English quotes

XVIIè siècle

XVIIIè siècle

XIXè siècle

XXè siècle

XXIè siècle

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London – September 12, 1602
On arriving in London we heard a great ringing of bells in almost all the churches going on very late in the evening, also on the following day until 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening. We were informed that the young people do that for the sake of exercise and amusement, and sometimes they lay considerable sums of money as a wager, who will pull a bell the longest or ring it in the most approved fashion. Parishes spend much money in harmoniously-sounding bells, that one being preferred which has the best bells. The old Queen is said to have been pleased very much by this exercise, considering it as a sign of the health of the people.
(Philip Julius, Duke of Stettin-Pomerania, in: Frederic Gershow, ″Diary of the Journey of Philip Julius, Duke of Stettin- Pomerania, through England in the Year 1602″, Edited by Gottfried von Bülow, ″Transactions of the Royal Historical Society″, 1892, in: Bruce R. Smith, ″The Acoustic World of Early Modern England″, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1999, pp. 52-53.)

Verona, September 17, 1786
People here are always busily on the move, and certain streets where the shops and stalls of the artisans are crowded close together look especially merry. These shops have no front doors, but are open to the street, so that one can look straight into their interiors and watch everything that is going on – the tailors sewing, the cobblers stretching and hammering, all of them half out in the street. At night, when the lights are burning, it is a lively scene.
On market days the squares are piled high with garlic and onions and every sort of vegetable and fruit. The people shout, throw things, scuffle, laugh and sing all day long. The mild climate and cheap food make life easy for them. At night the singing and the music get even louder. The ballad of Marlborough can be heard in every street, and here and there a dulcimer or a violin as well. They whistle and imitate all kinds of birdcalls; one hears the most peculiar sounds. In the exuberance of their life this shadow of a nation still seems worthy of respect.
(Goethe, " Italian Journey", Collins, London, 1961, pp. 428-429)

Palermo, April 8, 1787, Easter Sunday
The noisy rejoicing in the Resurrection of the Lord began at dawn: rockets, firecrackers, squibs and the like exploded in great numbers in front of the churches, while crowds of the faithful fought their way in through the open doors. Bells rang, organs pealed, proccessions sang in unison, priestly choirs chanted antiphonally – to ears unaccustomed to such a rowdy of God, the noise was quite deafening.
(Goethe, " Italian Journey", Collins, London, 1961, p. 618)

Lisbon - July 2nd, 1787
I was awakened in the night by a horrid cry of dogs; […] Lisbon is more infested than any other capital I ever inhabited by herds of these half-famished animals, making themselves of use and importance by ridding the streets of some part, at least, of their unsavoury incumbrances.

(William Beckford: "Italy; with sketches of Spain and Portugal", London, Richard Bentley, 1834, p. 96)

Rome - December 1st, 1789
As I could not remain in the very small apartment I occupied in the Academy, I was obliged to seek another lodging. I did not regret the one I left, for as it looked on to a little street in which carriages were always being put up, the horses and drivers made a diabolical noise; there was besides a Madonna at the comer of the street, and the Calabrians, whose patron saint she was, came to sing and play on string instruments before her niche till daybreak. I found some difficulty in getting a lodging, for I had great need of sleep, and quiet is absolutely necessary for me; I at first occupied apartments on the Piazza di Spagna, at Denis's, the landscape painter; but every night the carriages rattled along this square where the Spanish Ambassador lived. All sorts of people met there after I was in bed to sing in choruses, pieces which the young girls and boys had improvised, most charmingly, it is true, for the Italian nation seems to have been created to make good music; but this habitual concert which would have enchanted me during the day, was distressing at night. I could not rest before five in the morning. I therefore quitted the Piazza di Spagna. I hired near there, in a tranquil street, a little house which suited me perfectly, where I had a charming bedroom, draped with green, an advantage I fully appreciated. I had visited all the house from top to bottom, and had even examined the yards of neighbouring houses without perceiving anything to alarm me. I fancied I should hear no other sound than that of a small fountain in the court, and in my delight I hastened to pay the ten or twelve coins for the first month in advance. Joyfully I went to bed in perfect peace, at two in the morning I heard an infernal noise precisely behind my head; it was so violent that my daughter's governess, who slept two rooms off, was awakened. As soon as I was up, I asked my hostess the cause of this fearful disturbance; I was informed that it was the noise of the pump attached to the wall near my bed; the washerwomen could not whiten the linen in the day, owing to the great heat, so they only came to this pump at night. As may be imagined, I hastened to leave this charming little house.
("Souvenirs of Madame Vigée Le Brun", New York : Worthington, Third American Edition, 1880, c1879., pp. 123-125)

London
She had the street laid knee-deep with straw; and the knocker put by (i. e. taken off the door)
(William Makepeace Thacheray, "Vanity fair", chap. 19)

France – 1803
The common folk on the other hand don't live nearly as cheerfully and happily as in our beloved Germany. We heard no music and also saw no dancing anywhere, which at home can be experienced weekly. Even the sound of the merry posthorn ceases as soon as one steps on French soil. The French postillons on the other hand chatter endlessly and sometimes so loud that it is deafening. ...The ringing of bells isn't exactly disturbing either in France. I don't remember ever having heard any bells, neither in Paris nor anywhere else. As for religion, I daresay that the largest portion of the French people is not endowed with any of it anyways.
(Das Reisetagebuch des Herrn Vinzenz Kreibig im Jahre 1803, from Atlantis, Bibliographisches Institut A.G. Leipzig, Atlantis Verlag Zurich, Heft 10, Oktober 1932, p. 598-599.)

Holland - 1806
The night police of Holland would form an excellent model for that of England. The watchmen are young, strong, resolute and well appointed, but annoying to a stranger; for they strike the quarter-hour with a mallet on a board; which disturbs his repose, unless he is fortunate enough to sleep in a back room, or until he becomes accustomed to the clatter. Midnight robberies and fires very seldom occur: to guard against the spreading of the latter, there are persons appointed, whose office is to remain all day and all night in the towers or steeples of the highest churches, and as soon as they discern the flame, to suspend, if it be in the day, a flag; if in the night, a lantern towards the quarter of the city in which it rises, accompanied by the blowing of a trumpet.
(sir John Carr, "a tour through Holland, along the right and left banks of the Rhine, to the south of Germany in the summer and autumn of 1806", Conrad and Co., Philadelphia, 1807, p. 174.)

Como - 3rd of November 1833
This town looks like nothing I've already seen; under my windows two musicians play the violin in a small boat; in the streets, a crowd of tall, medium-height and small abbots; nothing quite as comical as these small abbots, barely the age of ten; dressed like our priests and wearing, quite like them, tricornes, they stroll with their hands in their pockets, whistling."
(marquis de Beauffort, " Souvenirs d’Italie, par un catholique", cinquième édition, Société des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles, 1839, p. 30 [trad. L. De Caro])

Cologne - August 11,1838
In the evening, as the stars were shining, I took a walk upon the side of the river opposite to Cologne. Before me was the whole town, with its innumerable steeples figuring in detail upon the pale western sky. To my left rose, like the giant of Cologne, the high spire of St. Martin's, with its two towers ; and, almost in front, the sombre apsis cathedral, with its many sharp-pointed spires, resembling a monstrous hedgehog; the crane previously mentioned forming the tail, and near the base two lights, which appeared like eyes sparkling with fire. Nothing disturbed the stillness of the night but the rustling of the waters at my feet, the heavy tramp of a horse's hoofs upon the bridge, and the sound of a blacksmith's hammer. A long stream of fire that issued from the forge caused the adjoining windows to sparkle; then, as if hastening to its opposite element, disappeared in the water.
(Victor Hugo, "The Rhine", London, D. Aird, 1843, pp. 87-88.)

Bacharach – August 1838
When twelve strikes at Bacharach we go to bed—we shut our eyes—we try to dispel the thoughts of day—we come to that state when we have, at the same time, something awake, and something asleep—when the fatigued body reposes, and when the wayward mind is still at labour.
When thus, between the mind and body we are neither asleep nor awake, a noise suddenly disturbs the shades of night—an inexpressible, a singular noise,—a. kind of faint murmuring—at once menacing and plaintive, which mingles with the night wind, and seems to come from the high cemetery situated above the village. You awake, jump up, listen. What is that ? It is the watchman blowing his trumpet to assure the inhabitants that all is well, and that they may sleep without fear. Be it so; still I think it impossible to adopt a more frightful method.
(Victor Hugo, "The Rhine", London, D. Aird, 1843, pp. 140-141.)

Mayence – September 1838
Mayence, white though it be, repect of a mercantile city. The river here is not less crowded with sails, the town not less encumbered with bales, nor more free from bustle, than formerly. People walk, speak, push, sell, buy, sing, and cry; in fact, in all quarters of the town, in every house, life seems to predominate. At night the buzz and noise cease, and nothing is heard at Mayence but the murmurings of the Rhine, and the everlasting noise of seventeen water-mills, which are fixed to the piles of the bridge of Charlemagne.
(Victor Hugo, "The Rhine", London, D. Aird, 1843, pp. 204-205.)

Zurich – September 1839
It was dark, and I was sound asleep in a corner of the carriage when the loud ring of horses' hoofs on a board floor awakened me. I opened my eyes. At first it seemed to me that I was in a strange sort of cave. Immense beams and rafters, supported in the most intricate manner, formed a vaulted roof over my head ; while to the right and left of me, low arches formed of heavy scantling revealed two dark, narrow, galleries with occasional openings through which came the evening breeze and the soft murmur of the river. Far off in the distance, at the end of this strange cave, I vaguely discerned the gleam of bayonets. As the carriage rolled slowly along, a distant torch cast a flickering light over the massive wooden arches. I was on the covered bridge of Zurich, and some patrols were bivouacking just outside.
(Victor Hugo, "the Rhine", Boston: Estes and Lauriat, [1892?], vol 2, p. 110)

France, 1844
[Travelling in an English travelling-carriage]
You have been travelling along, stupidly enough, as you generally do in the last stage of the day; and the ninety-six bells upon the horses--twenty-four apiece--have been ringing sleepily in your ears
for half an hour or so; and it has become a very jog-trot, monotonous, tiresome sort of business; and you have been thinking deeply about the dinner you will have at the next stage; when, down at the end of the long avenue of trees through which you are travelling, the first indication of a town appears, in the shape of some straggling cottages: and the carriage begins to rattle and roll over a horribly uneven pavement. As if the equipage were a great firework, and the mere sight of a smoking cottage chimney had lighted it, instantly it begins to crack and splutter, as if the very devil were in it. Crack, crack, crack, crack. Crack-crack-crack. Crick-crack. Crick-crack. Helo! Hola! Vite! Voleur!
Brigand! Hi hi hi! En r-r-r-r-r-route! Whip, wheels, driver, stones, beggars, children, crack, crack, crack; helo! hola! Charité pour l'amour de Dieu! crick-crack-crick-crack; crick, crick, crick; bump, jolt, crack, bump, crick-crack; round the corner, up the narrow street, down the paved hill on the other side; in the gutter; bump, bump; jolt, jog, crick, crick, crick; crack, crack, crack; into the shop-windows on the left-hand side of the street, preliminary to a sweeping turn into the wooden archway on the right; rumble, rumble, rumble; clatter, clatter, clatter; crick, crick, crick; and here we are in the yard of the Hotel de l'Ecu d'Or; used up, gone out, smoking, spent, exhausted; but sometimes making a false start unexpectedly, with nothing coming of it—like a firework to the last!
(Charles Dickens, "Pictures from Italy", Transcribed from the 1913 Chapman & Hall, Ltd. edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk ), Chapter I - going through France.
( http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext96/picit10.txt, site consulté le 28 janvier 2013)

Genoa , Albaro, Villa Bagnerello, 1844
The frogs are company. There is a preserve of them in the grounds of the next villa; and after nightfall, one would think that scores upon scores of women in pattens were going up and down a wet stone pavement without a moment’s cessation. That is exactly the noise they make.
(Charles Dickens, ibid., Chapter IV – Genoa and its neighbourhood.)

But the most favourite game is the national one of Mora, which they pursue with surprising ardour, and at which they will stake everything they possess. […] The initiated, however, of whom there is always an eager group looking on, devour it with the most intense avidity; and as they are always ready to champion one side or the other in case of a dispute, and are frequently divided in their partisanship, it is often a very noisy proceeding. It is never the quietest game in the world; for the numbers are always called in a loud sharp voice, and follow as close upon each other as they can be counted. On a holiday evening, standing at a window, or walking in a garden, or passing through the streets, or sauntering in any quiet place about the town, you will hear this game in progress in a score of wine-shops at once; and looking over any vineyard walk, or turning almost any corner, will come upon a knot of players in full cry. It is observable that most men have a propensity to throw out some particular number oftener than another; and the vigilance with which two sharp-eyed players will mutually endeavour to detect this weakness, and adapt their game to it, is very curious and entertaining. The effect is greatly heightened by the universal suddenness and vehemence of gesture; two men playing for half a farthing with an intensity as all-absorbing as if the stake were life.
(Charles Dickens, ibid., Chapter IV – Genoa and its neighbourhood.)

[in the city] the long strings of patient mules, that go jingling their little bells through these confined streets all day long.
(Charles Dickens, ibid., Chapter IV – Genoa and its neighbourhood.)

Especially on festa-days, the bells of the churches ring incessantly; not in peals, or any known form of sound, but in a horrible, irregular, jerking, dingle, dingle, dingle: with a sudden stop at every fifteenth dingle or so, which is maddening. This performance is usually achieved by a boy up in the steeple, who takes hold of the clapper, or a little rope attached to it, and tries to dingle louder than every other boy similarly employed. The noise is supposed to be particularly obnoxious to Evil Spirits; but looking up into the steeples, and seeing (and hearing) these young Christians thus engaged, one might very naturally mistake them for the Enemy.
(Charles Dickens, ibid., Chapter IV – Genoa and its neighbourhood.)

[between Nice and Genoa] In one town, San Remo - a most extraordinary place, built on gloomy open arches, so that one might ramble underneath the whole town - there are pretty terrace gardens; in other towns, there is the clang of shipwrights’ hammers, and the building of small vessels on the beach.
(Charles Dickens, ibid., Chapter VI – Genoa and its neighbourhood.)

Ferrarra - 1844
I wonder why the head coppersmith in an Italian town, always lives next door to the Hotel, or opposite: making the visitor feel as if the beating hammers were his own heart, palpitating with a deadly energy!
(Charles Dickens, ibid., Chapter VI – Through Bologna and Ferrarra)

Venice – circa 1850
[Théophile Gautier set at Campo-San-Mose]
The campanile has no sinecure. It clangs and chimes the livelong day; in the morning it is the Angelus, then Mass, then vespers, then the evening prayer. Its iron tongue is scarcely ever silent; nothing tires out its bronze lungs. (p. 143)

Seated under my balcony and puffing Levantine tobacco, I shall now make a sketch of Venetian life.
It is morning. The white smoke of the cannon-shot from the frigate which denotes the opening of the port,
rises from the lagoon, the angelic salutation clangs from the numerous campaniles in the city. Patrician and middle-class Venice is still sound asleep, but the poor devils who spend the night on staircases, on the steps of palaces, or on the bases of columns, have already left their beds and shaken the night dew from their damp rags. The boatmen at the traghetti are washing their gondolas, brushing the cloth and the felzi the Persian carpet which lies on the floor of their craft, and getting their boats in order, ready for customers. (p. 145)

It was time to get back to my gondola, which was waiting for me at the Piazzetta landing. The moon had arisen, and nothing is more delightful than an excursion by moonlight along the Grand Canal or the Giudecca. It is a romantic situation which an enthusiastic traveller cannot omit on a beautiful, bright August night. I had another reason for wandering on the lagoon at a time when it would have been wiser to vanish within my mosquito net. Who has not heard of the gondoliers singing the ottavl of Tasso, and barcarolles in the Venetian dialect, so lisping and broken that it resembles a child's first attempts? The gondoliers have long since ceased to sing, and yet the tradition is not quite lost; the older men do preserve within their memories some episodes of "Jerusalem Delivered," which they are willing enough to recollect in return for a heavy tip and a few jars of Cyprus wine. Like the maidens of Ischia who put on their beautiful Greek costumes for Englishmen alone, the gondoliers will sing their melodies only when well paid for doing so.
When we had got some distance out in the great Canal of the Giudecca, which is almost an arm of the sea, about opposite the Jesuit church, the white facade of which was silvered by the moon, my gondolier, after having wetted his whistle, sang in a guttural, deep, somewhat hoarse voice, but which was heard a long way over the water, with prolonged cadences, "La Biondina in Gondoletta," "Pronta la Gondoletta," and the episode of "Erminia among the Shepherds."
I had committed the mistake of bringing my singer with me instead of putting him in a boat at a distance and listening to him from the shore, for the music is pleasanter farther away than near, but being more of a poet than a musician, I wanted to hear the lines.
(Théophile Gautier, "Travels in Italy", "the Works of Théophile Gautier, vol. 7, translated and edited by Pr. F. C. de Sumichrast, Department of French, Harvard University, The Jenson Society, 1906, pp. 143, 145, 166-167)

Clock of Naples – April 1856
At sunrise, the cries of spirits sellers,
Caldallesse (boiled chestnuts) and succiole, and the seller of raisin bread at 6am.
The milk, the cows, the goats, 7am.
The goatherd who gathers his goats in the streets to the cry “chia chia”
The meat, the herbs, the fruits at 8am.
The women who sell eggs at 9am.
The hoarse voice of the sailor from Portici who brings the butter of Sorrente at 10 am.
At 11, the seller of ricotta and cheese from Castellamare.
At noon, in full voice, the sellers cry out the rest of their goods.
(Edmond et Jules de Goncourt, "Les chemins de l'Italie", Desjonquières, Paris, 1996, p. 302.)

Florence – April 8, 1864
A city complete in itself, having its own arts and edifices, lively and not too crowded, a capital and not
too large, beautiful and gay—such is the first idea of Florence.
One wanders along carelessly over the large slabs with, which the streets are paved. From the Palazzo
Strozzi to the Piazza Santa Trinita there is a humming crowd constantly renewing itself.
(Hippolyte Taine, "Italy, Florence and Venice", New York, Holt & Williams, 1873, p. 71, transl. John Durand)

Madrid - Puerta del Sol - 1871
On the sidewalks, which are wide enough to hold {164} four carriages abreast, one is obliged to force one’s way. In a space no larger than a flagstone you see a civil guard, a matchseller, a broker, a beggar, and a soldier, all in a bunch. Troops of scholars pass servants, generals, ministers, peasants, toreros, and gentlemen. Ruined spendthrifts ask for alms in a whisper, so as not to be discovered; lewd wretches look at you with questioning eyes; women lightly nudge you on the elbow; on every side there are hats in the air, smiles, shaking of hands, cheery greetings, cries of “Largo!” from the laden porters and from the hawkers with their wares hanging about their necks; the shouts of newsboys, the shrill cry of the water-carrier, the tooting of the coach-horns, the cracking of whips, the clank of swords, the tinkling of guitars, and the songs of blind beggars. There regiments pass with bands of music; the king passes; the square is sprinkled with great jets of water, which cross in the air; men go by carrying placards to advertise the shows; swarms of gamins with their arms full of extra editions; then an army of government clerks; the bands of music pass again; lights appear in the shops; the crowd grows denser; the blows on the elbow become more frequent; the voices grow louder; the uproar and commotion increase. It is not the activity of a busy people: it is the vivacity of a high-spirited race; it is a Carnival gaiety, an idleness that cannot rest and overflows in a feverish desire for pleasure, which {165} seizes one and holds him fast or drives him around like a reel and forbids him to leave the square—a curiosity which never wearies, a happy desire to be amused, to think of nothing, to talk small talk, to stroll about and laugh. Such is the famous plaza of the Puerta del Sol.
(Edmondo De Amicis, "Spain", Merrill and Baker, New York, London, 1895, translated by Stanley Rhoads Yarnall, p. 122) The Project Gutenberg eBook of Spagna, by Edmondo De Amicis..html#Page_122.

Paris - 28th June, 1878
The first impression is an agreeable one. It is the large, irregular square of the Bastile, noisy and crowded, into which open four Boulevards and the streets, and form which one hears the deafening clamor of the immense suburb of St. Antoine. But one is still stunned by the noise of the great, gloomy station [gare de Lyon], where we arrived worn out and sleepy, and this last Place full of light, these thousand colors, the grand column of July, the trees, the rapid motion of the carriages and the crowd we scarcely see. It is the first quick, deep whiff of Paris life, and we receive it with half-closed eyes. We did not begin to see clearly until until we reach the Boulevard Beaumarchais. Here Paris begins to appear.
[....] Between the two rows of trees is a constant passing and repassing of carriages, great carts and wagons drawn by engine and high omnibuses, laden with people, bounding up and down on the unequal pavement, with a deafening noise. Yet the whole air is different from that of London, the green open place, the faces, the voices, and the colors give to that confusion more the air of pleasure than of work.

At last we reach the Seine. What a full, deep breath we draw! How beautiful always is the great blue stream which flows, reflecting the gray colors of its thousand floating houses, between the two high banks crowned with colossi of stone ! Before and behind us the long bridges mingle their arches of every form, and the black streaks formed by the crowds which swarms behind its parapets; beneath, the boats filled with people follow each other; crowds of human beings continually descend the terraces of the banks, and quarrel at the steps; and the confused voices of the multitude mingle with the songs of women crowded in the wash houses, with sound of the horns and bells, the noise of the carriages on the quays, the lament of the river and murmur of the trees on the bank, stirred by a light breeze, which makes one feel the freshness of the country and the sea.
(Edmondo de Amicis, "Studies of Paris", Putnam's Sons, New York, 1879, p. 3, 4, 22; translated from the Italian, by W. Wilhelmina Cady)

Stockholm - 1879
Far below him lay the noisy, reawakening town; the steam cranes whirred in the harbour, the iron bars rattled in the iron weighing machine, the whistles of the lock-keepers shrilled, the steamers at the pontoon bridge smoked, the omnibuses rumbled over the uneven paving-stones; noise and uproar in the fish market, sails and flags on the water outside; the screams of the sea-gulls, bugle-calls from the dockyard, the turning out of the guard, the clattering of the wooden shoes of the working-men--all this produced an impression of life and bustle, which seemed to rouse the young man's energy.
[…]
The bells of St. Catherine's chimed seven; the splenetic treble of St.Mary's seconded; the basses of the great church, and the German church joined in, and soon the air was vibrating with the sound made by the seven bells of the town; then one after the other relapsed into silence, until far away in the distance only the last one of them could be heard singing its peaceful evensong; it had a higher note, a purer tone and a quicker tempo than the others--yes, it had! He listened and wondered whence the sound came, for it seemed to stir up vague memories in him.
All of a sudden his face relaxed and his features expressed the misery of a forsaken child. And he was forsaken; his father and mother were lying in the churchyard of St. Clara's, from whence the bell could still be heard; and he was a child; he still believed in everything, truth and fairy tales alike.
The bell of St. Clara's was silent, and the sound of footsteps on the gravel path roused him from his reverie.
(August Strindberg, "Red Room" (1879), Howard Latimer, 1913; transl by Ellie Schleussner, p. 3) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37039/37039.txt page 3.

Venice – 1882
More than the rest of the population, of course, they [the gondoliers] are the children of Venice; they are associated with its idiosyncrasy, with its essence, with its silence, with its melancholy.

When I say they are associated with its silence I should immediately add that they are associated also with its sound. Among themselves they are an extraordinarily talkative company. They chatter at the _traghetti_, where they always have some sharp point under discussion; they bawl across the canals; they bespeak your commands as you approach; they defy each other from afar. If you happen to have a _traghetto_ under your window, you are well aware that they are a vocal race. I should go even further than I went just now, and say that the voice of the gondolier is in fact for audibility the dominant or rather the only note of Venice.
There is scarcely another heard sound, and that indeed is part of the interest of the place. There is no noise there save distinctly human noise; no rumbling, no vague uproar, nor rattle of wheels and hoofs. It is all articulate and vocal and personal. One may say indeed that Venice is emphatically the city of conversation; people talk all over the place because there is nothing to interfere with its being caught by the ear. Among the populace it is a general family party. The still water carries the voice, and good Venetians exchange confidences at a distance of half a mile. It saves a world of trouble, and they don't like trouble. Their delightful garrulous language helps them to make Venetian life a long_conversazione_.
(Henry James, "Italian Hours", Gutenberg project)

Copenhague – around 1910
From my own childhood I remember the barrel-vaulted passage leading Copenhagen’s old citadel. When the soldiers marched through with fife and drums the effect was terrific. A wagon rumbling through sounded like thunder. Even a small boy could fill it with a tremendous and fascinating din – when the sentry was out of sight.
(Sten Eiler Rasmusssen, "On Experiencing Architecture", Cambridge, Mass., The MIT Press, 1995, p. 225) (in Northern Soundscape, p. 10)

Florence – January 27, 1953
Area 1: within 1st circle W. of Calzainoli, the central redevelopment
Human activity: medium heavy passage of pedestrians
Traffic: constant and rather haphazard movement cars and motorbikes
Noise: constant hum of traffic, though rarely at high pitch, and sputter of motorbikes; some loudspeakers music and announcing; less often the football or a voice.

Area 2: remainder within 2nd circle, the medieval
Human activity: moving through but also discussion, selling, work or play; fewer in numbers but seemingly more intense.
Traffic: generally lower, but in some narrow streets. Streets of even greater intensity than1; wagon and carts in mix in; fewer parked vehicles; more haphazard; less attention by pedestrians and much walking and street and mixture.
Noise of traffic at times very intense, especially chatter of bikes, but generally lower, more oscillating; footballs and voices; some work noises.

Area 3: (remainder within 3rd circle – basically late Renaissance and some later growth). Area has many similarities with 1 and 2, in many ways a sort of compromise between the two, in a lower key.
Human activity: plentiful movement, but little discussion or free use, except in piazzas. Intense activity in markets.
Traffic: a substantial amount, but moving faster and more freely in broader streets.
Noise: traffic noise predominant, but is undulating. Footballs and voices join background.
Area 4: (urban beyond 3rd circle, principally 19th century, and little modern growth)
Human activity: spare movement, little stopping except delivery-men and occasional children.
Traffic: also sparse and passing at high speed, to get it over with.
Noise: background is the occasional car and especially the noise of bus and train one street away. Some voice of footballs, but now also birds!
(Kevin Lynch: "In to Florence to survey "characteristic elements", January 27 1952, in: "Writings and projects", pp. 118-121.)

Venice – circa 1955
The municipal band plays the usual classical repertory on a stand in the Piazza several nights a week during the summer and fall. More Venetian are the bell of the Marangona in the Campanile, tolling out the main divisions of day – sunrise, noon, midnight – the bell of the enamelled clock tower, struck every hour by the two giant bronze figures amid a scattering of pigeons, the bells of San Francesco della Vigna sounding over the Laguna Morta. The Venetians recognize all their bells by sound. Their dialect has its own peculiar music, high and sweet, like the chirping of birds.
It has the same rhythm as the quick, tapping step, up-and-down, up-and-down, that the Venetians have developed to match the form of their multitudinous bridges, which are seldom thrown straight across the water, but arched, with flights of stairs up and down.
(Mary McCarthy, "Venice Observed" (1956), Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, London, 2006, pp. 272-273)

Florence – circa 1958
But it [the traffic] is a pageant no one can stop to watch, except the gatekeeper at the Boboli, who sits calmly in his chair at the postal, passing the time of day. In his safe harbour, he appears indifferent to the din, which is truly infernal, demonic. Horns howl, blare, shriek; gears rasp; brakes squeal; Vespas sputter and fart; tyres sing. No human voice, not even the voice of a radio, can be distinguished in this mechanical babel, which is magnified as it rings against the rough stone of the palaces. If the Arno valley is a natural oven, the palaces are natural amplifiers. The noise is ubiquitous and goes on all day and night. Far out, in the suburbs, the explosive chatter of a Vespa mingles with the cock’s crow at four in the morning; in the city an early worker, warming up his scooter, awakens a whole street.
Everyone complains of the noise; with the windows open, no one can sleep. The morning paper reports the protests of hotel-owners, who say that their rooms are empty: foreigners are leaving the city; something must be done; a law must be passed. And within the hotels, there is a continual shuffling of rooms. Number 13 moves to 22, and 22 moves to 33, and 33 to 13 or to Fiesole. In fact, all the rooms are noisy and all are hot, even if an electric fan is provided. The hotel-managers know this, but what can they do? To satisfy the client, they co-operate with police alacrity in the make-believe of room-shuffling. If the client imagines that he will be cooler or quieter in another part of the hotel, why destroy illusions? In truth, short of leaving Florence, there is nothing to be done until fall comes and the windows can be shut again. A law already exists forbidding the honking of horns within the city limits, but it is impossible to drive in a city like Florence without using your horn to scatter the foot traffic.
As for the Vespas and the Lambrettas, which are the plague of the early hours of the morning, how can a law be framed that will keep their motors quiet? Readers of the morning newspaper write in with more suggestions; a meeting is held in Palazzo Vecchio, where more suggestions are aired: merit badges to be distributed to noiseless drivers; state action against the manufacturers; a special police squad, equipped with radios, empowered to arrest noisemakers of every description; an ordinance that would make a certain type of muffler mandatory, that would make it illegal to race a motor "excessively", that would prohibit motor-scooters from entering the city centre. This last suggestion meets with immense approval; it is the only one Draconian enough to offer hope. But the motor-scooterists’organization at once enters a strong protest (‘undemocratic’, ‘discriminatory’, its calls the proposal), and the newspaper, which has been leading the anti-noise movement, hurriedly backs water, since Florence is a democratic society, and the scooterists are the popolo minuto – small clerks and artisans and factory workers. It would be wrong, the newspaper concedes, to penalize the many well-behaved scooterists for the sins of a few ‘savages’, and unfair, too, to consider only the city centre and the tourist trade; residents on the periphery should have the right to sleep also. The idea of the police squad with summary powers and wide discretion is once again brought forward, through the city’s finances will hardly afford it. Meanwhile, the newspaper sees no recourse but to appeal the gentilezza of the driving public.
This, however, is utopian: Italians are not civic-minded.
(Mary McCarthy, "The Stones of Florence" (1959), Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, London, 2006, pp. 17-18)

Florence – circa 1958
In the back streets of the Santa Croce quarter, the farthest remove from the smart linen shops of Via Tornabuoni, two characteristic sounds can be heard, when the traffic is momentarily silent, two sounds that are modern Florence: the clack-clack of a sewing machine and the tinkle of a young girl practicing on a old piano.
(Mary McCarthy, "The Stones of Florence" (1959), Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, London, 2006, pp. 168-169)

Venice circa 1963
I remember with great clarity the greatest urban experience I have ever had. It was in Venice in winter. In front of the church of San Marco, the great square, which Napolean called the most beautiful drawing room in Europe, was empty. It was cold and foggy and the top of the Campanile barely showed sunlit above the low hanging sea mist. The tide was in, and the black and white stones of the intricately laid pavement were covered with a thin film of water. There was no sound - no automobile exhausts, no buses. Absolute quiet in the very heart of a great city. In the distance you could hear faintly some young people singing. All of a sudden the air became dark with birds, the square filled with the beating of thousands of wings, the noise increased and increased until it was deafening, and the deserted square became absolutely filled with pigeons. The noise was incredible - even frightening. They had come to feed, and when they had finished, they left just as quickly, and the great square was empty and quiet again.
(L. Halprin, "Cities", Rheinhold, New York, 1963, p. 9) (http://www.sfu.ca/sonic-studio/srs/Lit297.html)

The bells of Venice
One of the great joys of Venice is the never ending bells chiming from the hundreds of campanili (bell towers). The bells are rung at various times of the day, but at 6:00 p.m. there is a symphony of ringing that can be heard from near and far no matter where you are in Venice. Each campanile has its distinctive sound. Some are tinny. Some are striking. Some are eloquent.
There is one very special bell in Venice and it has a name. It is the Marangona. It is located in the great campanile in Piazza San Marco and is the only one of the five original bells to survive the collapse of the tower on July 14, 1902. It is an ancient bell or unknown origin and it has the most beautiful, haunting, and mellifluous tone of any bell we have ever heard.
Each of the original five bells had names and were rung to signal a specific events: the Maleficio signaled that a capital execution was going to take place. La Trottiera called magistrates to the Palazzo Ducale; La Nona rang at the ninth hour or midday. The Pregadi announced meetings of the Senate. The Marangona rang the beginning and ending of the work day and was named after the marangoni, the carpenters, but the term was synonymous for workers. They are tuned in the scale of A.
Today the Marangona is only rung twice a day, at noon and midnight. To hear it in its glory, you must go at midnight when the piazza will be quiet and the Marangona is struck solo.
(http://www.casesf.com/VeniceBells.htm , check August 12, 2012)

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