Home > Palazzo

Author: Danielle Steel


Chapter 1

   Cosima Saverio sat on the terrace of her penthouse apartment in Rome, looking out over the familiar monuments and rooftops of the city as the sun came up. In the distance, she could see Saint Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City, the dome of the San Carlo al Corso Basilica, and to the north, the Villa Medici and the Borghese Gardens. It was a view she never tired of. It was her favorite time of day, before the city sprang to life. It was already warm and would be hot by midmorning. As she stood at the rail of the balcony a few minutes later, she could see below the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps, the Fontana della Barcaccia, and the Trinità dei Monti church.


* * *



   The apartment was conveniently located on the top floor of the store, which was her family business. The Saverios made the finest leather goods in all of Italy, or all of Europe, rivaled only by Hermès, which was a worldwide enterprise. Saverio leathers were sold only in their two stores, one in Venice, the other in Rome.

   Like all of her ancestors, Cosima had been born in Venice, to an illustrious family that traced its history back to the fifteenth century. The Palazzo Saverio in Venice still belonged to them, although her father had moved the family to Rome shortly after her younger sister, Allegra, was born, and Cosima had lived in the same apartment with her parents and brother and sister on the top floor over the store almost all her life. Her younger brother, Luca, had his own villa now on the Via Appia Antica, and her sister lived in a smaller apartment on the floor below her, with a design studio. It was more convenient for Allegra because it had an elevator, which didn’t go to the top floor. Cosima lived in solitary splendor in the same apartment she had grown up in. She reached the penthouse apartment by a narrow staircase, and the terrace gave her a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the city she considered her home. Venice was their history, but Rome was where she lived and worked, and ran the family business she had inherited fifteen years before, at twenty-three.

   As a young girl, it had never been her plan to run the business or even work there. When they were children, her father intended to have her younger brother, Luca, run it one day, and step into his shoes. Luca had never shown any interest in it, even as a boy. His friends had been the spoiled, indulged sons of other Italian noblemen, and he had a passion for fast cars and beautiful women at an early age. He didn’t have his father’s interest in business, or his grandfather’s talent for creating beauty as a remarkable artisan. Ottavio Saverio had designed each piece for his shop in Venice, whether a saddle or an alligator handbag or an exquisite pair of custom-made shoes. People who were familiar with the finest of everything could recognize a piece created by Saverio anywhere.

   Ottavio Saverio had been the eighth child and only son of a respected banker in Venice. He had inherited the palazzo in Venice by default when each of his sisters married and moved away to Florence, Rome, and other cities in Europe. None of them wished to be burdened by the palazzo where they’d grown up. It was four centuries old and troublesome and expensive to maintain. Ottavio had used his inheritance to buy all of his sisters’ shares of the palazzo. He had used what was left to establish the store in one of the narrow streets off the Piazza San Marco where he created his magnificent leather pieces, and gained a reputation throughout Italy, and eventually Europe, for the exquisite work he did. Each piece was a masterpiece of beauty and luxury, made of the finest leathers and exotic skins. Every creation was unique at first. He filled the orders quickly and the business grew into an astonishing success in less than a decade. For all the years that he ran it, he was the master craftsman and genius behind the name. Saverio products were sold only at the store in Venice. Women waited a year or even two for their orders to be filled and were never disappointed by the results. Ottavio’s list of clients included royals, famous women, movie stars, and wealthy people from all over the world.

   His son and only child, Alberto, never became a craftsman like his father, although Ottavio made him study as an apprentice for two years so he would understand the products they were selling and how they were made. But Alberto was more interested in the business side of the store. Once he inherited the company, Alberto maintained his father’s tradition that Saverio products were sold only in their own store and nowhere else.

   When his father died, Alberto kept the store in Venice, and moved his wife, Tizianna, and their three children to Rome. He bought the building that still housed their store, and built the apartment that had previously been home to their whole family and where Cosima lived alone now on the top floor. She had designed Allegra’s apartment on the floor below, when she was old enough to live alone, so they each had privacy. Luca had already moved out by then, when he turned twenty-one and Allegra was still only seventeen.

   When their father opened the store in Rome, it was spectacular and increased the business exponentially. Alberto had groomed his son to run the business ever since he was a little boy, but he had never succeeded in capturing Luca’s interest. Luca neither understood nor cared about the magic of what they made.

   What Alberto had wanted was to have their business grow without giving up any of his father’s traditions. It was a fine line between the two, and Alberto had grandiose plans that were always just slightly more expensive to implement than he’d anticipated, so the business wasn’t as profitable as it should have been. He had a flawless eye for quality and beauty and was an extremely elegant man himself. He and Tizianna were among the social leaders of both Venice and Rome and exuded an aura of elegance and style.

   Cosima inherited some of that, but she had a more retiring nature than her parents and loved her studies. She’d always been relieved that she would never have to run the business. She worked at the store in Rome for a month every summer to please her father. She was a dutiful daughter. Luca managed to escape that because he was five years younger than Cosima, and Allegra was still a child.

   In July and August the family went to their other home in Sardinia. They spent two months on the family’s boats and entertaining the friends they invited to stay with them. Invitations to their home were greatly sought after. Alberto and Tizianna were fabulous hosts, and were invited everywhere in return, or by new friends in the hopes of being invited to stay in their home. They were generous with their hospitality and lavish with their guests. Cosima still remembered the extravagant parties her parents gave, both in their apartment in Rome and at the palazzo in Venice, where they held grand balls.

   After lengthy discussions with her father, Cosima had chosen a career in the law. She went to university in Rome and lived at home. She loved her years at university, her studies, and the friends she made. Her father teased her that she would be the attorney for the business one day. He never expected her to practice law, but he thought it would be useful for her in business, if she didn’t marry first. Her mother had never worked, and he didn’t expect his daughters to.

   Allegra, the youngest of the three children, had inherited her grandfather’s talent and had a passion for design. She was always sketching a dress or a bag or a shoe on a scrap of paper. She had a bright, happy nature and enjoyed living on the fringe of her parents’ busy social life even when she was very young. They would let her stay at their parties for a short time, and she always wished she could stay for the entire evening. Cosima was less interested in their parties but always had a flock of suitors among the sons of their friends, even though Allegra was far more flirtatious than her older sister by nature. Cosima always had a more serious, studious side, much more so than her younger brother and sister.

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