MONTI AND THE GOOURG DI L'ORA.

Feb. 11.

THE Turin and Sospello road, which is still unfinished, and which passes the perfume manufactory of the princes of Monaco, now allows of a drive as far as Monti, about three miles from Mentone, a village, whose new church, embosomed in mountains, is visible long before you reach it.

The old road to Monti, which followed the eastern bank of the torrent, was called "La via della Pietra Scritta," on account of a very ancient stone slab, fixed against the rock, and engraved with a mysterious inscription in large characters. This has now been removed, and its present situation cannot be discovered. On the left side of the new road, as you ascend the valley, is a hole in the rock, where, in the memory of Theresine Paturine, the old donkey-driver, lived a little old woman, who was deemed a witch, and who was an object of great terror to the Mentonese children. When they were naughty, they were told that "La Catarina" would come and carry them off to her hole; and if any fell sick, she was supposed to have cast an evil eye upon them. But Catarina was really a good old woman, who spent much of her time in devout prayer in the churches, and who was entirely dependant on alms for her sustenance.

The church of Monti is a gingerbread gothic building, totally unlike everything else in the neighbourhood, and consequently it is much admired by the natives, though utterly unsuited to the scenery. A rope, fixed to the bell in the church tower, stretches across the road, and into the window of a house on the other side of it. This is the priest's window, and being of an apathetic disposition, the priest has the rope tied to him when he is in bed, that he may not be obliged to get up in order to ring the bell. In most of these remote villages, the priest is also the sacristan, sometimes he is likewise the schoolmaster, and he always tills his own ground. Wild mountain lavender grows in all the clefts of the rocks around Monti, and has leaves quite as sweet as the flowers of our lavender in England.

A short distance beyond this village a chasm in the rugged mountains on the right of the valley discloses a torrent rushing furiously down to join the broader stream below. This is the ravine of the Goourg di L'Ora, and to ascend into it, one may easily cross the stream by stepping stones, or in a rainy season, as in our case, by a bridge, which may usually be extemporized from the wood lying about and jerked across the stream. Hence one must scramble up the steep bank among the myrtles and cistus, to a path in the narrow depth of the gorge, where, behind a chaos of huge stones, the stream glides over the edge of the mountains in a long feathery fall, and shivers down into a little emerald green basin of still water.

Local legend long declared this tiny pool to be unfathomable, and the belief would still have existed, but that two years ago an English gentleman, who thought he was rendering a great service to science, had a line made many hundreds of palms long, to test its depth. But after spending several days up to his waist in water, trying to clear away some of the stones, which prevented his giving his line full play, he made the mournful discovery that he had been working all the time at the actual bottom of the hollow, which proved to be only six palms deep. Still it is a curious spot, and the view is fine over the desolate brown hills to the dreary looking town of Castiglione.

Above the cascade rises a mountain, which is pierced on one side of its summit by a natural tunnel, through which daylight appears. Near this, is the so-called "Grotta del Eremito," which has been the source of much interest and speculation. The difficulty and danger of approaching it, had prevented its being visited for many years; but the report among the peasantry, that it had once been the abode of a hermit-saint, who had left curious memorials behind him, stimulated some of the English visitors into climbing its rock a short time ago, and successfully forcing an entrance. The recluse who lived there, must certainly have succeeded in avoiding intercourse with all human kind, for apart from the great difficulty of ascending to the cell, it is situated in such a wild retreat, that before the new road to Sospello was made, it could scarcely have been discovered from any of the neighbouring heights. The front is whitewashed, with a door, a window, and an inscription in red letters, as follows :

N  R  O  S  .  A . . . . .O . . . .
LA    BALMA    TER . . . .
LI.     .HSP.   .   .   .   .II . .
LAN. . . . . . . . . .
     1598

Of this, all that savants have been able to discover, is that in the old patois of Castiglione, "Balma" means cell or grotto, and that L.A.N. probably means "L'Anno." The cell is of irregular size, about twenty feet high, and thirty feet deep; it contains some shelves cut in the solid rock, and the words

"CHRISTO LO FECE,
BERNARDO L'ABITO."

The return from the Goourg di L'Ora should be made by Castellare, which is reached by a wild walk fringed with blue hypaticas in spring. This first runs along a terrace, overlooking the mountain ranges, and then descends into a glen where there is a very picturesque old mill and gateway. We lingered so long here, that we only reached Castellare as darkness set in, and did not arrive at the cemetery of Mentone till two-hours-and-a-half later, after perils of darkness, on rocks, in torrent-beds, and over pathless olive terraces, which we cannot recommend others to encounter.