CAMOGLI in 1846 --------
by Charles Dickens - Bradbury & Evans, London 1846
CHAPTER IX - TO ROME BY PISA AND SIENA
There is nothing in Italy, more beautiful to me, than the coast-road between
Genoa and Spezzia. On one side: sometimes far below, sometimes nearly on a level
with the road, and often skirted by broken rocks of many shapes: there is the
free blue sea, with here and there a picturesque felucca gliding slowly on; on
the other side are lofty hills, ravines besprinkled with white cottages, patches
of dark olive woods, country churches with their light open towers, and country
houses gaily painted.
On every bank and knoll by the wayside, the wild cactus and aloe flourish in
exuberant profusion; and the gardens of the bright villages along the road, are
seen, all blushing in the summer-time with clusters of the Belladonna, and are
fragrant in the autumn and winter with golden oranges and lemons.
Some of the villages are inhabited, almost exclusively, by fishermen; and it is
pleasant to see their great boats hauled up on the beach, making little patches
of shade, where they lie asleep, or where the women and children sit romping and
looking out to sea, while they mend their nets upon the shore.
There is one town, Camogli, with its little harbour on the sea, hundreds of feet
below the road; where families of mariners live, who, time out of mind, have
owned coasting-vessels in that place, and have traded to Spain and elsewhere.
Seen from the road above, it is like a tiny model on the margin of the dimpled
water, shining in the sun. Descended into, by the winding mule-tracks, it is a
perfect miniature of a primitive seafaring town; the saltest, roughest, most
piratical little place that ever was seen.
Great rusty iron rings and mooring-chains, capstans, and fragments of old masts
and spars, choke up the way; hardy rough-weather boats, and seamen’s clothing,
flutter in the little harbour or are drawn out on the sunny stones to dry; on
the parapet of the rude pier, a few amphibious-looking fellows lie asleep, with
their legs dangling over the wall, as though earth or water were all one to them,
and if they slipped in, they would float away, dozing comfortably among the
fishes; the church is bright with trophies of the sea, and votive offerings, in
commemoration of escape from storm and shipwreck.
The dwellings not immediately abutting on the harbour are approached by blind
low archways, and by crooked steps, as if in darkness and in difficulty of
access they should be like holds of ships, or inconvenient cabins under water;
and everywhere, there is a smell of fish, and sea-weed, and old rope.
The coast-road whence Camoglia is descried so far below, is famous, in the warm
season, especially in some parts near Genoa, for fire-flies. Walking there on a
dark night, I have seen it made one sparkling firmament by these beautiful
insects: so that the distant stars were pale against the flash and glitter that
spangled every olive wood and hill-side, and pervaded the whole air.