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INTRODUCTION.

THOSE who merely pass through Mentone in travelling from Nice to Genoa, can form a very faint conception of the beauty and interest which lie hidden around it, and of which the town itself is only a single type. It . is in its secluded valleys, or its deep orange-groves, along the hanks of its torrents, or amid the heights of the wild mountain-chain which forms its background, that the principal charm of Mentone is to be found. No place combines more of the southern beauty of Sorrento and Amalfi, with the savage grandeur of the Abruzzi, or of the lower ranges of the Swiss Alps. The excursions are endless, so that good walkers, or even riders, who remain there for the whole winter, need scarcely ever retrace their steps, and may yet have a daily expedition, in almost every description of scenery. Much of the neighbourhood is still unexplored by English travellers, and is likely to offer rich sources of interest and curiosity. The desolate rock cities of Peglia and Peglione, have passed entirely unheeded till within the last year, though the former contains remains of domestic gothic architecture, which may be compared, on a small scale, with, those of Venice, while the latter rivals the Grecian Meteora, in the strange picturesqueness of its situation. The two neighbouring petty sovereignties, the miniature, but still existing principality of Monaco, and the extinct and ruined Dolceacqua, are interesting, as well from their scenery and the buildings they contain, as from the strange vicissitudes in the history of the two great families of Grimaldi and Doria, which have so long been their rulers. The more distant Taggia, and Ghiandola, with its rugged mountains and rushing stream, though little visited, are equally attractive.

The geological and botanical resources of the great oolitic mountain chain, which bounds the land view from Mentone on every side, form an abundant field for research. Many strange mountain peaks and rock caverns still remain unvisited and unknown. But, above all, the neighbourhood of Mentone will afford employment to the painter, whether he prefers the pines and orange-groves of the sunny shore, the dark sculptured streets and marble balconies of the old Riviera towns, or the wild position of the ruined strongholds, in the heart of the neighbouring mountains.

The language spoken by the lower classes at Mentone is a branch of the Nizzard patois, a harsh, guttural Italian, quite unintelligible to those who are only accustomed to that language in its purity. Since the annexation however, French, which is universally spoken by the upper classes, has begun to creep into ordinary use. The language of the neighbouring villages, varies with every two or three miles, and its origin might form an interesting subject for investigation. At Castellare, a mountain town only three miles from Mentone, many of the words in common use are Spanish, handed down from the time of the Spanish protection at Monaco; and in like manner, in the rock-built citadel of Esa, and in other places which have been Moorish strongholds, words of Arabic still linger, and these may also be found in the names of their surrounding mountains.

The accommodation for visitors at Mentone is rapidly improving, with the increase of foreign winter residents. The town contains several excellent hotels. Of these, the Hotel Vittoria is near the entrance from Nice, the Hotel des Quatre Nations is in the centre of the principal street, and the Hotel Turin is near the Port; the principal rooms in all these look upon the sea. The Hotel de Londres, which is situated at about a quarter-of-a-mile from the town, on the Nice road, is an excellent and well-managed house ; all the rooms in this hotel are generally taken en pension for the whole winter, though the position is rather more exposed and colder than that of the other hotels. The Pension Anglaise, of Monsieur Clerici, is a large house, in a sheltered and beautiful situation on the Genoa side of the town; this is much resorted to by the patients of the English physician, Dr. Bennett, who makes it his winter residence. The terms of this pension are about eight francs a-day. An English ' lady is proposing to open a new pension at a large house on the east of the town, which, from its sheltered and level situation, and its surrounding scenery, is likely to form a most attractive residence for invalids.

Almost all the principal houses in the place are let as lodgings, the original inhabitants either removing to smaller houses for the season, or retiring to the ground-floor or attics, and giving up all their best rooms. Apartments may be secured beforehand by writing to Mr. Willoughby, the English grocer, who is also the general house-agent; he will send a list of the houses which are disengaged, and will engage what is wanted. He is equally useful in recommending servants, as a long residence at Mentone has made him acquainted with the character of most of the natives. The amount of house-rent is much the same at Mentone as at other places in Italy; the first floor of a house, which contains probably two sitting rooms and four or five bed rooms, costing from 60 to 70 for the season, the upper floors being cheaper. Other things are very dear at Mentone. There is a difficulty in procuring good food of any kind, and the charges made by the hotels for sending out dinners are very high for Italy. Good cooks, may, however, be engaged at Nice early in the season, and will make arrangements for obtaining provisions from thence. The meat at Mentone is essentially bad, the sheep being fed on lemons and the scanty herbage on the sea-shore. There is an utter absence of grass or pasture of any kind, and owing to this, all the butter comes from Milan, and when the passage of the Col di Tenda is snowed up in the winter, it often cannot be obtained at all. The charges made for carriages are enormous, and their owners trust to the scarcity of any means of conveyance for exacting the sums they demand; these, however, will necessarily be lowered, as the increase of strangers induces the importation of fresh carriages from Nice. At present, donkeys afford the only means of locomotion within the reach of the poorer visitors; indeed, these are constantly employed for expeditions, as the only roads which can be traversed by carriages, besides the great Riviera road, are that which branches off to Monaco, and the road to Turin, which as yet is only finished as far as Monti, four miles from Mentone.

During the winter we spent at Mentone, we had months of alternate wet and fine weather. In December it rained almost every day, but during the intervals between the showers, owing to the immense power of the sun, the ground became perfectly dry in an hour, and the climate was delightful, one degree of frost being the greatest amount of cold ever felt. 1 January was a month of cloudless sunshine, with a clear and stimulating air, and was, perhaps, the pleasantest part of the whole season, as the weather was not so hot as to make long expeditions disagreeable, and quite warm enough to admit of sitting out the greater part of the day. During February it rained almost constantly, and the weather was hot and relaxing. March, which brings with it the July flowers of England, was fine, with occasional cold winds. In April, the weather was alternately wet and fine. After we left, May was a month of unclouded summer, hut not oppressively hot. Throughout the winter we seldom wanted a fire, except on wet days, or in the evening; and in January it was often hot enough to breakfast at nine o'clock, with windows open to the ground.

The difference between the climate of Nice and that of Mentone, is felt at once on passing the Turbith, a mountain 3000 feet high, which is crossed between the two towns; the sharp winds of Nice being scarcely felt at Mentone, which is also free from the clouds of dust, which often render a residence at Nice so disagreeable.

St. Remo possesses a climate almost as mild as that of Mentone, and is a place where new lodging-houses are beginning to attract foreign residents; but, though beautiful and picturesque in itself, it is entirely deficient in the varied excursions and scenery, which make Mentone so attractive, and it has not yet been reached by many of the English comforts, which may now be obtained at Mentone.

The following account of the climate of Mentone and its effects, is taken from an admirable paper by Dr. Henry Bennett, first published in the Lancet, July 7, 1860:

"Owing to a complete protection from the west, north-west, north, and north-east winds, and owing to the reflection of the sun's rays from the sides of the naked mountains, which form an amphitheater around it, the climate of Mentone is rather warmer than that of Nice indeed, warmer than that of any part of the northern or central parts of Italy. This fact is proved by the presence of groves of large, healthy lemon trees, which occupy the sheltered ravines and the warmer hill sides, wherever water can be obtained, constant irrigation, summer and winter, being necessary for their cultivation. When the thermometer descended to zero several nights consecutively near the sea-shore, and slight films of ice formed on flagons of water on the road and near the torrents, profound dismay was occasioned in the minds of the natives, whose principal riches are the lemon-groves. For several nights many of them sat up, in the greatest consternation, watching the thermometer. Indeed, there was a complete panic with reference to this lamentable and unheard of condition of the weather. Such feelings and fears plainly indicated that frost and snow were very unusual and unwelcome visitors.

"The foreign population of Mentone numbered about three hundred, and contained representatives of nearly all the European nations. The French and English were, however, the most numerous, each family containing generally one invalid. Most of the latter were suffering from pulmonary consumption. Those who were in the early or even secondary stages of the disease, and had vitality and constitutional stamina left, mostly did well. . . . Those who were in the latter stages of the disease, on the contrary, appeared to derive but little benefit from the change. The disease seemed to progress slowly, but steadily. ...

"Several patients who always suffered from bronchitis in England were quite free from it at Mentone, owing to the dryness of the atmosphere.....It is easy to understand that a dry, bracing, cool and invigorating climate should have a beneficial influence on the respiratory mucous membrane of the persons who have still some of the Vital powers of youth or some constitutional stamina left. When we add to this, all but daily exercise in the open air through the winter, in the midst of magnificent scenery, removal from the cares, anxieties and duties of ordinary life, pleasant intercourse with fellow sufferers and their families all tuned to the same unison of cheerful and hopeful resignation, we certainly have united all the hygienic influences calculated to renovate the general health and to arrest the development of tubercular disease. Indeed, to me it is a question whether a warmer and milder winter climate, which is only to be found in a tropical or sub-tropical region, is not less favourable to the recovery of health under such circumstances, always provided rigid attention be paid to the precautions necessary in a climate where the temperature so constantly varies.

"To derive that benefit, however, from the climate of Mentone, and of the south of Europe generally, which it is capable of affording in pulmonary consumption, the most rigid attention should be paid to the hygienic rules peculiar to these regions during the winter season. It should never be forgotten that in winter the heat is sun-heat, and that the air, barring its influence, is usually cold. Warm clothes and woollen outer garments should be used. In dressing for out of doors, a thermometer, placed outside a north room, should always be consulted. The hours for out of door exercise should be between ten and four, and the return should be so arranged as to secure the arrival at home before sunset. The Italian physicians appear to attach a mysterious noxious influence to the hour of sunset. In such a climate as that of Mentone, Nice, &c., I am persuaded the danger is merely in the sudden lowering of the temperature after sunset, which exposes to sudden chills, from the pores of the skin being often open at the time through previous exercise. As the same danger exists even in midday in passing accidentally from the sun to the shade, it is always necessary to he dressed for the latter. The invalid should inhabit a south room, and never go into a north room unless previously warmed by a fire. The one is summer, the other winter. When the weather is bad, he should make a large fire, and stay rigorously at home until it changes. Sunshine and warmth are sure soon to reappear, and thus to bring the confinement to a close. After two or three days of chilly rain, sore throats and colds begin as in England, but then the sun again shines, and they usually die away. All dinner and evening parties should be strictly forbidden. The invalid must be in by sunset, and not leave home again until the following morning. The improvement will be generally the more decided the more these rules are observed. Lastly, exercise and out-door life must not be carried so far as to produce permanent lassitude. With these precautions, the climate is safe and beneficial; without them it is unsafe and treacherous. This is evidenced by the great mortality of the natives of the Nice and Mentone districts, and of Italy generally, by pneumonia and pleurisy, two of the commonest maladies.

"'Society,' in the ordinary sense of the term, can scarcely be said to exist at Mentone. Owing, partly to the great number of invalids, and partly to the absence and expense of carriages of any kind, evening parties are very rare. From the New Year to the Carnival, the municipal authorities give balls and parties almost every week in their public rooms, and to these the foreign residents are invited, with great kindness and cordiality; indeed it has often been a source of regret to the Mentonese, that so few, of the English especially, avail themselves of these invitations. The chief intercourse is in the sketching parties and mountain excursions, for which troops of visitors, some on donkeys and some on foot, unite almost every morning in fine weather."

There is a lending library in the town chiefly of the "Tauchnitz" volumes, where the English papers may be seen. Since the following notes were written, a large new Casino and Reading-room have been commenced. Another improvement in contemplation is the "Promenade Anglaise," which will form a beautiful drive and walk along the shore in the direction of Nice, and will extend ultimately to the Cape St. Martin, two miles from the town, having trees and benches along it at intervals. The commune have now a large sum of money at their disposal for improvements, having just sold all the sea shore by auction for 36,000 francs, as far as the Ponte del Unione, the last bridge towards Nice. Part of this is to be devoted to making a public garden near the suspension bridge, on the Nice side of the town.

The Service of the Church of England is performed on the morning and afternoon of Sundays, and on every Wednesday and Friday morning throughout Lent. Several rooms have been thrown together for the purpose in an old palazzo in the town, and are capable of accomodating a large congregation. The English church however is at present situated in one of the dirtiest and narrowest lanes of Mentone, and it is proposed to build a new and larger church, for which a site has already been given, near the Pension Anglaise. The chaplain is the Rev. D. Morgan.

The principal English physician is Dr. Bennett. Dr. Maclimont is an excellent Homoeopathic practitioner who frequently passes the winter at Mentone; the Italian Dr. Bottini is as highly spoken of for his skill and experience, as for the kindness and charities which have so justly endeared him to the native population.

Masters in languages are not easily found at Mentone. In music they can be more readily obtained. Mr. Edward Binyon has been induced to give lessons in drawing, and will go out sketching with his pupils.

The usual way of reaching Mentone is from Toulon, via Cannes and Nice, in twenty hours by diligence, or in three days by vetturino carriage, sleeping at Vidauban and Cannes. Toulon is at present the terminus of the Mediterranean railway, and may be reached in thirty-two hours from England, but this railway will in time be continued to Genoa, and is to completed in 1862-3, as far as Nice. This route may be varied by taking the steamer between Marseilles and Nice, or by leaving or re-seeking the railway at Aix in Provence, whence there is a branch which joins the main line at Rognac, half-way between Avignon and Marseilles. Good vetturino carriages may usually be found at the Hotel Croix d'or at Toulon, and with two or even three horses, ought never to cost more than 250 francs to Mentone, a bon-main of five francs a-day being usually expected by the driver. This sum may be much reduced by writing beforehand for one of the Cannes vetturini, who will come to meet their party at Toulon, and charge 120 francs from thence to Cannes, and 50 or 60 francs from Cannes to Mentone. The price of a place in the coupe of the diligence from Toulon to Nice is 45 francs, and from Nice to Mentone four francs. The price of a place in the banquette from Toulon to Nice is 25 francs. The price of the railway journey from Boulogne to Toulon is 145 francs in the first class, and 99 in the second. Two other routes may be taken in travelling to Mentone one is by the beautiful Riviera road from Genoa, in 20 hours by diligence, or by a vetturino carriage in three days, the best halting places being Savona and Oneglia. The other route brings the traveller in three days over the pass of the Col di Tenda from Turin, by vetturino carriage, or in 30 hours if he takes the diligence. This route at present obliges him to go round by Nice, the carriage road being still unfinished between Mentone and Sospello.