There was an invitation waiting for me when we arrived in Italy this time. It was from the eccentric Air Museum, with an invitation to a special lunch for donors. (I gave them my father’s RAF overcoat.) We turned up at the appointed hour to find nobody there, of course, Italian time being elastic, but people began to arrive and we all gathered in the ballroom, hung with miniature hot air balloons. Two musicians played the flute and guitar (Debussy) to entertain us whilst we waited for something to happen.
Eventually, the Contessa, who owns the castle which houses the museum, came forward to give the usual due parole which went on for about half an hour, then a very frail woman who had apparently donated a large sum of money staggered to the front and gave her speech, mainly about how she kept falling over.
Everyone was waiting for aperitivi, and at a given signal we all jostled along to the dining room where there was a presentation by the Contessa of a medal and certificate for each donor.
The four course lunch was splendid. Our table had interesting people including a woman whose grandfather flew on D’Annunzio’s famous flight over Vienna in 1918.
In a happy frame of mind we drifted out into the rose garden where a couple of rusting helicopters stand in the flower beds, and back to the car, with promises to keep in touch with more new friends.