National Geographic : 1935 Jan
LIFE'S PATTERN ON THE ITALIAN RIVIERA BY HELEN CHURCHILL CANDEE TWO distinct designs for living are traced along the beautiful coast of the Italian Riviera. One is splashed with gaiety and sport; the other is as nor mal as life in any of the other provinces of Italy. Whoever neglects to penetrate the vicissitudes, hopes, and trials of the life of the native for the sake of that more obvious life of the casinos and luxury places misses the true soul of the region. It was to find this life of the people that I fled hotels and villas and nested in a tiny house clinging to the cliffs, not too far from the sea to run down for an early morning splash. Being alone, I found I was not alone. The little people-thus named through affec tion-lost their timidity and became friends, humanly anxious to relieve the loneliness which they thought was my sad estate. Must you know just where my little home lay among its terraces of olives and vines? Lest you identify it, I say loosely that it is on the Italian Riviera di Levante, east of Genoa (Genova), which includes Rapallo and some of the most beautiful bits of inti mate scenery along the Mediterranean (see map, page 69). Vanna was late in coming one morning. She knows I must have my coffee at 8, set out on the terrace. There my spirit can leave the earth and float out over the Medi terranean waters. Time-wasting a reverie would be in a town; but I avoid towns. My tiny blocklike house clings to a cliff in true Italian fashion, and its out-of-doors is com posed of tiny terraces, each with a char acter of its own, one specializing in fruit, another in olives, and all in flowers. In the third terrace below me I see a boy of ten hiding among the grapevines, for I have a vineyard, mind you, on my scrappy property. It must be Vanna's boy Marco; he is a merry rowdy, and yet an .Eolian harp for sensitiveness. It is not like him to sneak. He is more apt to come to me direct, with a smiling, "Buon giorno, si gnora," and then to disappear to the boats. Vanna was disturbed; that was plain, as she set the tray down on the garden table, selecting for the creamy fresh butter the shadow cast by an olive branch. "Diavolo!" she muttered. "Is that a civil greeting, Vanna?" "Scusi, scusi!" she exclaimed. I like that word; it makes one feel that one is quick at learning Italian. "But Marco really is a little devil. He will disgrace me and the memory of his father. It is he who has made me late with the signora's coffee." Of course I asked what the sinner had done. "He told me a lie, a lie! This morn ing I smelled smoke. I called him to me and asked him if he had been smoking. No, no; he had never smoked like the bad boys down on the shore. Signora, he opened wide his eyes like the angels around Maria Santissima, in the church, and swore to me he was as innocent as they." The figure among the vines on the lower terrace sneaked up nearer. Vanna's anger flushed her face. She took savage joy in exposing the iniquitous Marco. "Signora, if you will believe me, while he still looked at me like one of those holy angels, I pulled out of the pocket of his jacket three cigarettes, one of them half smoked and still warm on the end." "Frightful! It might have set fire to your house." Vanna agreed with me eagerly, but re sented my smile as unfitting. "That's the way houses burn down. We might even now be without a home had I not found the cigarette in time." HEIGHTS AND SHORE VIE FOR FAVOR There is a problem that I shall never settle: whether the Mediterranean is more beautiful when it is viewed from the height of my villa or when it is explored along the shore. This morning I gazed at the points of rock and at the sea that slips in between them to make blue bays with an edge of waves in fluffy ruffles, and preferred the heights. But I had need of a pair of shoes-im mediate need-for I was going to tea with one of the most charming of all the charm ing women of the stage, Julia Marlowe. She had a proper villa at Rapallo, not a barnacle on the rock like mine; and my shoes were all of the tramping sort. "Marco, Marco," I called to the shaking greenery of the vines below. "Come here and tell me where is the shop where shoes are sold." No answer. "Come, Marco," I commanded.