The house Rodolfo drove them to was in one of the old quarters of town, within the walls and the loop of the river. The area was a mishmash of centuries’ worth of reconstruction but this block-sized house remained intact. Rodolfo parked the car as near as possible to the front door, they kissed after he’d wound up his window, then they got out of the red sports vehicle and locked it. A woman in a skirted business suit was standing at the foot of the steps to the front door.
“Signorina Belli,” Rodolfo extended his free right hand to exchange courtesies with her, his left firmly holding hands with Astanthe, “I hope we didn’t keep you waiting? This is my fiancée, Astanthe Strefagi. Astanthe, this is Luciana Belli, real estate agent extraordinaire and a god daughter of my late father.”
The two women shook hands and exchanged greetings then Signorina Belli produced the keys and opened the front door. “The house was originally built in the reign of Pietro IV,” she explained, “By one of the condottori captains he had under contract at the time. That does mean, of course, that all the plumbing and wiring have been retrofitted.” She flicked a light switch and the foyer was lit up by a chandelier, a third of the light bulbs blown. Three solid doors opened into the room: left, right and in front of them. Three stories of wide grimy windows faced them and above them two floors of internal balcony lined each side of the room.
“The original owner being a condottori would explain why this room is built to be a kill zone,” commented Rodolfo drily.
“The door on the left takes us to the cloak room and then the garage,” Signorina Belli carried on, “The door in front of us leads into the courtyard, I’m afraid we don’t have a key for that particular door, and this door, “she opened the one on the right, “Leads us into the first of the public rooms. As you can see,” she ushered them through the doorway, “It’s a fine anteroom with a staircase to the two upper floors.” The treads looked like marble, the centres of them worn down from use. The real estate agent led them across the room to the next door. “This,” she said opening it with a flourish, “Is the receiving room or downstairs sitting room.”
Signorina Belli led them though the ballroom, dining room, kitchen and scullery, making three sides of the block, to the garage on the fourth side. “This”, said Astanthe thoughtfully, “reminds me very much of our-my parents’ house.”
“I suspect, my love,” said Rodolfo fondly, “That your father and I have similar ideas on domestic architecture.” He looked across the empty four car garage. “We wouldn’t have any parking problems with this in here, would we? So, Signorina Belli, the two upper floors?”
“And the cellars and the courtyard?” added Astanthe firmly.
It was over an hour later before they’d seen the entire house, including the attics under the roof. The parts the late owner had used until the time of her death were in excellent condition, some of the rest, not so much. In parts the fact that the last major work had been carried out fifty years earlier, was a problem. In some parts the last major work was the problem.
They were back in the foyer. Signorina Belli was looking at some paper work to one side while Rodolfo and Astanthe conferred privately in quiet voices. “It’s very big, for just the two of us,” Astanthe pointed out.
“My father had lots of children,” Rodolfo said practically, “Your parents have lots of children. Give us a few years, we’ll fill it up.”
“Can we afford to buy it and to do it up?” Starflower looked, he thought fondly, as if she was building herself up to ask something important. He’d seen her face during their tour of the house and he thought he knew what it was. “I know we haven’t talked about money and budgets and things...” She trailed off. “I should have asked about that on the way here in the car, shouldn’t I?”
“Perhaps,” he allowed with a smile, “But we wouldn’t be here if the asking price wasn’t in my budget. We don’t have to fix everything up at once,” he added cautiously.
Her next question was, “Could we have enough to go on with by the wedding?” She counted off on her fingers. “The kitchen seems sound, except for the fridge. The garage is okay. There’s that small bathroom on the second floor the last owner was using. That leaves only a bedroom for us.”
“Some of the doors need replacing,” Rodolfo added judiciously, “And I think we’d need the weather stripping on the southern section of the roof looked at, but do you want it?
“If you can afford it and all the inspections are okay,” she suddenly looked so eager he wanted to sweep her up into his arms then and there, “Could we? Please?”