Friday, June 20, 2008


Midnight at Bellosguardo

At the Villa del Saraceno in Bellosguardo, Lucrezia and Serge are having a midnight picnic in the moonlight. Four oil lit torches, high one meter, plunged into massive earthenware planters burn brightly and richly.

“It looks like the midnight sun I experienced in Siberia,” exclaims Serge.

The oil is scented with lemon to keep insects from biting them and bergamot for their sensual pleasure.

“Bergamot is supposed to increase carnal desires,” Lucrezia opines.

“Bella mia! Mama mia!” Serge chortles. “My carnal desires don’t need more arousing. My imagination is stronger than the first second I saw you.”

“It’s the scent of bergamot which is electrifying. There is a species, which comes from Sicily and Morocco. It is very aromatic and gives you an after glow,” explains Lucrezia.

They are lying on the grass in the garden of the Villa of the Saracen with the lights of Florence below them. The hill of Bellosguardo is 590 meters above the city center of Florence, which snakes sinuously around the river Arno. Serge and Lucrezia are gazing at the stars and at each other in silence. They are drinking a rich, thick black chocolate, especially made from cacao beans harvested in Sumatra.

“It’s ninety proof,” says Lucrezia, referring to its cacao bean content. Sir Harold receives these unbelievable gifts from the most fascinating people in the world. Sultan Omar Ali of Brunei whom Sir Harold met in Singapore at the Raffles Hotel in the early 50’s gifts him with these exquisite beans. An outrageously expensive food boutique in Florence, Vero Cibo (Real Food), mixes the beans. To savor this chocolate is what a gourmet and a lover of sensuality long for. The milk used is fresh from the breeding farm where the divine Florentine beefsteak comes from. That too costs an eye. Very little sugar is used, just a dollop of brown sugar from Cuba, courtesy of the Cuban Ambassador to the Holy See.

Serge breaks the almost sacred silence. “Mia bella Kroshka maya,, what do you think of those who would pour chocolate over their bodies ahem … their private parts and … you know? No! No! No! First I’ll tell you my opinion. I think they are bored with each other and they are also ignorant. Certain rituals must be respected.”

“I agree,” Lucrezia tells him enthusiastically. “Lines must be drawn even in sex. Did you see that in some sordid porno film?”

He laughs. “Yes, I did.. They are the latest chic fad in New York. At almost all parties what they call ‘radical chic’, someone usually suggests to the hostess a porno movie. I think they are very unexciting.”

“I refuse to watch them. In almost every so-called smart party in Florence, Rome or Milan, it has become de rigueur for the host or hostess to show off the latest Made in Sweden, Denmark or Los Angeles obscene flicks. I usually say my goodbyes to the derision of some and the mockery of a few, but I don’t give a damn.”

“It’s adolescent, and the actors look fake. They remind me of life in the gulag, the labor camp. These porno movies dehumanize and desensitize not only the actors but, I believe, also those who watch them,” declares Serge. “Ahh!” he sighs at the moon. “It is a breath of fresh air to hear you say that,” he says resting his head on her lap. His hand strokes her calves and legs and he recites Alexander Pushkin first in Russian and then in the English translation. “From early youth his dedication was to a single occupation … the science of the tender passion. It’s from Eugene Onegin, of course.”

“Which was so lyrically drafted by Tchaikovsky into the opera of the same name,” Lucrezia mentions, ruffling his hair.

"You forgot to mention that in New York as well as in Florence, no party would be a success without endless lines of cocaine in golden or silver platters. When that occurs, I simply pass the platter without a word," says Serge.

"Indeed I did , You may have seen that I don't even drink coffee or smoke cigarettes. I do not tolerate the use of drugs nor do I ever serve them at any of my dinners and receptions. Alcohol is where I draw the line. Usually I only serve Chianti and Krug," replies Lucrezia.

“Are you sure we are alone?” Serge asks suddenly.

“Except for the spirits of the night and the entities which have remained since the 16th century and all the other centuries that have followed in the Villa, we are alone.”

“Let’s spend the night here – on the grass. And then the dawn can wake us up,” suggests Serge, pulling Lucrezia’s head down towards his mouth as he sweetly cups her eyes and delineates her lips with his tongue.

“It can get chilly during the night , on the hill of Bellosguardo. We’ll need blankets.”

 Like Lucrezia’s grandmother Esperanza, she has very thin blood. At Serge’s baffled expression, Lucrezia explains, “I’m not used to roughing it except when I go on safari in Kenya or Tanzania or on the island of Brioni.”

“You kill wild animals in these safaris?” he asks, genuinely shocked.

“I kill game - Impalas, zebras, wild boar, elephants. I avoid the big cats as I love them, they are beautiful, and they’re my cousins as I may have been a cat once in one of my past lives!” At his sad expression, Lucrezia clasps him tightly against her bosom. “Look, the elephants need to be culled or the Masai tribesmen will kill them as their rivals for the land and the food.”

“I hunted game and animals in Siberia to survive. Sometimes we went for weeks without fresh meat.” Never mind, my kroshka bella. I hope you will change your mind, but I love you whether or not you shoot big game. Could we go inside? You can play ‘Sospiro’ again and again and again for me, then we can come back to the garden and place the blankets we’ve fetched on the grass. I’ll enfold you with my body heat, it will be cozy, you won’t feel the chill.”

Lucrezia somehow doubts this ardent declaration. Serge is unaware a northerly wind in sunny Tuscany can bring cold reality to the hottest of bodies. But why dampen her lover’s enthusiasm and zest?

“What do you think?” Serge asks with a slightly tremulous voice.

“Perfect idea,” she replies.

Serge puts his arm around her waist and they walk slowly through the perfumed garden into the art deco drawing room, which Serge sees for the second time. It is 150 feet long, a floor to ceiling fireplace in Florentine travertine granite high about 40 feet, vaulted ceilings throughout, a Pleyel grand piano inlaid with ivory, malachite and lapis lazuli in cherry wood, with the autographed signature of Franz Liszt inside the piano. The 18th century grand pianos were slightly narrower in the curved section than the modern day ones and only had two pedals.

“Another piano! I don’t have words. Why do you have so many of them?” asks Serge.

Until you came into my life, they were my only true lovers, and performed as often as I wanted them to.”

“You are trying to shock me, bella mia, but I refuse to be ensnared,” Serge wags a playful finger at her.

“To a great extent, it happens to be true, in my opinion of course. Like men, if you perform on the piano frequently, they become out of tune.”

Serge cracks up and almost falls back on a reclining couch. “Oh, it’s so true, that’s why I’m laughing.” He looks around him. The furnishings are Belle Époque and Art Deco with authentic posters 6 feet high by Alfonso Mucha, sketches by Erte and Ikart.

 “This is very decadent.”

“It is feral female,” declares Lucrezia,

“Unlike the other rooms of the Villa, ” he opines.

“It took me several years to decorate the Villa, many gay friends helped me with advice, suggestions and valuable information. You might say, I went through indoctrination. Sir Harold, Adolfo, Dimitri, other antique dealers, and Drusilla Gucci who is a master of colors, in fact she designs all our foulards at Gucci.”

“I understand, Lucrezia, Let me guess. You left this room for last and you ran over your decorating budget.”

“Au contraire. I was offered the entire contents of one of Lady Violet Trefusis drawing rooms for a song and dance. Nobody wants Belle Époque or Art Deco today.

“Did the piano come with it?” gasps Serge.

“That came with the Villa of the Saracen in Bellosguardo. The owner, an ancient lesbian belonging to American High society had a mother who was a pianist. Eccoci, here we are,” and Lucrezia gestures towards the Pleyel.

“It’s even more libertine after your explanation.”

“Wait until you meet Mercedes Huntintgton, she’s nearly 95, wears stiletto heels, smokes Gauloise cigarettes, drinks only single malt whiskey, drives an Hispano Suiza, and always dons men’s suits.”

“You mean she’s still alive and in Florence?” Serge asks in disbelief.

“Mercedes is very much all there. She has her own suite upstairs, 5 huge rooms all to herself in this villa. She’s a sort of Auntie Mame figure. I can learn so much from her. We both love cats and the Villa of the Saracen is big enough for both of us. She will remain here until she dies. That was a conditio sine qua non of the sale.”

“How many rooms does the Villa have? I will tell you after your reply.”

“About 50 rooms. Ah! That’s not right. I forgot to include the cellars with 10 feet high ceilings. Perhaps 60 rooms,” Lucrezia informs Serge.

“In Russia after the October Revolution, this villa, the Villa of the Saracen in Bellosguardo, would have housed 100 or more families. You and your children would have been sent to the gulag if you weren’t placed before a firing squad first. All the furnishings and furniture would have been burnt for firewood. In less than six months the Villa would not even be a shadow of its former splendor. The plumbing and the electricity long since kaput. The gardens used for outhouses, fruit gardens, and mechanics’ shops. All the villas on the hill of Bellosguardo would have suffered the same fate. How to go from a national monument to a slum in a few months? Now I have a question. How come the individualistic, almost anarchic, rich, too free Florentines voted Communist?”

“What can I say? Even the Communists in Italy are well off. What’s more they are at the forefront of the so called free market economy which is not free at all, but you already know that. Who can truly understand the Florentines? Not even the Florentines! The Communists made some promises. If they don’t deliver, they’ll be booted out. The Florentines are anti-clerical yet they are fond of the Pope.”

“That’s why they’re so fascinating,” concludes Serge, “they are full of contradictions. Like you.”

Near the Pleyel grand piano, there is a reclining couch draped in a royal blue silk Kashmir shawl, which looks very fragile. On an étagère near by is a collection of opium and hashish pipes. Serge takes one of the pipes, examines it, takes in the scent of the opium pipe, now empty, but years of use and abuse have left an indescribable aroma – faint but ever present nevertheless. Lucrezia picks out her favorite, a tiny gilt hashish pipe encrusted with turquoise stones from Iran. “Look well. Note that the turquoise have turned dark from constant use,” she points out.

“Who smoked this opium pipe? Do you know?”

“Probably a Turkish Pasha or Bay or why not, his favorite in the harem. All these pipes came from Istanbul.”

“How did you end up with them?” queries Serge.

“It’s a very long tale. If our love story continues, I shall tell you as I lean on your chest naked in this very salon.”

“I shall hold you to that solemn promise,’’ he takes in air deeply.”

“Sometimes I love to sit on the piano alone in the darkness, looking out towards the lights of Florence below as I savor the scent of this opium pipe.” She too takes a deep breath.

“It’s so voluptuous,” exclaims Sergei, as he swirls with Lucrezia around the reclining couch, then around the room, one hand on her waist, leaving the other hand free to sniff the golden opium pipe in both their hands, flicking their tongues around the pipe rim, their mouths and tongues encircling each other.

“I am intoxicated,” Serge whispers hoarsely.

“We both are,” Lucrezia reassures him.

“It is not only the scent of the opium pipes in disuse for many years. It is because we have burnt so many bridges so quickly to arrive at this point,” Serge buries his head in her bosom and clasps her long blonde hair with both his hands.

“Let’s resonate together,” utters a Lucrezia on fire, “or as my darling Miles Davis would say, ‘Let’s get lost.’” 

She steers Sergei slowly backwards towards the Art Deco reclining couch. He tumbles softly into it; she quickly straddles him, lifting up her long black cashmere skirt, to arouse him with her nakedness, and signals her intention to mount him as she unbuttons his trousers quickly There! She holds his erect organ in her hand and slithers underneath him. Their hunger is overpowering. He penetrates her deftly.

Serge pulls her away. “Have you ever used this room with any other man?”

Lucrezia looks into his eyes and demands to know, still contracting her vaginal muscles against him keeping him a prisoner inside of her. 

“And what if I have? What will you do? Throw me off your lap? Stop making love to me? Leave me?”

“No! It’s of no consequence. Forgive me. What happened before we met does not count. I swear! But – tell me anyway,” he gasps, as she continues undulating and grinding,

She has never been with any man in most rooms but Serge is not to know. Mystery is more irresistible and intense. “You will never know. You will never ever know, my love. Perhaps, we were born together yesterday.”

“When our eyes crossed while I was on the stage and you were sitting in the front row in the Sala Ducento of Palazzo della Signoria.”

“Yes Serge!" cries out Lucrezia.

“Yes! Lucrezia! Serge agrees ardently. “We were born together yesterday.”

Lucrezia, is still straddling Serge and still wound around his arms. 

“What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever independence may cost and wherever it may lead. That  was proclaimed  by another dissident, Feodor Dostoevsky who died in 1881,”he tells her softly.

The telephone starts its ominous ringing... again. It continues. She rises slowly in her black ensemble which designer Yves St. Laurent has called a “Black Splendor.” She sits on the intricate bench of the Pleyel and begins  “Sospiro”, drowning out the sounds of the intruding telephone.

“Aaah, my beauties, Sospiro and Lucrezia - together, His eyes shiny and moist, “the magic is so strong,”  he cries out rising to contemplate Lucrezia’s face and body as she plays “Sospiro.”

“Sospiro’ is my favorite of all compositions for the piano. Often the camp commandant would play the albums of Sviastoslav Richter in the white nights of Siberia. One of them was ‘Sospiro’. He was a little deaf so he would play it very loudly. Sound carries in the snow. Thank God and Erato, the Greek Muse of Music, for Sospiro kept me from going mad.”

Lucrezia closes the piano, walks to the opposite side of the room, opens a heavy 16th century armoire, and hands several blankets to Serge. Their blended liquid is flowing down her inner thighs.

 ’”The ooze is exciting me.” 

She begins contracting her vaginal muscles. They step into the moonlit garden, the oil torches are still burning brightly. She glides into the damp grass. He throws the blankets and slowly sinks down next to her.

“Only the spirits of the night are here,” murmurs Lucrezia, raising her skirt, until it covers her head. ‘’I am overflowing with our carnal flow will you drink from me?’’

“Let the presence of these guardian spirits bear witness. I will quench my thirst from you forever as long as I live,’’ vows Serge.


  1. Buona sera, Isabella,

    Wonderful blend of sensuality, political insights, descriptions of the remarkable villa, and Florentine flavor. I love Sospiro.


  2. "“It’s ninety proof,” says Lucrezia, referring to its cacao bean content."

    Hm. My maternal grandmother was a teetotaler, and a caffeine-addict. She would have been a lot more mentally and physically healthy if she had drunk less coffee and occasionally just drank some wine.

    "...Mercedes Huntintgton, she’s nearly 95, wears stiletto heels, smokes Gauloise cigarettes, drinks only single malt whiskey..."

    As the muppet named "Animal" said,
    "that's MY KINDA WOMAN!" He said it in this clip, with Rita Moreno:


Isabel Van Fechtmann

Create Your Badge