The Italian Girl by Lucinda Riley
My Dearest Nico,
It is strange to sit down to relate a story of great complexity knowing you may never read it. Whether writing about the events of the past few years will be a catharsis for me, or for your benefit, darling, Iâ€™m not sure, but I feel driven to do it.
So I sit here in my dressing room wondering where I should begin. Much of what I will write happened before you were born â€“ a chain of events that began when I was younger than you are now. So maybe that is the place I should start. In Naples, the city where I was born . . .
I remember Mamma hanging out the washing on a line that reached across to the apartment on the other side of the street. Walking down the narrow alleyways of the Piedigrotta, it looked as though the residents were in a state of perpetual celebration, with the different-coloured clothes on washing lines strung high above our heads. And the noise â€“ always the noise â€“ that evokes those early years; even at night it was never quiet. People singing, laughing, babies crying . . . Italians, as you know, are vocal, emotional people, and families in the Piedigrotta shared their joy and sadness every day as they sat on their doorsteps, turning as brown as berries in the blazing sun. The heat was unbearable, especially in high summer, when the pavements burnt the soles of your feet and mosquitoes took full advantage of your exposed flesh to stealthily attack. I can still smell the myriad scents that wafted through my open bedroom window: the drains, which on occasion were enough to turn your stomach, but more often the enticing aroma of freshly baked pizza from Papaâ€™s kitchen.
When I was young we were poor, but by the time I took my First Communion Papa and Mamma had made quite a success of â€˜Marcoâ€™sâ€™, their small cafÃ©. They worked night and day, serving spicy pizza slices made to Papaâ€™s secret recipe, which over the years had become famous in the Piedigrotta. In the summer months, the cafÃ© became even busier with the influx of tourists, and the cramped interior was jammed with wooden tables until it was almost impossible to walk between them.
Our family lived in a small apartment above the cafÃ©. We had our own bathroom; there was food on the table and shoes on our feet. Papa was proud that heâ€™d risen from nothing to provide for his family in such a way. I was happy too, my dreams stretching little further than the following sunset.
Then, one hot August night, when I was eleven years old, something happened that changed my life. It seems impossible to believe that a girl not yet in her teens could fall in love, but I remember so vividly the moment I first laid eyes on him . . .
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|Epub||May 30, 2020|
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