View From The Pincian Hill

On 8 July 1887, Sarah Remond wrote to Frederick Douglass (below), who, with his second wife, Helen, was stopping in England on the way back to America. Remond gives her address as Piazza Barberini No.6, primo piano.  She wishes him a pleasant ocean voyage and recalls her own stressful transatlantic journey but says that, “Ill as I was from sea sickness, I can never forget the beauty, and at times the awful grandeur of the Atlantic ocean!”

Remond’s letter offers a unique glimpse into a moment of her life and thoughts in Rome. The city, she writes, “is now quite deserted so far as the birds of winter passage are concerned.” Although both tourists and Romans leave for the mountains or the seaside, Remond enjoys the fact that “Rome at this season is quite another place. No one knows Italy till they see it in summer. The beauty heightens with the heat” and there is always a shady nook to enjoy on her walks through the gardens and the tree-lines allees of the Pincio.

In an interesting professional aside, Remond speaks as a doctor with the observation that contrary to conventional wisdom, “The summer months often cures (sic) invalids if they can be persuaded to try it, and lead the right kind of life. I have some interesting facts on this point.” She reports that her various family members have gone, and that she will “be obliged to speak mostly Italian as there will be perhaps in all Rome only two or three persons that I know who speak English.”

A particularly surprising element of Remond’s letter is in fact the very last word. She signs herself Sarah Remond Pintor. Almost nothing is known of her marriage to Lazzaro Pintor. She was in her fifties when they wed in Florence, and she was on her own in Rome within three years. He is said to have been from Sardinia, and his given name and surname are traditionally Jewish. Sarah’s father, John Remond, born in Curacao, is described as being of African, Dutch and Jewish heritage, a common lineage on that island. In any event, the woman who is identified in history books and commemorated in memorials as Sarah Parker Remond lived and died in Rome as Signora Pintor. She is listed in burial records at the Non-Catholic Cemetery there as Sara (sic) Remond Pintor.

M.R.

Piazza Barberini ca. 1880


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