History

Portofino, a World apart
23
February 2008

Gea of Portofino, a fable for a child

Portofino Sailing Boats

The house of Gea was not certainly the richest, nor the host elegant in the village, but it was undoubtedly the most fanciful and famous of the place. It was not in the centre of the inhabited area, but it was placed in a little valley close to the mountain and it was celebrated everywhere for its prodigiuous characteristic: at every season it changed it’s colour, naturally, without anybody’s intervention with brushes and paints. In Spring it adorned itself with pink and soft green shades, in Summer it took up the tonalities of golden yellow, in Autumn it was transformed for warm variation of brown ochre, while in Winter it lighted up with white touches. Experts had come from all the world to carry out researches into the causes of those colourings, but they had tried to explain the mysterious phenomenon, linking it up vaguely with the influence of the sun.

When then they demanded an eplanation of it from Gea, a splendid girl of stately beauty, with very long hair reaching the ground, they could understand even less: Gea. who was a foundling and lived doing services to the ones who asked her for them, had arranged that little house by herself. She had strengthened the wood walls of a stable with lime and bricks: then she had painted everything with colours she had invented and whose ingredients she didn’t even remember. And the more she tried to remember, the less she could remember; it seemed to her as if the thing had happened a long time before, may be in the mists of time, even if she was only twenty or little more.

So the scientific researches stopped but the fame of the house remained and people ran from towns to see the house of Gea, the splendour of its magic colours, which, moreover, gave an inexplicable serenity to the ones who gazed at them. The days of Gea were always different, according to seasons: the mount of Portofinooffered infinite perspectives from the Mediterranean maquis to woods and forest with that transparent sea swich suddenly appeared; the girl stopped running to discover the large blue expanse which made her thrill with delight, from the top behind the green interlacing of the branches.

Gea was known by all, but she was very close to an only girl whose name was Lilly and she was considered a sort of very charitable lady of the place. The strange, blonde, imposing Gea and the sweet, dark-haired, slender Lilly, ran often together thoughtlessly throught the woods into competition with the squirrels and rejoiced at the flowers, sprouting everywhere among the leaves. And they loved them so much, that they would never dare to touch them, not even to make a garland to put on their hair. And if they met the spiteful wild boars, they stopped to gaze on their eyes, restraining hardly, from laughing, until the boar; plunged again into the thick of the wood. The pathway had no secrets for them: they went along them, up and don’t in every season. inebriated by the balmy air and the song of the birds. But they were destined to separate. Lilly had married and she had to look after her children, while Gea continued to refuse the marriage offers of many admirers of hers who couldn’t set their minds at rest.

The truth was another.

Gea had a secret lover
. His name was Nebrinus and be was the son of the lord of the winds and had made her a lot of promises. To go to the meeting-place, Gea left by night and reached the fixed place towards dawn. She let dawn her hair and while she let Nebrinus ruffle them, she turned anxious towards all the directions, hoping to see his face sooner or later. Nebrinus was invisible like his father but he had sworn he would show himself in the wedding day. And at the end Gea had fallen in love with Nebrinus she had never seen, preferring him to all the men, she could look at as she liked, but who seemed silly and mean to her.

Gea, Gea, you are here at last! Nebrinus blew Nebrinus, I am here, but I don’t see you – Gea answered. Can’t you smell the grass, which is caressing your face? It is me… I feel you cold, Nebrinus. You have the flavour of the night and of the frozen mantle of mountain springs. Where have you gone? I went up there, beyond the mountain to my sister, the clouds. They know you and are looking for my taking you to them up there: they are preparing you a wonderful white and soft bed that will make you sail all over the universe.

You will amuse
yourself Gea, you will knou’ what is true happiness. No human being will be able to give you what I promise you, not even in a dream. Nebrinus, you are saying incredible things. I am almost afraid and in the same time I am looking forward to seeing our destiny be fulfilled. What are you waiting for? Nebrinus asked and in the meantime be fastened Gea’s hair to the branches of the pines. But what are you doing? Will you take me prisoner? Let me go. Gea ran away, frightened, while Nebrinus began to mumble, following her down the mountain as far as the village.

Then all began again.
Gea couldn’t resist the temptation to meet Nebrinus; he wanted to force her decision and she went back home, undecided between the fear of the unknown and the fantastic hope to run in the sky, riding the clouds. One day, while Gea was looking up, admiring the evolutions of white and light clouds, lighted by the oblique rays of the sun, in the sky, the communal messenger arrived out of breath and said: Gea, come immediately: the mayor of Portofino wants to speak to you. It is late, tonight: tomorrow morning I’ll go to him, after cockcrowing, Gea answered, continuing to look at the clouds. Come at once! You must come, because there is someone who wants… to. speak- the messenger insisted. Who is this person who is in such a hurry – Gea asked again without having an answer. However she got up, wore her best, a long tunic fluctuating of colours and veils, which made her look like a goddess; she let her hair fail down on her shoulders, put on a very light veil, on which she had sewed some never fading little flowers. put on her silver sandals, and went out, accompanied by the messenger.

When she arrived
in the hall of the town council, where, there was the major with the councillors who were speaking to a young and tall man. all stood breathless, looking at her. The mayor of Portofino, nearly fainted with astonishment and anger, seeing Gea dressed so splendidly: he had just told the illustrious guest that Gea was a beautiful girl, but she was a poorly dressed peasant girl earning her life, tilling the fields at best. Mr. mayor, – Gea said first breaking the silence – you sent for urgently. I put myself a bit in order and here I am. The mayor collecting himself soon, before Gea could say something unforeseeable. spoke all in one. The king of the golden caves has moored his yacht in our bay this morning after sailing all the Mediterranean: he has come to ask your hand in marriage.

Of course, I have already accepted. and I think we will be able to officiate at your wedding as soon as possible. Gea looked at the mayor, then at that unkwon king who wanted her to wife. He was young and handsome, but he looked worn out, almost poorly. Where was that unhappy man coming from? Whithout minding the mayor, who was beckoning to her to smile, Gea asked: I have never heard of your reign, even if here arrive people from all the world to see my house. Where are the golden caves? Before the king could answer, the mayor intervened: Your Majesty, as I have already told you, Gea is a wild girl.. Before being presented at court, she will have to be reeducated. But the young man had eyes and ear only for Gea:

My reign is very far from here: I possess a bird of fire who will carry us fast to my palace, which is underground, it has neither windows, nor balconies, but all its walls are covered with gold. Our throne will be studded with precious stones, your crown will be so shining, my dear Gea, that nobody will able to stare at it long: everybody will lower his eyes seeing you. My house us very different from you reign: I am accustomed to living in the open air, even when it is cold; my house has always the windows open night and day. I am afraid of your reign dug out in the bowels of the earth: it has no light no planta, no animals. How could I live there? My golden caves have artificial but splendid lights. Our chandeliers are one of the wonder of the reign: they are large and small, built with myriads of crystal drops or with long spiral – shaped filaments or with gigantic globes reminding of the sun…

But the sun is not there
– interrupted Gea. We have hot and cold air at our pleasure. the heat of fire and the ice of high mountains hidden in the walls. But you don’t know the wind, bringing you the seeds of life and mingling the perfumes of meadows – Gea commented, thinking of Nebrinus. The mayor didn’t bear any longer: it seemed to him that with those questions Gea could offend the illustrious guest, who had promised fabolous riches to the village and would buy Gea’s house with a little bag of big diamonds which looked like walnuts. But can you realize which luck has happenend to you?

Without answering, Gea addressed the young king: How on earth have you come from so far for me, just for me? Who spoke to you of my house, which is so different from your golden caves? We possess some instruments which can see in every place of the world like eyes having a prodigious sight. In my reign, in spite of my immense wealth, I am sad, without health and joy of living. Once, looking with my magic eye, I saw you and also discovered your house, the colours of this wonderful place.

I felt happier at once. It happened like this in the following days until I realized that I could be happy and healthy near you. From time to time, as far as possible, we will return to this wonderful village and we will sleep in your house with the windows open day and night. Gea felt pity for that poor king who possessed all the gold in the world and was begging for sone happiness. But she didn’t love him. Well, the mayor of Portofino said, worried about the emharassing silence which had fallen on the room – I settle the question. Tomorrow the wedding will be celebrated: His Majesty has carried all that one can wish for the most magnificent marriage. We will look after the wedding banquet: the ceremony will happen an hour before sunset and the entertainment will go on all night long. I cannot decide now. I must think of it – Gea said confused.

You will not
repent of our marriage. My reign is yours, my life is in your hands – added the young man. Tomorrow all will go for the best. The stars in the sky promise a serene day without wind, finished the mayor. Everyone had spoken on his own account without minding what the others were saying and thinking of Gea returned home, accompanied by a large crowd of guards of the king as it was proper for a future queen. She took off her dress and her veil and she lay down on the bed near the open window. An absolute calm watched over the sleep of all the creatures. Gea was silent, but in the stillness of the night she sought the advice of the moon, who lovingly closed her eyes with a deep sleep.

But in the middle of the night Gea woke up of a sudden: an unexpected gust had made all the windows bang at the same time. Gea pricked up her ears, while her heart was beating. Another gust made the boards of the roof creak. It seemed as if it was falling down. And then it was really the end of the world. The door started trembling, the bolts moaning, the trees whistling, the birds squawking: bursts, crackles, booms, crashes, howlings, alternated with threatening moments of truce.

It was lacking the last touch. Nebrinus himself broke the door with a gust and at last he appeared in all his strenght to Gea, who wainly tried to keep her hair with her hands. The following morning all were trying to repair the damages of the wind in the village. Nobody had slept in all night, especially the mayor of Portofino who feared for the succesful result of the wedding ceremony.

But he thought he would make up with the wedding – presents and the king’s diamonds On the contrary the king had heard nothing: may be he was the only one all over Portofino who had suffered no damages for the wind. In fact he had slept with his small court in some suites of a luxury hotel, where even the mice had stood still to avoid complications, At noon the procession with the dresses and the wedding – presents for the bride was already on the march: the mayor and the notables of the place were heading the procession; then there were the young fiancé and the body-guards with golden armours, followed by one hundred valets carrying the presents: the wedding-dress embroidered with diamond and pearls, the silver veil woven with very fine and light threads, a diadem it was unpossible to look at, under the sun with the naked eye.

Only the flowers were lacking. Nobody, neither the bridegroom who didn’t know them, nor the mayor, nor the others had thought of the flowers for the bride. The procession arrived at the house of Gea and stopped in front of the door, which was open, and even it wasn’t any more there. The mayor began calling Gea, then he thought it was not a good thing to address a queen in such a way: he sent a valet. This one came back, saying he had not found anybody. At last, after looking up and down everywhere, they were convinced that Gea was not there and she had run away not to marry the king of the golden caves. None of them thought of looking up there, where the clouds run across the sky, and play with the sun: Gea and Nebrinus were there and were joyfully greeting.

Portofino, a World apart.