Correspondence

At the End of Italy

I am writing this from a cottage near Santa Maria di Leuca, on the southernmost tip of Italy in the Adriatic. As the luggage, including my maps and guidebooks, only arrived yesterday, I cannot really be expected to say anything worth believing about the land or the people. As for the curious inner workings of the local airport, some 50 miles away in Brindisi, these are best left to the reader's imagination, though of course the noble Apulian race may not be blamed for the fact that the scheduled connection from Rome had departed long before the flight from London was in the air. All I can mention, hopefully, is that this morning I breakfasted on perfectly ripe damson plums overhanging the stone table on the patio, and that the coffee was good. In a way, knowing myself as well as I do, it is already pretty clear what the next couple of weeks will be like.

I was in London for most of June and the first week of July, roughly from Ascot to Wimbledon, getting plastered on that famous pink concoction of exceptionally fine weather, predatory women, and grinning men in gray still known as the Season. One scene in particular, in the dining room of Aspinalls, is still vivid in my mind, and I would like to relive it now, against a background of furiously independent- minded crickets and reedy echoes of southern voices that sound as one imagines Homeric antiquity. I was eavesdropping on a table of six Italians from Milan and two English businessmen...

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