Then, out of the corner of her eye, she perceived a movement and turned to the pine forest, from which four men dressed in white jackets and carrying large trays appeared and approached, in a line. They placed the serving trays on a table in the background, on which Mara now also saw a pile of plates and bowls, more ice buckets with wine and mineral water, rechauds on which copper pots were now placed.
The elder amongst the four men came to them, greeted them politely in the name of the Baronessa of V. and introduced himself: "Sono Giovanni, my colleagues and I are very pleased to serve you here, today. Please, tell me EVERYTHING: what you want, when, and what. And if we don't have something, one of the ragazzi will quickly run up to the Palazzo and get it!"
Everything was – what else – perfect!
A succession of small, fine courses, always contrasting the previous flavor, texture and ingredients: a variety of raw fish and seafood with the best olive oil and crispy bruschetta, then a small risotto with porcini mushrooms, a perfectly grilled king prawn, a tiny filet of venison, a piece of Taleggio, a persimmon mousse on walnut ice cream.
With confident politeness, Giovanni explained the various courses, while a younger waiter kept pouring new wines, into new glasses, of course. A third cleared away plates, the fourth was probably the chef.
Both Mara’s and Carlo’s moods were getting better and better. Carlo made her laugh, Mara caught his loving gaze, while she ate, drank, talked.
How the final espresso could be so hot and creamy was a mystery hidden behind a door in the back; it was accompanied by Vin Santo with cantuccini.
It was from the same door that the wide daybed had probably appeared, which now stood in the back of the veranda when Giovanni said goodbye with the words:
"I hope you enjoyed everything, thank you. We will now head up to the palazzo, but if you need anything, there is a telephone behind the door that you can use to reach us. Here you are now undisturbed, the beach is private. A very, very old privilege. The Baronessa would be happy to greet you towards evening."
She experienced the rest of the afternoon as if they were on a cloud, feeling light-headed from the delicious wines, the air and her delight at Carlo's surprise - she had never experienced anything like this.
And he was so proud and happy too.
At some point they fell asleep under a blue linen sheet, to the sound of the waves.
Then the air became cooler and Mara awoke with a shudder. She sat up and, after a second, realized that she was sitting in her armchair, in her apartment, in Hamburg and not by the Tuscan sea.
She called Carlo in London and told him to come home, immediately!