risk in this extraordinary mode of travelling. The perpendicular descent is 600 mètres-nearly 2000 feet.

The 17th Refuge is the barrier of Savoy: here a toll of 6 francs per horse is levied, and goes to keep the road in repair. Soon after the point culminant of the pass is reached, 6780 feet above the sea level; thence the road descends to the plain of Mont Cenis; and a person may arrive at the posthouse from Lanslebourg, on foot, in 2 hours and 20 minutes. The road passes near the margin of a considerable lake, which is generally frozen during six months of the year: it is famed for

its delicious trout: the fishery belongs to the monks of the Hospice.

3. Posthouse of the Mont Cenis ( Monte Cenisio), a tolerable inn, where travellers may regale on the excellent trout of the lake, and sometimes on ptarmigan, for which they will, however, pay handsomely. This magnificent road,. another monument of the genius of the imperial road-maker, Napoleon, was commenced by his orders in 1803, and finished in 1810, at an expense of 300,000 The engineer was the Chevalier Fabbroni. It is one of the safest roads over the Alps, and the most practicable in winter time.

About half a mile beyond the Post, is the Hospice, origi nally founded by Charlemagne, who crossed the Mont Cenis with an army in the 9th century. The existing edifice, built by Napoleon, is now occupied, half by a corps of carbineers, who examine the passports of all travellers crossing the mountain; the other half by monks of the Benedictine order, who exercise gratuitous hospitality towards poor travellers. The house contains two or three neat bed-rooms for guests of the higher class.

At Grande Croix, an inn at the lower extremity of the plain, is a group of taverns occupied by carters and muleteers: there the descent begins. The road, as originally constructed, skirted along the sides of the mountain; but, owing to its fearful exposure to avalanches, this portion of it has been abandoned, and a new line, supported on a lofty causeway, and reached by winding tourniquets, descends directly through the midst of the plain of St. Nicolas, quite out of the reach of avalanches, except between the 3d and 4th Refuges, where they still sometimes fall in spring. A gallery cut in the rock where the old road passed, is now abandoned; it exhibits a most singular scene of confusion, the roof having partly fallen in.

The barrier of Piedmont stands in the midst of the little plain of St. Nicolas. On issuing from this plain, a magnificent mountain on the left is seen-the Rochemelon: on its summit is the chapel of Notre Dame des Huges, formerly visited by pilgrims, but of late abandoned on account of the risk and difficulty of the ascent. From its top a view may be obtained of a part of the plains of Italy. These are not visible from any part of the Mont Cenis road above Molaret. The new road no longer passes through Ferrière and Novalèse, but proceeds directly to

3 Molaret, the first Piedmontese village, near which there is a small inn. A new gallery has been cut in the rock between this and

2 Susa. Inn: La Posta, very comfortable. This little town of 2000 inhabitants, planted at the point of junction of

the roads over the Mont Genèvre (Route 130.) and the Mont Cenis, is chiefly remarkable on account of its antiquity, having been founded by a Roman colony in the reign of Augustus, under the name of Segusio. The only thing worth notice is the Arch of Triumph, of the Corinthian order, erected about eight years B. C., in honour of Augustus: it is outside the town, in the governor's garden. The inscriptions upon it commemorate the names of the various tribes ruled over by Cottius, the barbarian sovereign of this district, from whom the neighbouring Alps were named Cottian. He was a prince of great bravery; and, having bid defiance to the Roman arms in his fastnesses, was at length gained over as an ally by Augustus.

Here was formerly a fort of great strength, which commanded both the valleys, called the fort of Brunette: it is now demolished.

Susa is situated on the Dora Riparia (Duria Major), and our road was by the side of it all the way to Turin, where it joins the Po. From Susa to St. Antonio 2 1/2, St. Ambrogio 1, Rivoli 1 3/4, Turin 1 3/4. (Livre de Poste, 1839.)

1 1/2 St. Giorgio.

1 St. Antonio.

1 St. Ambrogio.

1 Rivoli. Not to be confounded with the place of the same name on the Adige, near which Napoleon gained a great victory.

There is an ugly palace of the king of Sardinia here.

134 TURIN. See Mrs. Starke's, the Handbook for NORTHERN ITALY, and the Guide du Voyayeur en Italie, by Richard.

ROUTE 128.


[merged small][ocr errors]

Those who would make an excursion by the Little Mont Cenis, a singularly wild route, instead of quietly descending by the high road from the Mont Cenis to Susa, may accomplish it easily in twelve hours.

The posthouse of the Mont Cenis (Route 127.) is left by a path which descends directly to the lake, then skirting its upper border and across the meadows, it soon ascends rapidly towards the pasturages which lead to the châlets of the Little Mont Cenis, which are distant from the posthouse two hours. The mountain slopes around the plain of the Mont Cenis offer

some of the richest pasturages in the Alps; those which lead to the Little Mont Cenis are of great extent.

A very little way beyond the chalets of the Little Mon! Cenis, the col is attained, and the valley which descends to Bramante in the valley of the Arc, and which lies at right angles with the path across the col, is seen through a great part of its length. On the opposite side of this valley rises the peak of the Grand Vallon; and a little on the left, from a deep turn in the valley below, called the Combe d'Ambie, rises one of the finest peaks in the Alps, the Mont d'Ambin: on it, though its accessibility seems a miracle, is the station used in the triangulation and measure of an arc of the meridian across the great chain. The entire crest of the Ambin is covered with glaciers, and every crue is traced by a white bed of snow that rests within it. At the lower extremity of the valley of Bramante the mountains of the Vanoise close the view.

To ascend this valley it is necessary to mount from the col of the Little Mont Cenis directly up some rocks, and continue for a short time on that side of the mountain; the path afterwards descends among vast rocks which strew this sterile-looking valley; and, after leaving on the right the turn in the ravine below, which forms the Combe d'Ambin, through which a stream like a thread of silver flows, the path ascends up a rugged and broken course until it reaches the chalets of Savines. Here there is a rich little spot of meadow land, and a scanty herbage on the slopes of the valley. On the left, a rugged path leads across from the posthouse on the Cenis, by some little lakes in the mountains of Bard, to this valley, above the châlets of Savines: it is rather shorter, but more fatiguing. Wolves are so common in the forest of Bramante, lower down the valley, that the dogs kept at the châlets of Savines are of great power, having their necks armed with spiked collars. The wolves here are probably the successors of those ravenous rascals that gobbled up Walpole's poor little dog Toby, as his master passed with the poet Gray at the foot of the forest on his way into Italy. The herdsman, who always has his rifle ready, is prepared, when he hears the alarm from his dogs, to go and destroy the marauder.

Having ascended above the meadows of Savines, the path rises amidst rocks and stones, and at length reaches a little lake in an elevated plain, in which all seems desolate, solitary, and sterile. The black precipices of the mountain of Bard on the left hand, and those of the Mont d'Ambin on the right, bound its sides; from the Ambin enormous glaciers sweep down to the lake, and small cataracts, from the melting of the ice on either side, mark their courses by light

lines of foam that stream down the precipices, and make their dark masses still blacker. Amidst this apparent sterility thousands of gentianella, ranunculus glacialis, violets, and a hundred other alpine flowers, grow and bloom unseen, in every swampy spot, and between the stones with which the plain and col are covered.

This lake is filled by the meltings of the glaciers of the Mont d'Ambin. It is called the Lac Blanc, or Lac de Savines it is about a mile long. At its upper extremity is a low ridge, certainly not a hundred feet above the level of the lake; this is a crest of the great chain, the Col de Clairée : across it two paths lie that on the right, by a wild and difficult course, leads over the Col de Touilles to Salabertrand in the Val d'Exilles.


The route to Susa lies on the left; by it the descent from the Col de Clairée is down a steep and rocky hollow, which terminates at the crossing of a bright stream near a pasturage. This spot, where wine may be cooled in the stream, is a delicious place of rest, and where the refreshment, which it is necessary for the traveller to take with him from the. inn on the Mont Cenis, will be fully enjoyed. From this place of rest a steep slope leads down to the pasturage seen from the resting-place. It is a flat, surmounting enormous precipices, which seem to forbid any attempt to descend from them. And there will be little disposition immediately to seek a path, for from this spot one of the most glorious views in the Alps is presented. Immediately below is the deep basin and narrow valley of the Clairée, which is almost always filled with vapour that seems to boil as in a caldron; when the clouds from it rise high enough to catch the current of air, they disperse.

Beyond this valley, the mountain above Chaumont, in the Val d'Exilles, bounds the view; but, turning towards the left, the Combe of Susa is seen over the intervening mountains, even to its termination in the plains of Piedmont, stretching away to the horizon far beyond the hill of the Superga.

On the right, are the precipices which must be climbed, though they seem to be utterly impracticable, by those who would go from the Col de Clairée to the Col de Touilles.

So abrupt are the edges of the precipices that divide the lower valley from this pasturage, that descent seems hope less. "We stood," says one who has travelled much in these unfrequented passes of the Alps, "on the brink of enormous precipices, their outlines at our feet cut abruptly against the clouds, into which, through occasional openings made by the wind, we could see the black, deep, and shadowed valley. The scene was most impressive. Our guide was puzzled fo

« PreviousContinue »