Emanuele Stefanori & Michela Guida, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 3 – The House By The Sea
As soon as the owner of the house closes the big door behind them, Paolo realises that his initial impression had been right; this house has certainly been uninhabited for many years. A strong, musty smell of old wood permeates everthing.
The owner immediately opens all the windows to let in a little light and fresh air.
“How long is it since anyone lived here?” asks Paolo, doubtfully.
“As you can imagine, we only let it in summer,” replies the man, taking off his hat and revealing a little carefully combed, white hair, “You are the first client this year. At first sight it may seem a little neglected but I can assure you that everything is perfectly in order.”
Paolo finds this hard to believe, but follows the owner as he crosses a corridor and climbs a flight of stairs. The floor above appears to be even more undisturbed; in another long corridor with a sad, dark green carpet, a number of old portraits create an atmosphere which is too gloomy for his taste. Walking past them, Paolo feels the eyes of all the subjects following him. Even the pears in a still life seem to be observing him eerily…
The owner of the house leads the way into a room on the left. It is a large bedroom full of very old furniture in dark wood.
“Just wait until you see this magnificent view!” says the man, pulling a cord and separating two heavy, old curtains, like those in a theatre. He opens a window and beckons Paolo to come out onto an enormous terrace.
The view is indeed beautiful. For a few seconds Paolo is lost for words, stunned by the spectacular panorama of the gulf spread out below him.
“Well, are you convinced?” asks his companion, with a satisfied smile.
Paolo nods and pays a deposit of three nights’ rent, as previously agreed on the phone.
The owner hands him the keys, they shake hands, and Paolo is left alone on the great terrace.
He watches the owner walk away down the street and stays observing the view for another five minutes before going back inside. That bedroom is not at all to his liking – it depresses him, as does the whole of the first floor of the house. So he decides to go downstairs and look for a better place to sleep.
On the ground floor he finds a small guest room, close to a large dining room and a study. The room is separated from the kitchen and a bathroom only by a corridor and, most importantly, it is the only one with more modern furniture and without ugly pictures on the walls. Paolo decides that this will be the most comfortable place to work and to sleep.
A little weary now from his journey, he stretches out on the bed and rests for a couple of hours. Later, he gets up and begins to arrange his clothes in the wardrobe, while wondering how to spend his first evening on the Amalfi coast.