It was October once again, time for my departure for Alexandria, at the tail end of the stifling summer heat. This time I decided to take Francesco with me. My mother had moved to an old people's home which also offered comfortable accommodation for visiting guests. Initially Francesco was opposed to the idea. 'Why don't you ask your mother to come to Rome instead?', he asked, he who adored Alexandria and always dreamed of returning there. But our plans could not be altered. My mother had left her apartment for good and had to sell all her furniture; so my presence was essential. Plus I was counting on Francesco who, as an expert designer, could help us to value the objects and settle the prices.
But things went wrong even before we left. The key to the small safe, which contained our passports, air tickets and money, had suddenly disappeared. Searching through all the drawers, cupboards and cabinets of the house did not bring it to light. For years we had kept this key in a hiding place well known to us both, and now suddenly it appeared to have been moved. I called Irene, our young Polish cleaning girl, counting on her precision and meticulousness to help us in the search. Together we went very carefully through every corner again but to no avail. There was no other alternative but to request the locksmith to come and break open the safe.