Winter in Italy. A dense mist spreads across the endless plains through which meander the river Po and its many tributaries. Dykes, canals, flanked by tenuous lines of poplars, and huge farms emerge from the gloom; a Flemish landscape but for the contortions of the leafless vines, raising their skeleton forms in an extended perspective.
Far-spaced villages appear, their arcaded barns clustered round huge crenellated castles built of brick, which disappear in the time it takes to read the word Gonzaga or Borgoforte on a signpost. As we proceed in a north-easterly direction across these cultivated wastes, the mist thickens. Every tree is clothed in white rime, and every plumed grass on the roadside is a wand of crystal. The vines are encased in the terrible embrace of the hoar frost.