Two months on from my last Italian jaunt, I find myself there again, this time with my sister and her husband – it’s only fair, they own the lakeside apartment after all and it would seem churlish to travel alone.
Sometimes it’s good to go back somewhere you’ve been before because it throws down a marker to see if you’re making progress. I’ve been thinking that I’ve seen no dragonflies lately and I’ve been feeling despondent. Italy allows me to get some perspective back again and I’ll take that as a win. Turns out that the dragonflies are there, they’ve been skimming the lake all week , it’s just that I can’t see them – it’s needed my sister to point them out to me.
It’s also been a great chance to people watch and I realise that I am actually starting to take an interest. My hosts decide to pick out some choice Italians for when I’m really curious again – though I have to confess that I’m more fixated on the amazing mozzarella and Italian coffee that my brother in law has kept in ready supply all week. They know the locals so well by now that the nick names they have given them provide their own health warnings – Mr Teeth (i.e. rich but lacking in dental investment), Mr Snake (referenced on my last visit and only appearing at the apartments after dark) and Chico (needing no warning because his dress sense is so appalling).
The people watching starts in earnest when they take me out on my brother-in-law’s new sailing boat, to buzz the gardens and houses of the Italian ‘gentry’ on the island opposite. As with their apartment, the best lawns drape down to willow shaded stone steps and then into the lake itself. Beginning my bounce back, my eye is naturally drawn to the largest house and most intricate trellis of gardens, curtained by the widest gated steps, lapped by the lake waters. The house is shuttered and shaded, and the garden empty, but sitting on the steps is an Italian muse, just taking it all in, mahogony chest glistening from a lake dip. He’s probably the gardener, or just a voyeur like us that has swum up to day dream, however I see him as an encouraging metaphor.
My sister wants to show me an alternative, a more understated modern property -smaller gardens and art deco furniture – a hint perhaps that I might crash and burn with a bounce back that attempts too much height. This property is again impressive, but to reach it, we need to sail past a smaller chalet, whose owner decides to flaunt his bare bottom in our direction with a nonchalant stance and a cheeky over-the-shoulder grin. Brother-in-law exacts an impressive three point turn in the water and the only thing sweeping me off my feet is a bash on the head and some whip lash from the swing of the boat’s boom.
We idle for a while and badly time our cool off in the lake to coincide with the glide by of a Riva – the perfect balance between luxury, comfort and timeless elegance (according to the sales literature). Left in a wake of waves, we spit out mouthfuls of lake water just in time to glimpse the perfection of its crew – an Italian pilot in white jeans and unbuttoned shirt and five gorgeous lovelies, all dressed in white whispy show ‘n’ tell cover ups. They are festooned across the top deck.
We make it back to our lakeside moorings and see the Riva crew already ensconced on the veranda of the adjacent hotel, sipping Franciacorta and taking selfies. Brother in law is quick to point out that beneath the ladies’ crocheted lakeside kaftans you can see a glimpse of gold bikini and an abundance of thong. I tell him this is an oxymoron, but he clearly feels short-changed. ‘At least disembark with style,’ are his last words to me before I trip over a rope and barnacle my hull towards the residents of our apartments, who have helpfully all arrived to assist our mooring. I feel sure no-one notices and am relieved that, noting the impact of all that mozzarella, I decided on big girl bikini bottoms that morning.
Showered and lakeside for the sunset, we gather for an apperatifo. The elderly statesmen at our dwellings – Constanza – joins us silently on the bench. Slowed by a stroke on one side and only a few nuggets of Italian, Constanza gestures with his good arm in an imaginary raising of a glass, looking conspiratorially towards his own apartment where his wife Dominica prepares supper. He winks, points in her direction and holds a finger to his lips. A glass of bubbles materialises by his side through a well oiled understanding with my brother in law. Dominica simultaneously materialises from her kitchen – equally as quickly – smiles, sits on his good knee and downs his glass in one flourish, replacing it with a small cup of brown medicine. They chuckle together, a checkmate much more valuable than any metallic bikini.
I leave my hosts to finish their holiday and travel to the airport alone. I find it’s ok. The plane is delayed. I also find this ok; I seem to be settling into my skin and notice that I don’t moan as much when there is no-one to moan to. I idle away some time in the duty free shops and see two metallic bikinis in a shop front, reduced in the sale; I take a photo of them and send it to my brother-in-law promising him I’ve bought both for our next holiday. I know my sister will be thrilled.
When it’s finally time to board, I stand behind a stylish Italian woman, admiring her top. It’s made of silk in a bold dragonfly print.