The town of Narni occupies the crest of a hill approximately seven miles south-west of Terni, and fifty miles north of Rome. As was often the case during Turner’s travels, his mode of travelling did not give him much opportunity to stop and explore the centre of the town. The carriage simply followed a predetermined course in an anti-clockwise direction from east to south-west around the walled perimeter. Consequently Turner’s sketches of Narni only relate to views or subjects visible from the road such as the edges of the town and the Bridge of Augustus in the gorge below.
This inverted sketch depicts the view from the Porta della Fiera (also called the Porta Nuova), the gate at the northern tip of the town which is just visible on the far left-hand side of the page. The panoramic outlook from this point takes in the sweep of the valley to the east of Narni with the River Nera snaking across the plain and the hills surrounding Terni beyond. The topographical notational style of Turner’s sketching technique belies the atmospheric spectacle of this vista and the artist has inscribed a note to remind himself that the distant horizon was shrouded in mist. Today the picturesque beauty of the view has been completely transformed by the industrialisation of the area around the new town of Narni Scalo.
The road from the Porta della Fiera winds down the slopes of the hill towards a second gate, the Porta Pollela, visible here in the middle distance, before eventually descending to Narni’s most famous landmark, the Roman Bridge of Augustus in the gorge beneath, see folio 61 verso (D14772). A similar view can be found on folios 60 verso–61 (D14770–1).