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Nervi, April 17th, 1885.
To-day I send yon a friendly greeting from this well-remembered place. What a pity that you should not be here too! I dare say that you too lived in the Hotel Victoria, near the shore, where, in the wing which was probably built afterwards, I have a charming apartment with a view over the palm and orange trees to the sea. The railroad, which has of course been constructed since you were here, and runs between Genoa and La Spezzia, piercing the promontories with eighty tunnels, has no doubt brought many changes to Nervi, but the delightful footpath along the sea-shore past the old Saracen tower was certainly there in your time.
Protected at the back by high walls,you have before you the endless expanse of the sea.
I can sit there for hours watching the play of the waves.
The long dark blue roller comes rushing along, "ever coming and ever fleeing," and then with flying white mane it casts itself upon the low crags, and writhes foaming between the rifts in the rocks. The Italians call these waves cavalli, in remembrance most likely of the steeds of Hephestos. I am sure you often visited the Villa Gropallo with its great garden, where fresh blossoms are breaking out beside the ripe fruit on the orange and lemon trees.
I find it warmer here than on the Ponente. Nervi has this peculiarity, that no gorge opens down from the mountains; the bay is enclosed in an unbroken wall of hills, and receives only the south wind with open arms.
The grand promontory of Portofino wards off the terrible east wind. With this configuration of the land it is impossible that there should be any promenades unless you were to climb up to Sant' Ilario.
It is all shut in by houses and walls; but the walk by the sea makes up for everything.
What a really enchanting land this Italy is! As long as it was the wrestling ground of Germans and French its poet might well say, " Deh ! Fosse tu pił forte, o meno bell' almeno!" (Roschen will correct this line); but now she too has got her "unitą."
Every creature begs here; the children hold out their hands with a "Moriamo di fame," but they dance merrily away if they fail to get anything. The mass of the population lives under heavy burdens, but life is not so bitterly earnest here as at home; even the poorest need not freeze to death or starve. There sits a young fllow on the cliff smoking his lancietta "cool to his inmost heart." He catches a fish, buys a handful of roast chestnuts at the next street corner, and is supplied with food for the day. The rest of his time he spends at the boccie or in lazy contemplation.
Wherever there is a little pool or brook or some rain-water, there the women of Nervi assemble with the most animated conversation to wash the "gleaming garments," with which, to dry them, they adorn even the windows of the palaces. But you find good-humor everywhere.
I intend to make one more short excursion to Santa Margarita and Rapallo, in the Levante, then to stay in
Cadenabbia, on the Lake of Como, till it is spring in Germany. Then mdeed it is more beautiful in our
beech woods than here, and I shall take it as a peculiar favor from God if I am permitted to see the awakening of Nature in my own home for the eighty-fifth time.
With best love, your brother, Helmuth.