The End Of The Rainbow – Episode 76

His valise hefted on to his shoulder, Adam paused on his way down the hill from Cadenabbia to breathe in the cool, pure air and drink in every detail of the beauty of Lake Como. The vast expanse of water was mirror-like in its stillness. Here and there tall cypress trees stood sentinel beside pastel-washed villas, their shutters thrown back, bed linen wafting over the sills like pale flags ruffled by the gentlest of breezes. Landing stages by the tallest villas, which seemed to be standing with their feet in the water, had tethered little boats waiting in readiness for lucky passengers.Adam rubbed his eyes, gritty from lack of sleep. The sheer beauty of the landscape spread out before him had made him forget his fatigue, his bones that ached from sleeping on benches in railway stations, on slatted wooden seats on the rickety train that had taken him all the way here from Milan.The morning sun was growing warm on his back. He threw down his valise and perched on a rock by the roadside, chin in hands, drinking in every detail of the view.“Buon giorno!” There was a hoarse shout of greeting as a horse-drawn cart rattled to a halt beside him. The carter jerked his thumb at the seat beside him. Gratefully, Adam scrambled aboard.“Grazie.” He mumbled one of the few Italian words he knew.“Bellagio?” he added hopefully.His companion jerked his thumb in the direction of the promontary jutting out from wreaths of mist on the far side of the lake.“Bellagio,” he confirmed.At the lakeside, the driver of the cart hailed a boatman just casting off from the landing stage.“Bellagio!” he bellowed.As Adam tried to thank him, he flapped his hand.“Presto . . . presto!” He laughed.Adam threw his valise into the boat, leaped after it and began the last stage of his journey. As he did, he knew that, for the rest of his life, he would have a love affair with this beautiful place . . .Adam hadn’t noticed that the narrow cobbled street had changed to a flight of shallow steps until his valise began to make his shoulder ache and his legs turned to leaden weights.The sun was warm now, and he began to feel light-headed with the glare of it. He tried to remember when he had last eaten. He stumbled suddenly, his valise thudding on to the cobbles as he sank into a sitting position, his head swimming.He was aware of a jumble of voices, of hands supporting him, helping him to his feet as his surroundings disappeared into a swirl of grey.When the mist cleared, he found that he was propped up in a chair, a concerned old lady with a halo of silver hair holding a glass of water to his lips. As he drank thirstily, she nodded.“Molto bene . . . molto bene.”An elderly man appeared behind her with a cup of something hot and steaming.“Coffee. You drink this.” He beamed.Adam lost track of time as the two of them fluttered around him like portly little elves, feeding him morsels of food, insisting that he drink the scalding hot coffee, and punctuating their stream of Italian with a few comfortingly English words.As they withdrew to have a whispered conversation, Adam looked up. The ceiling was domed, blue and dotted with golden stars. In the centre and round the sides were plump cherubs holding musical instruments. Had he died and gone to heaven, Adam wondered. Then his valise landed at his feet, and he was suddenly back in Bellagio . . . with a thumping headache.


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