The American is chilled to the bone when he rings the doorbell at a large front door on Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
A girl dressed in pearl-white opens the door. He steps inside, asking permission as he does so, as if he were entering someone’s home – it just came out that way, unbidden.
He crosses the corridor with vaulted ceilings and casts a glance at the walls: floorplans, sections and technical drawings from renaissance architecture. To the right is the large staircase which is the only remaining vestige of the old building, whilst an enormous monography by Araki with a pink cover, volumes by Herbert Ypma and Massimo Listri, the AD collection, a historical encyclopaedia and the ten-year anniversary edition of Firenze magazine lie in a small library on the left hand side.
The American glances up at the coffered ceiling, and a voice calls out from behind the table, which is covered with stacks of books and a PC. “Welcome, Sir.” There is no such thing as check-in here. Nor is there any check-out, for that matter. And when he goes, I am quite sure he will say See you again soon. You are our guest. Not a customer, I feel like saying to him, but I keep quiet and hope that my gestures convey it – thinks the girl dressed in pearl white, before asking, “Would you like a tea, coffee or a glass of water? No doubt, with this first cold snap, something hot is better.” “An espresso, please. I’d like to speak to Mr. Kafri, could you give me his contact details?”
“You’re in luck sir. It just so happens Mr. Kafri is here,” she says.
In one of the two small rooms, in front of the blazing fire, Mr. Kafri is seated in an armchair upholstered in ivory fabric. Barely 40, he is wearing a faded denim shirt, and his blue eyes have a gentle expression.
The fire brightens up the drab light of early winter filtering through the large windows.
“Good morning, can I get you something to drink?”
“I’ve already had an espresso, it was excellent, thank you”.
“So how can I help you?”
Ori by name, Kafri by surname. At primary school he stood out amidst all the Marios and Paolos. Yet his clean-cut voice has a distinctly Florentine accent.
“Do you remember me? February this year, in Malibu. I came to Mr. Rappaport’s villa, the one turned into JK Malibu for a week. I went back every evening. For the views of the Pacific, sure, but above all the atmosphere and the cuisine.