29 SEPTEMBER 1866, Page 10


EUROPE is about to have ready access to a vast Winter Garden. Round the .northernmost bay of the Mediterranean, from Genoa to Nice, stretches a territory which Italians, with their strange pride of words, term, as if it were the sole coast either of Italy or Europe, the Riviera. Some ninety miles in length, and of a breadth varying with every geographer's fancy from two miles to thirty, this region is appointed by nature to be the winter garden of Europe. There, in a strictly northern latitude, amidst a scene which at every alternate turn suggests Syria or Norway, North and South have met and kissed each other. Straight up from the coast of the Mediterranean, with its blue waters and atmosphere so clear that the puzzled brain begins to doubt whether horizon is a universal term, rise the Ligurian Alps, sometimes with the abrupt- ness of a wall, more often with the gently receding swell of an English hill ; and amidst their indentations, in short deep valleys, by the sides of ravines, on low plateaus, above jutting promon- tories, on momentary intervals of lowland, lie a succession of spots which the union of all that is picturesque in the North with all that is glowing in the South has turned into scenes of almost unearthly beauty. Out of Ceylon there is nothing like them, and even in Ceylon, the Asiatic paradise, which seems as if it were the crea- tion of painters and poets let loose for once to realize their thoughts, the sea plays no such part. There is one spot on the Riviera where the traveller, slowly toiling up the hill from Italy, comes on a scene such as no painter would, for his own reputation's sake, dare to paint. Above him stretches a rock, not in reality very high, say 1,200 feet sheer, but from its formation apparently limitless, such as might be the final ridge of some mighty Alp, bare, and wind-worn, and stern, without a tree or a blade, with deep rifts, and narrow fissures, and vast overhanging boulders, which look, and have looked for centuries, as if a child's finger might send them crashing and destroying down to the sea. Backwards and forwards stretch endless orchards, orchards where orange and chestnut, grape and apple, olive and cherry, palm and peach, mingle as elsewhere on earth they mingle only in a picture of the passed-away Eden. Down from the spectator's side stretch to the sea vast hanging gardens, furrowed with torrent and cas- cade, glowing with greens of every shade, from the gloomy emerald of the ilex to the topaz-like flash of the acacia and the agate grey of the olive—saddest of trees, whose leaves look in Septem- ber as if they had whitened like human hair with misery—the glorious depth of the chestnut, and the thin brightness of the palm, which looks somehow always as if God had made it the colour of the desert and man had painted it to avoid the associa- tion. Below, beyond the gardens and the ravines, and the narrow belt of whitening sand just visible from that height like a strip of ribbon, lie first the bright sea, with the mountains of Corsica a hundred and thirtymiles awayactimg as horizon, and closer six bays, each a " table " of sapphire so "deeply, darkly, beautifully blue," that the mind refuses to believe but that the water would lie blue in the palm, each set in its strong definite setting of brown rocks or grey olive woods. So absolute is the calm, so sharply clear all outlines, so silent air and sea, that it is only by strong mental effort the man of cities can convince himself that it is not wpaint- ing, but a real bit of the world, of the world which contains East London, fogs, poor-houses, and many another hideousness. Every turn for miles is a new beauty, the carriage now plunging through a vineyard where, in September, the grapes hang on the tall trees in fringes till the occasional glades look like cathedral aisles festooned for a festival, now a cliff straight and sheer as the walls of a middle-age fortress, now a promontory where the road is actually out at sea, and a false step would drop you a thousand feet into your grave amidst that blue water, too lazy to ripple, too sleepy to send its murmur up to you, a sea crossed at every turn with long lines of silver, which indicate, we presume, currents, but which look as if ships had passed along-them thousands of years ago and their keels-had graved the sapphire. And then a plunge downward at speed, till you reach first the range of the sea's murmur, then the flash of the tiny waves you could not see above, and then the floor of an amphitheatre, with sand and sea for base, mountains for benches, and groves for audience, waving, bending, shivering as with excitement, above them. This writer has seen many coun- tries, but nothing quite approaching to the highest five miles of the Riviera, nothing in which he felt so completely the sense at once of grandeur and peace, of sternness and harmony, of isolation from cities, and yet of human proximity. The dark red rock is as of the desert, but every inch of ,soil is cultivated with thrifty care; the sun blazes .down as in Algiers or Palestine, but the breeze is soft and cool;- the road is as silent as a pass in Skye, yet, you. are never out of sight of some village, or big ship, or villa nestling amidst the fruit-covered ravines. In these villages it never freezes, and the leaves never seem to fall, renewing themselves as in. Asia, without visible sign, save the gradual change of shade from aqua- marine to emerald and back again. Over San Remoln particular there hovers a perpetual silent summer, summer as of an island in the South Seas, but with a capacity of escape in .half an hour of climbing up into sharper breezes, and more bracing coldness, and an endless prospect of rock, and valley, and velvet sea. Nice is getting too big, the dust is as one of the plagues of Egypt, the mosquitoes are intolerably greedy, and the inhabitants are as greedy as the mosquitoes ; and Mentone has little room. San Remo, where all the features of the Riviera are concentrated, where the palm grows in profusion, and the shore offers acres of sloping sand to the bather, and ten minutes take you on to the hills, and you can see at one glance orange groves and pine forest, and the people have the genuine softness of Italy, and, there is room to nestle villas by the hun- dred, and the communes are wild to make Europe recognize that Providence has made their bills the true refuge from the North, will, we predict, be the centre of the winter garden yet to be laid out by the collected wealth of the whole North. Other spots are as beautiful, there are nooks by the score where sea, and moun- tain, and grove intermingle in endless rivalry of beauty and colour, where the sea lies in the mountain, and the grove is on a peninsula, and the red rock hangs down as if it longed for rest in the water, and every breeze shakes salt spray from the olives, but San Remo has the climate which nourishes the palm without its accompanying languor. San Remo is the perfect bridal chamber of North and South, of mountain and shore, of soft luxury and desolate grandeur. We dare say there are men to whom it would be disagreeable, in whom that luxury of atmosphere would pro- duce a relaxed fibre, to whom Skye is far more enticing than Hawaii. But to the infinite majority of Englishmen, who long for a bath of the sunny South, who feel that the cold wind and grey sky are by themselves perpetual reminders of exertion, who weary of active waves, and hills which suggest toil, and woods so dark that the eye hungers for light, who cannot find in the North genuine idleness, that idleness of lotus-eaters, which wraps body and brain in the glorious luxury of conscious sleep, there is, we believe, on earth no region like the Riviera. There at least they may enjoy the one sensual pleasure of which Englishmen know nothing—a climate which makes existence a luxury, in which they may, awake, feel the rest of sleep, realize the truth forgotten since childhood, that nature, with all her moods, has somewhere in her a lullaby. Life in San Remo for a month is a month's day-dreaming.

It will soon be accessible. The works of the extraordinary line of railway from Genoa, a line with scores of tunnels, dozens of viaducts, now flung actually into the sea, and then plunging out of sight into the bowels of huge cliffs, is more than half completed. The tunnels with an exception or two seem all made, the viaducts are finished, the rails are piled, and though the works have been suspended for want of funds, they must, now that peace is concluded, speedily be renewed. At present access is easy by steamer from Nice, when the wild Italian dread of cholera, a dread which is like lunacy, which makes the Genoese try to drown apothecaries, and induces some communes of the Riviera to establish a cordon of gendarmes to prevent intercourse with the external world, does not suspend the steamers. But apart goin them intercommunication is slow, dear, and bad. The drive along the Corniche road is perhaps the most magnificent in Europe, but to accomplish it in thorough comfort costs half-a- crown a mile, the speed is only thirty miles a day, and the road, good as it is, makes the toes of nervous people tingle. To a very considerable section of mankind, a drive of four days on the edge of a bridge without a parapet, a bridge often a thousand feet above the water, isnot acceptable, and in winter the road is occa- sionally dangerous. The snow falls heavily on the upper terraces, the skid slides as on ice, and if the carriage once gets a momen- tum of its own down the declivities, half an inch too much may hurl carriage and horses and passengers sheer off the cliff, for a fall on rocks lying at the depth of ten Monuments below. Besides, the .absence of a railway makes the post slow and irregular, interferes with one's Times, diminishes the supply of books, and breaks into -the sleepy luxury one is seeking with the remembrance that we could not start for home at an hour's warning. The railway finished, San Remo will be in unbroken connection with Paris, Naples, Moscow, and all places between those points, in fact with the whole civilized world. The telegraph is already complete, iniving been finished by an engineer who, one cannot help think- ing, had in his appreciation of the weird side of the scenery become half mad. At all events, instead of quietly carrying his wires along the road, he has in many instances flung them, God alone knows how, from hill to hill, so that you see them hanging over the valleys like cobwebs dropped from heaven, producing the strangest impression. Let the route be once finished, and the French, German, and Italian Companies recognize the policy of through tickets at rates a little more moderate, and San Remo will become the winter garden, the Southern bath, the half tropical paradise of the whole of Europe. There is ample room to build, and if anybody in England with a million or so wants an invest- ment for his money, let him before the railway is finished buy and build along the Riviera, get hold of some of those ravine sides, and low hill-tops, and the grove-covered plateaus which nestle down fifty -feet from the sea at every turn between Nice and Savona. If the -climate does not make him for the first time doubt whether money is the supreme good, whether an English labourer is the happiest -of human beings, whether leisure be after all an evil, he will make a fortune such as a native of the Riviera never imagined, such as a Riviera hotel-keeper, whose dreams must be of successful swin- dling, never saw even in his sleep.