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It was not just the sun, insects and intestinal troubles that represented a threat to the traveler's health, but also the accidents that occurred frequently owing to the conditions of the roads (often unsafe, perched above precipices, transformed into torrents by rain, strewn with potholes) and the vehicles or horses (which at times went unchecked), as well as to human carelessness, just like today, although modern safety standards are fortunately far higher. The literature is filled with advice and anecdotes on the subject, but there is also an abundance of figurative references, with engravings, lithographs and drawings, often satirical in character, depicting frightful predicaments, but almost always with a happy ending.

The roads, bumpy and scored with deep ruts concealing stray rocks that could be lethal for carriage wheels, or muddy and flooded during the rainy season, were often a concomitant cause of mechanical faults. The most common of these was the breakage of suspension straps or springs or, worse, axles. The worst experience of all, however, was the far from rare one of the overturning of the carriage. Thus André Morellet, in 1758, survived to tell the story, not without a sigh of relief, of a lucky escape he had when making an ascent. The horses, whose hooves were already striking sparks on the rocks, balked and backed the carriage toward the brink of the abyss. The postilion, after whipping the beasts mercilessly and calling on St. Anthony, threw himself from the coach, which toppled over the edge with its load of trunks and passengers. Jerks, bumps and then the providential halt: a large and bushy tree, poised above the ravine, acted as a last and unlooked-for safety net.


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