There is a myth out there, sometimes debunked, about the warmth and sensuality of Italy. About the richness of living here in the bosom of the ancient Romans, about being surrounded by frescoed churches and Palladian villas, markets bursting with produce, swarthy men in dozens driving sports cars about to whisk one off to chic bars ...
Beh! On some days I beg to differ.
In my book I try to talk about certain other truths. How women of an age become competitive, sour, unyielding, while dressed immaculately in Prada. About the out-of-season tans and massive handbags, the Sophia-Loren cleavages and a distinct lack of smiling.
Or the ruthless checking-out should you parade along a cobbled city centre street. What is she wearing? What brand is it? Could it be a Chinese copy?
I am skinny and wear heels and get looked at. I love clothes - but cheap clothes, designer markdowns, stuff I pick up abroad. In big European cities I might get blinked over, but not shredded over with mean, biting eyes.
Where is the sisterhood? I thought that yesterday as I was checked out again as I strolled through the school gate in my Barbarella boots and cheap fur jacket. That woman with the pulled and puffy face - was she smiling? Laughing? Where are the ladies in gym suits or with messy hair and no make-up? Where is another woman dressed a little crazy, stylish but in her own way?
No no no. Sometimes Italy is very very cold.