A Summer in the Islands

By Matthew Fort

A carefree exploration of the culture and cuisines of the Italian islands

Monday, 3 April 2017

Capri: June, 2015


It’s evening and I settle down to a first Campari soda at the Bar Tiberio on the Piazzetta (in reality, the Piazza Umberto), surrounded by a herd of Aperol spritzer drinkers surrounded by a herd of Aperol spritzer drinkers.


At a table just down from mine, a goaty man of middle years, with a face the colour of putty and mycelium hair, is holding court. He’s wearing a canary-yellow jacket, an orange pork-pie straw hat and a multicoloured silk scarf. His hand rests lightly and briefly on the bare, brown arm of a very pretty girl perhaps a third his age (and twice as old as he’ll ever be). She’s smoking, holding her cigarette between long, elegant fingers that taper to long, elegant nails the colour of an English post box. Her skin has the lustre and colour of lovingly tended teak. Another girl walks past my table and joins them. Her thong is clearly visible and her tight, globular buttocks oscillate beneath a dress that has the shifting transparency of water. Her hair cascades in thick, tawny tresses to below her waist.


The man in the canary-yellow jacket plays host to a stream of nymphs and satyrs. He’s like Pan, the master of the revels. As each arrives or departs, he lets his hand casually brush the arm of the girl beside him. Presently, the three are joined by a barrel-chested man with steel-grey hair wearing a dazzling white shirt, black trousers, braces like sticks of rock and loafers without socks; and by a stylish woman, a mature version of the figures into which the two younger women will grow. She’s wearing a dress, the principal function of which is to show off the magnificence of her breasts. Rather disingenuously, she repeatedly tries to draw the two sides of the revealing V of the dress closer together, with little success. The conversation gushes between the five of them. A few minutes later they’re joined by a lanky young man, who pulls up a chair, takes out his mobile phone, and disappears into it.


There’s a minor kerfuffle as some mega-millionaire and his entourage noisily settle into the ringside seats at an adjacent bar, while a circus of women of all ages mill about dressed in breaths of clothing shifting back and forth over bras and knickers – sometimes no bras and no knickers – revealing everything and nothing; swaying back and forth over tanned, glazed legs; above manicured feet shod in sandals thonged halfway up the calf; low-slung, glittering, gold and silver and cerise tip-top flip-flops; heels stacked as high as supermarket shelves; trainers never designed for training. And men, too, smooth-cheeked and stubble-shaded, shabby-chic, chicly shabby, whippet-thin, pillow-plump, portly as a barrel, cucumber-cool, manly-cool, just-look-at-me-I’m-so-cool-cool, as cool as ironed shorts, pressed jeans, crisp linen, tasselled loafers, and Ray-ban shades can make them.


It’s a joy to sit and watch this parade of sweet narcissism and sex, signifying who is getting it, who isn’t getting it, who’s up for it, who would like to be up for it, who wants more of it, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender. It isn’t a market. It’s too blatant, too vivacious, too innocent to be commercial. It’s the mating display of peacocks and peahens.


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