We have an old La Pavoni Cappuccino machine, one of those timeless things with a lever, that Liz bought years ago in London to cheer us up at the beginning of a wet Winter. Periodically, things go wrong with it. Bits have fallen off, the pressure valve and switch have had to be replaced and sometimes it’s as temperamental as the cat. But the Pavoni is still the perfect start to a morning. When it splutters and bubbles into life, and the first whiff of coffee permeates the kitchen, you feel that whatever the days holds in store for you, you can at least stop for a minute and think of the finer things in life. On a good shiny day it looks like a 1950s space ship. You push the lever up and down and tease the black liquid into the white porcelain cup. When you froth the milk, you feel that you are in a cafe’ in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, or in Bar Italia in London peering at the TV with Italian Serie A. In fact, the Pavoni could take you to any place where you can smell the coffee and think you could not be in a better place.
It was probably in the old cafe’ in Via Teodorico in Milan in 1994 that I thought that rather than return to Buckinghamshire and continue to work for Hitachi, we should head south and look for a farmhouse with a courtyard and a cat in Malta.