Eleonara Beltrani, a von Arnim reader from Tuscany, has recently visited Castello Brown, the location that inspired The Enchanted April, and is kindly sharing her impressions and photos from the trip with us:
A VISIT TO CASTELLO BROWN
“It was the last week of September with a golden sun and mild air. Summer was leaving us, and I thought I should be courageous and greet the first autumn leaves from Castello Brown in Portofino.
I boarded the morning train at Pistoia, my home town in Tuscany, and reached Rapallo in the early afternoon. I had booked a little room at a pension and after leaving my luggage there, I went for a stroll along the promenade, enjoying the quiet atmosphere of the off-season.
The next morning, armed with my walking stick, I boarded the traghetto, a small ferry, at the pier heading for Portofino. Other elderly people like me were sitting on the boat, enjoying the warm sun just like cats. Soon we landed at the little harbour of Portofino: Castello Brown was perched high above us, and I felt a little daunted by the path leading up the rocks with its steep, romantic stairs.
Slowly I walked uphill, step by step, quietly determined to conquer the castle that has inspired The Enchanted April. Every now and then I stopped to take in the breathtaking views and felt refreshed.
At last the entrance stood inviting before me. I felt myself as in a temple: with Elizabeth’s book and the movie scenes in mind, I felt I had been plunged into a dreamlike atmosphere. Very few people were there as I walked around the silent rooms and among the ancient walls, so beautiful and still.
Sadly, the two great pine trees in the castle grounds were felled by lightning in a great storm in October 2016. They have been replaced with two timid saplings that will take a long time to grow to the regal stature of the old pines. The garden sloping down to the shore, where Mrs. Wilkies once planted her walking stick, is also still closed for renovations after the damage caused the by the storm. It is due to open again in spring 2018.
Health permitting, I hope to visit the castle once more when the gardens are open to visitors again.
(74 years old, the same age Elizabeth von Arnim in 1941, when she left this world for immortality)”