LORD OF THE CUFFLINKS

It all started with the arrival of a business card in the letterbox. I had visited Italy many times and had always been keen to learn ‘la bella lingua’. And here in the letterbox was a card from one Beniamino Petrosino advertising his services as an Italian language teacher.

I started lessons with some trepidation but all went well. I was aware from Beniamino’s overly wordy business card that he had written a book in English – “The Passage of the Frog and the Wild Strawberries of 1942,” a semi-autobiographical account of his early life in Campania and Basilicata, where the impact of superstition, religion and economic deprivation was profound. Reading this moving tale helped me understand the resilience of the character who is the subject of this story.

Lessons were such fun, Beniamino and I moved on to running social events showcasing Italian culture and cuisine and last year we escorted our first two luxury small group tours visiting the Mezzogiorno and the gorgeous lakes of Lombardia.

One of our first stops was picturesque Amalfi, where my sartorially elegant husband Richard decided he would like some cameo cufflinks. Shell cameos were everywhere but not the right sort. A casual remark to Beniamino triggered a quest to rival Tolkien’s. Up and down the narrow cobbled streets we went, past the ninth century cathedral with its stunning façade of Moorish stripes, arches and coloured mosaics, venturing into every shop that could conceivably house cameo cufflinks. None met with approval but the mission was set. It was now not only a matter of national pride but of personal pride on Beniamino’s part.