Emanuele Stefanori & Michela Guida, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 1 – Books and Travels
“A hundred and twenty euros for one night! Ridiculous!”
Paolo is at the computer looking for a place to stay on the Amalfi coast but there’s nothing at a price he can afford. For nearly two hours he’s been navigating various travel websites that compare prices and offers for overnight stays and now his patience is wearing thin.
“How can they all charge so much, even in May?”
Paolo is 30 years old and lives in Rome. He graduated in Literature with the highest honours five years ago and since then, like many of his generation, he has turned his hand to everything and anything in order to earn a living. Since leaving university he has been a dog-sitter, a telephone operator, a waiter in a pub, an extra in a film about gladiators, a photographer for a small local newspaper, a seller of snacks at a stadium, a private teacher of English to children, a pony express rider and a ticket inspector on trains.
Now, thanks to a friend’s suggestion and a bit of luck, he has been working for a publishing house that produces travel books and tourist guides. At last, an interesting job that he really enjoys!
After a trial period, his boss has told him he is so satisfied with his work that he has, for the first time, given him his own project: to write a complete tourist guide to the Amalfi coast. Paolo was delighted; what more could he ask for? But his initial enthusiasm soon turns to frustration. He realises he cannot do the job sitting at his desk but needs to go to the area to collect original information at first hand. And so he finds himself searching for a cheap place to stay between Amalfi and Sorrento.
The phone rings; the caller display shows the word “Babe.”
“Hi, sweetie, what are you doing?” It’s Silvia, his girlfriend.
“Hi, babe, I’m working…..”
“At the moment I’m desperately trying to find a hotel or a room on the Amalfi coast for the next few days. But it seems to be impossible for anyone on a limited budget like me. I may have to give up….”
“Have you tried looking at the adverts in the local press?”
“Mmm…..I hadn’t thought of that…. Oh, what would I do without you?” replies Paolo, laughing.
“You’re so sweet. I love you. We’ll chat later. Good luck!”
Without much hope, and more out of curiosity than conviction, Paolo finds the website of a newspaper in the area. He goes straight to the buy/sell section and glances quickly through the announcements. After more than half an hour he still hasn’t seen anything of interest. He carries on clicking and reading offers, some of them really ridiculous like, “For sale, my dead dog’s kennel (but not the dog).” “Looking for a serious woman for marriage – call at dinner time.” and “I buy spumante corks for my collection.”
But suddenly an announcement captures his attention. “To let, two-storey villa with sea view, a few minutes from Sorrento. Available immediately, 30 euros per night.”
“A whole villa for so little?” Paolo is suspicious and reads it again. In spite of his doubts he decides to make a note of the phone number anyway.