I linger too long with my Italian-based colleague Roberta, talking shop in the afternoon heat. So I have 20 minutes to prep for cocktail swankiness with my cousin Alberto. OK, he's not technically il mio cugino. All the Batisti left Italy or died years ago. Albi descends from a more northern brood and is the fiancé of my dear Loulou, a British-Cypriot opera singer.
Both are close as family. And, blood ties be damned, they count as such. So I give him grief about being punctual.
Amanda: (opening the hotel room door, sans makeup, hair dripping, in semiformal déshabillé): Cugino mio! You're on time, caro! Um, I, er, never thought that would happen.
Alberto: I'm sorry. It's rude.
Amanda: Well, not brutto. Just unexpected. Has an Italian man EVER been early before?
Alberto: I almost hid in the park ... I am so ashamed.
We slugged over to the Sheraton Majestic, hosting a lavish relaunch party for its garden pavilion. A model approaches, lofting a saber worthy of Captain Jack. "I need men," she purrs.
Albi looks skeptical. My adopted cousin's a top-drawer lawyer in Rome, where tarts with swords are in short supply, monuments aside.
Tittering, she asks each courtier to slice off a champagne cork. Inevitably, they miss and sheer the neck. "At least you didn't shatter the whole bottle," rent-a-bimbo cheers. "You tried!"
The lady should work on her banter, really...
Someone jams a flute of cossack-cut champagne in my hand.
"Love that shattered glass," I joke. "Really adds some texture."
"French bottles slice clean," I'm told. "The foam washes away any crystals."
Albi hisses into my ear: "This is crazy. Time for pizza. Andiamo."
We bolt from the bel mondo to the student district, Navilgli, on the metro. Beautiful people stretch round the block at a humble pizzeria. Bloody Design Week.
"We might have a little wait," Albi apologizes. "We can call Lou and chat..."
"It's all good," I say. And truly I mean it: the pinched foyer bench is the sweetest stop this trip...